It is hard to believe that after an incredibly long wait and numerous delays, Cyberpunk 2077 finally released and made it onto our systems. It was arguably one of the most anticipated games ever released with the hype and expectations completely through the roof. But can CD Projekt RED step up to the plate and deliver the game we all expected? The answer is ‘No, not really.’ Here’s why.
New City, same open world
Most of us know the premise of Cyberpunk 2077 by now. The game is set in Night City, a sprawling, multi-layer megacity of the future, filled with crime, violence, drugs, sex and cybernetic enhancements that basically took over the lives of its citizens. You play as V, a character with three potential back-stories, and who can be whatever you want ’em to be. The character creator is pretty robust, and while it mostly focuses on different presets, it ultimately doesn’t matter too much since you spend most of the time playing the game from the first-person perspective.
To describe what Cyberpunk 2077 is like is a little challenging, but I’ll try my best. It is essentially a Bethesda type RPG, set in a futuristic Grand Theft Auto universe. It works, for the most part, but something feels a little off about the world.
I will say that right from the start the game looks amazing, with an incredible level of detail usually reserved for more linear games, but Cyberpunk certainly sets a new bar for what an open-world game should look like. So it is no wonder that it can be a real resource hog, making even beefy rigs run out of frames in busy sections of the city. Most of this is down to optimisation issues though, and I am sure that it will see improvements with some updates, but as it is now, it isn’t the most optimised experience. But it still looks so good though. The way light shines through the buildings, or reflects off wet roads and windows, to the level of detail in main NPCs and characters is just so well made and realised. Normal background NPCs can look a little flat and dated, but they blend into with the world more and can be forgiven, especially if you consider the sheer variety of characters.
Gameplay, for the most part, is fine. It is played almost entirely from the first-person point of view of V, who can use a variety of tools and skills to get around the world. In combat, you have the option of sneaking around stealthily, hacking goons, robot enemies, cameras and terminals to gain some sort of advantage, or just going in guns blazing using the best weapons at your disposal to dispatch the mob of enemies before you. The stealth feels a little bit like the recent Deus Ex game, just a lot less refined, and if you get caught out you can just go in guns blazing anyway until they’re all dead. The gunfights are… adequate. To be honest, while fun, especially to experiment with the different types of smart weapons, combat can get a little boring and repetitive, with the AI being a little too stupid for my taste, and never really offering much of a challenge.
Besides the main story, you also get your standard side missions and jobs. Some fixer, or person, will contact you over the phone and you’ll be able to accept or decline their offers and set off on a series of smaller quests to complete whatever this person expects from you. Then there’s some racing you can take part in or just open-world activities or events that seem to randomly pop up like a shootout between the Night City police and some criminals. It’s fun to play and adds a lot of value to the overall experience.
Cyberpunk 2077 also offers some pretty decent, if poorly explained RPG elements to it, though it isn’t nearly as fleshed out as one might have expected. You earn XP, which gives you attribute or perk points that you use to upgrade certain skills or perks within those skills. It works pretty well and gives some freedom to build your own playstyle, but the mileage you get out of it might vary from person to person. Overall, the gameplay experience of Cyberpunk 2077 is pretty good, but there’s nothing mind-blowing about it.
The quality of the final product that was given to consumers is something that needs to be discussed. Thanks to us getting the review code a little later, and a series of events preventing me from playing the game much before launch, I actually managed to get more of the glimpse of what Cyberpunk 2077 will actually be like for the people out on the streets. This was probably a small blessing, as the initial patches (on PC at least) made a massive difference in the overall experience and the quality of the game. Make no mistake, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done here, but it is a start.
The game is a bit of a mess with a lot of bugs and glitches, nothing game-breaking, but most of them will take you out of the immersion of the game. Simple things like floating cigarettes, the inability to answer your phone, or NPCs just stopping talking and V reacting to the nothing that wasn’t said. Hopefully, these few kinks will be ironed out, but in the meantime, it’s still annoying if you have to quit out to the menu and reload the game in order to progress. And as I mentioned, this game requires some serious hardware, with frame drops in certain busy areas like marketplaces or plazas to be expected. Once again, if you have the hardware for it, it should be fine, but this might be of some concern if you’re sporting a lower-end or older system.
I also feel the world of Night City is a bit of a missed opportunity. The place looks amazing, and with all the grit, grime and lore that went into it, the place feels a bit lifeless. NPCs mostly just walk around, with none of them seeming to have any purpose. I think it is mostly because they are just there, not shouting out to you to buy a pork bun, or try their wares. And this is a shame because the place is so well designed in its multiple sections and multiple layers, that this feels like another missed opportunity.
With all that said, however, Cyberpunk 2077 makes up for a lot of its shortcomings with an incredibly well-written, cast and produced story. It’s not as long as some might have expected, clocking in around 30 hours or so with a few side missions, but oh boy does it have a punch. Keanu Reeves arguably delivers some of his best work as Johnny Silverhand, while every single supporting character, including V (the female version at least), brings their A game. The story starts off a bit slowly, but once it gets going it will never let you go right until the end. The only gripe, if any, is the fact that everything is experienced through a first person perspective, and while I fully understand why it is done, I cannot help but feel some more visual cues of V’s emotions and expressions could’ve added something to it.
The story alone is so good that is makes all the other crap you need to go through in order to play it almost worth it. Just not on console, not at this stage.
Not the game we wanted, but the game we got
I have a feeling that Cyberpunk 2077 had no chance of living up to the extremely high expectations we set for it. It has a lot of shortcomings, yet it’s still a damn good game that just needs a bit more spit and polish to really shine. Sure, its issues shouldn’t have been there after all the delays, but this is what we got and we have to deal with it.
My biggest issue is that Cyberpunk 2077 feels so painfully generic, almost like it’s ticking all the boxes of what an open-world city sandbox should be, and with that, it lost some of the magic and charm we all really wanted from the massively hyped game. The fact that it had a ton of delays and still released in a sort of unfinished state also didn’t help the game’s cause. It is still definitely worth checking out though, but maybe wait for the devs to fix some of the performance issues of the game.