Preview: Hands-on with Pacific Drive at PAX East 2023

Preview: Hands-on with Pacific Drive at PAX East 2023

A family truckster fit for the apocalypse

I’ve been told by friends and family that I remind them of Clark Griswold, Chevy Chase’s lead from the National Lampoon’s Vacation films. I have a (horrible) sense of dad-isms that I thrive on, from loving bad jokes to geeking out about my veggie garden to organizing my tool bench to spending hours drooling over the minutiae of the inner workings of car seats. And so, with my hands-on of Pacific Drive at PAX East, I was in post-apocalyptic heaven.

Pacific Drive is set in a bizarro near future that mixes gravitational science, aliens, and the world’s strangest weather. There are floating chunks of highway, electrical surges, and an absolutely weird plasmic storm that decimates everything at the end, if you (or ME, as per usual) are not prepared enough. Fog? Check. Weird power stations everywhere? Also check. Humans missing? You got it.

But even with all of the end times environment, the real meat of the game is car-based survival, and oh what a joy that is for me. Because as noted above, I love to indulge and get lost in details, and Pacific Drive has a wonderfully excruciating level of detail. The demo kicks us off at a gas station as we’re getting our Buick Estate-styled wagon in order. We really only need to plop a tire on, fill her up with gas, turn the key and go, but it’s everything around that — the sort of accoutrements of the experience that really don’t seem to have much value outside of “just do something with all of this” — are aimed squarely at someone who has a little OCD (like myself).

The vehicle’s exterior is dented to hell, so we can use our equipped blowtorch to fix and upgrade each one (there are a lot) — or we can just leave it!

The rust can be covered up, so we can salvage some paint and give the ride a new finish — or not!

We can even drive with the hood up, the doors open (or removed), the wipers flailing.

To drive the car, we have to actually turn the key, put it in drive, pop the lights on (it’s dark outside in the Olympic Exclusion Zone), hit the accelerator and turn the wheel. The controls have all of the grace of a boulder on a highway (all 80s wagons did) with inertia being more important than actual braking or turning, and the experience seems like it’d be great with a wheel and pedal in front of our big screens. Hitting a bump causes us to bounce around on our worn struts, and braking requires us to really really hope that we won’t crash into that tree that’s on the side of the road because we were trying to avoid the floating chunk of asphalt and zipped over too fast.

Once we have a slight understanding of the controls of the car, we’re thrown perhaps the ultimate simulation curveball: there’s no HUD, so we have to look a fucking map on our passenger seat. The coordination required to turn the car one direction and the camera another just so that we can find the glowing spot on the screen is a wildly realistic take on driving, and one that I can see become almost perfect for Driver’s Ed courses.

(I veered off the road A LOT.)

We can exit the vehicle to grab and mount the loot and batteries and arc reactors we need to make it to the checkpoint, but the demo had me driving and running and exploring (via driving) and having a stupid good time noodling the details of the pre-Roadmaster experience.

And then the storm comes, and I start to float. And then it all goes black.


God Bless.

Pacific Drive might just end up being something Clark Griswold would be proud of. It’s due to release later this year (2023).

The game earned a Team Choice Award as one of SideQuesting’s favorite, must-see projects of PAX East 2023.