Expeditions: A MudRunner Game review
9 mins read

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game review

It’s the dumbest plan anyone’s ever come up with, but it’s the only one I’ve got.

As I motor over the crest, I can see the huge Russian lorry poking through the trees on the edge of the cliff. It’s the Tatra Force, and it’s going to be in my garage soon. I slam the pedal to the metal and ram straight into the back of it.

Entwined like great, ungainly metal lovers, the Tatra and my Loadstar plunge off the edge and – with a surprising amount of gentle grace given that I’ve essentially just dropped a truck on top of another truck – slide towards the riverbank below. Halfway down, I realise that my other ride, the one that’s sitting at the bottom of the cliff, is parked right in the path of the metal avalanche.

Luckily, it stops just short of turning my awaiting chariot into a pancake.

20 minutes later, the Tatra’s engine is broken, and so is my heart. I can’t get it up the climb back to camp.

If you’ve ever played either of Expeditions: A MudRunner Game’s main siblings – MudRunner and SnowRunner, odds are you’ve got countless tales like that all of your own. This latest entry in the series – as you’d expect given its name – has a lot in common with those two games. Series vets will feel right at home with everything from the off-roading physics, which veer between bouncy fun and unforgiving slog depending on which bit of landscape you’re trampling through, to the driving mechanics you’ll be using to do said trampling.

There are a number of key differences this time though, and I’m glad to report that they do make for an experience that offers enough of a twist on the series’ well-honed established formula of ‘here is big vehicle, here is thing several hundred miles away, prepare to fight nature on way there’ to feel quite fresh. Expeditions, you’ll be surprised to learn, is about expeditions – missions specially designed for a fleet of scout vehicles and smaller trucks than your usual Derry Longhorn or Pacific P12.

Taking a picture of a big tree in Expeditions: A MudRunner Game.
You have no idea what I went through to take a picture of this big tree. | Image credit: VG247/Saber Interactive

Armed with an array of new gadgets, hireable helpers, and upgradeable outposts, your jobs this time around will see you doing things like locating dinosaur footprints, taking pictures of stone heads hidden deep within the woods, and checking out old buildings. There’s still plenty of haulage involved, and some of it involves delivering weather and water monitoring stations in a manner that feels very SnowRunner, but there are no trailers filled with logs or rolls of sheet metal that inevitably end up getting chucked across the landscape when you mess up.

There’s even plenty of bridge building, though this time they’re just little folding ones that only require some of your spare parts. Oh, and you’ll find plenty of nice little tasks and side jobs to do in between big expeditions, which is another nice carry-over.

The result is something that’ll definitely be interesting to folks who’re already into the series, but I think those who’re coming in with visions of it being a bit like what’d happen if Indiana Jones or Lara Croft got really into Land Rover Defenders might be left a little bit disappointed. First of all, the game has the same subtle tone as its predecessors, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that each of your cool discoveries feels a bit more like someone in Time Team unearthing a bit of pottery with a trowel than it does Indy finding a golden idol.

A truck next to some dinosaur bones in Expeditions: A MudRunner Game.
Believe it or not, the game wasn’t saving because the dino was about to come back to life and savage me. Or maybe it was… | Image credit: VG247/Saber Interactive

Then, there’s the fact that Expeditions is, like its predecessors, prone to being tougher than a sudoku puzzle designed by god himself. Things start off nice and easy with five tutorial missions in their own mini-region called Little Colorado, but once you get into the game’s main two areas – the desert of Arizona and the rocky woodland of the Carpathian Mountains – things quickly ratchet up. In these two huge areas – which have plenty of cool vistas and secrets on offer, even if I’d have ideally liked to see them teamed with a snowy third region – missions range from normal (a little bit tough), to hard (really quite tough), to very hard (set aside at least an hour or two and remember your breathing exercises).

To make it clear, this isn’t necessarily a problem at all – especially given that the huge adrenaline rush you get from finally overcoming the odds to complete a task has always been a big part of the series – it just means I find it more difficult to recommend Expeditions as the ideal jumping-on point for these games than I thought I might going in. Also, not being able to access free roam in an area until you’ve completed five expeditions in it is a pretty bizarre choice in this regard, scouting out places in person ahead of jobs has long been a common sense tip I’d give to any SnowRunner newbie.

Thankfully, gadgets and gear like the echo sounder that shows you the depth of water bodies, jack screws that can put you back on all four wheels a limited number of times, and anchors that serve as placeable winch points all do help to make things a bit less unforgiving than in the series’ previous entries, even if you will definitely need to make use of all of them. I was less of a fan of the drone, which is used to uncover the map in place of the usual watchtowers and is only kind of okay at actually helping you explore the circles of land you’ve got to fully chart as part of a lot – arguably too many – of the missions.

A truck in the garage in Expeditions: A MudRunner Game.
Who doesn’t love giving their Actaeon a spare tyre as a nose? | Image credit: VG247/Saber Interactive

On the other hand, I’m happy to confirm that at least a couple of the six different types of specialist you can recruit to offer you certain stat boosts for the duration of a certain job or roaming session are very useful indeed. Shout out to the hydrologists for stopping me from ending up with a submerged car every five minutes and the operators for making the drone a bit less crap. The mechanics and jaegers are also pretty handy.

The other thing you can spend your money on, truck customisation, is also quite nice, with an array of visual and practical options available for a motley crew of jeeps, little trucks, and that one big truck I mentioned earlier. That said, it would have been nice if the tasks you’ve got to complete to unlock some of the vehicles stuck stranded out in the wilderness were a little less impossible. The Tatra’s the main one, given that it’s the only heavy truck in the game on release, which makes rescuing it with smaller offroad trucks about as easy as passing a gallstone the size and shape of France.

Me pushing the Tatra down a cliff in Expeditions: A MudRunner Game.
Soon. | Image credit: VG247/Saber Interactive

I will manage to retrieve it eventually though, because if there’s one thing Expeditions and its terrifying muddy siblings will teach you, it’s that eventually overcoming the perils of picturesque, but unyielding nature through sheer relentlessness will never stop feeling rewarding.

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game launches on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X and Series S on March 5, 2024, but will begin unlocking on February 29 for those who pre-ordered certain versions. This review was conducted using code provided by the publisher, and conducted on PC.

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