Reviewed on the PC with an RTX 3080 and PS5 using the PS4 version with patch 1.02 and 1.06
CDPR, a company renowned for its consumer-friendly practices, is under scrutiny for launching one of the most highly anticipated games of the decade cluttered with glitches and game-breaking bugs. This is a culmination of many factors visible to the public and behind closed doors, which has been thoroughly covered since launch.
As the game stands right now, Cyberpunk’s Metacritic score is at 86 for PC and 61 on consoles – a stark difference due to one major factor (aside from players griefing and review bombing the game); technical performance.
My time with Cyberpunk has been incredible; I zoned out of all social media interactions and just immersed myself into a project I’ve been eager for since 2012. During my first 70hrs on PC, I experience zero crashes and minimal bugs that would otherwise halt my progression – it was thankfully a straight through experience. But before I dive into my experience with the PC and PS5/4 versions of the game and it’s rapid patch releases, let me stipulate it’s core design and share why I think Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the greatest RPGs in decades.
Lifepaths and its Impact on Story
Cyberpunk is set in a dystopic future where corporations rule the world’s economy and overall power and government; animals are practically extinct due to a Nuclear War, most foods are synthetically designed and human organ augmentation is rampant throughout the population. The major key powers are the Arasaka Corp. who designs arms and other cybernetic weaponry and Militech who does the same thing, essentially.
The story begins with a character named V, which you can customize and even decide how the story starts for you; Nomad, Streetkid, and Corpo – each with a distinct personality that is designed to alter your experience throughout the campaign. V is a freelance Mercenary that takes on jobs from Police, Corporations and even local gang leaders called Fixers. These kind of jobs will increase your Street Credibility, which would then unlock more complicated jobs in the process. Cyberpunk 2077 introduces Jackie Wells, a brute with a heart of gold that dreams far beyond his sight. He shows you around Night City and assist with your jobs as well. At one point, you get a high-risk job from Dexter DeShawn, a famous fixer who has been out of commission for several years. This leads to obtaining an artifact called a Relic, a secret chip from the Arasaka Corporation that houses people’s consciousness. The person inside that Relic ends up being Johnny Silverhand, a rocker turned terrorist during the 2020s that blew up an Arasaka building with a portable nuke.
The Relic is inserted into V’s neuro-socket and Johnny then activates, literally giving V another conscious inside his own head; this plays a role where your decision making can be altered based on whether you end up liking or hating Johnny, which CDPR provided in dialogue choices based on those feelings. Honestly, I found this concept to be brilliantly done given there are so many choices to make in regards to specific scenarios. These choices don’t drastically alter your experience, but they can give a different perspective to each player. Eventually, you will encounter many, many different people to help you remove the Relic from your head, ultimately leading you to one moment in the game where decisions need to be made. You are left with about 6 choices and 6 different endings, each done well enough to give you a specialized experience. This brought me back to the feeling I had with Mass Effect 2, where I had to make sure my party were all alive to have the ending I felt I was aiming for, and that is a good feeling.
And yet, despite having all the hallmarks of an excellent story, I can’t help but see what’s missing to truly make the Cyberpunks campaign a phenomenal experience; first, the Lifepaths – each of them is specialized and definitely feels unique, but I’m disappointed that they’re about an hour-long, making them forgettable almost immediately after you get your job from Dexter DeShawn. These lifepath intros are good, I can’t help but hope that CDPR would eventually add more into these introductions because I think it is detrimental to the players experience if the life path they choose has weight. Making them 10hours of tangible content would rectify this issue, making your lifepath choice feel as if they are deeply woven into the campaign.
Another element that I find surprisingly lacking is the mundane activities within Night City; a carefully crafted world that is vertically layered and brilliantly designed alongside some masterful attention to detail is lacking things to do in it. What makes GTAV such a masterclass in open-world design is the mundane activities and with who; you can sky-dive, go to the movies, hang out in a bar, invest in stocks, bowling, billiards, darts, triathlon, hang out in your crib and use drugs and interact with your environment, customize your car, drive around and have basic interactions, and many more. Sure, it’s useless content, but a necessary distraction to bring that immersion factor in a full circle. In Night City you can pay for prostitution, drink some alcoholic beverages and get drunk but that’s about it. You can’t give us an insanely beautiful world to walk around in and not actually do anything in it aside from missions and finding loot.
The Gameplay Loop
Cyberpunk 2077 is designed to have complete player freedom – but with a staple RPG structure in mind. You have a skill tree with 5 aspects to focus on. Each aspect has 3 other secondary attributes to accommodate your build. Are you a sword-wielding handgun user? There’s something for that. Would you rather double jump and use a power shotgun while mid dashing to another foe? Yup. Maybe you rather hide in the shadows and hack everyone and everything, causing mass neurological disorder? Mhmm. The more you play the more you unlock attribute points for your playstyle to unlock more potent upgrades. It’s rather layered and surprisingly satisfying given that there’s also cybernetic upgrades. You can alter your melee to either give you powerful hands to force open fortified doors or punch a hole into your enemies, the Mantis Blades literally pulls blades out your forearms, or the Nanowire, where you can attack enemies with some energized wire from your palms. On top of that, you can alter your chipsets to either make yourself a Netrunner hacker or an adrenaline-boosting powerhouse. There’s SO MUCH you can satisfy your method of madness. Oh, and you can also apply status ailments like Shock, Toxic, Fire, etc into cyberwar and gear.
