|INSTALL||56.32GB (PlayStation 5)|
|RELEASE DATE||12/10/2020 (Original Release), 02/15/2022 (Next-Gen/Patch 1.5)|
|PLATFORMS||PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC/Steam/Epic Games/GOG|
|PUBLISHER||CD Projekt RED|
|DEVELOPER||CD Projekt RED|
First things first, here. I want to preface this review with a bit of information.
I did not play the initial release of Cyberpunk 2077. It wasn’t possible for me. It was around the time ReviewHaven updated and got a new URL. Because of that, I ended up losing my media access on Terminals for a while – the place that I use to get most of my review codes. Since they were the ones handling Cyberpunk‘s PR/content creator contact, I couldn’t get a request in.
Tried reaching out to CDPR directly at the time, but never heard back.
On top of that – the game ended up being removed from digital storefronts, so the only possible way to get it was physically (Or on a platform I couldn’t play it on). Even though I did get my media access back shortly after all this, I still couldn’t get a code.
Thankfully, once the PS5/XSX version came out, another wave of codes became available and I was able to obtain one this time.
As such – this review is from the perspective of someone who has not experienced the original, highly broken game. This is a review of the game in its current state and won’t really seek to compare it to what it was, as there’s no frame of reference for me there – only hearsay and secondhand experiences.
Cyberpunk 2077‘s plot revolves, mostly, around your character, V’s exploits in Night City – but also the biochip that V gets saddled with early on in the game’s opening hours. A biochip that contains the consciousness of one Johnny Silverhand.
“Wake the fuck up, Samurai.” – that guy.
Unfortunately, there’s this pesky problem of 2 consciousnesses trying to exist in the same body not being good for said body’s health. This is what gives you your ultimate goal in the plot – find a way to get that biochip out of V, without it killing them…or allow Johnny to eventually take over.
And if I’m being honest? I thought having Keanu Reeves living in my head would be a lot more cool…but Johnny Silverhand is kind of insufferable for most of the game. He’s a huge asshole.
Now, the main plot feels…surprisingly short all things considered. I managed to hit the final mission in about 19-20 hours. This isn’t a knock against it, mind you, it just felt like the final mission came from out of nowhere, but not in the sense that the game feels incomplete. 19-20 hours is fairly common for a fair amount of RPGs – but for a game as open as this, it kind of sneaks up on you.
Compared to CDPR’s last game – The Witcher 3 – where the main plot was fairly long and could maybe overstay its welcome, it feels like maybe they didn’t want things to drag out this time.
There are 3 different origin stories (Think Dragon Age: Origins) that can influence the rest of your game by giving you different dialogue options related to that origin. You’ll also start with different contacts under your belt after the prologue. I went with a Streetkid V as that felt the most “authentic” to me (At least with regard to this story).
Now, I’ve only done the Streetkid origin for now – so I don’t know what other, more minor differences there might be in the Nomad or Corpo stories.
As far as the overall quality of the story, well…I think I would have preferred if it felt a bit more like Blade Runner and a little less like Grand Theft Auto. It certainly has its high points where the acting, writing and everything works together for a great moment – something heartfelt. Or horrifying. Or funny.
Other times it feels like the story is taking the piss out of the genre while also doing the things it makes fun of.
I don’t know much about the lore of the Cyberpunk TTRPG, and sadly, this is a game that kind of expects you to know at least some of that history for some of it’s story to land. Thankfully it explains its key plot points with enough information to get you by – you at least know who’s who and what the most important details are. But if you want more information about, say, Johnny’s band Samurai, or the other band members? That’s relegated mostly to text files or nonexistent.
Still, what’s here is honestly great when it works, and still somewhat decent even when it doesn’t. At the very least, Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t as bleak as The Witcher could be – or God forbid something like Days Gone – which is a road it very easily could have gone down.
Here we are. The part of the game where it legitimately struggles the most.
