Pacific Drive Review | Apocalyptic Field Trip In The Family Car

90
Story
9
Gameplay
9
Visuals
9
Audio
9
Value for Money
9
Price:
$ 29
Clear Time:
12 Hours
Pacific Drive delivers an amazing narrative with a unique roguelite driving survival gameplay loop. Based on atmosphere alone, it can give other horror games a run for its money despite not being labeled as a horror game. With intuitive crafting systems, on-the-fly decision making, and your trusty station wagon, braving the Olympic Exclusion Zone is you against the supernatural forces of the world.

Pacific Drive, Ironwood Studios’ AA survival-crafting game, is out! Read our review to see what it did well, what it didn't do well, and if it's worth buying.


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$29.99
$26.99
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Pacific Drive Review Overview

Pacific Drive Pros & Cons

Pros Cons
Checkmark Stellar Gameplay Loop and Progression
Checkmark Amazing Atmosphere
Checkmark Great Storytelling
Checkmark Nails Relationship With First Car (Quirk System and Maintenance)
Checkmark Difficult and Can Be Frustrating
Checkmark A Lot of Menus To Go Through
Checkmark Saving Isn’t Allowed Everywhere
Checkmark Curing Quirks

Pacific Drive Overall

Pacific Drive delivers an amazing narrative with a unique roguelite driving survival gameplay loop. Based on atmosphere alone, it can give other horror games a run for its money despite not being labeled as a horror game. With intuitive crafting systems, on-the-fly decision making, and your trusty station wagon, braving the Olympic Exclusion Zone is you against the supernatural forces of the world.

Pacific Drive Story

The story of the game takes inspiration from Arkady and Boris Strugatsky Strugatsky's novel and film by the name of Roadside Picnic and Stalker respectively, where you explore the Exclusion Zone for artifacts and items for survival while learning the reason behind why the Zone was closed off from the world. It’s a unique survival crafting experience where the story takes the spotlight as opposed to letting the player roam free.

Pacific Drive Gameplay

Pacific Drive doubles down on the experience of having a car and highlights all of it by doing all of the menial jobs that you have to do while using it. The gameplay is balanced between driving around exploring the map for things to scavenge and walking on foot to pick up the loot you just found. Everything is balanced around the fact that the supernatural forces in the Exclusion Zone don't actively chase you out of there, but rather it’s there to threaten you being there in the first place.

Pacific Drive Visuals

While the models and the textures don’t particularly jump out at you, you will find that the atmosphere of the game is top notch. It’s definitely not a horror game where things are chasing you, but the vibe that the game gives off can definitely classify it as a horror game. The different Anomalies that you encounter are all there to make you feel uncomfortable and they definitely do it well.

Pacific Drive Audio

The look of the game is enhanced by the game’s sound effects and music. Most of the time, the eerie vibe and sound effects come from the surrounding Anomalies that you’re actively trying to avoid. The creepy sound effects and melancholic music will make you look over your shoulder from time to time, and the radio may help to calm you down as they range from rock and country tracks.

Pacific Drive Value for Money

Priced at $29.99, Pacific Drive does an amazing job of focusing on their design and pulling it off well. The delicate balance of the gameplay loop, the progression of both your home base and your car, the vibe and mood of the atmosphere, and the replayability of the game makes it well worth the investment. This game is a must play for fans of the survival crafting genre, and people interested in the game should consider buying it simply because you definitely have never experienced a game like this before.

Pacific Drive Review: Apocalyptic Field Trip In The Family Car

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Wow. I definitely did not expect this game to be such a great game. As a disclaimer, I’m not the biggest fan of survival crafting games so I didn’t really pay attention to that part in its trailers and showcases, but I was intrigued by the progression system that the game had as well as the car you’re forced to run with for the entirety of the game. The game highlights your relationship and your haunted car as while you’re forced to drive this beaten up hunk of junk, it’s also the only reason why you’re surviving in the first place.

