Trudging Through the Mud in Spintires

Spring arrives and roads deteriorate.  It’s the nature of the season that defrosting plus winter runoff is going to do unpleasant things to the nice, flat, even, broad expanse of blacktop that provides a comfortable path from point A to point B.  A couple of frost heaves, a little flooding, and a few potholes are, generally, the worst of it, unless of course that road is little more than a dirt track through the woods hundreds of miles from civilization, in which case all bets are off.  It’s going to take a heavy beast of a machine to plow its way through the mud pits, flowing rivers, and worryingly uneven surfaces that pass for roads in the back hinterlands.  Spintires puts you in control of an ecological nightmare of a machine that can carve a path through the mire, and its Kickstarter comes with a tech demo to show off the impressive terrain deformation and truck handling that the gameplay features will be wrapped around.

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The demo is simply a large, mostly-circular track through a variety of conditions, although there’s at least one side-path to explore.  While there are no goals like transporting cargo, and damage and fuel systems aren’t implemented yet, the handling of the massive 8-wheeled behemoth seems right for the conditions.  Soft earth, mud pits, ruts carved by previous travelers on the dirt road, and even a large pond that washes the dirt off your tires when you muscle through it are all there to play with.  It’s a great structure to hang a game off.  There’s also an older demo available that’s got a bit of gameplay in it, of the “find crates in hidden areas and bring to the warehouse” variety, but the newer one is much prettier and has a revised control scheme.

Current plans for Spintires‘s campaign are still early, “subject to change”, and that’s a bit worrying for a game whose oldest appearance on Youtube is from 2010.  Still, the work on display is impressive, and it’s fun just to explore the terrain and make it react to the truck’s presence.  Once the gameplay is inserted you’ll be lifting and hauling cargo through the worst driving conditions the Russian wilderness can throw at you, managing time, fuel, and damage on multiple types of truck, with a variety of control schemes depending on how “sim” you want to go.  The current tech demo supports standard two wheel drive, all-wheel, and differential lock (for either letting the wheels on opposite sides of an axle spin at different speeds or locking them together), and future plans involve full manual transmission with a double-clutch, where appropriate, for those who want to have full control.  Thankfully, for those wanting to muscle giant rigs through brutal terrain without knowing why you’d ever need a double-clutch, or what effect it has that a regular clutch can’t handle, there will be various levels of automatic and semi-auto to choose from.

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Spintires is the kind of game idea that makes you wonder why this hasn’t been done yet.  Giant Russian truck-beasts are awesome, and while trucking sims aren’t a very popular genre in America there’s a large world outside its borders that loves them.  Combine a trucking sim with heavy offroading and proper terrain deformation through a variety of difficult conditions, based on real-world challenges that have the advantage of being perfect for gaming, and it seems like a no-brainer.  There’s a lot of potential in Spintires, and the tech demo goes a long way towards showing off the gameplay possibilities.  Plug in the 360 pad for best effect and give it a play-through.