Look. When Cyberpunk 2077 is running at its best? It’s a great looking game. It even feels like maybe, just maybe, this is the game that was meant to release. CDPR absolutely nailed the overall aesthetic of a grimy, dirty cyberpunk city. Feeling like it draws at least some inspiration from the look of Judge Dredd, Blade Runner, Deus Ex.
That disparity between the clean streets in the Corpo-laden City Center and the outer boroughs. The neon-soaked nights in the underground/back-alley slums. The megabuildings that cram storefronts & housing into one place. The overall world-building that can be gleaned from just looking around the environment – you can really get a good sense of the kind of place Night City really is.
It’s all in here (Though I will say, dialogue-wise, people kind of talk a bit weird in Night City. I’m not sure if CDPR was trying to go for a more noir-like angle, but it comes across as a bit odd at times. Like people have this aversion to referring to themselves as “I”. Also, much like the issue I had with Biomutant – the overall lingo around Night City can start to feel a little heavy-handed. Thankfully, hearing someone refer to their implants as “chrome” is nowhere near as odd-sounding as hearing the word “GUMDUCKS” for the 30th time.)
I also like the way the crowds react when you do…less than savory things. They freak out and run in a fairly realistic manner. Though sometimes they do it even if what you did wasn’t all that bad (I mean…a car slightly knocking over a lamp post doesn’t really warrant the same reaction as a person pulling out a light machine gun to fight a group of rowdy gang members, you know?)
But the game is heavily, heavily flawed. Yes – even after over a year’s worth of extra work being put into the game, it’s still pretty rough. There are just so many visual & physics-based bugs still. Cars that crash into each other and then go flying into the sky. Pop-in galore. Objects clipping in and out of reality.
It’s disappointingly bad – look at the image to the left. Look at how beautiful everything looks overall…except for the fact that the NPC is just floating there on top of the handrail.
It would be one thing if these bugs were infrequent – but they aren’t. They happen all the time, and they really have a tendency to distract and pull you out of the game.
Even The Witcher 3 has some visual quirks to it after all this time – remember how Roach used to appear on rooftops? It was so bad they immortalized it in the standalone Gwent game for Roach’s card.
But it still isn’t as bad as this in its current state.
At the very least, though, I can say that it seems to be better than the things I saw back in 2020/2021 when the game first launched. Like…I at least never saw my V t-posing outside of the car while still driving it as their ass cheeks clipped out of their pants.
But I did see an important story character t-posing during an extremely important story scene. Pros and cons and all that.
Night City is a beautiful place in its ugliness – but that’s only for its intentional ugliness. It becomes much harder to call things pretty when entire subtitles are just straight up missing outside of the name of the speaker and one other word/phrase.
It’s like I mention on the page that talks about what I weigh for reviews: I can generally forgive bugs when they’re minor and don’t effect much. I can overlook my dislike of how something may look and still praise the technical prowess behind it. Game designers and artists are magicians and there’re no two ways about it.
But when the issues are constant, consistent, and at times major like this – it can’t really be shrugged off. This isn’t a subjective taste – it’s not a song I don’t like. It’s something that’s actively broken. It doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. And these problems aren’t just in the visuals – they find their way into mechanics as well, but I’ll go into that a bit more later.
I can even forgive some of the problems as being growing pains of working on a title/genre that’s bigger and more complicated than anything they’ve done before – but that only goes so far. Driving physics feel weird? They’ve never done driving physics before. Shooting feels a bit off? It’s a lot different than programming a sword swing.
But something like a text box just lingering for no reason, only being cleared after the game resets? That can’t really be reasoned away unless the reason is “Crunch doesn’t work”. And that’s probably what this all boils down to – a testament to the fact that crunch achieves nothing, or it makes things even worse.
It’s never worth it.
