The year is 2077, and CD Projekt Red has finally released their highly anticipated game: Cyberpunk 2020. Wait, that’s not right. On Thursday, December 10th 2020, CD Projekt Red would launch one of the most hyped games ever put to market: Cyberpunk 2077.
Now, a full disclaimer – I’ve been following Cyberpunk 2077’s development since the announcement in May 2012. This was when the game was centralized around teams hunting rogue cyberpsychos. Conceptually, Cyberpunk 2077 has seen much growth since then. As such our expectations must evolve in parallel.
With that in mind, I had made a conscious point to check my excitement and personal biases at the door before beginning my testing in Night City. It is important to separate, “what IS Cyberpunk 2077″ vs “what did I want it to be?” So, let’s digest and reflect on the meaty dozens of hours of gameplay that I took time off the day-job for.
Was it worth it? Let’s review and find out.
How one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore, ALL forms of review are opinionated and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s review Cyberpunk 2077 through the lens of more objective metrics such as; graphical fidelity, characters & story, content & length, controls & gameplay, then, finally, sound design & cinematics.
This product was evaluated on an Xbox Series X, for full transparency, using a purchased copy of the game. To be clear, this is running the Xbox One version of Cyberpunk 2077 on a Series X, not an Xbox S/X edition of the game. “Next-gen” versions [it’s here so it’s now current-gen] are projected to release sometime in 2021 (unconfirmed).
To preface this review, it should be stated that we did attempt to pursue early review copies. CD Projekt Red did not issue out pre-launch codes to customers outside of those on PC. And these were accompanied by NDAs. This has been perceived as an attempt to mislead consumers in regards to its performance on 8th generation consoles [PlayStation 4 and Xbox One]. It has taken me longer than usual to compound, compile and articulate my thoughts on this game as it’s undoubtedly a multifaceted topic with many dynamics to consider. Without further ado, let’s review Cyberpunk 2077.
Where to begin… I suppose at the beginning.
From the first moment that players proceed with a new game and enter the digital landscape that is Cyberpunk 2077, they are greeted with the outstanding mould-a-model that is its character creator. This is our first succulent taste of 2077‘s visual fidelity and, at this point, all I could think was, “holy fuck, things are looking slick”. And this was only the character creator.
So, I make my sexy beast of a V and skip on my merry Corpo way to make Night City my bitch. Little did I know, NC had other plans, but more on plot later.
So, the game begins, and damn – not bad. Even without utilizing RTX capabilities, 2077 has impressive looking reflections. Wet spots shine and shimmer with brilliance, shadings look refined (V’s model aside), and lighting contrasts it with incredible ambience. I specifically remember my first time going to Viktor’s shop and stopping at the stairs because some floating air particle effects caught my attention.
2077 might not look photorealistic, but it does look damn fine.
It’s clear where further attention to detail was applied in comparison to areas with a more cut and paste feel to their assets. Draw distances are an interesting paradox in Cyberpunk. The cityscape loads in a massive scale that never leaves a player abruptly noticing ugly pop-ins, as The Division struggled with. But at other times the game will render lights, vehicles, or other models into the distance to create a feeling of busy-ness. However, in reality, it’s visual icing on a cake that derps and vanishes when players get too close.
Now, some of these issues are more predominant and obstructive to fluent and immersive gameplay. However, they never really ruined the experience for me unless I sought them out. The largest visual Achilles Heel that nearly destroyed my ability appreciation of Night City was when I noticed entire crowds re-spawning when I looked away and back. After repeated testing, this was not happening with consistency and I was seeing static NPCs. Although, when it does happen it has the potential to pull the player right out of their immersive play.
Another small thing that does this is the odd screen-mirrors that I feel are just an easier way to trade a static animation for reflective performance gain. “Fair enough”, I suppose yet I still feel like most mirrors don’t “work”.
There is something surreal about the atmosphere of Night City when everything clicks into place though, aesthetically speaking at least. Peaking a ridge to reveal massive cityscapes of NC in the right lighting is absolutely beautiful. Hell, I’m not one for photo-modes, but I could take pictures in NC all day.
