Pacific Drive Review | PlayStation 5

Pacific Drive is fantastic; driving through it has been a unique experience.

By Rayan, Posted 25 Feb 2024

While most of us know Kepler Interactive for publishing games like Sifu, Tchia, or their highly anticipated upcoming action RPG Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn, Ironwood Studios might not ring the bell for many since this Seattle-based developer hasn't practically released any game earlier. But they brought a new S.T.A.L.K.E.R.-style game using a wracked car, and this first-person driving survival game, Pacific Drive, pits you against otherworldly threats. At the same time, they embark you on adventures to collect materials to improve your car, which eventually makes you care more about your car than yourself.


Pacific Drive, Review, PS5, Gameplay, Screenshot, Survival, Driving
 

This splendid car will be your lifeline as you travel the post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest, collecting and evaluating petrol stations, research sites, fabric scraps, and plasma canisters; more crucially, you'll need to build repair kits and enhancements for yourself and your car. As you go through the game, you'll explore further into the environment and unlock new biomes. This opens the door to increasingly difficult obstacles and unlocks better supplies for upgrades. Amidst all this, you are also trying to put the pieces together of a long-lost mystery surrounding the Olympic exclusion zone in the Pacific Northwest.

The events of Pacific Drive occur in a parallel universe. On the Olympic Peninsula in the northwest of the United States, new clandestine technologies were developed—which, incidentally, do, in fact, exist—but an error occurred. Strange occurrences took place, and individuals vanished. Consequently, the government encased the entire territory in hundreds of meters high walls, effectively sealing it off. Here is where bad luck starts. Just beyond the right-hand barrier, you'll see yourself being beamed shortly, and this is where things start to go wrong. As an anonymous protagonist, you find yourself inexplicably transported to this restricted location in 1998 while taking a diversion through it.

Your only option is to take a dilapidated station wagon on a hazardous drive to a local workshop. The only individuals you communicate with—through radio—are her owner, Oppy, and strange Tobias and Francis. Getting out of this jam is, of course, the objective. Unfortunately, you will need to cross the inner ring of the exclusion zone, which is no picnic, to accomplish this. While Pacific Drives' plot isn't particularly deep, it does provide a solid hook for the game since it puts you in a situation where you'll be curious about the Olympic Peninsula and all its mysteries.


Pacific Drive, Review, PS5, Gameplay, Screenshot, Survival, Driving
 

Pacific Drives' goal is to set up your base of operations in your garage. Gather everything you own, get your automobile in working order, and load everything into your trunk. After deciding where you want to travel, you'll actually be making your way there. Assuming you make it to the region, you can drive around, exit your vehicle, explore, and loot any houses or containers you come across—all while dodging hordes of strange creatures.

You can learn more about their actions by scanning anomalies, enemies, or supernatural occurrences; after all, not all of them are harmful. Using some of them in a specific way will help you complete the area, and then you'll have to decide what to do next or to continue driving to the next place when you feel ready. In most cases, however, when you have sufficient gas and fuel, have completed all necessary repairs, have a fully charged battery, are in good health, and you're going to attempt to push to the next zone.

Again, though, there's always the chance that your hard work will be for naught if you die; you'll be sent crashing back to your garage. You lose all of your recent work, accomplishments, and resources the moment you go back to your base. Not only will you lose all the material in your car if you die, but you'll also need to utilize the material you have at the base to fix your car since you messed it up while you were traveling. So, the game's death mechanic is brutal. One option is to keep moving forward once you're in the area, but another is to use the anchors to your advantage. You can refer to it as an extraction if you like, and if you can drive to it, it will send you back to base with all of your material.

Your car will be in a bad state when you begin your journey in Pacific Drive. As you cling to your body panels with duct tape, you will try to drive through dense Pacific woods on spare tires. As you go, you'll swap out these subpar parts with tough off-road tires, armored bumpers, roof racks, real-life jump jets, and electric coils to smash through any obstacle. So that you know, there's more to it than cruising about in your automobile through the countryside and forests. Amid it all, you must avoid many weird things, such as helpful bugs attaching to your automobile and fixing its broken parts, terrifying buzz saws, and exploding mannequins. You will be propelled into the air if the car collides with these spectral lines on the ground.


Pacific Drive, Review, PS5, Gameplay, Screenshot, Survival, Driving
 

These irregularities are fine while studying them, but the intensity is off the charts when it comes time to extract them. In many ways, Pacific Drive serves as an extraction looter. When you extract, you're actually creating a gateway through time that will transport you back to your starting point. That is something that the new forest proportions find objectionable. Now you're racing against the clock as the environment collides with itself, swooping over hills, ditches, and down mountains, dodging bizarre lay lines and mechanical beasts that want to capture your car while you're inside.