It’s also unfortunate that so many UI elements are so tiny and hard to read. Some of it is stylistic, sure – quite often “tech” UIs like this have tiny text that isn’t actually meant to be read – it’s just there to fill things out and look nice. However, there are parts of the UI that are meant to be read that also feature very small text. Yeah, it looks cool – but if I have to have a monitor the size of a movie theater screen to be able to read the name of the gun I’m using, or the items I just got, something’s wrong, yeah?
The other side of the coin where the game struggles to find its footing.
See, on one hand, there’s a lot of freedom here. From how you tackle missions to the way you approach a conversation. The actual roleplaying is great – you can have your V act pretty much exactly how you want (Although I did find that some responses would come out a bit snarkier than I anticipated/intended – a little bit of the early Mass Effect problem, where the line wouldn’t be exactly what you wanted to say, but rather more of a gist.)
Cyberpunk 2077 shares a lot of DNA with The Witcher 3. The fast travel system, the way dialogue trees work, the way loot works – if you’ve played The Witcher 3, you’ll have a decent idea of what to expect from a lot of the core of the game.
Unlike The Witcher, though, the options you have in combat are a lot more open.
In this regard, the game is a bit more like a Deus Ex title. You can choose to go in, guns blazing for just about every mission – even a lot of the ones that encourage stealth have avoiding combat as an OPTIONAL objective.
It’s usually worth it, though – as there might be a bonus of some kind attached.
If playing sneaky is more your speed, you can invest points in abilities that allow you to disable cameras & turrets – or turn them to your side – as well as use QuickHacks to do things like snap chains that are supporting objects like crates to make them fall onto enemies.
Or inflict “poison” damage that spreads through a group of enemies, reboot their optic systems or cause their implants to short circuit and deal damage.
Visit a Ripperdoc to buy and install new implants in your body to give you new abilities – like a double jump or a hover.
This being “cyberpunk” – customization is the name of the game, and you can be whatever you might want to be and do just about anything you might want to do. Even if you’re weird and want to be a Corpo.
I also like the gear system here. While gear tends to scale to your level, if you have something that you found early on and really like – you can instead opt to upgrade it as long as you have the right components. You can also get crafting specs for most weapons which will allow you to make your own versions of gear at higher rarities – or upgrade “Iconic” gear to better rarities. And when I say “gear” I mean both weapons and armor (And items, too – like QuickHacks or healing items)
You can also install mods and attachments to your gear – the higher the rarity, the more mods you’ll be able to attach, and these mods range from the basic “do more damage/add more armor” to far more unique effects, like converting a weapon into non-lethal damage allowing you to use your favorite gun without worrying about killing, if that’s the way you want to play. Be warned, though – installing a new mod in the same slot as the old one will destroy the old mod.
On the other hand – there are a few design decisions here that just feel…frustrating. Like the usage of adaptive triggers. For the shooting, the amount of resistance feels nice. For the driving? It’s a bit too stiff. Most games opt for starting resistance at a half-pull of the trigger, but here it’s at the start of the pull. This does end up feeling slightly more authentic to an actual pedal, but I can also see it tiring out peoples fingers after a while. Thankfully, you can turn this feature off/down if need be.
It takes a surprising amount of force to get the trigger to actually pull. It’s like that feeling you get when you go to pick up a suitcase that you thought was empty, but it actually wasn’t.
Dodging, as well, feels awkward. You have to double-tap the Circle/B button to do it. I get why, all of the other buttons are occupied so it’s kind of all they could do, but it’s not as responsive as it could be. Sometimes I would go to dodge and just end up crouching right in front of the enemy while that smack me in the face with a bat. Or a fist. Or a bullet.
If it were another button – like double-tap reload or something – or if the input were just a bit more reliable, it wouldn’t be as annoying.
Also, you press Crouch to skip dialogue. That is infuriating because there have been many, many times where I’ve tried to crouch during dialogue and ended up skipping lines. Seriously, why isn’t crouch on R3 with melee on Circle/B instead?
