SnowRunner Review

Matt Lorrigan

It’s easy, I think, to fantasise about the life of a trucker. Picking up some huge cargo in the middle of nowhere and travelling halfway across the country to deliver it, you have a lot of time on the road with your own thoughts, only the radio or some podcasts for company. You might wear a trucker hat, obviously, maybe even stop off at a steakhouse and eat a sixteen-pound steak in under an hour, hopefully not contracting beef poisoning. I always imagined it to be quite calm and meditative, but if SnowRunner is anything to go by, it’s nothing of the sort.

SnowRunner has you travelling around three open-world locations; Michigan, Alaska and Taymyr. You aren’t able to hop out of your truck and wander on foot, so you’ll spend nearly the entire game navigating treacherous terrain in your vehicle of choice. You’ll find yourself tasked with taking on contracts and completing deliveries to earn cash and reputation. On paper, it sounds like a fairly easy task, but things are rarely ever easy in SnowRunner. 

Before taking on any contract or task, you’ll want to make sure you have a truck kitted out for the job, whether that means having a trailer big enough to store a consignment of goods, or the right tyres for that particularly muddy section of road you need to traverse. Unfortunately, despite a brief tutorial section, the game can be exceptionally unclear about what you need to do, where you need to go, or how to tackle each task efficiently. I spent the first few hours of the game desperately confused about how best to get anything done, travelling miles of road to begin a task before realising I have the wrong truck for the job, or getting to a drop-off point only to realise I’d collected bricks rather than cement blocks.

This wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but travelling anywhere in the game is a challenge in itself. SnowRunner may have left behind the Spintires moniker from the game’s previous installment, Spintires: Mudrunner, but it’s gone in name alone – you’ll find yourself spending much of your time in SnowRunner stuck in the mud, or the snow, wheels desperately rotating, attempting to find purchase. Despite the wide assortment of vehicles that you’re able to hop into, there isn’t anything fast about SnowRunner, with the game taking the phrase ‘glacial pace’ extremely literally.

Because of this, despite the inclusion of money and reputation points to collect, SnowRunner’s true currency is time. Failing to do your due diligence when preparing for a contract, or hitting a steep incline and accidentally rolling your trailer and dropping all your cargo, means all of your hard work up until that moment becomes undone. It can feel like a harsh punishment, especially when the menus and map are nearly as frustrating to navigate as the roads themselves, and you pay for it with your time - a resource that SnowRunner doesn’t always respect.

Spend enough hours in the game, however, and SnowRunner does begin to hit a groove, especially as you come to terms with the tools you have available to you. No ditch is too muddy, no road too waterlogged, to stop you from whipping out your trusty winch to pull your vehicle to safety. You can attach the winch to multiple points on your truck or trailer, then select the nearest tree or lamppost and reel yourself in, which is extremely satisfying to pull off. You can also customise and upgrade vehicles, adding all-wheel drive for extra traction, or a little breathing pipe so your engine doesn’t get waterlogged. Tackling one single stretch of extremely muddy road, combining all the tools available to you, is a puzzle that is fun to crack.

SnowRunner is quite lovely to look at times, too. During the morning, you’ll see the sun shining, peeking through the treetops, while at night everything takes on a spooky Silent Hill vibe of foggy Americana. Mud physics are where the game excels, and they are excellent, with tyres leaving visibly deep tracks, and the water you’ve found yourself stuck in rippling as your wheels spin to no avail. A low and slow country soundtrack helps sell the feeling of travelling through the American wilderness, and the grunt of the engines or the crunching of a gearbox are well done. Some audio glitches were apparent on my playthrough, with music cutting out entirely, or switching from one ear of the headphones to another, but for the most part it’s a solid looking and sounding game.

The open world design is interesting - you can travel to watchtowers, which function exactly as you might expect, revealing points of interest on your map. Travelling to these towers and any other viewpoints, is best tackled in a smaller ‘scout’ vehicle, and this is where the most fun is to be had, though it also proves the least rewarding. The big bucks come with delivering huge cargo, or trailers, with the big boy trucks, and you’ll have to plan your routes carefully. Usefully, there are shortcuts you can open on the map - bridges that can be built, or fallen phone towers that can be repaired, and completing these early on is key, often opening more reliable tarmac routes. There are also trucks submerged in swamps to be fished out, food deliveries to be made in a specific time limit – the sheer amount of activities will keep you going for tens of hours, if not hundreds, and this feels like a game you need to get invested in. I found the longer I played in one session, the less I enjoyed myself, but coming back fresh the next day reinvigorated my enthusiasm.

While it might be a game best dipped into little and often, however, it may not do enough to draw you back in. For every time SnowRunner hits a high, it drags you back down into the mud and asks you to pull yourself out again. It’s important to reiterate how incredibly slow the game is - even on roads where the snow, mud or ice doesn’t stop you in your tracks, you’ll find yourself just sedately crawling along at 10 or 15 MPH. In these moments, there is no challenge, you will get to the end of this bit of road, so you just have to accept that you won’t have much fun for the duration. SnowRunner doesn’t have enough respect for a player’s time, asking for a big investment to get much return. If you’re willing to stick with it, there is satisfaction and enjoyment to be had here, but you shouldn’t expect the game to go anywhere fast.


SnowRunner is a slow game, requiring a lot of patience to get through. If you're willing to give it the time investment it asks, then you will find a satisfying experience here, with each contract you take, and each road you traverse, unfolding into one big puzzle to tackle. A hoard of customisation options also allows you to tinker with your trucks to your heart's content. If that sounds up your street, then SnowRunner might be for you, but don't expect to get anything done fast.

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A low country soundtrack that wouldn't sound out of place in Firefly is lovely listening, although tracks do start repeating themselves during long play sessions. Good sound design on the vehicles sells you on the setting, but some frequent audio glitches let the game down.


SnowRunner looks downright lovely in the game's best moments, whether that's the wilderness dappled with sunlight during the day, or a foggy small town at night. Mud and snow physics are excellent, but there are some blurry textures and dull looking areas here and there.


The game feels infinitely playable at it's best, with so many tasks and contracts to take on, and the simple puzzle of how to traverse each bit of terrain is fun to solve. But playing for hours and feeling like you've accomplished very little can be very frustrating.


A weak tutorial means that SnowRunner's intricacies, of which there are many, aren't well explained. Frustrating UI makes it difficult to find vital information needed to complete contracts, leading to the game's objectives feeling muddy in all the wrong ways.


A list that will take a long time to complete, just like the game itself, but you will find some fun challenges to take on.

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