The exhausting, meticulous looting that preceded these extractions is delightfully turned upside down by these thrilling, nail-biting adventures. As previously said, once you return to base after extraction, you can utilize your loot to enhance your automobile. Additionally, you'll be able to fix any problems that may have developed in the zone. Because your car is unique in and of itself, you may occasionally experience minor mechanical issues. Your car has the charming, old-fashioned oddities you'd expect from a beloved car, like beeping every time you close the trunk. However, as you progress, you'll encounter increasingly strange anomalies, such as a sudden upward jump if you turn the windshield wiper or a slammed gas pedal whenever you tilt the steering wheel to the left.

These peculiarities became my favorite part of the game because they evolve while you're in the zone. You might not notice your car turning off when you switch on your headlights until you're three sectors into your run. The standard procedure of evading these outliers and progressing continues, but you will now need to adapt your actions to accommodate your newfound peculiarity. Plus, the nicest part is that you probably won't notice anything has happened right away.


Pacific Drive, Review, PS5, Gameplay, Screenshot, Survival, Driving
 

You will likely find it strange when your car randomly turns off. As soon as you turn the key in the ignition, the trunk opens, which is among the first peculiarities you'll observe, and these are actually intentional. And then you have these strange symptoms that you're trying to figure out what's wrong, and that's how you find out the problem. You need to find out why your vehicle is turning off and the action causing it to do so.

The brutality of dying in Pacific Drive has been one of its most disheartening aspects for me since you lose so much progress with each death. At first, I attempted to get the narrative over with as little effort as possible. I soon figured that this was causing me to run into situations like not having enough resources, upgrades, or the right car to go to the next section, and I untimely died in the process. It was annoying to die that way since I had to start from the beginning.

Eventually, I turned around and drove again, visiting different parts to collect more supplies before returning to my headquarters to upgrade. However, the journey was far from smooth. I couldn't help but think of venturing into further areas to tackle every time I went to acquire the things I needed. And then I died again being too greedy, and I lost all my progress again. The game's brutality is dependent on your playstyle. I advise playing this game slowly and not putting too much money on the line.

Luckily, however, both the level of difficulty and the number of accessibility options are pretty high in Pacific Drive. There are plenty of ways to alter the difficulty if you'd prefer a less taxing challenge. If you successfully complete a run, for instance, your automobile can be wholly restored when you return to the base. You may make this game fit the needs of a wide variety of players by switching to a mode where you retain some of your supplies even after death. To experience the entire survival mode, you'll need to choose the standard difficulty. Of course, you may adjust those parameters to your liking if you're merely interested in playing the game without worrying too much about dying; I guarantee you'll still have a blast anyway.


Pacific Drive, Review, PS5, Gameplay, Screenshot, Survival, Driving
 

The truth is that exploring deserted buildings and research facilities for loot can sometimes get a bit monotonous. The buildings are identical except for the placement of the toolboxes and lockers. When you're on foot, you'll face a few dangers for long stretches of the game. It seems like you're just going about your business, collecting supplies, and then heading back to your car. And besides, you're likely already parked outside the research station or hut you're robbing, so you shouldn't be worried about any danger.

Pacific Drive puts so much trouble into slowing your progress by reducing items to abstract numbers, such as plastics, junk, metal, rubber, etc., so all you do is increase the numbers on your resources. But it is a fantastic method to include the experience of owning and maintaining an aged car into the gameplay. In painting, repairing, and tinkering with the car—especially when it buckles—you grow emotionally attached to it. You come to own it in a way. The system is excellent, and it performs better than I had anticipated. The game's best features end with the car and how you communicate with it.

A part of me wished this game had an additional layer of MMO shooter on top of everything else. But even without much action, it's not all that bad. It is acceptable, and even enjoyable, to amass resources that will be utilized to empower significant enhancements. It's not necessarily a negative thing, and it's obvious the game is trying to achieve its goal of making something unique rather than being another extraction shooter or non-combat game.


Pacific Drive, Review, PS5, Gameplay, Screenshot, Survival, Driving
 

Even though it has a few issues, Pacific Drive is fantastic once you sit down and play it correctly. The game's core mechanic is survival, but many might fail to see that. Anyone who enjoys survival games should definitely give this one a go. Even if you usually don't enjoy survival games, you might be interested in building and driving your car. But before you do, you might want to fiddle with the levels of difficulty and accessibility settings to find a setting that suits your playing style. Pacific Drive is fantastic; driving through it has been a unique experience and arguably the year's most unique survival game entries.
 

Azfar Rayan (@AzfarRayan)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Pacific Drive

90/100

Platform(s): PC, PS5
Publisher(s): Kepler Interactive Limited
Developer(s): Ironwood Studios
Genres: Driving
Themes: Survival, First-Person, Action
Release Date: 2024-02-22

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