Pacific Drive – Cloud Gaming Review

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Hanging out, down the street…

Shift into Drive

Pacific Drive is a first person, survival crafting/driving game that takes place in the late 90s. It follows you, a ‘breacher’, who accidentally found their way into the dangerous and strange land called the “Olympic Exclusion zone” (OEZ). You’re tasked with helping out a few quirky characters on the other end of your radio to slowly uncover what’s going on, and hopefully find a way out. Oh, and your secret weapon is a run down station wagon!

As wonky as that sounds, the gameplay itself also has a ‘wonky’ vibe to it. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s definitely not a game made for everyone, sort of like choosing to buy a station wagon. Let’s drive through.

Wonky Tonk Wagon

First off – if you’re familiar with survival/crafting games, there won’t be much that surprises players about the general gameplay loop. The idea of “gather X resource, bring it back to base to build component Y that helps me get to Z” is very much present here. For example, players are tasked with building a scrapper tool that can grind down steel panels on broken cars. This provides the scrap metal resource which can then be used to craft steel doors. The steel door gives more armour to help players get further down the road. The further you get from your base, the more juicy resources that are available – coupled with a more dangerous environment to deal with.

While this all sounds familiar, it all comes down to two major ways in which Pacific Drive stands out from the pack.

  1. There’s a lot more manual effort to do mundane things. Want to get out of your running car? Well, you better look at the parking break, turn it on, look at the ignition, turn it off, and then exit your car. If you don’t, your car might roll away while you’re out scavenging. There aren’t many ‘gimmies’ mechanically, and it makes you feel like you’re really working for every square inch. This provides an immersive experience like no other simulation title.
  1. While there is a main base of operations you use to store your resources and prep for the next excursion in between runs, the real feeling of progression comes from unlocking and upgrading components of your car. You’re building up and breathing life into what can only be described as a “turd on wheels.” When you first get your hands on the station wagon, you’re constantly fighting with it to even just drive straight. The beauty of Pacific Drive is that, eventually, that “turd on wheels” turns into “Your turd on wheels.” Add to all of that the quirk system (where your car develops a random negative perk, like the passenger door opens up each time you turn on your windshield wipers) and you end up with a car that has more personality than you bargained for. I constantly felt like Eric Foreman from That 70’s Show. The Vista Cruiser is a great car, because it was all he had… Pacific Drive makes players care about the simple things.

It wasn’t until about the 5-7 hour mark that things really “clicked.” Up to that point, it felt like Pacific Drive was actively trying to annoy me with arbitrary bloat in the way of its overly manual gameplay mechanics, and slow drip of interesting upgrades. Pacific Drive is a survival crafting game that takes patience and time. If players are looking for a solid gameplay challenge, and a few new unique gameplay mechanics than this is for them. However, some might end up passing on the game based on the first few hours. It also doesnt help that the gameplay loop doesn’t evolve much from hour to hour. It just increases in difficulty. That said, when the game does click, the idea of upgrading the car with better components, and trucking deeper into the unknown felt very rewarding. Players will either love or hate Pacific Drive, much like how other survival games like Death Stranding can waver on “extremely annoying and boring” and “extremely satisfying and fun.”

Taking the Scenic Route

As someone who lives near the pacific coast, they nailed the lush and dense forest settings. Watching the different, vibrantly coloured anomalies playing against that setting was a visual treat. Whether it was the deep blue electrical currents shooting around me or the orange unstable anchor glowing in the distance, the visuals always held my interest. As you get deeper into the OEZ, the lush forest is replaced with a more dark and desolate backdrop, but it makes way for a wider variety of extravagantly coloured anomalies. 

A shoutout has to be given to the stylish user interface. The late 90s setting, with a retro inspired UI pairs nicely. Menus aren’t exactly easy to navigate (i.e. finding items to craft at your workbench, or looking up blueprints at the fabrication station), but it has so much character and colour that I didn’t mind getting lost in them.

A Rocky Performance Road…

Regarding technical performance, I played the game on PS5. It remained a mostly 30fps experience, with the odd spikes to what felt like 45-60fps when driving in tunnels or putzing around less dense areas. I don’t usually mind when games are 30 fps, but I will say that Pacific Drive left me wanting more especially when playing on the PlayStation Portal. Having the game run at this frame rate portably made it feel like the game was sputtering through cloud connections. I haven’t had this problem yet with many titles on the handheld cloud gaming device. Weaving around deadly obstacles and a break neck speed didn’t feel as tight as it could have been with the lowered frame rate.

The (Off)road Goes Ever On

Is there replayability to Pacific Drive? No, not really. There’s no real reason to play the game again once players have beaten it. There’s a legitimate sense of progression building up and customizing your car, but it is fairly limited. Once you’ve unlocked the best wheels/doors/gas tank etc. you’ve seen it all. The cosmetic items you occasionally find to “stylize your ride” (steering wheels, decals, paint colours, gear shifters etc) can give some variety, but it doesn’t give you reason to revisit the game.

Note: At the time of this review, there is also no ‘New Game Plus’ to incentivize restarting your journey.

Leaving Skid Marks, or Making Skid Marks?

Overall, I had a good time hanging out down the street playing Pacific Drive. While at times it could feel like the same old thing we did last week the game innovates enough to keep players hooked.

Much like a junker car like the Vista Cruiser from That 70’s Show, it may have taken a few too many tries to get the engine to work, but once the car started, it was smooth sailing until its final destination.

Pacific Drive Review

Reviewed by Joe Rino (@Improjoe) and Anthony Gagliardi (@Gigglemehardy)

Pacific Drive Game
Gameplay
Presentation
Performance
Fun Factor
Value

Summary

Pacific Drive blends survival crafting with first person driving for a unique take on the sometimes repetitive genre. While some elements of the game can be frustrating, if players have patience, there is a rewarding experience in the title. So take a ride and try Pacific Drive if a crafting survival driving game sounds up your alley.

4

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Joe Rino

My Name is Joe Rino and I’m a Drama Teacher Gamer. I love a good video game that also helps me learn and grow with the characters. Storytelling, Gameplay, Action, and good times with friends are super important to me from a video game and life perspective! Let’s play!

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