Developer: CD Projekt Red
Publisher: CD Projekt Red
Platforms: PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4, Xbox One
Version Reviewed: PC
Cyberpunk 2077 is, at various factors, the most effective and worst recreation CD Projekt RED has made. When you’re cruising by means of the gargantuan city sprawl of Night City, heading to some gaudy nightclub for a drink and a chat with one in all its many desirable characters, it feels nothing wanting magical. The atmosphere design is an unmitigated triumph, whereas the story is an exhilarating, complicated, and surprisingly human story.
But beneath Night City’s glittering veneer is a recreation with important issues, and I’m not solely referring to the numerous bugs and technical points which have hobbled the sport’s launch on nearly all platforms. From an open-world design that feels confused and outdated, to a personality development system that merely fails to encourage, Cyberpunk is a morass of methods and concepts that, regardless of its strengths in different areas, by no means fairly come collectively.
Inspired by Mike Pondsmith’s tabletop RPG, Cyberpunk 2077 places you within the function of V, an ‘Edgerunner’ who exists on the fringes of society, commissioned by a community of “Fixers” to carry out jobs of various legality for purchasers preferring to stay within the background. Unlike CD Projekt’s Witcher video games, V is a personality you create your self, together with one in all a number of ‘Lifepaths’ that impacts each your introduction to the sport, and V’s basic perspective of the world.
For my playthrough I opted for the ‘Nomad’ background, because it’s the one one which begins outdoors of Night City itself. I’m glad I did, as the principle “reveal” of town that happens a brief manner into the primary act hits you with each barrels. From V’s house, you weave by means of the concrete maze of a megastructure earlier than getting into an elevator which appears to go down eternally. Then, moments later, you’re out into the evident sunshine and the densely packed crowds of central Watson, whereas chittering crosswalks and blaring automobile horns fill the audio.
It’s a really beautiful second (at the least, on PC it’s), and it’s removed from the one one I skilled whereas wandering round CD Projekt’s breathtaking imaginative and prescient of a future metropolis. Indeed, for the primary few hours I actively averted travelling by automobile, as an alternative strolling alongside the pavements and taking within the sights. I walked by means of the colourful and ramshackle slums of Kabuki right down to the waterfront, the place you get an beautiful view of the skyscrapers of Japantown, an up the dusty slopes of North Oak, the place you’ll be able to view town’s Panorama in full.
Night City is steadily a lovely place, however it’s additionally one snowboarding down the garbage heap of decline, fairly actually. On the outskirts of town you’ll discover hills of trash and junk stretching off to the horizon. Like the Witcher 3, Cyberpunk has a watch not only for the picturesque, however for squalor and decay. Up in Northside, hordes of smoke-belching factories flip the sky to rust, whereas the hedonistic malls and resorts of Pacifica have been deserted by its rich benefactors, left to be torn aside by gangs in scene paying homage to the underrated shooter Bulletstorm.
At this level I’m tempted to say one thing trite like “The best character in the game is the world”. As with the Witcher 3, nonetheless, this isn’t essentially the case. Cyberpunk’s opening act sees V chasing the rating of a lifetime, as they try and steal some extremely superior tech from one in all Night City’s strongest companies. Naturally, issues don’t fairly go to plan, and the rest of the sport sees V attempting to extricate himself from the mess he’s landed himself in.
Cyberpunk’s story is extra intense and sooner paced than the Witcher 3, happening throughout a smaller timescale with extra instant story beats than the Witcher’s sweeping epic. The missions are a mixture of pulpy-detective work and high-stakes infiltrations and heists. The former typically contain a mix of discovering and speaking to characters, smaller-scale infiltration missions, and “Braindance” sequences, the place you scan by means of footage of an individual’s recollections for clues, very similar to the photo-scanning scene in Deckard’s house throughout Blade Runner. The bigger scale missions mix intense motion with fastidiously scripted narrative, the closing mission of act 1 being a selected spotlight.
Crucially, Cyberpunk’s story maintains this tempo with out shedding sight of the characters on the coronary heart of its story. Like the Witcher, it has an uncanny knack for the quiet and the intimate, whether or not you’re grabbing a chunk to eat together with your pal Jackie Welles at a meals stall in Watson, or chatting together with your braindance editor Julie Alvarez in her studio beneath Lizzie’s Bar. One of my favorite characters is Panam. An-ex Nomad with a critical chip on her shoulder, I discovered her hostile and aggravating at first, to the purpose the place it affected my dialogue selections, however the arc involving her and her former Nomad clan is beautifully written. Keanu Reeves can also be wonderful as prize arsehole Johnny Silverhands, although extra fascinating is how the sport makes use of him, which is intensive and reaches far past the principle story.
