Uniquely blending survival horror with roguelike elements and lots of driving, Pacific Drive is shaping up to be a PS5 console exclusive for the ages, as several Pacific Drive previews have revealed. In the same vein as the fishing-horror game Dredge, Pacific Drive is a great alternative horror experience. The Loadout got a short hands-on taster of the game at GDC last year, and we enjoyed what we played. However, from these new previews, it seems like things have even improved since then, and this engrossing and haunting survival horror with a twist should definitely be on PlayStation players’ radars.
Despite being a PS5 exclusive title, Pacific Drive has had little fanfare compared to some of the other titles launching in the first quarter of 2024, though the limited marketing push certainly hasn’t helped spread the word on one of the most exciting new PS5 games. With Pacific Drive previews now out in the wild, it’s safe to say that Ironwood Studios’ debut title is shaping up to be one of the best PS5 games of the year. Sorry Xbox fans, or even PS4 players, as you’ll need a PS5 to experience the haunting thrills of Pacific Drive.
Right off the bat, Pacific Drive takes a unique approach to the survival horror genre, adeptly weaving in roguelike elements and making driving your banged-up station wagon a core mechanic. With the core gameplay loop forming around scrounging for fuel and upgrades for your car to make it through the dangerous, supernatural environment you find yourself in, your station wagon becomes a character of its own. “There is a lot to like about Pacific Drive’s tense, vehicle based horror but the thing that impresses me most is how well it captures the very essence of ‘car’”, Leon Hurley of GamesRadar notes. “That strange feeling of remote isolation and security you can get from being in a car is ever present here”, Hurley goes on to explain, backing up the remarkably haunting atmosphere permeating the experience.
PCGamesN’s Cheri Faulkner also touched upon the extreme sense of loneliness. “There’s an overarching danger of feeling entirely alone,” she says, but also highlights the excellent characters, who are supportive and purposeful, despite never actually being on-screen.
Therefore, to learn more about your predicament and the eerie Olympic Exclusion Zone, you must take care of your car to venture out into the woods, scavenge parts using your scrapping tool, crowbar, and hammer to deconstruct, unlock, and smash, and complete specific tasks to progress – all while trying to make sure you get back to your garage in one piece. Upgrades in tow, you can set out further and further into the haunting wilds to repeat the process. Though Giovanni Colantonio of Digital Trends suggested this loop “could get repetitive”, TechRadar went on to explain that “it’s a fun and refreshing twist on the usual survival game consequences and fear tactics”, something which we experienced first-hand.
Speaking of, Pacific Drive is oozing with an atmosphere that will chill you to your bones: “It’s damn creepy” claims Digital Trends. Likewise, “Every step I took from my safe haven filled me with dread”, wrote Ellie Gould of TechRadar. The ever-present sense of dread that smothers you as you realize you have to, at some point, repair your battered vehicle and scavenge for supplies is core to the experience. With raging winds, pouring rain, and mysterious supernatural occurrences all painted by dazzling lighting systems and art style, Pacific Drive is hard to look away from. It’s as much a haunting survival horror experience as it is an eye-catching and engaging driving experience.
In what was a brief, roughly 15-minute session with an early level of Pacific Drive at GDC last year, we certainly felt (and enjoyed) the atmosphere, the demanding driving and survival aspects, and the sense of loneliness. From these new previews, it sounds like all of these aspects have been built on and enhanced even further. And this is all entrenched in just a few early levels – who knows how much further Ironwood will take things.
If you’re looking for one of the best PS5 horror games, then Pacific Drive should be on your list. While it may not resemble some of the best roguelike games, at least in the traditional sense, it’s already being very well received and we’re eagerly awaiting its full release.