Pacific Drive Review [In-Depth / Spoiler Free]

Pacific Drive is the latest in the list of first-person single-player survival adventure games with a very complex and intriguing, mysterious plot woven around it. The game is the debut venture for the very new and smaller gaming studio, Ironwood Studio.

In a surprising turn of events, the game is reported to be the brainchild of the founder, Alexander Dracott himself. While travelling alone in his car around the Pacific Northwest, which, in other terms, refers to Canada or at least some parts of the Canada-US border, the idea for the game struck him. He aimed to blend the calm yet eerie ambience of the Pacific scenery with some mysterious phenomena. The mysterious aspects of the game are believed to be inspired by various movies and works that delve into these themes. To further add to the history of the creation of the game, the creation process of the game started in 2019, continuing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and finally released in 2024.

This article will delve deeper into the various aspects of the game individually to analyze and discuss them, aiming to provide a comprehensive review of the game.

EsportsNext prides itself on being unbiased and straightforward in its views and reviews, ensuring that readers receive clear-cut, informed opinions and reviews.

First up, let’s talk about the GRAPHICS AND VISUALS.

GRAPHICS AND VISUALS

Pacific Drive

The game runs on Unreal Engine 4 and employs a mixture of animated cartoon-style graphics with realistic lighting to achieve a balance between realism and enjoyable animated elements. The colors effectively enhance the game’s atmosphere, particularly during dark and eerie times of the day and during the orange dusk. They capture the essence of driving alone on an abandoned road while evoking the yellow tint of the Pacific Northwest in autumn.

Pacific Drive

The weather system and the depiction of various weather conditions are exceptionally well-executed. The rain hitting and running down the windshield perfectly captures the sensation of driving on the road in adverse weather conditions.

As mentioned above, the game doesn’t shy away from reminding players that it is indeed a game. The textures of the items, the designs, and their functionality convey the sense that the studios encouraged their graphic designers to explore imaginative ideas for how things should appear and function. This approach likely aligns with the context of the game, where taking a wrong turn leads the “Driver” into a world where seemingly ordinary occurrences unfold.

Pacific Drive

It is the kind of game that, despite taking creative liberties, still manages to feel realistic, leaving players with the impression that they’re truly immersed in a world where everything happening in the game is normal. This immersion owes much to the game’s exceptional storytelling and narrative building.

STORY

Stories that gradually unfold throughout the course of the whole thing are the type that captivate the audience’s interest, and it appears to be effective for this game as well.

The story of Pacific Drive is certainly not the game’s standout feature. While it is not bad, it does not reach the level of being extraordinary or a contender for gaming awards. However, its strength lies in the way it is presented and told.

Pacific Drive

The story begins with a simple wrong turn, leading the “Driver” into the unknown territory reminiscent of a Chernobyl-like experiment gone wrong in the Pacific Northwest. The “Driver” prepares for the journey with the guidance of voices from individuals associated with the experiments and research conducted in the zone. It unfolds as a narrative about their discoveries within the affected zone and the implications for everyone involved.

It’s not just a driver and their car; it is more like the car and its driver. Readers will know what this distinction means!

Players will receive information about the entire narrative in fragments, gradually revealed throughout the journey and through superb voice acting presented in the form of radio chatter. More details on this will be discussed later.

Pacific Drive, through its ambience, the feeling of loneliness, and the amazing interactions of the radio chatter, will certainly evoke emotions in some moments throughout the game, especially as things become clearer for the players. It is beautifully bizarre that a game about a man in a car driving alone in the Pacific Northwest can evoke so many emotions.

GAMEPLAY

The gameplay of the game is very simple, as it essentially revolves around driving and surviving from point A to point B. There are certain elements intended to enhance the overall experience. However, the game falls short in some aspects of gameplay. This article will explore various facets of Pacific Drive’s gameplay, analyzing what worked and what did not.

MAP

Pacific Drive

When first announced as a survival game, Pacific Drive was presumed to be an open-world game. Over the years, games in this genre, as well as games in general, have been expanding their horizons and maps to fully immerse players in the worlds they create. Utilizing the power of today’s consoles and gaming machines, creators strive to provide vast and expansive landscapes for players to explore. However, despite being a “driving” game, Pacific Drive falls short in providing players with the freedom to roam and explore the map as expected. It gradually restricts itself to a “Point A to Point B” experience, where players are penalized for exploring too much. Furthermore, the gameplay is structured in a way that offers no incentive for players to explore the world.

It is understandable that Ironwood Studios is releasing their first game and may face constraints in terms of budgets and professionals. However, this should never be an excuse for implementing a trip-like context in the game and not properly incorporating an open-world aspect into the game.

In the game, players will be able to open the map, select their desired location from the entire map, and simply wait for the loading screen to transport them there.

CRAFTING AND UPGRADES

Pacific Drive

The crafting mechanism in Pacific Drive is highly creative, detailed, and enjoyable. Given that the game primarily revolves around the car, most of the crafting focuses on enhancing the car and its functionality. In addition to the car, players will have plenty of options to craft and upgrade the equipment available to the “Driver” as well.

There are multiple layers to the crafting mechanism, each offering its own advantages and upgrades.

Pacific Drive

Gathering resources and materials is done in fun and creative ways as well.

