Pacific Drive review

by on February 26, 2024
Release Date

February 22, 2024


It didn’t matter what point I was at in Pacific Drive, I was always on edge. Always anxious, never confident, and forever unsure about what I was going up against. This fear is what makes Ironwood Studios’ debut so fascinating. You know what it’s asking of you, and sometimes what should be a straightforward foraging mission can turn into a tense and frantic escape from a hazardous and eerie area of the Pacific Northwest. It takes a bit of time to understand what it’s asking of you, and there’s a lot to take in at such an early stage, but the roguelike/survival loop is one of its best features.

After some scientific experiments conducted by the US government, you find yourself in the Olympic Exclusion Zone. A mysterious and deadly area where everything is disappearing into an unseen abyss, the multiple threats you encounter come in many different shapes and sizes. Pylons spitting electrical currents at you; toxic clouds; and floating robotic scanners with a magnetic winch are some of these dangers, and having one eye on your surroundings at all times is a necessity. There are times when the OEZ are eerily quiet and then boom, you’re driving or running for your life back to the safety of your auto shop.

Your beaten down station wagon becomes a close friend in Pacific Drive, which is something I didn’t expect. It doesn’t talk, obviously, but you end up forming quite the bond as you visit newly generated levels and attempt to survive whatever is thrown at you. You’ll take your car on a new run, salvage supplies and resources, try to survive, then head back to upgrade before going back out into the OEZ. This loop never got boring thanks to the variety in the threats you encounter, and never feeling safe despite the silence you can find yourself in at times adds a sense of horror to it.

One of the first runs I runs I had after acclimatising myself to the crafting structures of Pacific Drive left me massively impressed by what it was trying to do. Sitting behind the wheel of my car and driving cautiously down the road between tall trees and woodlands, I could sense something wasn’t right. I knew I had to smash these cylinders to recover plasma, but I also had to reserve my fuel and drive carefully because my car was missing its boot and bumpers. I found a couple of abandoned shacks, so I hopped out and ransacked them for supplies. It was far too quiet for my liking, but I was able to find enough materials to improve my car and stabilise it somewhat.

After collecting some plasma using my newly crafted iron hammer, I spotted something hovering down the road ahead. It looked like it was scanning the area, and while it didn’t look particularly threatening, I thought it was probably best to avoid it. I drove across some rough terrain, but it was damaging my chassis and also making a lot of noise. I had to make a decision: did I continue damaging my car on the rocks and rubble, or did I attempt to get back on the smooth road at the risk of being spotted? I chose the latter, and while I did get back on the tarmac, I wasn’t able to avoid the machine’s attention.

I drove off-road into the woods, but it followed me. I tried turning my headlights off, but it still knew the rough vicinity of my position. After it disappeared behind me, I thought I’d escaped, however, after a brief period of silence, its lights flashed and fired its winch at me, pulling me into the air and dropping me into the ground below, causing massive damage to my vehicle and leaving me for dead. It was a tense encounter and only one small example of what you might go up against in Pacific Drive. Yet I couldn’t get enough of it. I would go on further runs after that one, and while I now knew what they were capable of, I would never recover from how it made me feel.

There’s a dense crafting system that allows you to unlock new tools for harvesting items as well as improved car parts for more durable doors and bonnets, as well as resistances to certain environmental affects. While you begin to understand how everything works, it’s never easy finding all the crafting parts you need. Exploring every interesting area within the OEZ never guarantees what you need, but scouring everywhere will lead to what you’ll need more often than being scared to step out from the safety of your car. When you do get to a point when you feel prepared, the unpredictability of a new run throws another hazard your way, always forcing you to improve your vehicle.

It’s always thrilling and never dull. What makes Pacific Drive even better is the the fantastic soundtrack that plays through your radio, and the chatter of NPCs across the radio. Although you’re the only one in the car, the atmosphere is fantastic. As terrifying as it can be, you’re always impressed by how this world feels alive. The storms, the sounds coming from your car and the world around you, and the silence all blend together to make each run as thrilling as the last. Ironwood Studios has built something special, and while it can be punishing when you fail a run, it’s one of the most original and exciting games of 2024 so far.


Exciting and unpredictable runs
Fantastic environment
Satisfying gameplay loop


A lot to take in early on
Punishing at time

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Pacific Drive is a punishing roguelike at times, but the thrill of each run provides plenty of variety and excitement in how you approach it.