Pacific Drive is a gloriously horrible trip into the cursed wilderness

January 9, 2024
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There are a lot of ways you could describe Pacific Drive, I think. It’s sort of an extraction looter, in which you tumble into horrible worlds and try to emerge with something worth stealing. It’s sort of a blend of Roadside Picnic, the novel about scavengers who explore a strange area of wilderness that’s been thoroughly messed up by passing aliens, and My Summer Car, the Steam outsider art classic about building and maintaining a real junker and then tooling it through the woods. These are all fine ways of approaching the game, but for me it’s much simpler – and much more thrilling. Pacific Drive is a series of bad things waiting to happen to you.

Let’s make this clear: it’s a science fiction game at heart. You cobble together an old station wagon and then drive it through the Zone, an expansive chunk of the Pacific North-West that has been rendered uninhabitable through secret government experiments. But often, and, I would argue, when the game’s at its most horribly lovable, you get these off-the-cuff setpieces that are just built from accidents and unintended consequences.

Bad things waiting to happen. So this morning I was deep in the Zone, deeper than I’d ever been before. The wind was raging. The rain was falling. The sky was filled with ominous black specks, like a murmuration frozen in a single fleeting instant. For some reason I was tooling through woodland in my station wagon, negotiating trees in very limited visibility. And for some other reason I thought I saw something interesting, so I stopped the car and got out.

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