The game is a narrative-driven, roguelite, survival-crafting, driving game. While that’s a mouthful to say, all of these genres are accurate in describing the gameplay entirely. Runs are divided in maps where you progress by either finding gates or portals to go back home or continue to go on the open road to go deeper into the Olympic Exclusion Zone which is the roguelite aspect of the game. Survival-crafting and driving is the primary genre of the game as you collect materials in the maps to improve your base and your car to brave the dangerous forces in the Zone. Lastly, it’s a narrative-driven game since your experience is tied to doing main missions which tell the story of the Olympic Exclusion Zone as well as the other characters who are with you for the ride.

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The models and textures aren’t the highlights of the game’s visuals, but rather the atmosphere is the main focal point of the game. I can personally say that this game is very close to being a horror game based on the atmosphere and vibes alone. Playing this game in the dead of night, had me looking over my shoulder. It also helps that the audio helps the experience as the ambience, music, and sound effects really hammer the Zone’s total feel. It also has the radio which can help in the nerves as I used it as a distraction for the game’s eerie vibe.

The gameplay loop and progression is amazing, some of the greatest I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing in a survival-crafting game. Juggling the inventory for your haul of materials, planning for your next run into the Zone, exploring the maps for more materials is one half of the game’s experience. The next half of progression and gameplay is the maintenance and upgrades that you do to your humble station wagon.

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Ironwood Studios was able to successfully invoke the mechanic in me, as upgrading the station wagon is one of the satisfying experiences I’ve had in a survival game. Seeing my car evolve from its initial iteration is a clear sign of progress and that it makes me feel like I can go farther into the Zone.

Pacific Drive is something special, it’s a survival-crafting game that’s not afraid to highlight even the more menial tasks like turning the ignition on or off, putting the car in park or drive, and more. It’s an acquired taste, but I believe that it’s a pretty fast acquired taste, as I was enjoying the game from the get go during the tutorial level of the game.

Pros of Pacific Drive

Things Pacific Drive Got Right
Checkmark Stellar Gameplay Loop and Progression
Checkmark Amazing Atmosphere
Checkmark Great Storytelling
Checkmark Nails Relationship With First Car (Quirk System and Maintenance)

Stellar Gameplay Loop and Progression

The game revolves around you driving around in your station wagon and collecting materials to help you survive in the Olympic Exclusion Zone in randomly generated maps making it akin to a roguelite. This will have you going around the map from place to place and manually starting up the car and putting it in park or drive every time you have to stop or go. Ironwood Studios did an amazing job at doubling down at making the tedious chores matter regarding your car rather than letting it resolve itself automatically for most games.

After collecting materials in a run and going back to your home base almost similar to an extraction game, you invest these materials into improving your car or your home base in hopes to have an easier time in the future. This is how it’s going to be for a majority of your time in Pacific Drive: driving, parking, collecting materials, and then hopefully coming back home in one piece to improve your chances on your next run.

Amazing Atmosphere

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The game’s visuals and audio work hand in hand to give you an atmospheric masterpiece. It is by no means labeled as a survival horror game, but damn if it didn’t make me feel uncomfortable just by the humming of the Anomalies and the constant shift of the Zone’s dangerous landscape. The Zone's Anomalies themselves aren’t actively trying to kill you, but they constantly remind you that you shouldn’t be here and that staying definitely will.

Great Storytelling

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The story of the game revolves around you who gets trapped in the Olympic Exclusion Zone after a delivery gets you way too close to the wall. There are also three other scientists who guide you on the forces at play and the events that transpired in the Zone. The game is primarily narrative driven, and is absolutely great at telling the story behind each character’s motives and backstory as you progress through the game.

Nails Relationship With First Car (Quirk System and Maintenance)

The game’s Quirk system and maintenance on your car nails the feeling of your first car. Finding and experiencing these particular quirks first hand is the same experience that I’ve gone through personally with my family’s first car. These range from little annoyances like the car honking after opening the trunk to downright detrimental to your journey like the doors not capable of closing. These quirks may have to be addressed as soon as you can, so they don’t lead to your untimely demise.