Even the car interiors are slick.
User Interface is clean and digital looking with a red/black colour scheme coupled with a similar Heads Up Display. Players have a map on the top right, with objectives underneath and quick-use item and consumable icons located at the bottom left.
Alongside those are players’ cyberware, phone, current weapon, and ammo counts. At the top left, we find the player’s health, experience, and RAM bars. Bottom left shows the players standing or crouching orientation. It’s all pretty tidy and unobtrusive. Although, the map needs to be drawn out further in a bid to reduce players overshooting turnoffs when driving.
Character models (for the most part) look natural to Night City. However, common issues players will have after hours of play will be with re-occurring NPCs. Sometimes, you’ll notice these multiple times in a single view. Some of these NPCs look fantastic and organic to the setting, while others look like metallic ground beef pushed through a character creator randomizer. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the memes already, and they’re pretty accurate.
There’s enough to make Night City feel alive and populated, but not enough to make it thrive as a breathing culture. Then there are the children looking like miniature adults competing with Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla for “most terrifying digital kid of 2020”. The presentation of these…humans[?] are alongside the standard batch of visual glitches, bugs, and problems. Thankfully, a patch [or two, or five] can work these out.
However, it’s no excuse and it’s indicative of lack of polish.
I’ll take this time to list a few visual bugs such I encountered, such as; a dude playing a phantom guitar: things clipping through people: people clipping through things and floors: floating shit [not literal shit]: missing limbs: T-posing character models: Jenkins’ head twitched hard for me: people picking up and holding nothing (ahem, Misty)…
You get the gist. It’s the kind of stuff Bethesda games get a giggle out of, but the joke’s old now. Cross-hair drift, hats resulting in reflection baldness, and numerous other issues have been fixed at the time of writing. However, they were persistent during testing.
All things considered, I only ever faced a single majorly problematic glitch. And it was more visually related than content-oriented.
It should be noted, that the player experience in regards to performance will vary greatly depending on the platform played on. To be taken into consideration by extension of visuals are a title’s performance. And I have to admit; When played on appropriate hardware, 2077 has the potential to be – dare I say? – one of the best looking games I’ve ever played. Queue the lynch mob.
Look, I saw the moment of daybreak in-game and that lightwork had me feeling feels. Dopamine feels. It happened during an impactful conversation with Panam, so I figured it must have been scripted. I checked someone playing the same mission and YouTube. Turns out, I’m just lucky as hell. Sure was a good view.
Tree-Car go, “Brrrr!”
When it comes to aesthetics and visual settings, Cyberpunk has quite the repertoire for a console game. Players have the choice between performance and quality modes, in which I strongly recommend the former. As there are clear and noticeable frame drops and hitching that occurs in quality mode.
In my testing, it did NOT maintain a solid 60FPS, even on a Series X. Performance mode offered a smoother and more comfortable experience with little noticeable detraction from visual fidelity. 2077 also offers Film Grain, Chromatic Aberration, Depth of Field, Lens Flare, and Motion Blur. I personally dislike these options and was therefore inclined to turn them all off to conserve processing power. This is quite up to personal preference. I prefer my visuals as raw and unfiltered as possible.
As excited as I am for the official Series X version, the current performance has me a little worried. If the Series X is struggling to provide a smooth experience in quality mode, how good will 2077 run with RTX enabled and other enhancements? Only time will tell, but first, they need to wring out the kinks in this version.
I haven’t mentioned loading screens because once players enter and load their save file, Night City is, effectively, seamless. I’m sure the SSD of the Series X helps shorten the remaining load screens, but I was impressed with how freely V can traverse without hindrance.
Characters & Story
I want to establish something clearly before moving forward; Cyberpunk 2077 this is not your story. Cyberpunk 2077 is V’s tale. You may guide it, but not dictate it. Players aren’t so much creating their own inhabitant character of night city as much as shaping (their version of) V. Yes, there are dialogue options and role-playing aspects, but no, choices will not be as complex as say, Disco Elysium, Baldur’s Gate, or Fallout: New Vegas.
