“Pacific Drive” played: survival journey through hell


Survival is “in” and cars always work. That’s what Ironwood Studios may have had in mind when they came up with the concept for “Pacific Drive.” Players get behind the wheel of a battered station wagon and venture into a surreal world teeming with dangerous radiation and deadly anomalies.


It’s a survival adventure with a difference: start the engine, put the car in gear and go. It travels along destroyed roads, bumpy dirt roads and fields. It’s a flash and a boom. Every time I have to be careful of the small and evil enemies who want to destroy my car with electric shocks. Flying drones circle around me from the air and strange shapes appear from the ground. Meanwhile, you have to plunder the environment to get resources and somehow find a way out of this nightmare.

In “Pacific Drive,” a nameless hero ends up in a strange part of the northwestern United States where the laws of physics no longer apply. A mysterious voice from the radio tells of dangerous experiments and ancient relics. What’s happening here remains a mystery. It’s a sort of “twilight zone” where nothing seems impossible and danger lurks behind every branch. As in any good horror film, the tension comes from the mystery. Which makes this surreal journey into the unknown a welcome change from the usual fantasy and sci-fi monotony.

Original and stressful: the car survival game “Pacific Drive”.​ (Image: heise online)

The gameplay mixes the popular survival genre with an exploratory adventure and simulations such as “Car Mechanic Simulator”. Players start from their garage, explore the area, collect resources and repair or improve their car. The longer the journey, the greater the loot. But the more you travel, the stranger the world becomes and the greater the risk. There is no final game over. As soon as players die on screen in a mission, they automatically return to the garage.

Such a journey into the unknown requires good preparation. Without a full tank or tools to dismantle wrecked cars, a trip ends faster than you think. The game mechanics appear to be small scale. Before the players can get out, the engine is turned off and the handbrake applied to prevent the car from rolling away. This creates additional stress if an enemy drone buzzes nearby at the same time. Raw materials are collected using various tools. A bulldozer demolishes the wreckage, the crowbar breaks the locks and the hammer exposes the batteries.

Nothing is straight here. This also applies to returning to garage safety. Similar to the flux compensator from the movie “Back to the Future”, players must first load the station wagon’s special traction into the energy nodes to travel back via a kind of dimensional leap. But you can’t do that by pressing a button. First, the car must be driven towards a huge column of light. In the last few meters I feel a real adrenaline rush as I run at full speed through the woods as a deadly storm closes in on me.

Back in the garage, the car needs some impromptu repairs. Similar to “Car Mechanic Simulator”, individual parts must be selected, repaired or replaced. This workshop can later be expanded with an advanced workbench or additional storage options. At some point, the initial scrap car transforms into a rather attractive vehicle with which we repeatedly take an exploratory journey through a bizarre game world.

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Original, bizarre, exhausting. “Pacific Drive” is an unusual survival game that particularly impressed us during our gaming sessions with its exciting car scenario. Although the first few hours were difficult, the motivation to tune up our vehicle and prepare it for future pickup trips soon increased. This guarantees exciting and scary thrills and hours of gameplay.

But the game also carries the risk of frustration: If you get stuck in the station wagon somewhere in the landscape at night, the headlights are off and you have to struggle to find your way, “Pacific Drive” is sometimes more annoying than captivating. But if you can live with these playful potholes, you can expect what is probably the most unusual survival trap of the year.

“Pacific Drive” was released for Windows and PS5. It costs around 30 euros. USK from 16. For our test, we played for a few hours with the Windows version.


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