Clearly, CD Projekt has misplaced none of its expertise for writing and characterisation. Outside of the principle story, nonetheless, that expertise doesn’t get the identical likelihood to shine because it did within the Witcher 3. There are solely a handful of “Proper” side-missions framed round particular characters or concepts. To the sport’s credit score, they’re effectively designed and extremely concerned, starting from a basic hard-boiled homicide thriller to a fantastically odd mission the place it’s good to retrieve a fleet of rogue AI taxis, one of the crucial well-dressed fetch quests I’ve ever performed. One of essentially the most fascinating side-quests can also be one of many darkest, which sees you and detective River Ward looking for his lacking nephew. It’s a perfectly informed homicide thriller in reverse. The killer has already been caught, and as an alternative you’re in search of the place he hid his victims, hoping then whenever you discover River’s nephew, he’s nonetheless alive.
Nearly all the things else takes the type of “gigs”, quickfire missions that usually contain retrieving an object from a constructing, be it an object or an individual. There are dozens of those scattered throughout Night City, and whereas a couple of of them hooked me in with an fascinating idea, most of them are disposable and oddly impersonal for a CD Projekt recreation.
The motive these gigs exist is to cater the methods half of Cyberpunk, which is impressed primarily by video games like Deus Ex. Most missions allow you to strategy them by means of both fight or stealth. After an underwhelming begin, Cyberpunk finally reveals itself to be competent at each. Guns specifically are punchily designed, feeling weight and deadly (although not all the time that futuristic). In the principle recreation, I turned notably keen on a bolt-action sniper-rifle that kicked like a kangaroo and will take an enemy’s head off in a single shot. But my favorite weapon is Johnny Silverhands’ pistol, a ferocious hand-cannon that tears literal chunks out of enemies. Melee weapons are much less good. While I loved pulling out a katana at first, there’s little nuance to melee fight, whereas the ‘Mantis Blades’ revealed within the very first Cyberpunk trailer are one of many least fascinating weapons within the recreation.
Primarily although, I performed Cyberpunk as a stealth recreation. Initially, I believed this is likely to be an enormous mistake. Not solely was I always getting noticed, most of the core stealth mechanics, like nonlethal takedowns, are clumsy and unsatisfying. That modified considerably after I upgraded my character’s hacking chip to carry extra “Quickhacks”, talents that allow you to mess with enemies and the atmosphere. After this, I may remotely deactivate cameras and even flip off enemy ocular units, quickly blinding them whereas I slipped previous. Some missions additionally provide an incentive for approaching them stealthily, making me really feel prefer it was price going to the additional effort.
In the tip Cyberpunk is a reliable shooter and an sufficient stealth recreation. However, in each instances it affords nothing that you simply haven’t seen earlier than. The core of Cyberpunk additionally suffers from two key issues. Firstly, character development is extremely designed. Few of the accessible talent upgrades are in any manner thrilling, with most of them enabling you to carry out key talents both barely higher or barely sooner. The stealth talent tree is especially poor. Its most fun unlockable is the flexibility to throw a knife. Indeed, Cyberpunk tends to decorate up talents which might be bog-standard fare in any open world recreation. One of the quickhacks you’ll be able to unlock is the flexibility to “whistle” to distract an enemy, so I can solely assume that lips don’t exist within the 12 months 2077.
The issues with the talent system don’t finish there. You can’t unlock talents in a related talent till you might have levelled that talent up, which you do through the use of that talent (comparable to levelling up stealth by performing stealth takedowns). This may sound fascinating in concept, however in practise it hamstrings your means to tailor your character. The Athletics tree options a few of the extra helpful expertise, however for the lifetime of me I couldn’t work out find out how to stage that talent up. I believe it includes working round loads, which I hardly wanted or needed to do.
The Cyberware menu is equally complicated and underwhelming. It works equally to Deus Ex’s augmentations system, however once more, the overwhelming majority of accessible upgrades boil right down to minor stat boosts. There are a few thrilling ones, like with the ability to set up a rocket launcher into your arm, however in comparison with the very good vary of talents seen within the Deus Ex and Dishonored video games, Cyberpunk’s mechanical tackle human enhancement is relatively pedestrian.