That being said, this segment is where I imagine most players will derive the majority of their fun and satisfaction from 2077. One of Cyberpunk‘s strongest assets is undoubtedly its narrative and atmospheric decisions tethered to it’s (more often than not) intriguing characters. Many of Cyberpunk‘s personalities are vividly brought to life through impressive animation, modelling, and motion capture [More detail on voice acting later].
Take Jackie Wells, for example, a Spanish speaking beast reminiscent of The Expanse‘s Amos. Ya boy is straight-up lovable, and he’s not the only standout. I’d be here all day listing them all but a few exceptional characters were: Panam, Johnny, Misty, Judy, and, the ever flawless Takemura. These individuals reveal to be flawed, ambitious, loving, hostile, alive, and simultaneously broken. We see different sides of humanity from joyous bliss to painful misery, rigid order to chaotic anarchy.
Even V, with the assistance of outstanding voice acting, undergoes a perilous tale of struggle and perseverance. Their deliveries drag these characters beyond the threshold of pixelation into pure personification.
Generally speaking, I’m not a dude who gets emotional. Ghost of Tsushima‘s ending made feel…something, but Cyberpunk 2077 achieves unadulterated emotional impact through character development and relationship building in a way that doesn’t feel cheap or manipulative. I genuinely wasn’t expecting to be moved at all by 2077, yet I was. Even if just a little.
Then we have terrifying, menacing masses of hulking, organic machinery. Meet Adam Smasher, your resident nightmare fuel and a man so punishingly and vocally visceral he can sexually assault you with nothing more than his voice. I really can’t express enough how satisfying some of the characterizations in this game are. I live for good stories and characters, and this really hit the spot.
The only drawback would be that some of them don’t get enough screentime to truly shine. When players connect with 2077, it begs to intrigue us with questions as simple as, “What’s V’s real name?”, or, “What happened to Johnny?”. Sure, some characters are underutilized, but others are fleshed out with deep levels of complexity.
With regards to the story, I enjoyed it for the most part, but this contrasts the somewhat lacking open-world elements. There was a moment regarding Takemura that I didn’t know I had a choice in (no spoilers), but some may see that as replay value incentive. Though, if a player has no way of knowing, they can’t be aware they missed potentially interesting content.
There are a few on-rails elements which some may not like, yet heighten the ability for extremely cinematic moments – which I occasionally enjoy. I found 2077 rides the line finely between not stripping players of control constantly while still offering visually satisfying set-piece treats. Cyberpunk 2077 is a game flush with anti-corporatism with a much more serious yet subtle tone than, say, Borderlands. I don’t wont to spoil anything for those who wish to discover it for themselves, but the story and presentation here is something to commend. There’s no specific villain in 2077 per se. Instead, the antagonist is an extremely superficial and corporatised reality and it’s anticipated effects on the human condition.
In my opinion, the pacing is phenomenal. I fully expected 2077 to ram three tonnes of exposition down my throat in the first two hours, having me shake hands with 18 people and memorize their babies’ names, but it remains tight and focused during the prologue.
I was waiting for CDPR to blow their load early with Keanu Reeve’s and circle jerk all day long. But they managed some restraint, and I’ll admit I’m impressed. Cyberpunk guides you into its world, introducing you first to its setting, then your partner in crime and all-around-good-guy-Jackie. Once players are then oriented with the world and the early stages of leveling, quests, and gameplay, it then further introduces you to its cast and thickens the plot.
Now I do have a particular issue with the way urgency is portrayed in this game. It makes the player feel like they are running out of time, thus encourages them to rush the main story instead of taking their time and enjoying the side content. This isn’t necessarily an issue with the plot pacing, just how events inspire a thought-pattern of, “must do this ASAP”.
Content & Length
As it appears to be customary with large CDPR launches at this point, all 2077‘s come with a game map, stickers, Night City “postcards”, and an interesting world compendium. I personally love the ‘thank you’ note from the developers thrown in, similar to Witcher 3.
