‘Pacific Drive’ Preview: Experience The Apocalypse In A Station Wagon

Pacific Drive is something of a unique beast, promising a mix of profoundly depressing post-apocalyptic set in the, you guessed it, Pacific Northwest. While the game premise is new, there is something comforting about the idea of being out in the wild alone. There are only voices and a lovingly crafted station wagon to guide you through the void of the Olympic Exclusion Zone. Surrounded by anomalies, it’s setting itself to be a serene, isolating experience in a beautiful landscape. In our preview, we experience all the ways Ironwood Studios brings these promises to life in Pacific Drive.

Most of my time in Pacific Drive was split between three monumental tasks.

Explore the open zone maps of the Olympic Exclusion Zone while picking up scrap parts. These will help you repair parts of your vehicle and upgrade it. This crafting is very simplified, which helps the flow of picking up all the detritus around you. It makes it not feel like such a slog as it does in other games like various Bethesda RPGs. In the trunk, you’re able to craft multiple parts for your car. This includes side paneling, headlights, and bumpers, along with spare tires. You’re a proverbial on-the-go car mechanic. The simplicity of this mechanic adds joy to exploration as you know it won’t be some monumental task to repair your vehicle. 

Secondly is driving. There is A LOT of driving in Pacific Drive.

At first, I did not thoroughly enjoy it. But within maybe 20 minutes, I discovered it was because I was missing a fundamental piece: a front left wheel. This is all part of the opening salvo of tutorials, which did go on a little too long for my liking, but realistically, they needed to happen. But, hopping into the world of Pacific Drive without that tutorial, I would have been flailing around.

In the journey of surviving in the Olympic Exclusion Zone, you will find yourself at odds with your gas tank, which you can improve. You can also carry jerry cans. As I was driving out in the waste, there were multiple broken-down cars and trucks that I was able to siphon for fuel, but this is my gentle reminder to keep yourself full and have your jerry filled enough to be able to drive a little ways in a last ditched effort because walking around feels incredibly slow when the game is so focused on the speed of driving.

The need for speed is next.

Lastly, during your expeditions into the Zone, you come across these anomalies that you need to plug into your car to be able to travel through portals to bring you back to the home base of the garage. These filled me with a thrill for driving I have not experienced since Avalanche Studios’ Mad Max in 2015. Once you grab these anomalies, the storms come chasing. There is a mad dash for the portal as the storm closes in around you. This is where your driving is put to the test. If you make a few mistakes in your path, you die. It’s an interesting mechanic that almost gives Pacific Drive a Dark Souls feeling of needing to learn routes and being able to adapt on the fly.

There is much to do in the centralized hub of the garage.

From the garage, which is used as our centralized hub, you can select different story missions or just go out and explore an area to gain the necessary materials to craft and build better equipment for the car and our garage itself. It also houses the Fabrication station, which is used to learn about new upgrades for your vehicle and Garage. While I didn’t get to mess around with this too much during the preview time, it does look like some of these upgrades are going to get wild. I am all here for it.

Vibes lead the charge in Pacific Drive.

The environmental atmosphere in Pacific Drive is one of its more intriguing parts. There is a grand feeling of being isolated, in danger, and pushing yourself to the brink of survival. This is all aided by the incredible licensed songs that hit at specific times in the game. While the Preview consisted of two story missions, I didn’t get the whole OST experience. I can’t wait to see what kind of bangers are in store.

The wait is agonizing but worth it.

Pacific Drive sets itself apart in a myriad of ways while not getting lost in the weeds. It’s a breath of fresh air between a hardcore simulator and a more arcade experience. This is a game that not only will car nuts love but everyday players looking for that beautiful mix of haunting and serene. Sure, there are high-level thrill moments, but it’s all capped off when you can just look at some damn gorgeous vistas and drive around exploring.

If it’s unclear, I can’t wait for Pacific Drive to hit on February 22nd, 2024.

Be sure to check out our list of 10 Indie Horror PC games to play.



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