When they’re round, the story and characters compensate for this, though it’s price noting the principle story typically doesn’t make a lot use of those methods. At instances it performs extra like a Call of Duty marketing campaign, with extremely railroaded sequences. They’re robust sufficient that it doesn’t matter all that a lot (I may fortunately let the sport’s NPCs drive me round Night City all day). But it additionally means that CDPR aren’t all that assured within the recreation mechanics they’ve designed.
Without that narrative spine, it isn’t lengthy earlier than the side-gigs begin to really feel achingly repetitive. With artistic play restricted and the story threads a lot weaker, there are solely so many prefab residences and industrial complexes you’ll be able to raid earlier than they blur collectively. Even the extra tangible rewards for doing these quests are underwhelming. Environments are full of so many lootable objects that’s it’s laborious to pinpoint what’s really useful, whereas the financial rewards for finishing quests are meagre in comparison with the price of cyberware upgrades and tech. If you need to purchase new upgrades or automobiles, you actually must grind these missions out.
Indeed, the open world balancing is out of whack with the principle story, which you’ll be able to fairly simply full with a lot of the map and most of your talent bushes unexplored. You’ll go fifteen to twenty hours with out seeing an fascinating aspect mission, then all of a sudden they seem nearly concurrently on the tail finish of the second act. Vehicles are notably under-utilised. With the exception of the Nomad introduction, there are solely a handful of moments within the story the place automobiles are used for something greater than a cellular location for a dialog.
This brings me onto a barely extra speculative level. It seems like there’s a number of stuff lacking from Cyberpunk. Outside of the preliminary character creation, there’s no means to customize your character’s look past totally different outfits. There’s additionally no car storage or car customisation. There are a great deal of totally different factions, however there’s no underlying faction system or faction-aligned missions. The world itself feels extremely static. NPCs don’t have routines, and don’t react to your presence past working away if you happen to provoke fight. The police will assault you if you happen to commit a criminal offense, however there’s little scope for automobile chases or every other form of dynamic world motion.
To be clear, concepts and content material are minimize from video games on a regular basis. It’s a pure a part of the artistic course of. But in Cyberpunk, the seams are fairly seen. The bizarre balancing and conflation between aspect missions and gigs is an enormous clue that CDPR supposed the sport to incorporate extra substantial side-content, however for causes unknown opted to take away it.
Finally, there are the technical points. Fitting as it might be, Cyberpunk is one glitchy-arse recreation. I’ve seen objects floating in mid-air, individuals floating in mid-air, automobiles buried midway within the floor like they obtained struck by an orbital bombardment. Animations will steadily fail to play, which means characters will both stand within the default T-pose or skid motionlessly throughout the bottom (I’ve seen the latter happen even in the principle story). Some of the weirdest bugs revolve round your automated automobile, which when summoned can spawn within the strangest locations, together with inside different automobiles. Once, I summoned my automobile within the Badlands and it spawned midway by means of a fence, juddered round a bit, then exploded, killing me.
Mercifully, I didn’t encounter something utterly recreation breaking. But the efficiency problem I encountered had been each extra frequent and extra problematic. Despite taking part in on the really helpful specs for my RTX 2080 Super, the standard of efficiency various wildly. Anything from getting into a cutscene to utilizing picture mode may lead to a everlasting drop in framerate. Spending too lengthy within the menus additionally appeared to obliterate in any other case secure efficiency, necessitating a restart.
It makes you ponder whether it was all price it. Cyberpunk’s growth has been mired in controversy, from tales of relentless crunch to get the sport out on time, by means of accusations of transphobia and a basic insensitivity in the direction of sure teams and topic issues. The launch interval has been even worse, with the sport failing to incorporate important warnings about epilepsy triggers and CDPR being downright dishonest concerning the state of the PS4 and Xbox One variations of the sport. All the goodwill the corporate established between the Witcher and the Witcher 3, the lovable outsider competing with the extra established main publishers has been blown within the final couple of years.
It’s deeply unlucky, as a result of that CD Projekt continues to be seen in Cyberpunk. While its floor could typically be gauche and crass, the tales that lie beneath are something however. It’s a recreation with loads to say, concerning the nature of id and household, and the lengths people should go to easily to outlive in merciless, neglectful, and brutally hyper-capitalist world. But that voice verges on being drowned out by the myriad technical points, the deeper mechanical inconsistencies, and the very circumstances underneath which the sport was created. It’s a recreation concerning the suffocating methods of laborious capitalism, itself suffocated by these very methods. Perhaps, then, CDPR ought to hear more durable to its personal voice, as a result of each every so often, it makes some incisive factors: