I have been playing Spintires for over a year now on PC. As a result, this review is more of a comparison between that and the new Switch version. Thus, if you want a more in-depth analysis on the gameplay itself, please check out my original review of the PC version of Spintires: MudRunner over on our sister website, PC Invasion.
I fell in love with Spintires when it launched last year, and desired for it to come to Switch. Yet, I never expected it to actually happen. But, to my surprise, an announcement was made a few months ago. Fast-forward to now, and I’ve been playing the game for several hours. I’m happy to report that somehow, Saber Interactive has managed to keep the entire Spintires experience intact here on Nintendo Switch.
The Switch version of Spintires: MudRunner includes every last bit of content that has come to the other platforms. That includes the American Wilds expansion pack, which released a few weeks ago. Since I just recently dived back into the game on PC to review that pack, the experience was fresh in my mind coming into the Switch version.
As I said, everything is here. All the vehicles, all the maps, the complex physics system, and even the visuals have surprisingly remained intact (but I’ll dive more into this part specifically a little later).
Playing on Switch with the Joy-Con has been an interesting experience. This is the first proper simulator-style driving game I’ve played on Switch. I have to say, I miss having analog triggers. On PC, I play with an Xbox One controller. By comparison, the Joy-Con do feel less up to the tasks, and my inputs seemed a little more twitchy. But, it’s still quite manageable. However, they do have a bit of an edge when it comes to the exclusive HD Rumble functionality. You can feel your truck moving along the terrain as it bumps and bashes around, and when the gears shift. It’s a subtle effect but really adds to the experience.
If you’ve never played Spintires before, then you should know that this is a very slow game. The goal is to navigate your vehicles through a sandbox-style map of the Russian (and American) backwoods, with the main objective being to deliver logs to the Lumber Mills. On paper that may sound simple, but it isn’t. The game is called Spintires for a reason, as you often spend a lot of time getting stuck in the mud and thick shrubbery. This is the main reason why I wanted a Switch version of the game, as getting to play portably would give me a chance to make some progress in small increments. This really is a game that can sap hours away from you if you’re not careful. So, having it on the go makes it a lot more manageable.
On that note, the experience does carry over well to handheld mode. Though, this is where the one major shortcoming of the Switch version becomes clear: the resolution.
I don’t have an exact pixel count, but playing in docked mode hasn’t been half bad. The game does seem to run at least 720p here, if not 900p or 1080p. Handheld mode, however, is another story. Everything becomes very blurry as if vaseline has been smeared over the screen. It doesn’t look terrible but does make navigating through thick forests more difficult. The resolution here is definitely below 720p. That said, the overall presentation of the game has still held up far better than what I was expecting.
For some reason, no official screenshots or footage of the Switch version was posted before release. This made me quite nervous before I booted it up for the first time. On PC, I have the game running at a full 1080p at max settings. The framerate usually sticks at 60FPS or a little below. On Switch, the framerate is locked to 30FPS, but does regularly dip into the 20s and sometimes even the teens (though this is rare). The two American Wilds maps seem to have the most framerate issues for some reason, but it’s hard to say for sure due to the open design of the game. Thus, some players may find the inconsistent framerate a bit disorienting. Despite being accustomed to playing at a higher framerate on PC, I adjusted fairly well. Even in handheld mode, Spintires is still quite functional on Switch.
Considering that all of the maps are open and consist of dense foliage, on top of the complex physics system, it really is a technical miracle that Spintires is running on Switch at all. Compared to the PC version, the texture quality and lighting is still good. The only real visual sacrifices that stood out to me was a reduction in draw distance. Objects fade in very frequently in both docked and handheld mode, though this happens more often when playing portably. Another, weirder, difference I noticed is that handheld mode seems to render thicker shadows. I’m not quite sure of the reason here, but it’s not a huge difference. One more change is that the amount of foliage is subtly reduced in handheld mode.
Overall, despite the framerate and low resolution in handheld mode, I still consider this to be a great port. It would be nice if a performance mode is added, however. Nevertheless, I’m very happy with the work Saber Interactive has done here, and am thankful for the opportunity to play Spintires on the go.
A review code was provided by the publisher.