VR Gaming

Published on June 11th, 2024 | by Nay Clark

MudRunner VR (Quest)

MudRunner VR (Quest) Nay Clark

Summary: MudRunner VR provides a new perspective in this vehicle towing extravaganza of a franchise, but missing features, pedestrian design, and lack of creativity transports your vehicle that's stuck in the mud into a stick.


Slog Trudger

MudRunner VR is an off-roading simulation game developed and published by Saber Interactive, released on May 30th of 2024, and is available on Meta Quest 3, Meta Quest 2, and Meta Quest Pro. MudRunner VR is the fifth installment in the series and the first one to get the virtual reality treatment. The games are all about experiencing the massive weight of these large vehicles while using them to complete tasks such as lifting turned over cars or moving felled trees from the middle of the road. Moving to the VR space makes perfect sense for a game like this where feeling the controls would enhance your immersion and increase the involvement of the gameplay, but while traversing these themes, MudRunner VR gets stuck in this mixture and runs out of gas quickly.

The story in MudRunner VR is simple and acts as a good tutorial for the game. There are eleven missions to truck through and even though they aren’t overly complicated, they can take a while because of how slow the gameplay can get at times. A young man sets out to help his uncle Max with some work for some cash and while the money is what is most important for him at the first, the allure for these machines and his love for the craft slowly grows over time. It starts out pretty simple at first, but as the missions continue, they get a bit more complicated. The story mode overall is pretty straightforward and limited in design; you can’t really stray far from your mission and the path from point A to point B is direct. Besides the Story mode, there is a Free Play mode that lets you take control of one of eight different vehicles. The map is a bit larger than those in the Story mode and you have full reign on how to tackle your missions.

The gameplay consists of you driving your vehicle and completing tasks, like hauling loads from one place to another using a tractor trailer, while trying not to run out of fuel or completely destroying your truck by overworking it. There is a GPS in the car where you can set different destination points and read messages. A button on the controller activates Driver Focus, which acts as a hint system and brings up the name of everything around you if you forget. Using different features and mechanics of your truck while driving like Diff Lock, AWD, and your winch are all imperative to fully finish your jobs successfully.

Playing a game like this in VR gives you the sense that you are actually there in these environments. You can grab the wheel to turn your truck or you can use the thumbsticks to steer if that’s more comfortable. You have to actually activate things in the vehicle like four-wheel drive, shifting into park, and the windshield wipers. The trucks have slightly different cockpit interiors that provide a much needed variety in what you see and how you actually function with your hands while driving. To attach the winch to another car, you have to actually get out and pull it to the other car’s bumper and connect it, then go back in your car to activate it. 

While a slow paced simulator game like this makes perfect sense on paper, the execution of it all doesn’t come across as clean as you would want it to. In the past MudRunner games, the physics were really important and also a big drive on what makes the games appealing in the first place. While MudRunner VR gives you more of a first hand experience, you can’t see anything outside of your truck so it doesn’t feel as interactive and rewarding if you were seeing your truck actually going through the motions of treading through muddy waters. Seeing what is happening outside the driver’s seat is pivotal and this first person view just makes you feel blind to the totality of everything in general.

Since the game is in VR, it graphically isn’t as interesting as the past games. Fences and trees have jagged edges, sheds are filled with undetailed boxes and tools, and the environments look and feel empty and uninspired. The game simply doesn’t look as good as the other games which is also another big part of what makes the MudRunner series unique and compelling. Details like turning the window wipers on to get the mud off of the windshield are great, but looking out your side view mirrors decreases your captivation as there is a big dip in framerate through the reflection.

The ambient sounds are mostly good by being able to hear the slight rustle of the wind shaking a bush, birds taking flight and squalling off into the distance, and flies annoyingly buzzing near outhouses. The hum of trucks stuttering to start is satisfying and the mud sloshing around at the wheels helps make treading through it feel more engrossing. It was pretty upsetting to hear dogs constantly barking and find dog houses out and about only to never see a dog in the game. The voice acting of the main character is actually pretty good and his lines come off as sincere. The instrumental folk music that plays while you are driving around and small guitar jingles that chime after a completed task are earnest, but the lack of diversity in the tunes tonally create a state of unbearable inattention while you are lugging through an insurmountable amount of dirty slop.

Swerving around rock slides and finding ways to avoid formidable and inclement weather conditions all while trying to find fuel to fill up your vehicle is enjoyable, but MudRunner VR fades into the background when compared to its predecessors. The framerate drops are consistent, texture pop-in is abundant, and the smaller map size makes this VR counterpart lacking in depth and design. The absence of any sort of vehicle upgrades or mods make this game feel like a small slice of the MudRunner cake. 

The teleport extension, that a lot of VR games include, has a short length here in MudRunner VR, making every step you take a slog. While driving feels fine for the most part, you can’t truly get a grip of the manipulation of the terrain and since you can’t see the outside of the vehicle, you can’t see your immediate surrounding areas. Yes, it feels like you are dealing with heavy equipment, but it’s a big price to pay that’s not worth it in the end since you can never have a grasp on where you are going. I would constantly get stuck on fences or end up in a certain patch of the road that I was trying my darndest to avoid. I would finally make it to the end of my objective to look back and see that the truck that I was pulling had disconnected from the winch because of one bad turn and I would have to restart the mission because I didn’t have enough gas or my trucks integrity would be too low to turn around and get it.

While the game does have different comfort levels for controlling your character and vehicle like the degrees in which you turn and how severe the vignette is, the attempt to alleviate motion sickness or dizziness in driving games is still pretty tough. It’s just such a surreal feeling, especially while the stability and equilibrium on the vehicle is constantly askew. Compared to other VR games, this one did make me feel a bit uneasy at first, but I got used to it. I also had some problems with the loading screens getting stuck at times and having to fully restart to fix it.

Final Thoughts?

MudRunner VR, much like a lot of other VR games based on their respective games with the same title, is just a smaller version of that game with a distinctive quality. Casting away series staple design mechanics in favor of having this type of style of playing may not be worth it in the end. The unconventionalism does pack a certain charm into the mix and the leisurely pace the game strives for is accomplished. If you are a fan of handling machinery like this, the gameplay, sounds, and tasks may leave you satisfied. Sadly, the bleary graphics, barren wasteland of a world, repeating music, underwhelming design and mechanics, and mere transition into VR makes it a struggle to enjoy. With that in mind, the atypical style and characteristics that MudRunner establishes are quaint and project a particular vibe that many other games fail to accomplish. MudRunner VR is a nonchalant game about peacefully fulfilling these large tasks at a brisk pace. Shift gears and enjoy the ride.

About the Author

Gaming holds a special place in my heart and I never stop talking about video games. I really love all types of games and have an interest in games that have complicated stories and lore because I enjoy untangling the mystery of it all. When I'm not gaming, I unsuccessfully try to control three amazing and incredibly bright kids.

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