I was as hyped for Cyberpunk as anyone else before the release. Huge surprise here, I loved Witcher 3, and had gained a lot of respect for the Polish developer CD Projekt Red. I even pre-ordered Cyberpunk 2077. Some of you might pre-order games all the time, but I’ve found that I’m frequently let down by my pre-orders. My expectations are often too lofty, and if I can just wait 3 months or so, I can usually snag that same game at a deep discount. Despite this commonsense approach, I pre-ordered Cyberpunk 2077 well in advance, and I got burned. Or did I?
When the game launched, I was a bit confused with the reviews. IGN gave it a 9, PC Gamer gave it a 78%, Gamespot gave it a 7, and the internet was screaming that it was broken. A little context here. Cyberpunk launched December 10 of 2020. A new generation of consoles had just come out. The previous generation of consoles, the Xbox One and the PS4 were very long in the tooth, and the game ran like absolute garbage on those systems. Now, you might be saying, stop being such a cheap wiener and buy yourself a next generation console if you want to play the shiny new thing, but as of March 10, 2022, it is still extremely difficult to get your hands on the Xbox Series X and the PS5. This is largely due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the illuminati.
I made a deal with the lizard people and was able to obtain a Series X shortly after launch, but after I saw the reviews and how pissed people were at state of Cyberpunk, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to ruin the experience by trying it. There was some serious hate floating around. Playstation dropped the game from its store, and Microsoft was offering refunds. Could it really be that bad? I wasn’t going to find out. I threw it in my back catalog and decided to wait for a signal that CDPR had righted the ship.
That signal finally came mid-February of 2022 with the 1.5 patch. This had several quality-of-life fixes along with the smoothing out of numerous bugs that had plagued the launch version. I’m not going discuss all the changes, but I will mention some of the scuttlebutt that kept me away in the beginning, and what I think of the game in its current state.
Let’s begin with the most obvious thing about the game, the graphics. Cyberpunk is fantastic looking. On the Series X, it has a performance mode that locks at 60 fps and a ray traced mode, which locks at 30. This might be one of the few games that I don’t mind playing at 30 fps. I was told the game had a lot of framerate issues while driving at launch. I didn’t encounter any of those during my playthrough. The neon lighting of Night City is incredible. Main characters look great, animations are good, and the general ambiance of the world is phenomenal.
Since there was a dog pile of haters when the game launched, of course everything was nitpicked. Are there a bunch of in-your-face trans billboards and commercials? Yes. Are they distasteful outside the context of a future cyberhell? Yes. Do they fit this game. Yes. Everything is over the top. Everything has a cock, a pussy, and is addicted to meth. It works for the game, and I enjoyed taking it all in, even if it was a bit one-beat. It was kind of like just listening to one radio station in GTA. There isn’t a lot of depth in terms of culture commentary and humor.
Graphics are at the top of the heap for this game. On a 10-point scale, I’d give the gameplay a 7. Cyberpunk is built like a shooter, but it shoots like a clunky immersive sim from the early 2000s. It sounds good. It looks good. But it doesn’t feel good. At no point did the shooting in this game feel snappy, and it sure as hells seems like they want you to gun a lot of people down. You get all of these quick hacks to launch, and yes, they are effective at destroying and distracting enemies, but they become repetitive, and more of a fire and forget type of weapon. Hacks are the same puzzle every time, and there isn’t anything compelling revealed as a result.
I wish Cyberpunk was more of an immersive sim. What do I mean by that? Immersive sims give you a true sense of choice as to how to defeat enemies and traverse through the world. You can use super strength to stack boxes to reach areas, hack machines to open areas and find keys, stuff like that. Cyberpunk looks like it has that on the box. I think we all thought it was going to be a super-sexy Deus Ex in an expansive open world. It isn’t. It’s a B-tier shooter, in a world that looks great, but ultimately isn’t that interactive. The things you do in the world just don’t have much consequence. About three-quarters of the way through the game, I found myself getting excited because I could jump up on a dumpster and access an area that wasn’t immediately apparent as the main path. That’s when I realized that I was craving for something more out of Cyberpunk, and because I wasn’t getting that freedom, the game was becoming a bit flat, no matter how sexy the world looked.
Let’s talk about that world. Night City is incredible. It looks amazing as a backdrop for your activities, but that’s all I found it to be. At no point did I tell myself that I wanted to explore an area just because. The world didn’t pique my interest in a way good open worlds do. I think it might come down to not having worthwhile collectibles sprinkled around the map. Resources are plentiful, and I didn’t run into emergent scenarios on the streets that were worthwhile. Missions just kind of fell at my feet through the quest bulletin, aka the cell phone.
The phone is a nightmare in the beginning of this game. It seems like every citizen of Night City is calling you and giving you a quest. Which, I get it, CDPR wanted you to explore the city, but the quests don’t have any urgency to them. When you go on these quests, you waltz in, kill everyone, and take all their gear, which is a huge amount of kit. You can either break these weapons down to generate parts for upgrades or sell them. I was spending way too much time breaking down weapons and gear that I didn’t want. The main story is interesting enough, and there are some relatively entertaining side quests, but they all basically boil down to non-interesting hacking to soften the defenses and killing everyone.
Do I regret playing Cyberpunk? Absolutely not. It’s worth seeing. Night City is awesome to look at even if it isn’t that compelling to explore. The shooting is serviceable. It might not be exciting, but it also doesn’t feel unfair. The driving is fine. I guess that’s a big improvement from what it was at launch, at least that’s what I’ve read. The main story is top-notch AAA stuff. I kind of just want to watch the movie though.
I really hope CDPR takes another crack at this one. They should take what they have in Night City, totally recycle the assets, and then riddle it with alternate paths and meaningful secrets. Oh yeah, and touch up those shooting mechanics up a bit. The game needs more guts. The outside coat is looking great, but there needs to be more on the inside. I recommend picking up Cyberpunk 2077 up on a deep discount.