The main premise, and gameplay loop, of SnowRunner, is fairly simple to grasp. You need to drive a variety of different vehicles across vast landscapes and deliver an assortment of different cargo while doing so. And while this concept itself is fairly simple to understand, the actual execution of it is anything but.
One of the greatest things about Snowrunner’s design is that the gameplay in it is about as difficult as the player wants it to be at all times. The game gives you the tools to accomplish your tasks, but it’s really up to you to decide how you’ll tackle them.
If you’re methodical and patient, Snowrunner will eat up your time and have you spend hours trying to accomplish a simple goal. It will challenge you, push you, but ultimately provide a complex and rewarding experience that can stand toe to toe with some of the greatest simulators on the market.
Act hasty and impatient however, and this game will beat you down again and again until you’re ready to give up. Because you see, the challenge in this game all depends on you. If you respect the game world and take the time to learn it’s intricate mechanics, each new hazard, whether it be a cliff or a mud-covered road, becomes a puzzle that you can overcome with the proper foresight and planning.
The physics-based gameplay ensures that it’s never really about being fast in this game, it’s about taking your time and even improvising a bit as you go. Turn too fast and your vehicle will fall over and get damaged. Take a weaker vehicle into a muddy track, and you’ll get stuck and need to make use of the winch attachment to pull yourself out. There are a lot of things you have to plan for.
Vehicles in the game come in all shapes and sizes, and understanding which vehicles work best in a particular situation is the key to success.
When you start in a new map, it’s often a good idea to make use of your nimble scout vehicles to travel all around the location and unlock Watchtowers scattered around to reveal the map to unlock outposts, resource and fuel hubs and even several different hidden objectives. Once that’s done, you can then take out one of your bigger trucks, attach a variety of different trailers to them, and then use them to carry out contracts in the game.
These contracts range from simple deliveries of resources and fuel, each of which requires different types of trailer attachments, all the way to more rewarding objectives like building bridges and repairing broken structures like pipelines to create new paths and roads for players to more easily explore a map. The more time and effort you invest in a location, the more it opens up to you.
Over time, you’ll start to notice that the base models of vehicles available to you aren’t able to traverse some of the more difficult roads and pathways in the game, and so you’ll have to both buy newer and more powerful vehicles and even upgrade some of your existing ones. You can upgrade everything from tires to engines and suspension, and each upgrade can physically be felt in the way your vehicles operate.
Upgrades cost money though, which you get from completing contracts, and if players don’t want to waste their hard-earned cash every time they face a tough hill, they can also choose to go hunting for hidden vehicles.
On top of hidden upgrades, scattered around each map are some abandoned vehicles that players can rescue to add to their garage. You have to do a bit of searching to find them, at which point you can pull them out of their resting places and repair them. This is a much more fun alternative to simply purchasing new vehicles, and it ensures that you always have new wheels at your disposal.
This entire loop of going to a new map, acquiring new vehicles, upgrading them, and then using them to do more difficult deliveries stays the same throughout the whole game, and it’s honestly what people were expecting of the game. It never goes too over the top and insane as you play through it, it gets slower and more precise. This is a driving simulator game, and one of the best ones I’ve played so far.
In terms of graphics, the game looks fantastic. The environments are extremely detailed with rocks, trees, and other foliage dotted around almost every single road and dirt pathway, and the lighting, in particular, is leagues above what we saw previously in Mudrunner.
Water textures also look great, especially in the flowing rivers and streams in the game, but there is a very apparent lack of textures as it sticks to your tires as you drive through them. It’s not a massive issue, but it is extremely noticeable. Mud similarly looks great on the ground, but as it splashes around when you drive through it, it just looks a bit off.
Also worth mentioning is that if you’re playing on the base Xbox One, there is a frequent and very noticeable texture pop-in issue that you’ll encounter. It happens every so often for both your vehicle and the environment, and it’s honestly hard not to notice. The issue is much better on the Xbox One X, but it’s still present.
All in all though, this is a fantastic simulator game that many fans of the genre will enjoy. It’s complex, rewarding, and so so addicting. You won’t regret dedicating weeks to this game.
SnowRunner Review (Xbox One)
Game Reviewed on: Xbox One
Game description: SnowRunner puts you in the driver’s seat of powerful vehicles as you conquer extreme open environments with the most advanced terrain simulation ever. Drive 40 vehicles from brands such as Ford, Chevrolet, and Freightliner as you leave your mark on an untamed open world.
Final Score - 9/10
SnowRunner is a love letter to driving simulator fans and it's one of the best games the genre has seen to date.