The maintenance on the other hand, is simply the game’s most enjoyable part. Seeing your progress from upgrading the beaten up station wagon that barely hits 40 miles per hour to a visually better looking ride that still barely gets up to speed is some of the biggest hits of dopamine I’ve had. While others may find the upgrade and repair process tedious as you physically have to remove, repair, and put each part in place, the process is all the more rewarding as you get in touch with your car’s improvement after a long ride in the Zone.

Cons of Pacific Drive

Things That Pacific Drive Can Improve
Checkmark Difficult and Can Be Frustrating
Checkmark A Lot of Menus To Go Through
Checkmark Saving Isn’t Allowed Everywhere
Checkmark Curing Quirks

Difficult and Can Be Frustrating

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This game is definitely difficult and may leave you pissed off in some runs. Some Anomalies just come out of nowhere to ruin your run out of nowhere and you lose everything that you’ve been collecting for that run. It’s not for the faint of heart, and I would understand losing a lot of progress because of a random part of the ground that decided to elevate and you crash into it which destroys your engine, or modifiers that drain your car’s battery so that you’re always on edge to get out of that map.

A Lot of Menus To Go Through

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While the crafting isn’t particularly difficult as it actually is pretty intuitive, the Fabrication Station menus are definitely not the greatest. There’s a ton of things to look at and it may overwhelm players looking at it for the first time. It took me a while to realize that there were actually different pages in the Fabrication Station, and I was kicking myself that I could’ve had upgrades ages ago. There’s already a ton of tedious and menial work in the gameplay, but you’re gonna have to endure a lot of reading as well.

Saving Isn’t Allowed Everywhere

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While this shouldn’t be a big problem for roguelite games, runs in Pacific Drive could take up to 15 minutes and all the way up to an hour depending on a lot of factors. The reason why this is a con is because you can only save in the home base, and being interrupted in a run in any way be it a random crash or something else entirely will have you reload all the way in your home base, losing tons of progress. I hope they address this issue, as runs get longer and longer as you progress through the game, and losing progress is always a big downer for anyone.

Curing Quirks

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While Quirks are something you have to live with at times, curing them will have you playing a guessing game where you have to diagnose the Quirk from its cause and effect. If you make the wrong guess on a diagnosis, then you’ll have to live with it a little longer until you successfully make the correct diagnosis. Quirks are the game’s tiny annoyances that add up to bite you back in your journey later, and you might have to pay close attention on how these manifest to avoid making the wrong diagnosis.

Is Pacific Drive Worth It?

Absolutely. Completely Unique Experience for $29.99

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This game is on a league of its own when it comes to giving a unique experience that you probably never experienced before. This game isn’t for the faint of heart nor is it for everyone, as it is difficult to play especially in the early stages of the game. The vibe, gameplay, story, and music all work together in harmony to give you a game that’s definitely worth the small price of $29.99.


Steam IconSteam Epic IconEpic HumbleBundle IconHumbleBundle PS IconPlayStation
$29.99
$26.99
$29.99

Pacific Drive Overview & Premise

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Pacific Drive puts you in a surreal but equally frightening reimagining of the Pacific Northwest, where strange occurrences are common and supernatural dangers are looming. Your only partner is your station wagon, which is somewhat reliable when it’s not breaking down into pieces. Explore the Olympic Exclusion Zone, an abandoned research site, where you scavenge for resources and unravel the mysteries surrounding the peculiar location.

Pacific Drive FAQ

In Pacific Drive, How do I open Dumpster Pearls?

Don’t waste your Prybars and Scrappers to open these things, instead save them in your trunk and bring them back to your home base. At home, throw them into the Matter Deconstructor to reap the rewards of scrap, steel panels, and other odds and ends.

What are the main inspirations of Pacific Drive?

Pacific Drive is inspired by both the novel and film by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky entitled Roadside Picnic and Stalker respectively. I recommend reading the former as it is a really good read and could actually enhance your experience playing Pacific Drive.

Pacific Drive Product Information

Pacific Drive Cover
Title PACIFIC DRIVE
Release Date February 22, 2024
Developer Ironwood Studios
Publisher Kepler Interactive
Supported Platforms PC, PS5
Genre Adventure, Survival, Sci-Fi
Number of Players 1
ESRB Rating RP
Official Website Pacific Drive Website

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