What's new

Pacific Drive: The First Preview

Our first look at Pacific Drive in Sony's September 2022 State of Play left us with more questions than answers: what is going on in this spooky forest, what is up with this station wagon, and most importantly, what is this game about? After a short hands-off demo session of the upcoming first-person driving survival game with the developers at Ironwood Studios, I came away intrigued to see just how crazy this survival road-lite game will be.

I sat in the passenger seat while Pacific Drive's developers took the wheel to show me what to expect from this quirky car game. I got to see the world, its dangers, and, most importantly, the station wagon. Pacific Drive’s anomaly-filled version of the Pacific Northwest will take you deep into what's referred to as the Olympic Exclusion zone, filled with all sorts of mysterious phenomena. The goal is to venture further into the world across five biomes, each filled with unique anomalies and challenges, in the hopes of discovering the mystery at the center. Runs are split into different legs of a trip between checkpoints, where you must gather supplies to ensure your car can survive in the long run. Each section will have you searching for a magical orb called an anchor that will allow you to warp back to your garage for a short respite before beginning the next area. Failing to find the anchor and reach your exit point before running out of gas or power or losing your car to damage will cost you resources and send you back to your garage.

Each run will be unique, as the anomalies that occur are randomized, and returning to a previously explored location too soon will see increased levels of chaos thrown at you. As you progress, you’ll find shortcuts to help on future runs, so failing will feel more like a speed bump rather than a sinkhole. I saw pillars of earth rising out of the ground, thunderstorms sending shockwaves of lightning into the road, piles of radioactive waste, massive razor blades, and curious little creatures the team referred to as spores. While the more obvious hazards of the world were dangerous, these diabolical spores were there to make the drive more complicated. Numerous times I saw the spores either yank the car around like it was made of paper or rip the panels, doors, and other parts off the station wagon like a kid pulling apart their least favorite toys.

Your only defense against all these anomalies is your trusty station wagon. While it doesn't have a cool voice like KITT from Knight Rider, it has just about everything you will need to survive the Olympic Exclusion zone. But as much as your car will defend you from danger, it's up to you to keep it in top shape by repairing it during trips with salvage you find on your travels. You have tools to convert broken-down vehicles and other objects into their base resources so you can craft replacements if you lose a door or get a flat tire. And when you don't see any salvageable roadside vehicles, you will have to venture out on foot to search for supplies to help extend your trip.

Pacific Drive clearly emphasizes its survival elements. In addition to your own health, you have to manage your car's fuel and battery and to bring enough resources for repairs, like rubber to craft a new tire should one get destroyed or get stolen. Preparation for all the things that can go wrong will make all the difference between a semi-chaotic drive and a disastrous one. Thankfully if you find yourself running low on supplies after a failed run, you will find a mysterious trash pile outside your garage with enough resources to at least get you back in action. For those who don't care for survival elements, the developers have all sorts of accessibility options to customize the experience, so you can enjoy the story however you see fit.

Between each leg of your trip, you will warp back to your garage to make repairs, recharge your battery, resupply resources, and pimp your ride. As you venture deeper into the zone your car will need upgrades to deal with all the enhanced chaos, and fans of crazy modifications will be right at home here. On the cosmetic side of things, there are plenty of paints, bobbleheads, cassette tapes, and more to make your car your car. Over time you may notice that your vehicle has begun to behave unusually. Turning on your radio activates your windshield wipers, and hard turning left causes the radio to change stations. Anyone who has driven a car with a lot of mileage knows that these quirks add to the car's personality. Music takes the form of cassettes found as you explore the world of Pacific Drive, so it will pay to go off the beaten path if you want the right tunes for your trip.

I'm intrigued by the premise of Pacific Drive and am anxious to get behind the wheel and see what else is in store in the mysterious Olympic Excursion Zone. The randomness of the runs should keep it fresh when revisiting any of the biomes, and the anomalies I've seen so far are sure to cause chaos in even the most prepared runs. The biggest questions I have left after my demo session are how crazy these runs will get and whether I can get a (Play)station wagon on my PS5 when I pick it up. It's still a little too early to tell if this will scratch the itch for those waiting on the next big survival game to take the world by storm, but at the very least, it's sure to get the engine started for fans of the survival genre.

Jada Griffin is IGN's Community Lead. If she's not engaging with users here, chances are she's developing her own games, maxing the Luck stat in her favorite games, or challenging her D&D players with Intense combat or masterful puzzles. You can follow her on Twitter @Jada_Rina.

Continue reading...