When you look at the title, it conjures up images of a high-octane rally driving with spinning tyres ripping it up through mud in the heartlands of the American frontier. However, it's at this point that we need to add that these days there's a sim to suit almost every taste. Coming nearly a year after Spintires: Mudrunner landed, we now have the American Wilds Edition, a complete package including the original game, all of the extra content, along with the American Wilds expansion.
We joked about the title, but to be honest, it's pretty accurate. What we have here is a trucking sim where you have to deliver cargo (usually timber) while conserving fuel and not getting damaged. The main challenge comes from the fact that most of the time you have to do this in thick mud. Luckily for everyone, then, that Spintires has some of the most realistic mud effects we've ever seen in a video game. You can watch your tyres furiously spinning as you make absolutely zero progress, and at the same time enjoy every frustrating minute of it.
You have the option in many of the vehicles to play with the differential lock and four-wheel drive capacity, but this all affects fuel consumption, so the more time you spend using gas in the mud, the less likely you are to deliver your load. This all may sound a little daunting, and it is. One bad move can leave many minutes of planning and trucking in ruin.
Luckily you have a winch that you can attach to trees and logs to pull yourself out. If all else fails, you're able to swap vehicles and come to your own rescue. We really liked this swapping feature, as it added an element strategic route planning. It did also mean long minutes of driving to find your former vehicle over rather colossal maps.
This was all set in some pretty luscious scenery, with great rolling hills and swampland, as well as little towns to run around. It all looked pretty decent, although we must say that the trees could have looked a little more realistic.
The original title and DLC took us into the heartlands of Siberia, driving around and getting stuck in some rather generic Russian looking trucks and jeeps. It's lots of fun, but the new American Wilds expansion looks more targeted at the US audience and has some great household names to run in. The American maps seem a bit richer and better developed than the Siberian ones too.
In terms of the new vehicles, there's a Hummer along with the Ford F150 and even a Chevie. The look of all the playable vehicles is great, especially the new American models. That adds to beautiful engine sounds, especially that stunning beauty: the V8. Most of them are customisable with the pick-ups able to add bumpers and roof racks, and the trucks getting different trailers.
The pickups and jeeps are really designed for exploration, opening up some of the map you can't see and letting you do some recon to see how bad the mud is. Then there are the trucks for haulage, which you can add a number of different trailers too. There are also some utility vehicles that can be used for jobs like loading trucks or even winching another one out of thick mud. Completing a map will earn you progression points that open up new maps or vehicles.
You can choose to play the game in either casual or hardcore mode, which ramps up fuel consumption and damage. We need to say at this point that all the vehicles we drove seemed to get damaged way too easily, and for not much of an impact. We admit that slow and steady made the best progress over going hell for leather, but it seemed to punish us more than we felt fair.
We did have a few minor gripes with the game. One of the most prevalent was the camera. Most of the time the view from behind the truck was fine, but when the back was stacked with logs it made things a little tricky to see. We found ourselves moving our heads and analogue stick at the same time, trying to wrestle the right angle.
Then there was a cockpit view, which was fine except for the fact there were no dials, and instead, just a floating box that looked like an afterthought. In such a good-looking game, we were surprised about this lack of detail. Other than that, the game played pretty well and had loads of content to see and unlock.
After you've completed the main maps, there are also a number of challenges, which include delivery missions and crane operating. There are hours of gameplay to be had here, and then, when you've finally gone through all the single-player content, there's a multiplayer mode where you and three friends can work together.
We have to say that overall we thought that Spintires: MudRunner - American Wilds was a pretty fun sim game, helped by the fact that it also manages to be quite endearing at the same time. There were lots of cool moments to be had, like getting swamped in something that turned out to be deeper than a puddle. We loved fording rivers and actually enjoyed struggling to escape the mud. The controls seem really well suited to the controller, and the tutorials really educate you in how to survive the gruelling challenges the game poses you. With shows like Ice Road Truckers on the telly, we know that this type of experience already has an audience, and if you like sims, particularly trucking sims, then this one's worth driving through some mud for.
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