Open Roads and Pacific Drive will put road trips at the heart of their respective adventures

If I asked you to think about cars in games, your mind will, understandably, leap straight to something racing-focused, like Forza or Gran Turismo rather than Open Roads or Pacific Drive. Beyond those big hitters, you might think about open-world games like GTA, where vehicles are a means to get about and potentially cause a little havoc if you have an in-built hatred for pedestrians.

And those would usually be my go-to as well. It’s quite rare that cars feature prominently in a game as a crucial element without you tearing around a track or shipping you from mission to mission. But within a month of one another, two indies will launch that are looking to focus on the journey as much as the destination, putting a road trip at the centre of the narrative in two different yet equally compelling ways – one chaotic, one cathartic. Which trip will you take?

Pacific Drive

First up, we have Pacific Drive, a survival game that sees you struggling through the supernatural Olympic Exclusion Zone, where your only companion is your car. It looks to create an almost symbiotic relationship between you and your station wagon – you cannot escape without your vehicle. But it also won’t stay roadworthy without constant upgrades, meaning you need each other.

Now, that may sound a little far-fetched – the car isn’t alive as far as I know, so shouldn’t really care about its survival. But, if developer Ironwood Studios balances things right, you will see the car as a character and want to protect it out of affection as much as necessity, particularly since customisation is a huge focus in Pacific Drive. Nothing makes me care about anything more than personalisation. However, if the car feels overly ‘needy’, that whole concept falls apart, and it becomes more of an irritant than anything else.

pacific drive

As mentioned, you will drive through the Olympic Exclusion Zone, a dangerous place littered with strange anomalies, pillars of earth and spooky silhouettes peering out from the darkness. Then there’s the Zone Storm, a force of nature that will pursue and destroy you if you linger for too long. It all sounds very stressful, and even with all that going on, you will need to scavenge for resources to keep your car ticking along, whether that’s gas or upgrade materials. You’ll need to step out from the perceived safety of your vehicle to gather these, which should only add to the growing tension and escalating threat you’ll face.

Pacific Drive will release for PlayStation 5 and PC on February 22nd, 2024.

Open Roads

On the flip side of that, we have Open Roads, which promises to be a more chilled-out experience in terms of gameplay, although it’s sure to stir up a few emotions. It follows Tess and her mother, Opal, as they embark on a road trip to unearth the past by visiting several of their family’s abandoned properties. Within these ruins, they’ll not only uncover long-forgotten history but reconnect with one another.

So where does the car feature? Well, between visiting these houses, you spend the rest of the game in there doing usual road trip things – chatting with your mother and flicking through radio stations to find something interesting to listen to. However, it’s the former that will likely bring the most intrigue since the game’s dialogue system pushes the narrative forward.

open roads

While the car isn’t likely to be embedded in the story as much as it is in Pacific Drive, it still forms an integral part of the narrative. A road trip is only going to feel longer if you refuse to speak to the other person, so it acts as a catalyst for conversation, something Opal and Tess likely need.

Outside of the driving, you will explore the previously mentioned abandoned houses in search of clues to explain lost family secrets. These environments are impressively detailed, judging by the screenshots and trailers, which will undoubtedly help make them feel like believable places to explore.

Open Roads will launch for PC, PlayStation 4/5, and Xbox Series X/S on March 8th, 2024.


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This Article was written by: Stephen Gregson-Wood