If nothing else, Spintires recent successful release is a pleasing reminder that PC gaming is still king when it comes to providing unpredictable & unique experiences. The high concept pitch would probably be something along the lines of “Euro Truck Offroad” or perhaps the more genre-bending “Dark Souls of Driving Games”. Both are useful shorthands though: progress is slow, methodical, often difficult, and always, for me at least, strangely compelling.
Originally a tech demo, Spintires places you and a handful of big industrial Soviet vehicles into an area full of mud, muck, trees and rivers. At its core Spintires is a driving-through-mud sim, a sinking-sandbox if you will, requiring you to carefully pick your way though the environment to reach your objective: moving lumber from one corner of the map to the opposite. In order to achieve this you’ll need to complete a few emergent sub-objectives along the way, usually involving important rescue & support vehicles. A number of maps are provided, with some nice variation in landscape, albeit all of them very muddy of course.
The actual driving as mentioned before is oddly compelling, greatly helped by feel of the physics and the sim at work here. It just feels right, or rather feels as good as an abstracted videogame version of this sort of thing can ever be. It’s this core gameplay that helps Spintires succeed even with the numerous problems that the game has at the time of writing. Future updates are promised, and given the game’s recent sales success there’s no reason to think that these issues won’t all disappear at some point.
For now though they are present so let’s briefly get into some of the areas that Spintires loses traction in. Certainly the camera has come in for widespread criticism and is therefore unsurprisingly high on the fix list. The game desperately needs separate save states or slots for each map, currently starting a new map means abandoning all progress on the previous environment – which is rather soul destroying. If you’re using a controller there is no Y-invert, and you’ll frequently have to flip back to mouse and keyboard as not all controls are fully mapped. There are also numerous presentational gaffes which are easily remedied with a bit of thought.
I suspect people who’ll like Spintires will instinctively know whether it’s their thing or not. Fans of sims generally and Euro Truck Sim specifically will likely find this a pretty safe bet, although it’s worth pointing out Spintires does not have an ongoing career mode of any sort. There is plenty of play here however, achieving the objectives will take a few hours for each map because, well, you’ll get stuck. A lot. At the time of writing Spintires feels like a promising start, awkwardness aside, and we’re looking forward to whatever improvements the updates may bring.