Cyberpunk 2077 has all the hallmarks you’d expect from an RPG; gears play a huge role in cosmetics and stats – although the game is in first-person (delighted about this) you can alter your characters look with fashion and if you want to see how it looks on you, you can either enter the character screen or look down while in-game. I understand this design choice as CDPR feels that the FPS view is better for immersion and I agree with this choice. However, modders are working to implement a TPS view for those who really dislike FPS. Just like character stat building, you can alter your clothing pieces as well as weapons by adding mods to negate status ailments, prevent fall damage, boost your overall stats and inventory load. It feels oddly natural in a world grounded in reality whereas you’d rarely see deep RPG mechanics in a setting like Night City
Additionally, the game pits you in a slew of missions and side missions – all organically designed to feel as if you’re bumping into each mission while roaming Night City. While driving into each district, you’ll get countless messages and calls from fixers of each area, your reputation follows you in this connected world so everyone knows who you are. Typically I would be bothered by constant HUD elements flashing, but CDPR somehow found a way to make it feel like it’s part of the universe, and it’s small enough to not be too distracting but big enough to notice it. It’s neat and makes the experience feel uninterrupted.
Night City and its Pleasures
As stated before, Night City lacks in mundane activities. It’s an eye-candy city, meticulously design to look and feel incredibly immersive, and although it doesn’t have the same interactivity as GTAV, there are things to do; Night City is littered with high-end advertisement which makes sense in a dystopic future; it’s done so well, feels like you’re walking in a Bladerunner universe. In this city you can pay for prostitution, drink until you’re drunk and for some reason, there’s classic vinyl’s littered all over the place. I still haven’t figured out if I can actually use it. There’s something that CDPR promised would be used as a side activity called Braindance – basically a recording of someone’s memory that can be altered and explored. It is used often in side missions, but I never tried to explore if it can be used outside of those boundaries. There’s also a decommissioned rollercoaster that can be powered on as well, which is a really cool experience. But that’s about it, based on my playthrough and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more, I just haven’t seen it yet.
There are shops that specialize in specific items and themes based on the district you’re in. Shops also restrict gear based on your Street Cred and Level. High-end shops provide high-end clothes, same with thrift shops and stands. These apply to pharmaceutical and weapon shops as well but if you’re lacking the funds to buy, random encounters in Night City provide loot and mods if you’re really held back on your build.
Side missions showcase much potential of Night City – they are crafted so well, it feels like main missions and that makes me happy. But they’re one-off events rather than something you can do casually afterward. Street racing, deep dives within flooded towns, braindance, and a lot more. But, once you experience those kinds of activities, they’re gone forever it seems, and that makes me sad.
What’s done so well is the interactions you have with NPCs – for example, going to a Ripperdoc (vendors who alter your augments) you can either buy something or have a casual conversation to learn more about them. It’s a neat touch that I feel adds to the immersion and one that I think deserves recognition.
My first playthrough was done through the early access on Steam using a high-end computer housing an i9-9900K CPU and RTX 3080. As I mentioned before, my experience was practically seamless with minimal glitches and zero game-breaking bugs at patch 1.02. The performance and overall quality only improved with each patch iteration.
It was entirely a different case with my PS5 playing the PS4 version of Cyberpunk 2077. The game was running the specs of the PS4 Pro at 60fps. It was butter smooth with minimal dips. At patch 1.02 I crashed every 30mins to an hour. I didn’t experience game-breaking bugs, however, I did have far more hilarious glitches on consoles than PC. Cars would appear out of nowhere, explosions and random pedestrians going psychotic and such. Subsequent patches lead to fewer crashes but even with current Patch 1.06, crashes are still apparent, but a lot less frequent – about every 3hrs or so.
I sympathize with those who are playing the game on base consoles and having a terrible time – and this is where my true disappointment lies with CDPR. I hold them extremely high given the aforementioned praise of being consumer-friendly since the first Witcher back in 2007. Each game after that was exponentially better than the last and with the support they give to their projects with free, quality content and updates, seeing their most ambitious game fall short the way it did because of executives really is a shame. I really hope they recover from this damage because truly, CDPR is one of those rare companies that actually care.
REVIEW SCORE: 9.5/10
Cyberpunk 2077 is excellent, a masterclass in the world of RPGs and I urge anyone to play the game if possible – it is gorgeous, plays incredibly well, and with an intriguing story touting 6 endings. It’s a shame it lacks the activity it needs to make Night City really shine, but despite that and its technical shortfall, here lies a phenomenal experience.
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