Review: Snow Runner
Having previously played (and enjoyed) Mud Runner, it was with great anticipation that I jumped into the world of its successor: Snow Runner.
Set across 3 locations: Michigan, Alaska and Taymyr, it gives you an open world to explore, while building up a collection of vehicles and accessories to help complete a variety of tasks and contracts that are scattered across the maps. Or you can just drive around wherever you want, discovering hidden vehicles and upgrades, all while making your way to watch towers which will open the map up even more to you.
This is one of the strengths of Snow Runner; giving you enough things to do and collect should you want to choose to do them, or just letting you drive around interesting and varied locations, and allowing you the freedom to go where you want…if your vehicle (and driving skills) can make it.
Although called Snow Runner, the game begins by putting you into the wet and muddy landscape of Michigan. Split over 4 regions, this starting location incorporates a tutorial section where you can become acclimatised to both the menu systems, and also the driving conditions, which make you think carefully about which vehicle to use, how to customise it, which route to take, and much more.
This isn’t a game where you just get behind the wheel and press accelerate, Snow Runner rewards forward planning and patience.
One of the first things to do is deliver supplies so that a bridge can be opened, which then opens up another section of the map for you.
The opening of bridges, removal of rock falls, and other tasks allows even more ways for you to traverse the landscape, though you don’t have to stay on the main roads. In fact exploration off the beaten track can often lead to finding many surprises and shortcuts, as well as also getting you stuck in places where you think you’ll never be able to get out of.
Most of each map is blacked out to begin, and it is through finding and visiting the watch towers spread out across each location that it becomes unfogged and shows a more detailed map for you. This can be done first (as I did), or you can leave them for whenever you may be passing close while doing something else.
Careful choice of vehicle and its setup is the key to success, as is forward planning of your routes and taking advantage of those hidden off road lanes you have found. Though don’t stray too far, especially if you have a fuel guzzling engine, as you may well find your vehicle coughing and spluttering its last couple of piston pumps, as you suddenly realise that you’ve run out of fuel while nowhere near a refuelling station.
If you do run out of fuel (and in my case it did more than once due to me not paying enough attention), there are many options open to you. You can just abandon it there and come back later to recover it with another truck. You can reset it back to your garage (where it is immediately refuelled and any repairs taken care of). You can bring a fuel container on a truck, or even scatter fuel containers across the map. The choice of what to do and where to go is always in your hands.
Completing tasks and contracts earns you stars and cash. Stars are used to level up, which in turn gives you the ability to access other vehicles etc. While cash is used for upgrades and customisation…of which there is a lot.
Among other things, you can customise the engine, gearbox, suspension, tyres, winch (more on that in a minute), snorkel (you’ll thank yourself for this one when in a low suspension vehicle and you hit deep water), fuel consumption/capacity, and much more.
The amount of detailed customisation means that you can buy 2 identical trucks, but by the time you’ve added a variety of components to each of them, they are then completely different and can be used for entirely opposite tasks.
The durability of your trucks are also key to completing your tasks and contracts, or even just getting up a specific incline.
The durability is split across a large variety of components, including your tyres, suspension, frame, etc. You definitely don’t want parts completely breaking while you’re out in the middle of nowhere.
The aforementioned winch is something that you’ll be using often, as when your driving skills alone can’t get you past a particular piece of dirt/mud/water/snow/ice, you can hook your winch onto something close to help get you out of there. Beware though, as even this is not a magical answer to get you out of every sticky (slippery?) situation.
Adding one of the many trailers available not only allows you to transport different goods, it also makes you think more about planning your route too. A longer, heavier, and not as manoeuvrable vehicle may well make favourite routes you were taking no longer possible, while adding a crane to your truck will help loading, but it also adds more weight too.
You can choose to drive in either 3rd person or 1st person view. With the 1st person view showing a detailed cab interior complete with the appropriate and working gauges. You can even look out of the windows and also behind you.
The 3 locations give a varied and interesting scope of both landscapes and contracts/tasks.
Michigan (split into 4 regions) is wet and muddy. Alaska (4 regions) is snow and ice. While Taymyr (3 regions) is a mixture of everything, and also adds Russian trucks to get behind the wheel of. It is even possible to drive between all of the regions in each location…though make sure to carefully plan your route to pass fuel stations…or leave fuel containers in advance.
Snow Runner is a game that gives superb value for money. Its large and fully explorable locations take a long time to discover all of their secrets, and time just spent planning routes and how to spend your hard earned stars and cash is very enjoyable too. Especially knowing the impact that such decisions have on the gameplay.
Up to 3 friends can join in with online multiplayer too, adding new ways to try and conquer certain things which may have stumped you so far while alone behind the wheel, or just as driving companions while you all explore the regions.
Snow Runner gives you challenging locations and a wide selection of things to do within them, while also giving you the freedom to do what you want too. Its slow paced and thoughtful gameplay may well deter some from buying, but I came into this off the back of completing Wreckfest (a driving game that couldn’t be any more diametrically opposed) and absolutely loved the experience of both.
Saber Interactive has already published a road map (no pun intended) of future DLC and it looks fantastic, while it is also encouraging knowing that this is going to be well supported.
Challenging, enjoyable, and some of the best “bang for your buck” driving gaming that you can buy, Snow Runner will be keeping me busy for a very long time to come.
One final tip…when driving across frozen ice, make sure to note how heavy your vehicle is. You may well find yourself wishing that the upgrades included not just various snorkels, but full scuba diving kit!
Snow Runner is available to buy now on PS4, Xbox One and PC (Epic Games Store exclusive at time of writing).
Review by Dave from an advance PS4 review code kindly supplied by Indigo Pearl.
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