I’ve found myself getting absorbed in SnowRunner and literally spending hours trying to accomplish a single task in the game. I’ve gotten lost on my way, wrecked my vehicles trying to drive up paths that in hindsight I wasn’t properly equipped to traverse and embarrassingly even toppled over multiple times while turning a bit too fast.
The time has flown by while I’ve played though this game, and I’ve had more fun with this off-road driving simulator than I’ve had with most racing games in the past few years simply because this title has let me do things at my own personal pace. This game is slow, but it isn’t boring.
The main gameplay loop in SnowRunner revolves around driving from one point on the map to another, and usually hauling along some form of cargo, whether that cargo is in the form of materials, trailers or even tankers full of fuel. You get your objective, and then it’s up to you to accomplish it however you like.
You have to choose which vehicle is best suited for your task by taking into account the performance needed in a particular terrain, the space available for your cargo and how much fuel you’ll need to get to your objective among a few other factors. It’s all up to you to decide, and the occasional missteps are just a part of the game.
While not traditionally difficult in the way that many other games tend to be, there is a certain challenge to SnowRunner that is borderline addicting. It’s not that difficult of a game if you don’t want it to be, but it also at the same time allows you to create your own hurdles and challenges depending on how much risk you’re willing to take.
You can just drive your truck up the winding dirt path to get to the top of that hill and take your time doing so, or you can attempt to climb up that really steep cliff and save a lot of time. You might make the climb if you’ve got a powerful enough vehicle and the proper upgrades, or you might fail miserably and damage your truck in the process.
You might wade into deep water and get your engine stalled or you might get your heavy truck stuck in mud. You might also run out of fuel or damage your vehicles to the point where they no longer function, and then you’ll need to get in another vehicle and drive out to the location of the accident to pull yourself out or refuel.
How you do things is really all up to you because the game will never force you into doing anything one way or the other. It equips you with the tools you need to survive, and lets you make your own way to the objectives.
The vehicles at your disposal in the game also feel really great for the most part, especially the bigger bulkier trucks. They’re weighty and responsive, and they’re the most challenging and fun to play around with. Some of the smaller vehicles like the pick-up trucks however vary greatly in performance, and there’s a floaty feeling to them that just feels off.
As you complete objectives and earn money, you can use it to buy newer vehicles as they become available to you. You can also alternatively find some really great trucks hidden around the maps, which you can tow out and then add to your collection.
Obviously it goes without saying that discovering and rescuing abandoned vehicles is a lot more rewarding than just buying them. You can customize the appearance of these vehicles, as well as upgrade them with parts like Tires found scattered around the world.
The three regions available at launch are the American states Michigan and Alaska, and Taymyr in Russia. These are areas with their own interconnected maps, and not only are the environments in them varied, they also serve different skill levels. Michigan is the starting area and the easiest of the three, then comes Alaska and then finally Taymyr.
You can explore these maps alone or have a friend jump into your world for some co-op fun. Friends can help each other accomplish tasks, as well as assist you if you, for example, get stuck in the mud or water by pulling you out with the winch attachment. It’s really fun traversing this often times lonely game world with a buddy.
Visually, the game looks fantastic. The lighting and shadow effects are absolutely on point here, and the game is a sight to behold during moments when the sunlight streaks through trees or when the only source of light during the night are your headlights. Light also reflects beautifully off of your vehicles, and it creates a believable sheen on metallic surfaces.
Water effects on the other hand are kind of a hit and miss, with muddier and darker lakes and streams coming across as more believable than their clearer counterparts. There’s also a very weird way in which water splashes and sticks to the tires of your vehicles that just seem really off. Mud splashing effects are a lot better comparatively.
Overall though, it’s a beautiful game. It’s Xbox One X Enhanced so the game looks absolutely stunning on that console but the base Xbox One and Xbox One S are no slouches either. Lighting is still the most standout visual flair in the game though, and it shines the most on Xbox One X
The game was also relatively bug free, except for one minor reoccurring glitch in which cargo being handled by the crane would sometimes phase though vehicles. It wasn’t a deal breaker, but it did happen more than three different times.
In conclusion, the beauty of SnowRunner is not simply about the way that this game looks, it’s in the overall experience that it conveys through its gameplay and mechanics. This game asks you to internalize the rules of its world, which coincidentally are very similar to the rules of real world off-road driving, and rewards you for adhering to them strictly.
This game is difficult but not unfair, and if you’re willing to invest the time and patience it demands of you, you’ll get to experience one of the most satisfying simulators on the market right now.
Snowrunner is out now on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the PC. It was developed by Saber Interactive and published by Focus Home Interactive. This review covers the Xbox One version of the game.
The review code was provided by the publisher.
SnowRunner is one of the best examples of a game that is challenging yet fair, and the feelings of accomplishment that it provides are unmatched in the world of simulator games.