Now, this is less of a “grievance” for me, but the leveling system is a tad bit weird. There’s a standard level – increase it and you gain an attribute & perk point to increase your stats. There’s also your “Street Cred” level that goes up as you defeat enemies/complete jobs. This level unlocks more jobs for you as well as giving you access to new gear and items from vendors.
On top of all of that, there’s also a Skyrim-like leveling system that gives you experience for various sub-skills you have. Each of your main attributes has various skills attached to it. For example: Intelligence is the home of Breach Protocol and QuickHacking. You can increase your Intelligence level with the attribute points you gain from leveling up normally.
Breach Protocol/QuickHacking, however, only level up with usage (You can also find “shards” that will grant a boost to various sub-skills in the world). As you level these sub-skills, they get stronger – each level grants either an additional perk point to spend, or a boost to that sub-skills effectiveness (IE: Leveling Breach Protocol boosts the amount of time you have to complete any given breach.)
The issue this creates is the same as in a game like Skyrim – if there comes a time where you need one of these skills and you weren’t aware of it, you’ll end up missing out on whatever that thing might have been. Or you’ll be at a disadvantage because you chose to spec one way (Which is kind of what this type of leveling system ends up encouraging at times).
You can reset your perk points, but that won’t help much if you just don’t have the points invested in what you need already, because your attribute points are locked in. If there’s a way to reset attribute points, I haven’t found it. And that’s kind of the thing with a lot of Cyberpunk – most of the problems aren’t exactly that bad overall – but they’re really annoying, and they start to compound together to be extremely frustrating overall.
It’s not a death by 1,000 cuts, it’s more of a sneeze that just always feels like it’s on the cusp of happening but never does. One minute you’re driving around Japantown, crossing a bridge – the next your car is wedged under the base geometry of a lamp post that just wasn’t properly attached to the geometry of the bridge.
The game also has the problem that so many other open-world games suffer from: When things start to become “dire” in the story (Up until the “Point Of No Return” where you get locked in to your final moments, anyway) – be it a side job or the main plot – it can end up losing its potency due to the fact that nothing actually progresses until you make it progress. This means that, say, a character asks you to break into a house for them to obtain some kind of important merchandise – you could also start a side job where you go on a fun date with your V’s love interest, and that first job just…sits there. Waiting for you to finish it.
That character just out there, standing on a street corner or something, waiting for however long it takes for you to remember you needed to deliver the product to them. It’s just a weird problem that most games like this have. Even one of my favorite series, Yakuza, deals with it. “Should really get around to investigating where my adopted crime daughter is, but first I need to play 10 rounds of bingo golf and sing every song in the karaoke bar.”
It’s especially noticeable on things like NCPD assaults that happen around the city – they just seem to wait for V to actually get involved. I think a more Spider-Man-like approach to these would have been better – random little events that crop up in the area around you that you can choose to deal with or ignore to your heart’s content (Even though its a bit…odd to see something in the cyberpunk genre be so pro-authority. I mean…”punk” is in the title – I should be the one causing havoc for the cops, not helping them out.)
So this is a spot where the game actually succeeds pretty well. Night City is jam-packed with stuff to do that feels varied and interesting pretty much all the time.
You can do various gigs for all of the different Fixers, side jobs for other side characters – a lot of which might have an influence on your main story, spend time helping the cops (I mean, if that’s your thing), finding collectibles, etc.
There are even romances in the game – and you aren’t punished at all for having more than one, which is nice. That said, the ending love scenes for said romances can be a bit…awkward? There’s an uncanny valley thing with them that makes it feel a bit weird.
Still, aside from that, these romances might be some of the best I’ve seen in a game since they actually feel a bit more like building a relationship/rapport with the characters as opposed to “You gave this NPC 30 flowers so now they’re your lover!”. You have to work towards a relationship – make the right choices in their quest and as long as you’re what they’re into, you have a chance to romance them.