The first piece of content which players will surely interact with will be the fairly expansive character creator. I say fairly expansive, as it seems some categories have far more options than others as some seem far more relevant, too. Cyberpunk 2069 may be the only game on the market where you can customize the protagonist’s genitalia, and I’ve got to admit; It’s completely and utterly pointless. But hey, it’s there I guess? Good thing they spent valuable time and money on this instead of polishing the game, right?
So, players don’t select a gender or body type for V. Instead, you identify your gender through masculine or feminine (nominated by appropriate voices). You also are locked to having just one body type. Meaning you can’t make V wraith thin or as jacked as Dwayne Johnson.
However, where it really shone to me was the pure selection available for some options, such as V’s eyes. Eyebrows come with fewer options at eight, including none, if that’s your jam. What especially stood out to me was the beard selections going one layer deeper. Not just a beard choice, but a style or variant of that choice. The customizer also includes makeups, scars/scarification, teeth, and nail customization. Nearly everything but V’s build and name can be modified. Don’t want nipples? Sure, dude. Fuck, if you don’t want to commit to male or female genitals, you can go full-Barbie/Ken doll!
Now all this character customization is swell and jolly, but what difference does it really make? Honestly, not much. Players will see their V in gear menus and cutscenes, but I personally found those moments pulling me from the game’s first-person immersion. While I think the customization is wasted potential that we can’t see, the inclusion of our ridiculous-looking Vs definitely undermines the emotional or intended impact of a few scenes.
Lastly, wrapping up the character customization is the juicy stuff; Stats and lifepath. Now, initially, this got my RPG-craving blood pumping, but I admit it lost its charm on my second and third times through. See, the stat system is well enough, including damage, speed, health, armor, and other modifiers enabling players to build into a specified skill-tree. This starts small with a mere seven points to invest with each stat balanced at three. The different stats being; Body, Intelligence, Reflexes, Technical Ability, and Cool. Each statistic is responsible for its own skill-tree, and sub-trees as well as associated stats.
I found build variety to be wide enough to allow players to approach gameplay in almost whatever way they see fit, and/or form their playstyle. Players can sneak, hack, shoot, or beat their way through engagements, with advantages dictated by their skills.
Topping off the character creator, we have the incredibly disappointing lifepath choice. See, initially during development, V’s “backstory” was intended to be far more complex. What was a combination of “Childhood Hero”, “Key Life Event”, and “Why Night City?” has been boiled down to Nomad, Corpo, or StreetKid. During my first playthrough, I was a little wowed by 2077‘s opening minutes. That Corpo life looked exciting and full of possibilities until it boiled down to just a few dialogue choices on the journey. Not that they aren’t interesting, it just never changed the path of any missions or specifically effected V’s relationship with anyone – to my knowledge.
Granted, I was treated with a sick looking Prey-style air-ride that left me grinning like a fool. It would have been nice for this to have more ripple effects, but I digress.
Each life story changes the prologue of the game, with each conjoining just prior to a combat tutorial and players’ first taste of the open-world. There’s a sick cinematic montage here that we’ll talk more about later, but I found that its impression on the player varied greatly depending on context. For the Corpo and StreetKid, it fit quite naturally. However, for the Nomad, it robs the player of a satisfying entrance to Night City, and that’s a damn shame.
So, What’s There To do In Night City?
Taking into consideration the scale of 2077, we must also account for cut content. While there is a whole slew of non-included features (many of which had been openly addressed in marketing prior to release), some are directly indicative of external restraints. While we could delve more into the “why?”, that’s a piece on its own. So, to address the non-inclusion of things such as metros/trains, wall-running, humanity, or even adjustments (prelaunch) to how Kerenziokov works, these aren’t surprises. While I understand the potential for those parts of the game, many of them were removed for gameplay practicality. Which makes sense. After all, is the slot system of 2077 not effectively the same as limited-equip cyberware humanity?
Realistically, the only option would be for V to die or go insane of cyber-psychosis and would be unplayable anyways resulting in game-over. Sure, they could re-jig the entire system. But that’s a lot of money and focus to attempt to translate a tried and true original roleplay system that may not work as well in the video game medium.