Crafting and upgrading in the game are not just options, but essential tasks for players as they progress further. As the game advances, the difficulty level and dangers increase, making crafting and upgrading crucial for survival. The game becomes increasingly brutal as it progresses.

DANGERS OR THE LACK OF

Pacific Drive presents some dangers that players need to avoid. However, the creators have minimized the size of the map by dividing it into small portions. Consequently, the game lacks sufficient enemies to truly challenge players and test their skills. Instead, players can easily navigate through the areas, clearing them with minimal difficulty.

Pacific Drive

Obviously, there are some dangers in the game, but they are not sufficient. At times, the game could feel like a mere “Driving Simulator” which should not be the case considering the context built within the game.

The only imminent danger is the players’ own ability to drive the car, maneuver, and control the speed at which they drive, as trouble areas could pose challenges if players fail to navigate them in time.

CAR AND DRIVING

Players are provided with a basic station wagon car from past decades, initially in a fairly beat-up condition. However, all the essentials needed for the journey are already placed inside, including a mini-map and the vehicle’s abilities. This approach keeps the screen and HUD clean for a streamlined gaming experience.

One of the main distinctive features of the car, and in general, is the manual aspect of handling it. From starting the engine by turning the key to switching on/off headlights and wipers, and even changing gears, everything is done manually. This approach creates a more personal connection between the driver and the car, a concept that is thoroughly explored and discussed in the game.

Driving in the game is relatively basic, and there’s room for improvement, as observed. Despite travelling at moderate speeds, players may often find it difficult to maneuver the vehicle due to handling issues.

Another peculiar aspect of the vehicle’s driving experience is the absence of hands and limbs. Given the game’s manual and realistic approach, it feels odd that in 2024, the creators opted not to include them. While it may not have required significant effort for the creators and developers to add hands and limbs, especially for the driving part, they chose not to include them. One possible reason could be to maintain the gender neutrality and body neutrality of the “Driver.” This might explain why the “Driver” is consistently referred to using “Them/they” pronouns, suggesting the intention behind this decision.

Nevertheless, it is the new era of gaming, and with all the resources available to creators and developers today, adding both male and female hands, or even incorporating different skin tones, would not have been a challenging task. While the absence of these features does not necessarily detract from the overall gaming experience, their inclusion could have contributed to a more personalized experience, aligning with the game’s goal of immersing players in its world.

MISSION DESIGNS

Mission designs in Pacific Drive are somewhat lackluster, primarily consisting of driving to a specific location. Tasks such as gathering items or information are often followed by instant analysis and narration via radio voices. Consequently, players have little engagement beyond driving to the designated spot and allowing the game to handle the rest.

The missions could have been made more complex and challenging to enhance the atmosphere and elevate the difficulty level in what is otherwise a straightforward and basic game.

VOICE ACTING

Voice acting in Pacific Drive stands out as one of the game’s best features. It is commendable on the part of the voice actors and the writers who have crafted the dialogues, bringing something refreshing to the gaming world. The story is essentially conveyed through an unconventional method that aligns well with the game’s overall vibe.

Of course, this review article will not spoil all the details for readers and gamers considering getting the game. However, it is worth mentioning that there are numerous characters in the game voiced by talented actors. The interactions between these characters, along with the complexities of their personalities and relationships, are expertly portrayed, contributing to top-notch storytelling. It is rare in the gaming world to find such high-quality voice acting without the actual characters being shown.

Their exceptional voice acting, despite not having their own physical characters, is bound to evoke emotions in players, particularly towards the end of the game. These voice actors undoubtedly deserve recognition and opportunities for more work in the gaming industry.

MUSIC AND SOUND

The sounds in the game complement the ambience and vibe perfectly. Given the need to establish an eerie, abandoned, and mysterious atmosphere, the sounds and music serve this purpose seamlessly.

In fact, there is a song towards the end that pops up at just the right moment, metaphorically narrating the entire feeling of being in the game at that moment, which is a nice touch.

THE FINAL VERDICT

Pacific Drive is a solid game that introduces new and creative ideas to the survival genre. Despite encountering several issues, particularly in the gameplay department, the game overall delivers what was expected, especially considering it is Ironwood Games’ debut in the gaming industry. While the gameplay has its flaws, such as issues with driving mechanics, the crafting mechanism stands out as very creative and enjoyable, offering plenty of opportunities for upgrading and enhancing the gameplay experience. This aspect increases the game’s replayability and maintains the interest of gamers.

The game’s remarkable setting, ambience, and atmosphere contribute significantly to the experience of travelling alone on long-abandoned roads. This is further enhanced by what is arguably some of the best voice acting and character development in the gaming world.

In conclusion, Pacific Drive is a game worth experiencing, and it is important to recognize and support Ironwood Studio’s efforts in bringing unique and creative ideas to the gaming world. The game showcases their drive to explore new storytelling methods and game concepts. Their success paves the way for more innovative and creative games for gamers to enjoy in the future.

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Abdullah Jan
Abdullah Jan
Abdullah is a die-hard PlayStation fan and believes in Red Dead Redemption II supremacy. He is a storyteller himself, so his love for story-driven and realistic games is a no-brainer. He gives his two-cents on everything, he's that generous!

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