And I say a chance because without save scumming, you get an opportunity to enter a relationship with a character, and you can mess it up/miss out. I mean, it’s a bit difficult to mess up once you’re at that point, but it can be done.
There are also multiple endings that are all very different – with some being “better” than others in terms of their overall outcome. My playthrough ended up being one of the worst of them thanks to my decision. I honestly hated it, to the point that I’m going to go for another ending soon. Even small decisions that you make early on, ones that don’t seem like they’ll matter, ultimately come back – even if only in a minor way – later on.
There’s a lot in the game, and it’s very open, allowing for a lot of choice in how you approach and tackle just about anything. Far more open-ended than their previous game.
And for the trophy/achievement hunters out there: Nothing sounds all that difficult. Most of the list is just “complete everything the game has to offer” with a few trophies for specific, slightly more skill-based things – like shooting a grenade out of the air or defeating enemies in a specific manner.
If anything might prove challenging, it’ll be buying all the available vehicles for sale – they can be pricey and it’ll take a while to get up the funds to afford them all.
This is probably one of the longest, most critical reviews I’ve ever written.
I want it known that I didn’t hate my time with Cyberpunk 2077. In fact, it was a fairly enjoyable experience…when it was working as intended. The game is just highly flawed, still.
Sure, it didn’t really crash on me (Well, except for the one time as I was actually wrapping up this review where it crashed really hard and corrupted my save – that was…annoying) – I barely even saw a framerate drop in my entire 40+ hours of playtime on PS5. It loads quickly, looks good (When things are working properly), sounds good – and the openness of the gameplay really scratches an itch that hasn’t been hit in a while (My favorite series is Metal Gear, remember? And MGSV was almost 7 years ago – even Deus Ex hasn’t seen a new game in 6 years. And as much as I love Death Stranding, it’s a very linear experience in just about all regards.)
It just sucks that so much of the game is marred by its plague of bugs and problems. I wanted to enjoy things more – but every time I saw a car just go flying after a collision, or an NPC sliding around on the floor, or a phone hovering 10 feet away from a character’s hand, or lines of dialogue just straight up not playing when they should be – I would get pulled out of the game.
Cyberpunk 2077 is certainly in a better place than it was initially. That much is a given – but it’s also very easy to be. If you break a finger, getting it reset and put in a cast is better than leaving it limp – but it’s still a broken finger. It takes time to fully heal, and even then – it might not ever get back to the way it should be.
Currently, this isn’t quite a No Man’s Sky turnaround. Patch 1.5 is no A Realm Reborn. No Arcade/Champion Edition.
The game is still in rough shape – but it is a step in the right direction. Some more work, and the game can be great – just, please, don’t do it under crunch – take the time you actually need in a healthy manner so that you can actually make progress.
That said – I can’t in good conscience recommend flat out buying the game. If you already own it? Then definitely give the next gen version a try if you can, or play the 1.5 update. It’s definitely a much improved experience in a lot of ways.
But if you were on the fence before? I’d honestly say rent it first and see if you actually enjoy it – or wait for a steep discount/sale (Which happens quite often for this game) – at the very least, play the new trial (Only for next-gen consoles, unfortunately) that was made available first (And if you enjoy your time there, your progress carries over to the full game.)
Like I said before – the best way to describe the frustration of this game is a sneeze that refuses to happen.
It’s frustrating. You know that if that sneeze would just happen, you’d feel better. It would feel great – be a relief. But it never does. You just kind of stop having to sneeze after a little while. Then, right when you think it’s gone completely, it rears its head again.
That’s how it feels when you play the game for an hour or two and no bugs happen, and then you get your car stuck on wonky geometry – or see NPCs float their way up the handrail on a set of stairs.
Cyberpunk 2077 was riding on a lot of goodwill after the handling of The Witcher 3 – goodwill that was burned very badly with the launch of this game. CDPR still has a lot of work to do to repair that damage, and this is an ok start.