A secondary example of things being removed for practical reasons would be metro transportation. Sure, trains were depicted in abundance in pre-launch marketing. However, unless these areas were entirely playable locations, they would merely be another form of legitimate transportation. That being the case, 2077 already has fast travel in-game and in-menu, vehicle calling, traffic often all around, and the ability to even modify walk/run speeds. Not that I would ever argue against the inclusion of more content, just that from a mechanical perspective, I understand they aren’t necessary. Though would be cool nonetheless.
Kerenzikov is now a cyberware instead of a consumable to free up the item use slot. This is surely in an attempt to relieve players from changing the slotted item every four seconds (likely due to running out of mappable buttons on the controller).
Additionally, a noticeable execution from the 48-minute gameplay walkthrough is NOT in the game. I did honestly find this highly disappointing. I was hoping for more organic execution animations instead of constant, endless clipping choke-outs and neck-breaks we’ve seen 18,000 times in every other game. Some of the cyberware has its own animations, such as the Gorilla Arms, or Mantis Blades, but they get repetitive quick.
Again, I understand the massive resource consumption that would derive from animating at least one execution for each weapon in the game. When deadlines draw near, I get it’s not exactly a priority. Besides, people often complain about long drawn-out kill animations in games that waste players’ time. Can’t please em’ all, I suppose. I could ramble for pages about what isn’t in Cyberpunk, but we’re here to talk about what IS.
This is where Cyberpunk 2077 fumbles the ball; the superficial depth of Night City masks well the lack of task variety at hand. Oftentimes, missions boil down to combinations of shoot/hack/steal something/someone. There is no way to sugarcoat this; if players hope for the RPG depth similar to that of Disco Elysium (I reiterate this one because it’s a damn good game), open-world quality like Red Dead Redemption, stealth-like Alien: Isolation, and shooting like CoD, Titanfall, or Destiny – prepare for disappointment.
Cyberpunk 2077 is the jack of all trades, master of none.
That being said, a playthrough can range players from 20-80 hours depending on thoroughness. The low side being if players rush the story, and the alternative as completionist playthroughs. See there’s a lot to see in Night City, but not all of it feels worth doing.
While story and characters are the driving force behind the primary narrative, what will retain players beyond the initial playthrough will be the side-content. And while many of these missions can carry as much weight as the story, they’re contrasted by mind-numbing tasks taking practice in player tedium. I’m personally compulsive when it comes to clearing off every little box of the map in games like these. But even I can’t imagine everyone feels compelled to this degree of completionism just for the sake of it. The majority will likely get bored and not complete all of the “street stories”. Instead, they’ll probably elect to complete all the main story missions and most of the “side gigs” with potential to affect plot points.
As much as I wanted to do everything 2077 had to offer, I could not bring myself to spend the time farming cash just to buy every last vehicle. I value and respect my time more than that, so should developers.
While I’m nagging, it would be nice if there were more…activities around Night City. Fans long for things like out of mission brain-dances, drugging up with Maelstrom, or even just clubbing around the city. There’s a lot to see in NC, but seemingly not much to do. This is something Rockstar does exceptionally well with GTA and Red Dead, giving players insane amounts of mini-games or random encounters that liven the experience.
There are factions and gangs in the different regions of the city that control each area with eight in total. They are as listed: Moxes, Melstrom, Voodoo Boys, Animals, 6th Street, Valentinos, and Scavengers. Each one unique in their own way. I won’t go into them too deep here. I found Maelstrom especially interesting and was disappointed we couldn’t see more, and I was really hoping for some sort of gang allegiance or quests. But alas there are none. It’s kind of funny fighting a gang full of Last of Us‘ Abby, and the Voodoo Boys were pretty intriguing. I wish I could say more about these gangs, but they never got the time they deserved.
Similarly so alongside those are a plethora of corporations, the primary one being Arasaka, accompanied by Militech, Kang Tao, Bio Technica and, of course, Trauma Team International.
It may not have been directly stated but I was hoping that the depicted Trauma Team would exist as an in-game, payable “revive/insurance” system. This, unfortunately, is not the case. Maybe V never has or will be rich enough? It’s a fascinating dynamic that feels just out of reach. It would have been really cool to have a combat medic team swoop in, kick some Maelstrom ass, then zap your ass back to life to fight another day. Maybe in a future update, or a mod at least.
