Published on March 25th, 2024 | by James Davie

Pacific Drive Review (PS5)

Pacific Drive Review (PS5) James Davie

Summary: Pacific Drive is a strange and unique survival experience that should receive plaudits for pushing the boat out creatively, and inserting you into an unnerving climate with a battered old whale of a hooptie to tour about in.



You can’t fault Ironwood’s Studio’s latest effort Pacific drive for lacking ambition. Pacific Drive rides into the danger zone amidst crackling thunder, deadly detritus, and the swirling specter of ferocious and unforgiving winds as it tries to  blaze its own trail as both a scintillating survival experience and car fixer-upper simulator. Does this gamble for Pacific Drive pay off with nary a scrape, or is it time to visit the junk heap and commit this one to scrap?

The main draw of Pacific Drive stems from the bond you’ll undoubtedly have with your four-wheeled automobile. This  wagon companion will help you navigate cataclysmic conditions, and in return, you will lavish your ride with tender love and care by collecting vital raw resources you can mold into effective tools to shear down its worn-out bodywork, and recompile these remnants with dashing and robust new parts. This is the kind of affectionate exchange you can expect from car and player, especially when everything else around you besides the garage is wild and unpredictable.

The treacherous roads of the Olympic Peninsula in the Pacific Northwest isn’t without turbulence and thunder lashing down from the sky into the tarmac, echoing the sense of danger that defines this car-based survival experience. The atmospheric terror of witnessing the foreboding dark clouds and teeming rain that furiously and eerily pitter patters down on the rusty rig’s exterior, truly embroils you in the partnership between man and manufactured machine, against nature and her gloomiest elements.

Besides your trusty vehicle, intermittent contact with voices over a radio and unorthodox memorable music can assist you in easing the tensions a little bit, reminding you that sometimes when you’re otherwise alone and scared of the world surrounding you, that a gentle voice can calm you down and reassure you that you are not alone, although in the case of Pacific Drive nobody else can lend a supportive hand and aid you with the game’s sometimes perilous practicalities.

The immersion Pacific Drive tries so hard to build  is unfortunately severed when you discover that the avatar you’re controlling in Pacific Drive is invisible, and somehow you can still manually switch the engine on and pull back on the accelerator stick to start your engine and get moving. The lack of a player body is very distracting, giving a sense that you’re removed from the unsettling mood on display, so it’s disappointing you can’t see your own hands fasten your  seatbelts or grip the steering wheel.

Yes, Pacific Drive echoes a car-driving simulator with no fleshy protagonist and an emphasis on handywork, but thankfully you retain control of your see-through limbs and aren’t merely a guideless jelly-limbed human, but rather a well-maintained apparition who can mend and fix things without causing a mess for somebody else to clean up. There’s a sense of professionalism to how you disassemble and reassemble cars, which is all the more sophisticated when you’ve got an inventory to sort out, and needing to know what goes where.

Tinkering with your vehicle is a byproduct of braving the unpredictable wilderness beyond the homely confines of a garage, and will give you the time to swap out your tyres, paint the bodywork, and bolt-on new doors, bonnets, side plates and trunks, as well as obtaining blueprints to forge spangly new parts. Forget Pimp My Ride, this is more like Pimp My Clunker.

Like any good survival game, Pacific Drive places you in a dangerous environment whilst encouraging you to forage for resources and manufacture your own equipment. Often times mission objectives require you to conjure up a set amount of materials, and once these quotas have been fulfilled, you can create what you need to in the crafting menu, which is abundant in handy tools that’ll make scavenging, building and creating storage space in the boot a synch.

The ability to carve up your car with a serrated circular saw and watching the crumpled heap break apart into its component parts is very satisfying, but also rather peculiar; same goes for dumpster’s that spit out much-needed resources near the garage. Suffice to say, there’s always a way to accrue components, though it’s a little overwhelming seeing just how much you can make out of the scrap you’ve obtained, which isn’t helped by an intimidating crafting and construction menu interface.

Typically finding what you need is straightforward, but the tedium of tracking down resources will set in, especially when being pursued and lashed by Pacific Drive’s conniving obstacles, dread-inducing anomalies and deadly threats .

If the road ahead wasn’t already fraught with foreboding due to miserable weather and limited visibility, you’ll want to maximize your cognizance when confronting the litany of threats you face. Such trek-tearing threats include vehicle-shoving hurricane squalls, zones that appear completely pitch black, and irradiated materials that are hazardous to health. Then you have more hands-on nuisances to contend with such as various types of Bunny that unlike the cute and furry kind, cruelly latch onto your car and hurl you about as they please. Oh and sometimes you’ll encounter vehicle-stubbing irritants like bollards and spike traps that jut out of the ground to turn your peaceful drive into a nightmarish endeavor.

Kudos should be given to Pacific Drive for making driving feel like a fear-inducing quasi-horror experience. Yes it most-certainly can be annoying roving through desolate winding roads just to be unsuspectingly victimized by nuclear gunk, unknown entities and other pesky nuisances, but it’s a unique kind of survival experience that capably stands out in a genre that typically repurposes the same ideas and relies on nostalgia to grab gamers’ attention.

By the same token, you may not understand what the true underlying point of being a drivable plaything is. Venturing out into the exclusion zone to collect resources to improve your beaten-up wagon may seem all well and good at first, until it occurs to you that Pacific Drive wants you to be continuous bait for its own twisted amusement. Yes, survival is the name of the game, but you might end up thinking that the game is playing you, seeing as you’re always prone to the litany of volatile materials and lifeforms, seemingly without a pure purpose besides fortifying and upgrading your car.

Final Thoughts?

Pacific Drive is a strange and unique survival experience that should receive plaudits for pushing the boat out creatively, and inserting you into an unnerving climate with a battered old whale of a hooptie to tour about in. Where Pacific Drive can falter is that it proceeds to force you into performing manual busywork with little payoff, but this is offset by the inherent mystery surrounding it all. As long as you don’t mind refurbishing a rickety four-wheeler, collecting resources, and becoming prey to all the threats you’ll find in the Olympic Peninsula, then you might just be in for a treat, but everyone else might want to tear themselves away to do the frustrating repetition of it all. But go on, give this old jalopy a go.

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