Game Title: Mud Runners – American Wilds Edition
Company: Saber Interactive
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital
Battery Life: 2 – 3 hours
Cloud Save Support: Yes
Download: 3.0 GB
There are a lot of ways you can define driving games with the word “simulation” or “simulator”. You could talk about Gran Turismo and Forza, where you are racing, but in enclosed raceways with a high level of real-world physics being built into each car.
Then, you’ve got specific types of driving games that simulate an entire lifestyle around a type of vehicle. An example of this is American Trucking Simulator, which greatly replicates the day-to-day life of a truck driver, all the way down to the feel of the truck, how to pick up and drop off loads, and resting when you get too fatigued to keep driving.
Today, we have another example of extremely-real physics being portrayed in the life of a trucker, except this game takes us off the safe and grounded land of asphalt and into Mud, Dirt, and everything to do with offroading.
Here is my review of Mud Runners: American Wilds Edition for the Nintendo Switch!
Mud Runners is what you’d call an Offroading Driving Simulator. As you play the game, you’ll be driving a variety of trucks and Jeep-like vehicles through muddy and dirty roads from the vast country of Russia to Northern America (the same kind of place where this reviewer lives).
First of all, there have been 3 versions of this game. American Wilds is an enhanced edition of Mud Runners, which was an upgraded version of the game Spintires. In essence, what we have here is the “Ultimate Edition” of Spintires, containing all content from all 3 versions in one simple package.
As far as Game Modes go, you’ve got your Tutorial Modes with the Tutorial and Challenge Mode that has you doing preset missions to prepare you for the different types of terrain you’ll be conquering over the course of the game. Then you’ve got Sandbox Mode in Single Player and Multiplayer, where you travel around 10 Sandbox environments to fulfill deliveries and discover new locations and vehicles.
What you actually do in the game is drive a vehicle around muddy and dirt terrain to pick up loads of wood logs and deliver them to lumber mills, not unlike picking up company loads in ATS and driving to warehouses to deliver them. You do this by attaching special trailers and attachments to your trucks before heading out to be able to pick up specific sizes of loads to deliver for different point rewards towards clearing the map.
There’s a fair amount of detail to how all of this works. You’ve got a ton of different types of trailers you can use in the game, from small log carts to special trailers that allow you to manually pick up logs with a crane to store and take to your destination. You’ve also got a lot of more “assistance” attachments, like repair kits, spare fuel cans, and entire utility trailers.
And that falls into the co-op focus of the game. There are Local and Online Multiplayer Modes so people can help each other through each map along with the ability to switch trucks in Single Player because this simulation game is extremely accurate when it comes to offroad driving. Something can and -will- happen to mess you up, be it getting stuck in mud, rolling down a hill, or sinking in a river. That’s why there are Utility Trailers use for repairing trucks and Fuel Trailers to fill up gas tanks if you can’t make it to the nearest Fueling Station.
Quite possible the factor that makes this an incredibly-impressive game is how it handles the physics of offroading. Every truck feels and handles very different from every other and even moreso when it is pulling a trailer. Not only that, but the terrain has some crazy physics involved. Not only can you easily get stuck in mud and pull yourself out by winching nearby trees, but every dirt road will affect you differently each time you drive through it. I’ve gone through the same dirt road several times in a single game and every time I went through, it would get more and more difficult to travel, even in the same truck.
But that’s not the end of the impressive amount of detail this game does into. Driving also has a surprising amount of detail. You’ve got toggles for turning the engine on or off, a winch that you can attach to trees, objects, and other trucks, and manual buttons for the Differential Lock and All Wheel Drive. Shifting is a bit unique, though, as you have to manually shift into Neutral, Automatic Mode, or Reverse. It’s not a press of a button, but rather clicking an analog stick and moving that analog in the direction the gear shifter needs to go to go into those other driving modes. I’ve never seen a handheld driving game have that much detail in shifting before.
Now, physics aside, how much content is there to this game? In simple terms, just enough to justify the price-point. There are 12 challenges in Challenge Mode that I easily cleared in about 1.5 hours, while clearing each of the 10 sandboxes by myself took me around 2-3 hours a piece. This was me exploring in a Jeep to actually reveal the map’s paths and then jumping into a truck to make my deliveries to clear it and unlock more to do. Granted, there’s very little variety in what you do, but there’s a good amount to do.
Controlling this game isn’t too tough. No touch controls, though. Just button controls.
You use the Left Analog Stick to steer your vehicle and the Right Analog Stick to move the camera and use the gear shift. The Arrow Buttons / D-Pad are used for camera settings and advanced winch/engine/truck settings. The R trigger is used for honking your horn, while the ZL and ZR triggers are used the brakes and accelorator.
The face buttons are also used heavily. X is used for pulling the winch, A for selecting/confirming loads while the B button is used for canceling options.
All in all, pretty easy and all covered by the tutorial. The camera is a bit of a nuisance, though. It easily gets stuck on buildings and when you try to turn out of a logging station, it has a habit of constantly refocusing on your trailer, making you endlessly reset yourself and try again, which leads to much frustration.
Graphically, most of this game looks quite nice. The trucks, mud, and damage levels as you run through hazards is pretty nice. Some of the environments aren’t as detailed as the more muddy terrain, but it still doesn’t look bad.
The visuals do go down a bit in handheld mode, though. The blurriness that is become more and more typical with Switch games going forward is here as well. It’s not a huge blur, but it’s definitely noticeable around the trucks when you’re going through the daytime sequences.
As far as performance goes, it’s mostly good. The game does skip frames at times when it autosaves, but it isn’t often and the stability is, well, stable for the most part.
When it comes to Battery Life, I expected this to be another 2-3 hour range game, and it turns out that I was right. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 41 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 45 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 06 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 11 minutes
About what I expected and not too bad. Way more than enough time to clear an entire map and then some.
In conclusion, Mud Runners is a driving sim with some of the most impressive physics and detail I’ve ever seen in this sort of game. Granted, the game is brought down by its troublesome camera, lack of task variety, and presentation hiccups, but if you love driving sims and have a buddy to play with, there’s a lot of realistic offroading to be had here.
Final Score: 8/10