So now that we’ve addressed some of the glaring faults with its content, why should we bother at all? Because of the sheer amount and quality of the rest. That’s not to say “half-game, good/half-game, bad” in my best Neanderthal voice. However, you can really tell which content had effort, care, and time dumped into it against those that are practically 2077 filler episodes.
The writing is mostly excellent, capably building up to reveals and effectively delivering character arcs. It brings with it an aura that trails Night City and its inhabitants, something exemplified in speech commonalities. Cyberpunk‘s characters punctuate their talk with unusual slang like “Preem”, “Choom”, or “Delta”, or some other results of commonly abbreviated terms instead of reiterating 1400 times, such as “Biz”, or “Detes”. This might strike some people as odd, but it quickly settles in as natural. It’s similar to (though less predominant than) belter speech in The Expanse. Night City’s sky isn’t bustling with aerial cars like The 5th Element, but they are there if you pay attention.
Then, for the keen of eye, Cyberpunk also contains a plethora of easter-eggs, secrets, and tidbits to find. I won’t spoil them all here, but I found references to Hideo Kojima and Death Stranding, Portal‘s GLaDOS, Fallout, Terminator, and even Mad Max – there’s a lot sprinkled in.
Even throughout its faults, a single completionist playthrough still runs approximately 60-70+ hours. And it provides more content than plenty of other games for the same price point.
There’s a bit of replayability here if players want to try a different play-style, life-choice, decisions, and romances.
Oh yes, romances; an apparent essential to the RPG formula. They’re here but not in spades. I won’t spoil anything, but there’s one for each orientation, and some side hustle if that’s what you’re about. In some cases, make the right choices, or beware – similar to the multiple endings contained in 2077. Players are warned before the point of no return where their choices and other factors, such as relationships and proceeding decisions, will dictate which ending they get. I attempted to see every ending on offer. However, I was locked out of one due to a “secret” restraint involving Johnny. And I fear players likely won’t know about it. Hint, don’t do what I did and fuck him off ’cause he’s an asshole.
Generally speaking, a portion of the community is justifiably upset with the lack of wide-spanning choice here. But, I ask you this: imagine a tree chart of decisions. With each choice, this diagram of decisions has the potential to grow exponentially. Now, Cyberpunk already has a massive script of over a million words. For perspective, a book is 50 – 150,000 words long depending on your audience.
Lastly, Cyberpunk contains no multiplayer element. This is strictly a single-player endeavour and I believe it’s all the better for it. Nothing to distract you from the immersive city, aside from the bugs – that is.
Controls & Gameplay
Diving into 2077‘s controls, right off the bat I found it frustrating that I was unable to change my control scheme to bumper-jumper. Cyberpunk 2077 currently offers no remapping. Additionally, aim sensitivities are not specified between ADS and hip-fire, which makes aiming sometimes frustrating under certain zoom conditions. This is a segment where CDPR definitely needs to pay some attention to, as players are unable to even navigate menus using triggers or bumpers, which is simply ergonomically frustrating.
Look developers, nobody on console wants to move around an imitation mouse pointer with a controller. It makes it feel like an awkward PC Port. Just give us selections.
You’ll use the B-button [on Xbox] to crouch button, which is great. Until you want to stand up in a conversation and that’s the skip dialogue button. Tight. Sometimes you can jump, but remapping would be cool. Overall though, controls are fairly standard for what we’ve come to expect from shooters. CDPR even threw in an automatic leaning cover mechanic, so that’s pretty nice. It even works well!
And onto a juicer topic; how does it play? Honestly, pretty well all things considered. The fundamentals here are solid with regards to movement, aiming, interaction etc.
