Pacific Drive may be set in a strange futuristic rendition of the US’s Pacific Northwest. However, the odd happenings of the game’s Olympic Exclusion Zone hit much closer to home for those who know the region, like the creative director at Ironwood Studios, Alex Dracott.
“I grew up in Portland, and I used to drive around in my family station,” Dracott recalls. “I would go and take these trips into the woods, and I do photography there. One of the times, I was driving up to the coast and was going through a mountain pass when my phone died.”
Driving around the eerie pine woods at 3am all alone, and with no form of communication to rely on, Dracott decided to try the radio instead. “I knew my station wagon didn’t have a working FM radio, so I was like, ‘alright, I'll play the radio gamble; we'll see what the heck is playing in the middle of the mountains at three in the morning.’ I was completely alone on the road, and I just started getting a very old-timey sounding nature educational program that would cut in and out.”
This odd encounter was just one of the experiences that inspired certain features of Pacific Drive. There is "a long-standing history of weird stories, in the Pacific Northwest," Dracott explains. "The obvious one is Big Foot, right? It's had such a significant cultural impact that the story has permeated through the area."
As you travel around the Olympic Exclusion Zone in your beaten-up station wagon, the only form of constant comfort you’ll experience is the radio. This device will broadcast strange messages that encourage you to uncover various secrets found in the zone, as well as some fantastic music.
Players can look forward to more than just peculiar radio broadcasts when exploring the pine forests in Pacific Drive. This upcoming survival game has plenty of strange anomalies, which all have their own roles to play and will affect your time in the zone differently.
“A big part of any survival game is not knowing what’s going on and exploring what everything means,” Dracott explains. “You poke the anomalies with the sticks and see what happens. It's gonna be weird, and some of them are definitely a little bit alarming.” But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to see what each anomaly will do.
In Pacific Drive’s preview, we discovered that one type of anomaly called tourists, which resembles stone people, will explode on impact while other anomalies will attempt to drag your car to an undisclosed location in what ends up feeling like a strange form of kidnapping. It seems, at first, as if there’s no rhyme or reason behind these odd creatures.
“We were able to get very creative in terms of what, from a gameplay perspective, these anomalies offered,” Dracott says. “Is this a thing that chases you? Is this a thing that has more emergent behavior? Everything will get more dangerous the further you play in the game. I'll say this: a lot of the behavior that the anomalies picked up is not necessarily as binary as passive or aggressive.”
“Confirmed weirdness is guaranteed when you're playing anomalies,” Dracott explains. “But the in-game government is equally as strange.” Its role in creating and maintaining the Olympic Exclusion Zone is yet to be revealed, so this unknowable quantity is yet another thing for players to unravel while exploring the pine forests.
“I’m really proud of what the game is and that we have a ton of options,” Dracott concludes. “Some are very focused on motion sensitivity and accessibility, while others just make the game easier. You can turn off player damage, and you turn off the car needing fuel.” This is all to ensure that each player will be able to explore Pacific Drive and discover every strange thing the Olympic Exclusion Zone has to offer on their own terms.
Despite the obvious dangers, I can't wait to embark on road trips around the Olympic Exclusion Zone. With so much left to discover, I'll likely find myself running into more than just a few anomalies with my trusty station wagon.
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Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications.
Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.