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Pacific Drive Preview: The Car is the Star

Pacific Drive 2

First, the bad news: Pacific Drive is no longer coming this year. But the good news is that it’s looking rather good indeed. We were recently given a short demonstration of the game in action, and it’s made us more eager to go hands-on with this unique roguelike more than ever before. After all, we love roguelikes, and we love driving. What more could we want?

In Pacific Drive, players will find themselves trapped inside the Olympic Exclusion Zone. It’s as worrisome as it sounds, what with it being an abandoned research site filled with unusual anomalies. To survive this surreal place you’re going to have to understand it, and so that’s what you’ll primarily find yourself doing in this vehicular driven adventure – exploring and unravelling the zone’s mysteries.

Needless to say, while you can explore on foot, your vehicle is essential here. Your garage is a safe haven in which you’ll seek solace and prepare between excursions. You’ll be able to remove and switch out parts of your station wagon, and craft items such as repair kits to keep it in tip-top shape. The parts you equip on your station wagon will be important, too. If you want to be able to go off the beaten track effectively, for example, then you might want to equip tyres that are better for going off-road.

Charting your route through the zone, each run will consist of a number of levels. These can be completed in as a little as 10 minutes, with a full run lasting 40 minutes or more depending on how successful you are. And like any roguelike, there’s an emphasis on replayability. There are weather and time of day systems, and each level is procedurally generated. Even repeated journeys to the same biome are likely to throw up new things, what with there being around 50 anomalies in the game.

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In the gameplay we saw, one anomaly threw the station wagon up into the air, taking valuable control out of the player’s hands for a short period until it came crashing back down to earth. Fail to avoid such a hazard and who knows what it might catapult you into. We also witnessed biome-specific weather such as acid rain, and perhaps Pacific Drive’s biggest threat: a Zone Storm. This basically has you doing your best to outrun a wave of powerful energy. Make it to safety and all the spoils you’ve gathered on your excursion are yours. Get caught, and your efforts will have been much less fruitful.

We came away from watching Pacific Drive still a little mystified by it, but keener than ever to jump into the Olympic Exclusion Zone and explore it ourselves. Little touches such as being able to turn the radio on ground you in the world, and there looks to be a nice mix of vehicular and on-foot exploration, with the latter mainly reserved for sweeping up resources with a vacuum-like device. Just what is the secret of this mysterious zone, and what horrors await us there? We simply can’t wait to find out, even though the journey might be perilous.

Pacific Drive launches early 2024 on PS5 and PC.

Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!