Spinning Tires

Editorials, Reviewed

I’ve been somewhat enamored by a fun little driving simulator called “Spintires.” If you’re still unfamiliar with the title, it’s a driving game that is based off of a pretty unique concept. Players are put in charge of a group of vehicles to complete objectives, like stocking a garage, filling up a fuel trailer to transporting lumber to a location for shipping, it sounds pretty easy right? Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s arguably the most challenging driving game I’ve ever experienced.2015-07-06_00014

The game charges players with crossing terrain meant to reflect the Siberian forests of Russia. It’s a driving game that requires a significant amount of thought. Everything from the obvious choices of which routes to take right down to the more subtle options of vehicle attachments a trucks weight and capabilities and even the distance versus fuel consumption.¬† The longer you play the more you learn how to take advantage of vehicle features like the differential lock and all wheel drive options that most vehicles have. Never has simply driving from point A to point B ever been so rewarding.

There is literally nothing else to the game, there is no getting out and walking around, there are no enemies to kill, no other truckers to race. It’s all between you, your truck and Mother Nature. The concept itself doesn’t sound exactly riveting, that is until you sit down and try to play it. Soon reality sets in and you realize you’re stuck and not just a little stuck, you’ve managed to dig yourself into a deep rut with your truck sitting on uneven ground. Backing out isn’t an option and when you try and wiggle to the right or the left all you do is dig in more. You enable your vehicles winch and attach it to the nearest tree in an attempt to hoist your burly Russian vehicle out of a pit of your own design.

The vehicle heaves and lurches forward at first. The tree you’ve latched onto groans under the stress. Suddenly your truck jerks to the right and is up on two wheels, you try correcting for the tilt while still attempting to winch yourself free and that’s when it h2015-07-06_00003appens; you reach the point of no return, your truck begins it’s slow, and unstoppable roll to the right. The body and frame sink deeply into the mud and your engine stalls. At this point you’ve got very few options available to you and they’re all require more driving across this unsure terrain.

The pacing of Spintires is a unique mix of calm enjoyment with bouts of blinding rage that bubbles to the surface for a few minutes, only to be replaced by a firm sense of accomplishment. The games lighting is superb, right around the times of dusk and dawn especially. That serene feeling is only broken by getting bogged down into a mud pit and the uncontrollable urge to yell out things like “c’mon you devilish bastard, you can do it!”

When you’re not slogging across rivers or attempting to rip your vehicle loose from the thick, pulpy mud, the game is very relaxing. Knowing that the objective is simply to get there rather than beat everyone else or at least a timer, the only thing you need to worry about is your fuel gauge, which often isn’t a problem. Any time you make any significant progress in single player, the map is saved for you. There is a multiplayer option too, which I’ve spent quite a good amount of time with. This game flourishes when teamwork is present. Players can assist one another with various objectives and even get the other player out of what would otherwise be nearly impossible to resolve by themselves. They can repair your truck, fuel you up and pull you out if necessary. It also makes for some great, tandem 2015-07-19_00002screenshot opportunities.

Graphically the game is beautiful, the water and mud physics add a lot of depth to a game that  would at first appear to be nothing more than a fun little tech demo amounting to nothing more than a romp through nature. Water flows up out of trenches and rivers, exhibiting great properties of displacement. Mud clings to tires and spatter the sides of your vehicle as the wheels desperately spin in an attempt to gain traction. The slop is also pushed out of the way or displaced when a vehicle with a large load drives through or stops on it. What may appear to be solid ground may actually cause player vehicles to sink deeply in and may take some real work to get out of.

The approach that Spintires takes to driving is a refreshing experience. A slow and methodical approach that actually requires a level of strategy and planning that just about no other driving game has is really an experience that fans of driving and racing sims should take the time to check out. It’s a very different driving experience that requires a lot of thought once players have gotten the hang of it, the game becomes very addictive.