Pacific Drive Review Roundup: A Bumpy Ride, But Worth It For The View

Pacific Drive Review Roundup: A Bumpy Ride, But Worth It For The View

Pacific Drive launches tomorrow, and reviews have dropped ahead of the driving survival title’s release. So far, the general consensus from critics is that the “road-like” game is atmospheric, intriguing, if infuriatingly difficult at times. While some reviewers found the level of difficulty in the game’s exclusion zone, along with some hard-to-decipher UI and systems, to be a major setback, others found the sometimes punishing aspects of the title to be part of its overall charm.

In our review of Pacific Drive, reviewer James Wood commended the storytelling and overall atmosphere of the “strange and unwieldy beast of an experience” that the game is, but found that “the vibes…are a little nullified by one too many systems.” We also found that “it has such simple, unabashed joy in its pervasive tactility, a perfect extrapolation of the satisfaction of making machinery churn and systems click. And that’s to say nothing of its killer selection of radio tunes; listening to an obscure folk track as I raced my car toward a giant beam of annihilating light was just fucking great. It’s certainly not going to be for everyone, a little too cumbersome and a little too long, but for others, Pacific Drive will be their ride or die.” You can read our full Pacific Drive review here.

Over on MetaCritic, reviews are still rolling in, but so far, Pacific Drive is sitting at a Mixed or Average score of 74. It’s worth noting that PC reviews sit at a slightly higher 77 average score as opposed to the PS5 entries into the mix. OpenCritic’s score is a little higher at 78, given the higher number of reviews counted towards the aggregate total. For both review sites, it seems like the majority of reviews sit at the 80% mark, but are punctuated by some very average 5/10’s that have dragged the overall score down. 

As Wood mentioned in our review, and as many other critics also noted, this is one of those titles that fans of the genre (or “sickos,” as we put it) are likely to enjoy, but others may find particularly polarising or average given the granular nature of the driving and car upgrade systems and overall difficulty.

Let’s take a closer look at what the critics thought of Pacific Drive from here in Australia and around the world.

Pacific Drive Reviews: The Aussies

Pacific Drive Review Roundup
Image: Ironwood Studios

Press Start gave it an 8.5, saying, “Just like the Daewoo Lanos I inherited from my sister when I eventually got my license, Pacific Drive is an imperfect but undeniably charming experience. It’s filled to the brim with sensational atmosphere, intriguing mystery and edge-of-your-seat cinematic adventure. If you can buckle up and push through the foibles of this otherwise fantastic survival ‘roadlite’, I guarantee you won’t regret getting behind the wheel.”

Pacific Drive Reviews: The rest of the world

Eurogamer’s Chris Tapsell scored it 4 out of 5 stars, saying, “A punishing, exasperating slog, or an off-beat love story between driver and car, human and the Zone? Pacific Drive is both and then some.”

Destructoid gave Pacific Drive 6.5 out of 10, saying, “Slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.”

Push Square scored the game an 8/10, and said, “Pacific Drive is an ambitious and rewarding debut from Ironwood Studios. It’s an unusual combination of factors that all coalesce; roguelike exploration, deep and challenging survival mechanics, an interesting narrative to follow, and a central vehicle that brings everything together. Fiddly controls and complex UI mean it’s not free from annoyances, but the pleasure found in incrementally upgrading the car and throwing it into the unknown trumps the setbacks. It might be an arduous journey at times, but it’s definitely worth the trip.”

Pacific Drive
Image: Ironwood Studios

TheGamer awarded it 4 out of 5 stars, saying, “Pacific Drive takes each genre it tackles in a bold new direction, and creates something that’s not necessarily unheard of, but feels entirely unique in its design, care, and the way in which it pulls you into its world. You’ll immediately begin to care for your car as you keep it safe, and exploring the Zone consistently provides new, refreshing things to keep you engaged and daunted. Though the milder aspects can feel repetitive, it adds to a worthwhile experience that is absolutely worth playing.”

PCGamer gave it 86/100, saying, “Yes, the occasional overly-brutal zone excursion may leave me exasperated, and sometimes the resource collection tasks feel heavily repetitive, but they can’t overshadow my fondness for this silly sci-fi station wagon. I’m always thrilled to roar back into the zone for another fruitful mission or frightful failure, and I’ll happily spend ages in the garage repairing and replacing every single component using scrap metal, duct tape, and lots of love.”

IGN scored the game a 7, and said, “Balancing Pacific Drive’s scrappy systems can be punishing, but the riveting tension of each drive through its unnerving world was always enough to keep my hands placed firmly on the wheel.”

GamesRadar awarded the game a much cooler 3 out of 5 star review, saying, “As unpredictable as it is rewarding, Pacific Drive can be brilliant, infuriating, and frustrating in equal measure. There’s a great idea here but much of its potential is burned up by a tough mid-game learning curve, and unpredictably cruel dangers.”

Rock, Paper, Shotgun left their review unscored, saying, “There’s much to admire in Ironwood’s car-based survival sim, not least the detail that’s gone into the old banger you pilot and the weird lands you have to explore, which force you to learn their quirks and keep your wits about you. As a crafting game, however, it’s rather unforgiving and laborious, requiring a lot of thankless graft if you want to stay on the road and unlock more inventive equipment.

Pacific Drive Review Roundup
Image: Ironwood Studios

GameSpot gave it an 8, saying, “​​With its wonderful depth in both story and gameplay, Pacific Drive is an early hit in 2024. It sets out to create a world that fits comfortably in the New Weird genre but brings its own style and substance to it. The road from unreliable bucket of bolts to souped-up charger is a fascinating one whether you’re unravelling the game’s many mysteries or improving your wagon for its next road trip. Though the game can be especially hard to decipher, difficulty options help to counter some of its more overwhelming aspects.”

TechRadar gave it 4 stars, and said, “Pacific Drive is a superb survival game, with stunning landscapes and crafting tools that will see you painstakingly tweaking everything to perfection. With a ton of dangerous anomalies and an unpredictable environment, it’s just as stressful as it is fun.”

So there you have it, folks. Pacific Drive releases on 22 February on PC and PS5 for players, so we’ll be sure to see plenty more opinions from punters as they get stuck into Ironwood Studios’ atmospheric survival title. Have you been hanging out to get amongst the Olympic Exclusion Zone and drive to your heart’s content? Let us know in the comments.

Image: Ironwood Studios

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