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April 2024

Pacific Drive

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Kepler Interactive
Developer: Ironwood Studios
Release Date: Feb. 22, 2024

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PS5/PC Preview - 'Pacific Drive'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Feb. 12, 2024 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Pacific Drive is a run-based, first-person driving survival game set in the pacific northwest region of the United States.

Man, Pacific Drive just scratches a particular itch that I didn't know I had. When its demo hit Steam a few days ago, it hit my download queue soon afterward. I'm a big fan of postapocalyptic games, but you usually lack a vehicle in them, let alone a sweet station wagon. Pacific Drive feels like a roguelike in which you take repeated trips into an ever-changing Olympic Exclusion Zone, but in between, you upgrade your vehicle to improve your next trek into the zone.

Without going into detail, the background story is that a bunch of scientists held some secretive experiments in the Pacific Northwest. What was promised to bring utopia instead brought ruin, and the area was cordoned off and became known as the Olympic Exclusion Zone. Strange things happen within the zone, with the landscape shifting forms around small pockets of stability where people can still live. No one is allowed in or out of the zone, and it isn't well known what goes on within.

You play as someone who started a drive near the zone, but as you drive close, an anomaly occurs and pulls you into its red glow. You wake up inside of the zone, with your car's disassembled components floating weightlessly in the air around you. You clamber over some of the nearby terrain, and there she is: a run-down but otherwise functional station wagon parked within a lone garage. Some friendly voices on the radio have realized you are in the zone and guide you through replacing one of the wagon's wheels so you can get to safety.

The wagon isn't all that it seems, though. Your friends inform you that it matches the energy signature of a remnant. Remnants can take many forms, but supposedly they bond with a person and then slowly corrupt their minds until the person ends up wandering into the zone. This time, the remnant is in the form of a station wagon, and corrupted mind or not, I found it easy to get attached to it.

Once you reach the garage — and between subsequent runs into the zone — you can really work on the car. Body panels and doors can be repaired, replaced, and painted. Cracked glass should get resealed, and flat tires should be repaired. You may want to whip up some repair items and a spare tire to throw into the boxes in the back before using the garage's map to decide on a destination and set off.

Within the zone, there are some hazards, but with the demo's single "level," I'm sure there are more to be found in the full release. Radio towers can shock you with lightning if you get too close without first using an impact hammer to break their power source. Floating machines detect you if their patrol route passes over your car, at which point they'll attach a magnetic tether to it and try to drag it into the wilderness. There are pockets of anomalies, such as radiation, that can sap your health.

You'll often want to get out of the car and explore some buildings on foot to use your tools and gather resources. This means you need to put your car in park and turn off the ignition to not waste gas, and then you poke around the environments to see what you can find. At first, you can only make relatively crude parts for your wagon, but it seems likely that later on, you'll be able to put better parts on the car. At the very least, those summer tires are poor for traction in the mud during a heavy rainstorm, and I'd sure love the option to craft up some better ones.

At the end of a run, you need to gather some orbs to power an ARC device inside the car, and you can choose an exit destination as long as you aren't too close to its location. Once a destination is selected, you have a limited amount of time to reach it because the surrounding zone starts to collapse around it. Think along the lines of a shrinking map in a battle royale game, except you're hurtling down a grassy hill in a beautifully wood-paneled ride and trying to avoid slamming into trees.

I really want to see more of the game, as the demo was a great tease of the potential that Pacific Drive offers. I played through the single demo level twice, and it was a different layout each time, so there is likely going to be some high replayability as you go through the cycle of exploration and upgrading the car. I'm not sure the car needs to do much "remnant-ing"; I already want to wander into the zone with it, if only to see what I can find.

Previewed on: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 32 GB RAM, NVidia RTX 4070 Ti

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