Expeditions: A MudRunner Game Review – Where the Wild Things Are

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game Review

I suspect that, for most people, getting their car hopelessly mired in mud or snow is not a pleasant proposition. Ditto, inching their vehicle up or down a precipitous slope a stone’s throw from a deep canyon. There are, however, adrenaline off-road junkies who seek out these very situations. And there are professional drivers who face these dangers as a matter of course. That’s always been the premise of the MudRunner/SnowRunner games: pushing rigs slowly through and around dangerous conditions. It’s true of Expeditions: A MudRuner Game, as well, with a few differences.

No Grinding Gears

In Expeditions: A MudRunner Game you’re working for a company that specializes in support, rescue and exploration. Over the course of 80+ missions, you’ll be freeing stuck vehicles, recovering wreckage, and scouting locations for scientific base building, just to list a few tasks. There isn’t a voiced narrative. Mission briefings come in the form of texts. In other words, Expeditions isn’t a story-and-vehicle driven (pun intended) RPG. It’s really more like an environmental puzzle game solved by trucks and toys.

Although the objectives change, the core mission loop stays relatively constant. The first step is using tools like drones or binoculars to scout the terrain for passable routes (or more direct but equally more challenging ones). You can mark a series of waypoints to guide you, or just rely on topography and memory. There’s a real art and skill to reading the environment, but even the most eagle-eyed explorers will encounter multiple, literal roadblocks.

Underpinning the actual driving is a fairly basic economic model that turns mission success into cash, new trucks, and gear and base improvements. Overall, Expeditions feels less open-ended and more directed than the prior titles in the franchise. The change in structure works.

Drive, Baby, Drive

Setting aside the growing array array of drones, winches, jackscrews, depth sounders, and other toys, Expeditions is still focused on driving. Thanks to the more exploratory and nimble nature of the missions, the trucks are smaller and the garage is less deep. However, that doesn’t imply lack of variety. The trucks are still highly customizable, both in terms of things like engines, tires, fuel capacity, and drivetrains but also kitting them out visually. I never grew bored with the vehicles. In fact, I appreciated really getting to know the quirks and potential of a smaller collection.

Realistic driving sims — whether racing or trucking or offroading — need to appeal to both a hardcore specialist audience and more casual players. In particular, Expeditions pays meticulous attention to physics, along with the delicate ballet of weight distribution and balance. While Expeditions can be a chill driving game, it can also be a pretty tense experience if you really invest in completing missions quickly or without mishap.

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game recognizes that some players are a little less tolerant of frustration or less interested in absolute realism. There are lots of ways to simplify the experience and the game does an excellent job of directing players towards important considerations like the all-important tire pressure.

Into the Wilds

A game underpinned by exploring some of the world’s wilderness areas needs to sell those environments, and Expeditions is a nearly unqualified success in this regard. Deserts, canyons, overgrown jungles, and forests all look photorealistic and behave accordingly. It doesn’t take long to start seeing the landscapes as full of hazards and opportunities. The lighting engine is equally impressive. The only smudges on an otherwise shiny surface are some surprisingly simple up-close textures and some pop in. And although this is more aesthetic than technical, some of the environments are a bit empty and repetitive over repeated missions.

On the audio side of things, the environmental soundscapes — including the vehicles — are well done, but the soundtrack is on the forgettable side, and often I turned it off altogether.

Have Winch, Will Travel

Although its vehicles and goals are a bit different than in MudRunner or SnowRunner, Expeditions’ more compact mission structure works equally well. The beautiful and intricate puzzle-like environments offer multiple routes to success when coupled with the game’s tools and toys. Armchair adventurers looking for a mild vicarious thrill behind the wheel will find it, as will virtual driving veterans willing to push their skills and understanding of physics to the limit.

***PS5 code provided by the publishers for review***

The Good

  • Fun mission loop
  • Beautiful environments
  • Dialable challenge
  • Cool toys

The Bad

  • Some texture issues
  • Can be very challenging
  • Bland music
  • Live service