Platforms: Xbox Series (version played), PC (also version played), PS5, Xbox One, PS4
Genre: Computer RPG mimicking Asimov, K. Dick, and Gibson’s depiction of the future
The long-awaited sci-fi video game from Polish publisher/devs CD Projekt, the folks who made The Witcher relevant, is out. For the past few months and even a year or so, people vehemently defend the title, a lot of issues were found from its developers and how the game was being made, and a lot of investigative writers get flak for the mere mention of it.
Throughout my many years reviewing games, I have come across this one constant: no game will ever live up to its hype. Set your expectations too high, and you’ll be burnt while feeling silly for calling that one female reviewer a nasty name on public online spaces just because your viewpoint doesn’t match hers. Set them too low, and there’s a chance you may end up too bitter and side with whoever barks the loudest over a f***ing video game.
Point is, people should know better by now not to get too wrapped up with hype, marketing spiels, and similar company tactics to get you to buy their products and possibly feel buyer’s remorse. That’s how first-party companies sucker you into getting a new fancy console that doesn’t even have that many games on it.
Having said that, does Cyberpunk 2077 live up to the hype? Of course not. Is it fun to play? Yes, although there are caveats. Let’s cyber-dive through them.
I’ve Seen Things…
How does CD Projekt’s big title start off? However you damn well please. Whether you’re a street thug or a corporate worker, you’ll end up the same path: your persona named V gets screwed over and your big lug of a pal Jackie helps you out with gigs to become a beginner mercenary. After a few hours of acclimatizing yourself with the world and after participating in a heist gone wrong, you end up having an AI construct in your head called Johnny Silverhand who looks and sounds like an aviator shades-brandishing Keanu Reeves.
You’ll be taken for a wild ride in corporate behind-the-scenes shenanigans, as well as help out rival faction while solving the AI construct conundrum. Without spoiling anything, the story might seem like it’s focused on Johnny Silverhand’s arc, but I feel that both V and Silverhand play off each other well. Silverhand himself starts off as a butthead, but he grows to become a loveable a**hole because of his choice words and VO work from Theodore “Ted” Logan himself. His backstory of a rocker/terrorist trying to relive his glory days somewhat and make up for his past behavior is done well, especially when you attempt to complete his sidequest arcs.
The other main quest stories and side stuff also makes Cyberpunk 2077 meaty and worth playing narrative-wise. You’ll be helping out an impetuous nomad girl in her quest for revenge (Panam Palmer), sort out braindancing techniques (thing CSI video footage-zooming but with cyberpunk tech) while befriending braindancing expert Judy Alvarez, and help a sentient AI find their rogue taxi cabs consisting of the AI’s psyches. There’s a lot to do here in Night City.
And what a city it is! The future portrayed by Cyberpunk 2077 is pretty crappy. And I do not mean the bugs; we’ll get to that soon. The setting itself, Night City and its badlands outskirts, is a future that is so comfortable in its excesses of vices like drugs, alcohol, and sex, that it made its way into culture and onto the mainstream.
Ads that feature transsexuals, lewd bits, and innuendoes are just all over the place, blending in with its garishly-dressed denizens. Whether they’re Japanese, Chinese, Caucasian, Mexican, or African-American, they are usually kitted with cybernetics and/or terrible futuristic fashion senses. In a way, it’s a harmonized future that revels in its debauchery.
I felt both enamored and uncomfortable just hanging around Night City, whether it’s the Afterlife bar and its seedy underbellies, or its corporate-level buildings and housing estate that could be Singapore’s future. Minus the over-the-top ads and sexy displays, of course.
It also helps that the game is a gorgeous beast on the PC; a staple for the developer’s CRPG and PC roots. Whether you’re playing it in 1080p with an older graphics card or revving it up with an RTX 2080 with raytracing turned on, Night City is really gorgeous-looking.
If you have Facebook friends who plays games on PC, be prepared for an onslaught of humblebrag public posts involving their new graphics cards and Cyberpunk 2077 in max settings running at 60fps. It’s arguably warranted: Cyberpunk 2077’s graphics are meant to be shown off.
The console versions running on next-gen platforms, either the Xbox Series or PS5, aren’t too shabby either. It’s not going to top a high-end rig, but it moves and plays smoothly while looking crisp thanks to the game’s art direction.
Wake Up; Time To Die!
The game truly opens up once the initial 5 to 10 hours has passed. Combat, stealth, and exploration may feel rigid and limited at first, but once you level up your character and sort out your Traits and Perks, you should be able to get into the swing of things as a mercenary. Your mechanical shooting skills do help somewhat, but this game runs like an RPG: stats, buff, and equipment matters. If you have a Unique or Legendary weapon on hand, it’ll help you significantly deal more damage and add more DOTs to the headshots you’ll be landing.
