SnowRunner Review – PC
+ Hardcore simulation
+ Fantastic physics model
+ Stunning open-world
+ Lots of content
- Niche appeal
- Slow-paced gameplay
- Quirky scripting bugs
Do you own a jeep, truck, or 4×4 and love to get your tires dirty exploring those roads that can barely be classified as roads? Do you feel at home when you’re up to your lug nuts in mud or snow is packing your radiator or river water is rushing through the driver’s side door? Do you use the word “winch” more than a medieval barkeep – yes, I know it’s spelled differently? If you answered yes to any or all of these then SnowRunner might be the driving simulator you’ve been waiting for.
Welcome to the ultimate off-road driving experience; an open-world full of treacherous terrain, inclement weather conditions, and more adventure than you would expect to find behind the wheel of more than 40 unique licensed vehicles. Explore the untamed wilderness areas of Michigan, Alaska, and Taymyr using sprawling satellite-quality maps loaded with destinations and objectives in this elaborate trucking simulator that will keep you glued to the driver’s seat for hours on end.
SnowRunner starts off with a lengthy tutorial to familiarize yourself with the basics, like how to drive, switch cameras, switch gears, switch vehicles, and finally accepting job offers to haul cargo from point A to B to earn cash so you can upgrade your existing fleet and purchase new trucks to expand your delivery business. Leave it to me to break the tutorial; a simple mission where I was supposed to haul metal beams and wood to a construction site to repair a bridge. Clearly the game wanted me to make two trips, one with each type of cargo, but being the multi-tasking boss that I am I hooked up a trailer and tried to take all the cargo at once. For some reason, doing this reset my metal beam cargo counter to zero even though the cargo was graphically depicted in the bed of my truck. I had to unhook my trailer at the job site and drive all the way back into town to reload more metal beams. The lesson here is to always look at the cargo counter and not necessarily what’s being shown in the back of your truck.
The driving in SnowRunner is quite fun despite seldom ever getting above 20mph. If you are impatient then this game is not for you. Portions of the game are painfully slow and frustrating, and if you’re stubborn like me you’ll spend over thirty minutes trying to winch your way out of a muddy bog rather than admit defeat and abandon your truck, or worse, run out of gas in the Alaskan wilderness while looking for a gas station. You can witness all these embarrassing antics in my live-stream.
When you aren’t hauling cargo for cash you are free to explore the world in any truck you currently own. Just make sure you keep them repaired and top off that gas tank. That fuel gauge is constantly ticking down and your MPG fluctuates based on terrain, gear, speed, etc. You can even see how much fuel you’re burning per minute. When things do go wrong…and they will…you can always come to your own rescue by swapping to another vehicle and delivering some extra gas or maybe winching a stranded vehicle to safety. Even better, SnowRunner supports up to four players in co-op play, so you can always have one of them bail you out.
There is a lot of content waiting to be uncovered in SnowRunner, most of it gated by the types of trucks you have in your fleet. You can casually explore the maps to locate watchtowers that will reveal a new portion of the map complete with more destinations and activities. Many new trucks can be found in the field and these will provide access to the critical path content, but you’ll need to save your earnings and upgrade your current trucks or buy specialized trucks for the more exciting side-missions. The flow of the game is continually evolving, and once you are past the initial tutorial you are free to explore and engage with the content as you see fit. You can even go back and forth between the maps, so if you get bored (or stuck) in one area you can get a change of scenery and a fresh start somewhere else.
Available on console and PC, I was playing the PC version available exclusively on the Epic Game Store. You can jump into the game for as low as $40 for the standard version or grab the deluxe for $60, which also includes the $25 season pass (so you save $5) that includes new maps, missions, vehicles, and skins as well as plenty of future content coming soon. This is an extremely fair price strategy that gets you the ultimate package for the price of a normal game.
The lack of Steam support immediately alienated me from friends and coworkers, so I was unable to test any of the co-op functionality, but I can certainly imagine how beneficial it would be to have friends along for the ride. There are plenty of situations where another truck could come in handy. The PC version did offer an incredible visual presentation with stunning 4K visuals and amazing textures for both the environments and the vehicles. The weather effects and night and day cycles are fantastic and really add to the immersion of the game. There is a subtle and relaxing soundtrack that plays throughout the experience yet it never overwhelms the engine rumble or the whine of tires spinning in mud, water, and snow. The UI is a bit overbearing by default but you can customize and clean it up a bit, and the pop-up tips eventually fade away. I really enjoyed being able to switch to the cab camera, and this is the mode you’ll want if you end up using a wheel/pedal combo. It’s very easy to oversteer in the external truck and trailer cams using a gamepad, but once you get used to it an Xbox controller works nicely with easy access for the winch as well as switching gears or activating AWD.
SnowRunner is a lot more fun than I make it out to be in my gameplay video. Since then I’ve restarted the game and followed the rules of the tutorial without any shortcuts, stayed out of the mud unless I had the proper vehicle, and learned to keep an eye on the gas gauge. There is an incredible amount of freedom in this game; freedom of where to go, how to get there, and what to do once you arrive. If you’ve ever dreamed of pitting terrain vs machine in the ultimate mudwrestling match or maybe learn how to drive on icy roads or “rock” your truck out of a snow drift then look no further, as SnowRunner offers all that and so much more.