One of the larger portions of the game that will be on everybody’s mind is the combat, and while it has changed a touch since pre-release, it’s still mighty satisfying. Whether you’re using a tech weapon to charge up and blast through walls, a smart gun to curve bullets, or a katana to butcher your foe, each weapon feels purposeful and weighty. Melee weapons have semi-unique finishing blows, and, until falling behind statistically, all feel nice to use whether you’re clubbing, slashing, or punching your way around. I have to admit, the frustratingly basic fist fighting mechanics suck. Timings don’t feel like they work, and it feels clunky and gross. The only way it works nicely is when you’re One Punch Man with Gorilla Arms and 20 points in Body. There’s also an included stamina system limiting V’s sprint times, blocks, and swings.
Guns come in a fair variety in NC, though not excessively so. Players have their standard armoury of pistols, shotguns, rifles, and snipers, but there’s often a twist. Guns in Cyberpunk come in three types; Power, Tech, and Smart. Power weapons ricochet, Tech weapons charge and shoot through walls, and Smart guns auto-aim and track (Titanfall, anyone?). There’s some true uniqueness here with smart shotguns, for example, feeling more like cluster missile launchers than a double-barrel. Or, my personal favorite, a charging, room-clearing automatic shotgun-pistol. The variance is pretty nice BUT it isn’t Borderlands nice. I did notice a slightly low feeling ammo count, but considering the extremely generous crafting system, it’s a non-issue.
The crafting system can be economy breaking if utilized properly and needs some balancing. Some of the gear looks absolutely ridiculous, but if you’re like me you won’t care because higher-number, good. Function over form, my friends.
At its best, 2077 will make players feel like Takeshi Kovacs on a good day. At its worst, it’ll make you feel like (the less-than-stellar) season two of the same name. Players have a few different options to combat approach, including stealth, explosives, gunplay, hacking, and different forms of melee. All of which come in lethal or non-lethal forms. Weaving between-and-over-cover and beating up randoms is a power trip that makes the player feel like discount Batman. While I won’t necessarily say the gunplay is “tight”, it’s certainly better than I was expecting. What’s more, it puts Fallout and The Outer Worlds to shame, in my opinion.
Dialogue systems are satisfactory, while nothing overly special. They’re certainly better than Fallout 4‘s, but won’t often give you more than two-to-four detailed options. Dialogue does have the potential to change the events or outcomes of certain events or missions, with definitive choices highlighted in yellow, and inquisitive or less essential options in blue. I quite enjoyed the seamless nature of conversations without transitions; how V is able to walk away at any time for any reason gives the player a feeling of true freedom. This won’t affect anything mission wise to my knowledge as players can always return to where they left a discussion.
One odd decision from the developers was to give players the option to answer a call, then pick-up after the second or third ring anyways. Why even give us the choice?
Anyways, players will spend and earn ‘Eddies’ as their currency, primarily spending them on massive car purchases and cybernetics. There are vendors and vending machines scattered about for your various needs. To be honest, I mostly just sold things there.
The subtle complexity of the world’s systems is interesting in ways I hadn’t noticed until many hours in. An example of this is the police showing up to tape an area off after you murder everyone inside. Huh, nifty. In the same breath, police spawning is broken as shit when you get a warrant on you. They will literally spawn right behind you like apparitions of justice. When it works, it really works. When it doesn’t it’s frustrating. Or, at least hopefully funny.
Driving and navigating Night City is a mixed bag. The driving mechanics aren’t what you would call fluid. It will probably take a bit of practice to be truly confident behind the wheel. Moreso as each car behaves differently. It never feels as polished as, say, GTA V, though. This also tends to tie in with the map being too pulled in for players to be able to see their turns, constantly having to 180.
Sound Design and Cinematics
Nearly every aspect of 2077‘s audio design is a testament to quality when, much, like everything else, it works.
Vocal performances from nearly every actor/actress is a fantastic standard reminder for the industry. From both male & female V’s [Gavin Drea and Cherami Leigh, respectively], Johnny Silverhand [Keanu Fuckin’ Reeves], Judy [Carla Tassara], Panam [Emily Woo Zeller], and Jackie [Jason Hightower], to the Arasakas, almost every voice acting element is of a quality expected from a massive AAA title. Hell, my pulse raised the first time I loaded the game and heard Stanley Media hyping Night City like a Super Bowl commercial.
