The opening moments of Saber Interactive's SnowRunner aren't exactly the most promising. The game drops players in the middle of a small town in Michigan and tasks them with figuring things out on their own. There are rudimentary instructions that pop up on the screen and a tutorial that can be accessed, but most of the beginning stages of SnowRunner is trying to figure out just how everything works. This is frustrating to be sure, but it also leads to some rewarding gameplay down the line. In fact, after the basics are mastered and players find themselves switching vehicles, engines or whatever else ensures easier maneuverability in the luscious but dangerous world of SnowRunner, what's revealed is easily one of the best simulation games in recent memory.

SnowRunner's basic premise is relatively simple: players must traverse the most brutal environments using a wide assortment of vehicles to complete jobs in different parts of the world. During these missions, it's important to pick the proper vehicle for the job, and the right parts for the right vehicle that will allow you to pull trailers of equipment to a designated location (among other types of missions). Some jobs will require players to traverse extremely muddy terrain, with areas of deep water. So for a job like that, you'd be best off equipping a vehicle with a snorkel of some sort. Most vehicles also come with a winch, which can be attached to almost any solid object in the game.

While SnowRunner's premise is simple, the learning curve is not and if players do not master the basics and pay attention to job location and requirement, failure is the likely outcome. SnowRunner is not a particularly easy game, but when jobs are done correctly and the "mission completed" words flash across the screen, it is an extremely rewarding one. Before long, the title goes from frustratingly challenging to wholly addictive. SnowRunner's insistence on realism becomes its greatest strength, injecting adrenaline into nearly every mission, especially some of the later game ones in snowy Alaska where the game truly lives up to its title.

On top of all of these qualities, SnowRunner is just absolutely beautiful to look at. Its map is huge and covers three very different regions of the world all with their own unique challenges, and all with very discernible graphical design. While it's perhaps not as refined as a AAA title, make no mistake about it: SnowRunner is absolutely art in every sense of the word. It's one of those games that very much deserves a photo mode that's become all the rage in bigger titles over the last few years.

No game is without flaws, however, and SnowRunner is no exception. There are some weird audio delay issues at times and more than a few frame rate drops in particularly graphics-heavy areas. And while the game shoots for realism like most simulators, there are times when the steering of vehicles just feels a bit off when playing with a controller. This can be offset somewhat by switching to first-person mode, but it's still just a bit unoptimized as a whole. And it has to be mentioned that casual players who aren't really into a steep learning curve or figuring out the little intricacies will be turned off from a game like SnowRunner.

These are very minor quibbles, however, because SnowRunner will easily impress fans of the series, much like MudRunner did. And, most importantly, SnowRunner is one of the best simulators in years, and easily one of the best games to come out this year. It is a difficult, addictive and absolutely beautiful thrill ride that takes advantage of every single component, from vehicle customization to realistic terrain. Simply put, the level of detail involved is still a little hard to comprehend. This is the pinnacle of simulation games.

SnowRunner releases on April 28, 2020 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.