Not only can you gear up your mercenary with weapons and cool clothing (from biker jackets to aviator shades), you can also add cyberware parts to further enhance your passive skills, stats, and even net yourself additional attacks. Need a projectile launcher? Equip that via the nearby ripperdoc so that you can launch grenades from your arms instead of relying on your guns too much. Rather be a stealthy athletic ninja? Equip the double jump cyberware mod so you can do just that.
If Cyberpunk 2077’s gameplay reminds you of 2010’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, that’s because it does. Minus the nuances and smoothness of that world. That isn’t to say the game is bad, far from it. It’s just that quite a majority of problems can be solved with either front assault castle storming, stealth, or a mix of both. And high-end equipment, can’t forget that important RPG tidbit.
There aren’t that many situations that lets you defuse a situation through diplomacy; you really need to get your guns and katanas ready about 75% of the time. I was expecting a leveled-up Deus Ex experience: instead, I got more of the same, just with less black-and-gold and more violence and floppy magnum dongs.
Still, props to CD Projekt for offering a diverse amount of customizability to cater to your playstyle of choice.
Point is, CD Projekt’s sci-fi depiction isn’t meant to be a utopia at all, unless you’re a closet deviant. It’s stark, it’s garish, it’s messed-up, and it’s a different kind of beauty and immersion. It’s not a huge as a Skyrim or excessively padded like an Assassin’s Creed period piece, but it’s packed with a lot of charisma and flair with a lot of fighting, mercenary work, policing, and driving-around to boot.
Bitch about gender representation and its content all you want: CD Projekt created a world worth talking and criticizing about, and that adds to its value of existing. It’s the worst version of an Asimov world realized, and you feel alive just getting through it and exploring every nook and cranny even if it’ll kill you. Every single yellow question mark on your map is worth checking out just to see how absurd the sidequests can get, be it helping out a guy with a grenade for a nose or finding a drop pod of a rare painting that’s being pursued by military peeps.
It’s a shame that it’s riddled with so many bugs and glitches.
Like Tears In The Rain…
How bad are they, you might ask? It’s pretty embarrassing given that it’s from a high-tier game studio and publisher. Here’s a good chunk of them during my playthrough at launch:
- Missing UI which omits my stamina and health.
- Dialogue option selection not working; I kept pressing the d-pad and it’s stuck.
- My character ending up naked after key scenes that require costume changes.
- Audio dialogue overlaps each other, and also popping up over someone speaking. Also, some weird echoes in a few story missions when my character was in the car with an NPC when driving out of the tunnel.
- Bystanders walking back and forth like they’re on an obviously scripted path.
- A few other combat-related AI issues that make it either too hard or too easy. Standing idly by, shooting through cover; those ol’ chestnuts.
- The old “fall through the game world” after jumping on a couple of rooftops & crates in a story mission.
There’s a lot more to list, and they are numerous. Just ask Reddit & Twitter. The less said about the base PS4 and Xbox One versions, the better. Again, this is a hard problem to ignore especially if it affects gameplay by a large margin.
Cyberpunk 2077 is definitely a massive CRPG undertaking. If it weren’t for the glitches and bugs in the way, I’d say CD Projekt has a helluva masterpiece in its hands.
Its combat and gameplay is pretty fun even if it’s a restrictive version of other sci-fi open-ended titles like Deus Ex Human Revolution. Its narrative is a fun ride with multiple endings worth chasing for and investing in. Johnny Silverhand may be the highlight, but other characters like Judy and Panam make the story all the more engrossing and packaged with a bit of heart amidst the sci-fi grime.
But at the end of the day, it wouldn’t mean jack if the game doesn’t screw you over with its technical issues. While the game runs alright on PC, Xbox Series X|S, and PS5, the glitches and game-breaking stuff are still there at this time of writing. We’re sure CD Projekt will be fixing its magnum opus over time, but for now, we’ll have to judge it as it is right now: a fun if messy ride into an effed-up future that might happen.
- Beautiful if dirty depiction of a sci-fi city.
- Skills and Perks system is open-ended.
- Great main mission and side missions worth partaking in.
- Memorable characters like Johnny Silverhand and Panam Palmer.
- An incredibly buggy and glitchy game that will ruin immersion.
- Inconsistent AI and damage scaling.
- Takes a number of hours to really get started.
Final Score: 70/100
*Disclaimer: feel free to dock 30 points or more if you’re playing the game on a base PS4 and Xbox One console. It runs like garbage on those systems.