Expeditions: A Mudrunner Game is an intense and wild experience | Hands-on preview

by on January 9, 2024

It took me ten minutes to get out of a glorified puddle. A drop in the ocean of the wild Arizona landscape. I’d never felt so hopeless as I did in those moments, going from defeating gargantuan bosses in Elden Ring and surviving hour-long strategic battles in Baldur’s Gate 3 to doing my absolute best to get out of a small body of water was a shock to the system. Yet, despite my struggles, the satisfaction of breaking free from Mother Nature’s grasp equalled any victory that came before, regardless of the game. Expeditions: A Mudrunner Game pits you against the vast wilds of America and Central Europe, and it’s been one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had over the past few years.

I’ve been fortunate enough to play a preview of Expeditions: A Mudrunner Game over the Christmas break, and from what I’ve seen so far, there’s one hell of a challenge for players to overcome. We take the natural landscape for granted, with many of us only ever seeing these stunning locations from the comfort of our own sofa. Saber’s latest instalment throws you right into the thick of it and forces you to overcome steep and rocky mountains, mud-soaked vistas and lush forests, deep lakes and yes, those damn puddles. Each expedition you take on gives you an objective, whether it’s picking up precious cargo or something else, you’ll have to pick wisely when it comes to your equipment and supplies.

Choosing which tools to take with you was often shown to me before I embarked on a new expedition, but you’re also free to select some extra ones if you feel they may be useful. Removeable Anchors allow you to select custom winch points for when the nearest tree doesn’t do the trick and return it back to your inventory; Jack-Screws help you to flip your vehicle back on its wheels if you topple over; and other gear like the Rangefinder gives you guidance as to how far away you are from something in the environment. There’re also various devices like the metal detector than can be equipped to your truck, and excess supplies like fuel and spare parts can be taken with you into the wild.

Preparation is key before leaving your base, but no matter whether you think you’ve done enough to succeed, nothing can prepare you for the challenges that await. Expeditions: A Mudrunner Game is tough, and there’ll be plenty of times when you turn a little too soon or get caught out by a rock you thought was smaller than it was. You’ll get stuck in a ditch, slide down a cliff, clip a tree stump, or get your wheels wrapped up in reeds. A lake will ruin your engine and you’ll get swamped in a mud pit more times than you’d like, but these encounters are what makes it so rewarding when you overcome them. Your objective could be a few hundred metres away, but the difficulty in getting there pushes you to your limits.

In the preview, I saw three areas, and each came with its own set of challenges. While Little Colorado and Arizona were similar in design, Arizona was vast and dangerous, with the littlest bump forcing me to change tactics. The Carpathian Mountains were filled with trees and rough grassy terrain, and despite there being a beautiful and serene lake in the middle, it didn’t like me trying to cross it at all. Some of the quick-select tools were a Godsend in these moments, such as the Echo Sounder that showed me how deep water is. If you head into water than reaches your engine, it will mess it up and render your vehicle useless. You can use repair parts to fix your jeep, but too much recklessness will force you to return to base.

You can use your binoculars to scope out the landscape and look for points of interest and supplies, as well as the drone which gives you a clearer look at pathways to your objective. The winch is perhaps the most useful tool at your disposal, and you’ll be free to use it wherever there’s something to connect it with. While it is difficult at times, you’ve got an abundance of equipment to help you get out of any situation. The controls are tight and responsive, reacting well to the tough terrain. You can initiate your AWB to make it easier to drive over terrain, as well as reducing tire pressure for a smoother transition, but doing so increases fuel consumption. All these little hacks and tweaks increase the risk and reward, and knowing what to do and when to do it makes each expedition so exciting.

Expeditions: A Mudrunner Game is a ton of fun so far, even if I did struggle in the beginning. You start to learn what works best and when to use your equipment, however, you can never judge how successful you’ll be due to the stunning design and replication seen in the gorgeous locations. Although some of the missions sound pretty straightforward, you’ll spend hours competing against nature in large environments, finding the best way to reach your goal. This one wasn’t on my radar before playing, but now I’ve sank a good chunk of time into it, I’m ready to play more when the game comes out in a few months.

Expeditions: A Mudrunner Game comes out 5 March, 2024 for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.