So after having spent Christmas playing Cyberpunk, there’s a lot to ponder on it. It went from being one of the year’s most anticipated games to one people look at like a car crash, afraid to look away in case they miss the next big development. We’re not going to factor the sheer PR disaster into its score, don’t worry. This will merely be about Cyberpunk the Game, vs the years of marketing held against it.
A lot of the basics won’t be covered here- if you want to read more about those, be sure to check out our First Impressions of the game. Think of this as the follow-up to that- “Did the game stick its landing?” And other such thoughts.
Presenting Night City
Assuming you’re playing the PC version on a good PC, Cyberpunk is easily one of the most beautiful games released last year. The shiny chrome surfaces anfd futuristic cityscapes are very pretty- there’s no denying that.
Even the game’s vehicles are gorgeous, feeling just futuristic enough without going full Syd Mead with the looks. A lot of thought went into this part of the game, and for that they deserve praise.
However, players only get this if they’re playing either on the incredibly scarce next-gen consoles, or their own high-end PC. When it’s not set to maximum wow factor, Cyberpunk can look, well, fine. It’s still a pretty game, it’s just that a lot of what there is to talk about comes from making the effort on your end to push your machine to run it.
There’s also some other less-than-satisfactory design choices such as the game’s HUD, which comes off as much too dark to notice in the heat of the moment.
Add to that the game’s lack of driving AI and wonky pathing, and you get a game that looks way better in screenshots than it does functionally. The lack of actual character driving is disappointing- in similar big open cities like GTA, something that really sells the character of the game is how no one is afraid to get out of their car and kick your ass if you’re looking for a fight.
The problem here is that the game was explicitly sold as a big open world experience, so knowing that the game released without features similar games had on the PS2 is a bit disheartening.
From Tabletop To Desktop
As an RPG, Cyberpunk is… fine. When the game works there’s nothing particularly offensive about it. It’s main gripe comes from remembering its tabletop roots- it’s nowhere near the CRPG level of complexity RPGs like Fallout: New Vegas or Divinity: Original Sin strive for.
Instead, it has a much more Fallout 4 approach, where it almost fears people being put off by it being an RPG. A lot of dialogue just doesn’t matter in the game, and the most meaningful action you can do in most situations is either about shooting or hacking.
Sure, there’s the genital customization but there’s also the question of just… why? It doesn’t really serve a purpose beyond generating headlines for the game’s marketing, running the gamut from “Cyberpunk lets you be a trans character” to “lol look at the wacky penis slider”.
The dialogue can feel shallow, never really having much of an effect on anything in the game. It’s nice that they let you have dialogue options at all- it’s almost a pre-requisite for your RPG at this point. But at the same time there is some disappointment that this is rarely ever more than just flavor text for your mission, especially when other RPGs have shown that
Just Me And Johnny Silverhand
To put the nitpicks aside, the story’s actually pretty good. You play as V, a merc with one of three varying backstories. After a heist goes south, you end up with a chip containing the digitized personality of Johnny Silverhand (Keanu Reeves). Silverhand bugs you for the entire game to get revenge against the corporation he died fighting, the Arasaka Corporation.
I really like the idea of digital ghosts, and Reeves plays him charismatically enough that he never really overstays his welcome. He does run into a slight problem with being played by Keanu Reeves, though it isn’t anyone’s fault. The internet’s painted him in such a wholesome light no matter how vulgar Silverhand gets you can’t help but laugh it off because you just see good guy Keanu Reeves playing a character.
The game’s three lifepaths are a cool nod to the Pen-and-Paper RPG, but they don’t really do much outside of a few dialogue options for extra flavor. A lot of the problem here is just the fact that it’s using the Cyberpunk IP, which really pushed the idea of being anyone in Night City. Here, you could have been anyone, but now you’re a merc. And your dialogue choices usually reflect that.
Still, the game’s varied endings are pretty cool. One of the endings is tied to the game’s relationship system, making it pretty easy to miss, which is the kind of content I live for. This kind of stuff not only gives you reasons to extend your playtime with the game, but actually makes some of the decisions matter. I’m not asking for a hundred different endings, but I just wish more of the game’s side content was built around that idea.
Combat In Night City
As we covered in our First Impressions, the combat in Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t exactly great. The gunplay feedback feels poor, and melee isn’t all that much better either. Enemy AI is also fairly rough, with many AI not having the common sense to get out of the way of an incoming grenade.
The game’s upgrade system is pretty cool, though, built around augmenting V to suit your playstyle. Aesthetically I’m a huge fan of the Mantis arm blades. Ultimately though, melee combat still doesn’t feel all that much better than the gun play.
It’s a shame because what’s happened as a result of this is that you have an interesting world that the game isn’t properly letting you interact with.
Of course, there’s no way to overlook the game’s bugs. There’s been a lot of debate about how overblown the bugs are in the game. With our own run we didn’t run into anything too game breaking.
The game has plenty of bugs, such as T-posing while riding your bike, and the hair disappearing off of V’s head at random (Thanks, CD Projekt Red, for visualizing one of my biggest nightmares). There’s also the occasional denizen of Night City who’d unlocked the teleport augment, jumping from here to there or just effortlessly sliding across the floor.
Now, as someone who’d sung praises of New Vegas earlier, I’m not exactly in a position to say this is what makes the game terrible. While we should absolutely strive for as much a developer-intended experience as possible, as long as a bug doesn’t interfere with the ability to play the game it actually has room to be charming.
However, that doesn’t really account for the bugs that were reported that we hadn’t encountered- like the game deleting your progress if your save file got too big, or the physics wonking out and launching your character backwards if you tried to sneak into a building.
These aren’t acceptable on any game, and are the biggest black mark on it.
If you stripped the title from Cyberpunk 2077 and removed all its marketing, you’d actually get a game that’s just… fine. It’s by no means the messiah of gaming, but it’s nowhere near the “barely qualifies as a game” that some people claim it to be.
It’s a wading pool with a photo of the ocean under it- at first glance you might be drawn by the possibility of depth, but I strongly advise you not to do a running dive headfirst into this.
It’s a fine game, especially if you’re looking for something to just whittle the hours away with. There’s certainly enough in the game to not only keep you entertained, but to give you and your friends plenty to talk about as you discuss where your stories diverged.
To it’s credit, CD Projekt Red have also said they are indeed planning to fix the many issues in the game, including to get it running on past-gen consoles. Only time will tell if this becomes another No Man’s Sky.
|A Pretty Good Story||Reliant on Having High Tolerance For Bugs|
|The Game Looks Good||Many of the features don’t feel quite done|
Game reviewed on PC. Review copy provided by Epicsoft Asia.