SnowRunner Xbox One review: The Dark Souls of trucking simulators

SnowRunner is a trucking simulator set in cold Michigan and beyond. It's surprisingly addictive and eases you into the mechanics.

(Image: © Focus Home Interactive)


Source: Focus Home Interactive (Image credit: Source: Focus Home Interactive)

Simulation games are incredibly popular nowadays, and the latest title to hit Xbox One is SnowRunner. SnowRunner is made by developer Saber Interactive and is the follow-up to MudRunner. In my opinion, despite some glaring flaws, MudRunner pushed the boundaries of simulating extreme off-road conditions, and SnowRunner takes it a step further. As the name suggests, snow and frozen areas are the highlights of this new game because they're done incredibly well.

The goal of SnowRunner is to traverse the various regions, delivering goods in conditions no one else can. You get paid for every job and can use those funds to buy upgrades, new trailers, and trucks. While you start off with some pretty underwhelming vehicles that handle horribly, it's not that hard to acquire a truly impressive all-wheel-drive machine after completing a few missions.

SnowRunner performance and visuals

SnowRunner on Xbox One X features breathtakingly beautiful graphics in 4K resolution. Compared to MudRunner, the improvements are remarkable. The colors are much more vivid and realistic this time around. Outside of cockpit view, the rendering is so picturesque that it can pass for real-life shots, especially at night. Unfortunately, there are some areas where the visuals are a little lacking, like how it only runs at 30 frames per seconds on Xbox One X.

During my time with the game, I didn't notice any dynamic scenic changes such as wind blowing through trees or grass moving during a ferocious storm. I wish that would've been added by Saber Interactive because it sounds like a nice addition. With that said, it's definitely not a dealbreaker. As an off-road simulator, the level of detail on the ground is insanely rich. I can confidently say that every trail in this game is unique. Paths feel so organic and natural, and are devoid of the typical feeling of glued-together modularized models found in most racing titles.

SnowRunner driving mechanics

SnowRunner's highlight has to be the Alaska region that is mostly snow-covered. You can access different areas like Michigan and Russia through the semi-open-world structure. Michigan and Russia focus on lots of muddy and rocky situations, so get ready to relive your MudRunner days. However, one of the best parts of this game – that sets itself apart from other driving titles in general – is the interaction of the vehicle with the environment.

Most small objects are movable. When you spin the tires in the mud, expect it to kick and splatter everywhere. When you climb over a rock, that rock might move around and potentially get stuck under the axles. Keep in mind that orange traffic cones and warning signs are merely roadside decorations because as a "snowrunner," you must go off the beaten path. However, guardrails and large trees are immovable. Ramming into them will damage the vehicle and you'll have a costly repair on your hands.

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DeveloperSaber Interactive
PlayersSingle-player, online co-op
PlatformsXbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4
Xbox Game PassNo

I played MudRunner again to compare the driving mechanics to SnowRunner, and I must say, I like SnowRunner a lot better. The driving feel stays mostly the same, but the controls are simplified. There's no convoluted manual shifting, and I don't miss the ability because this is more off-road oriented. However, in some situations, I wish the automatic transmission didn't up-shift during a hill-climb and stutter during the ascent. The auto-reverse feature is still possible by holding the brakes, but in SnowRunner, you can manually choose reverse gear and have better control in certain control such as making a tight U-turn.

SnowRunner customization


Source: Focus Home Interactive (Image credit: Source: Focus Home Interactive)

When it comes to vehicle customization, I normally just drive the stock vehicle or use automatic upgrades in the Forza Horizon or Motorsport games. I found it quite surprising that I actually enjoyed customizing vehicles in SnowRunner. There are many aspects of a truck that one can modify, such as the engine, gearbox, tires, and more. Unlike other games, SnowRunner doesn't burden you with precise mathematical calculations of the gear ratio or more. Instead, the choices you make are very intuitive.

For example, by raising the vehicle higher, you will get better clearance and water fording capabilities, but you risk raising the center of gravity and the vehicle becomes top-heavy and prone to flipping on a slope. Another example would be how installing a more robust engine can help you climb steep hills, but then you're at risk of running out of fuel. These choices and trade-offs are well planned, and in a way introduce strategy to gameplay.

SnowRunner final thoughts


Source: Focus Home Interactive (Image credit: Source: Focus Home Interactive)

Overall, SnowRunner is a great simulation game and the driving mechanics are challenging, but fair. You have to have patience and drive carefully at all times. One mistake could cost you and you'll have to reset the mission. I was talking to a friend about this title the other day and we laughed at how SnowRunner might be "the Dark Souls of driving games." Looking back, it's quite an accurate representation because navigating muddy or snow-covered environments is tricky. You'll be using your winch more than once!

SnowRunner features an excellent tutorial, but the quests and tasks system is a little confusing at first. There are also some typos in the menus and some quests that are simply bugged. Hopefully, a patch will fix these issues at launch or soon after. These are minor concerns and they hardly detract from what is otherwise an excellent simulator.

SnowRunner was reviewed on an Xbox One X with a code provided by the publisher.

Asher Madan

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.