While the lip-syncing isn’t exactly top-notch, it’s unique in that it uses AI technology to make it work alongside its voice acting in multiple different languages. Certain lines of dialogue would simply not play at times. And some audio was completely out of sync on other occasions. Again, most of these issues have since been fixed.
In regards to music, I need to give massive props to CDPR’s audio department for including an entirely legit Metal station. Hell yeah, brother! Additionally, CDPR also employed the help of celebrities such as Run The Jewels, A$AP Rocky, and Grimes for 2077‘s incredibly diversified OST.
Now, while 2077 does have some great tracks (and a good amount of them, too), there are certainly many songs that will be repeatedly burned into your cerebral cortex. Not that there isn’t a massive amount of music in Night City. It’s rather just the sheer amount of times players engage in combat, we are more than likely to hear the same songs. Most of these tonally reside within Cyberpunk quite well, fitting the futuristic dystopian cityscape like a glove.
Combat music reminds me of [I’m getting tired of saying it] a synthy DOOM-styled Mick Gordon soundtrack. It’s not, but close enough. Some of it is, with a paradoxical mixture of grainy older styles mashed up with shreddy guitar and electric tie-ins. Its frankly, quite glorious. For the rebellious amongst us, some songs are reminiscent of the personification of teenage angst. Set playlists to “edgy“.
Cumulatively, it all works well enough though. Especially offering individuality to certain regions through proximity-based audio. This sometimes gives a particular location a slightly unique quality. However, in-car radio stations are your choice. There’s also the inclusion of an additional option that streamers will certainly enjoy and benefit from; the ability to disable copyrighted music in settings.
Cinematics, depending on context are either epic, touching, or downright hilarious. Generally speaking, the game is truly cinematic in nature, but there are a few standouts that I won’t spoil.
Ultimately, while I’d struggle to recommend Cyberpunk 2077 to just anyone, it’s hard to deny that the raw content and playability on offer here is worth your money. It’s hard to deny that 2077 will disappoint many players in its depth, complexity and player choice. However, Cyberpunk contains undeniable merit that (depending on subjective tastes and values) could definitely be enough to carry the experience. And to also justify Night City’s $79.99 cost of entry.
I feel an appropriate way to end this is to ask; “was Cyberpunk 2077 everything I wanted it to be?” No. Does that make it a terrible game? Also, no. Instead, it’s merely a flawed product buckling under the insurmountable weight of its own hype. It absolutely should not have been released in its launch state for either PS4 or Xbox One.
So, 2077 comes with a massive caveat depending on what system you play it on. I’m damn sure the issues would be compounded as their current state is unacceptable presuming my experience was with a launch Xbox One. If players have an Xbox One X or an Xbox Series X or S, I can recommend the game to those who go in with tempered expectations. However, if you are playing on last-gen hardware, I cannot, in good conscience, recommend it. This is especially true for early models.
To attempt to objectively analyze a product like this, I can only judge the game I experienced. I faced no game-breaking bugs, only a single (patched) glitch that caused a legitimate obstruction. Being able to play and enjoy the game to its completion, I understand that not everyone is able to have that experience with this game, and that is highly unfortunate. In its current state, under optimal play conditions, I give Cyberpunk 2077 a 7.8/10. With bugs and glitches fixed I could potentially justify an 8-8.4. Further content could additionally build on this foundation, bringing it upwards of a 9 on up. However, this isn’t a review of what the game could be, but what it is.
On a final note, I almost think Obsidian and CD Projekt Red could learn from each-others shortcomings. The Outer Worlds suffered from a short playtime but maintained a complexity that Cyberpunk lacked. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Ordinarily, we use trailers that accurately depict gameplay as closely as possible. The above trailer does portray a general sense of what Cyberpunk is. However, the game’s depth and complexity of boasted mechanics are not the same in practice.
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A Number Feels So.... Trivializing
- Score - 7.8/107.8/10
+ Outstanding Visual and Audio quality
+ Fantastic MoCap and Voice Acting Performances
+ Satisfying Combat, If Unbalanced
– Performance, Not So Much Near Unplayable on Previous Gen
– Cut Content
– Lots of Bugs and Glitches