In a month stacked with some absolute bangers, it’s Pacific Drive, a first person car-focused survival game, that has me excited above all else. I, as well as other press outlets, got an early look late last week, so hop in the passenger seat and let me take you for a ride.
Pacific Drive appears to approach the survival genre, one where you must venture out over and over again to scavenge supplies, escape from treacherous forces, and ultimately uncover what’s going on around you, entirely from the driver’s seat of an American Station Wagon. The whole game revolves around your car. It’s more of a character than you are, a representation of your progression and style, and the star of the show. It’s a paranormal road trip more than a base builder like Rust.
The gameplay loop goes as follows. You start off in your garage, a refuge from the dangers of the Pacific Northwest and all its dangers. Once you’ve fixed up your car as much as possible, you head to the map and speed off towards one of the many dangerous spots across the forested wild in a dangerous and potentially lucrative adventure.
Out in the wild, it’s all about navigating the rough wilds and cracked roads, making your way between derelict buildings packed with useful gear and mysterious energy anchors which when returned to home base can make future journeys easier. The further out into the world you go, the more valuable the materials you can find. Though, as you may expect, the further out you go, the more dangerous it gets.
Dangerous how? Well, thanks to the paranormal activity going on in the areas, you’ll run into issues ranging from devastating gusts of wind that can send your car flying down the road (a true terror if you’ve stepped outside to grab something shiny), to waves of electricity or patches of acidic goo which can cause some serious damage to your ride. There’s also monsters hanging around, Broken Bunnies that grip on tight to your car and cause havoc, or Abductors that snatch a piece of your car until you snatch it back.
Eventually, the storm will roll in. This turns the area blood red and clocks the peril up to 11. At this point, you’ve got to rush back to a sole safe spot on the map, which will shoot you straight back to the garage as soon as you reach it. Hopefully, you’ll have the boot packed with loot and whatever tasks you had in mind ticked-off.
The garage itself is a hub for the player. It’s where you recharge the batteries on your car, or fill up the fuel tank. It’s where you can pimp it out with new colours, sturdier doors and tyres that excel off-road. You can also research new car upgrades, stations for your garage where faster deconstruction of parts, faster fuelling, and more can happen. As you go on in Pacific Drive, both your car and your garage will get more advanced as you invest more time and resources into them.
You’ll want to keep an eye on your car though, as things can get weird. They get roughed up and patched back up over time, developing quirks. We’re talking headlights that turn on and off when you use your windscreen wipers, just enough to be noticeable but not impactful enough to make you overly frustrated with your car. As you go through more and more with the car, it becomes more of a protagonist than you are. You’re just a pair of hands that gathers resources and improves the actual character: your trusty chariot.
The idea is that eventually, you’ll be able to venture further out and face greater challenges. Along the way you’ll beef up your garage and car, uncover what is going on in this messed-up corner of the USA, and maybe even collect some new paints and bobbleheads along the way. It’s a survival game, but invigorated with car maintenance and on-the-road problem solving. The same appeal as a sub-genre of driving games where you deal with a roughed-up car rather than a shiny top-of-the-line one. The Long Drive’s patchwork mentality, but rather than relax through lengthy stretches of empty road, you’re facing off against the worrisome world around you.
There’s clear love for the American road trip here, for the hours-long trips through the nature reserves and fast forests in a very particular part of the USA. Founder and creative director Alex Dracott, spoke about the team’s work with his own personal station wagon, providing anecdotes of them bouncing on the car to record accurate audio of the suspension. They even got escorted from a small town during a recording session, as small-town cops were unsure about a strange car packed with people and audio equipment.
Judging from our early look at Pacific Drive, it’s this love for the car and nostalgia for Oregon road trips, paired with a gameplay loop designed with equal parts passion and intelligence, that makes Pacific Drive worth looking out for.