The much anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, after delays, was finally released in December of 2020. I probably wouldn’t have purchased this game at launch if it wasn’t for the fact I found a pre-order deal for $45. With the low price, I had fewer regrets as I entered a world of stunning yet demanding graphics, rich story and endless game bugs. Only one glitch I encountered affected game progression, and it was already patched in an update I had put off. At first the bugs were just hilarious, and usually they made the game play easier. Yet as I progressed, they became increasingly distracting. It’s a shame because the world building was so meticulously constructed, the voice acting was high grade and the story above par for a video game. It’s tragic that all the artists, writers and animators made such amazing assets that were overshadowed by a tragically horrific game engine. Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that brought to life a genre that I’ve always enjoyed, yet it honestly should have targeted at least six months of additional development.
The graphic requirements for Cyberpunk 2077 are intense. Although it ran smoothly on my PC with ultra settings, I also own an nVidia 2080-Ti and the fans on my video card were constantly ramping up to full blast. Other reviews show the game has sluggish to unplayable texture loading times for people who attempted to play it on the original PS4 (versus the PS4 Pro or PS5). The ray traced puddles and reflections do look stunning, even though I couldn’t enable HDR in my version (it was grayed out in settings). I really enjoyed the visuals, but they could have been better optimized to make the game more accessible for gamers running older hardware.
The game mechanics were a garbage pile from a plethora of other games. Cyberpunk had an open world as large as Grand Theft Auto V, a looting mechanic similar to Red Dead II or Borderlands, and first person RPG elements, such as hit points and leveling up, that were very similar to Destiny 2. It felt like the designers took what they liked from every game on the planet, and then implemented some of them well and half-assed the rest.
Despite the mess of mechanics, Night City really makes the Cyberpunk genre come alive. The game codex comes in the form of short text discs you can pick up and read along the way, documenting various aspects of the world. The advertisements feel like the could have come straight out of the Transmetropolitan comic book series, and the dominance of corporations as mini-governments are deeply reminiscent of the novel Snow Crash. People who grew up with movies like Johnny Mnemonic and Blade Runner should feel right at home in this universe, if it wasn’t for the numerous distracting glitches.
The bugs were vast and numerous. There were cars that drove through walls, character dialog that would play on top of each other, music samples that would loop forever, cars that were sunk half way into the pavement, cross-hairs that weren’t centered with gun sights, enemies that would run across the screen repeatedly as if moving through an invisible portal, cigarettes that would stay suspended in midair after being flicked, characters resting on non-existent balcony railings, cars that never appeared when called, traffic that would appear, disappear and get stuck at random, and the list is literally as long as you want to make it. Whatever game bug you can possibly imagine exists in Cyberpunk 2077. Some of it is masked by a story element where your character is glitching out as part of his or her story arc, but that cover really only carries the illusion so far.
Driving in Cyberpunk is not very enjoyable. The city is beautifully rendered, but the on screen map’s view port is way too small. If you enjoy the scenery, you will miss every turn. The angle of attack in 3rd person view always felt way too low. I had to constantly hold the camera view up with the right thumb stick if I drove a car, in order to see far enough down the road. The motorcycles were way easier to drive, and my favorite was reminiscent of the bike from Akira.
I also found myself flipping back and fourth between a gamepad and mouse controls. The first person fighting elements just felt better with a keyboard and mouse, while driving and story worked much better with a gamepad. One of the things the game engine did well without glitching was smoothly transitioning the screen UI back and fourth between controller types. Many of the missions required stealth mechanics, which were terrible. Although your character can gain abilities to hack devices for distractions, most of the missions do not have enough hackable devices to use. If you don’t want to constantly be discovered and forced to fight, saving often in missions and investing in stealth abilities/tech early on goes a long way. Without them, stealth missions just felt tedious and endless.
The story itself is fascinating. There are some filler side quests as in any open world game, yet a considerable amount of optional missions were filled with interesting and compelling characters. Some had deep philosophical questions about the separation of man and machine, corporation constructed Manchurian candidates, and the balance of power between gangs, psychos and mega-companies. Even as I became tired of the game mechanics, I still wanted to see many of the side stories though before completing the game.
I had a strong desire to finish Cyberpunk 2077, mostly because I got sucked in to shelling out for the limited edition Cyberpunk mouse1 and would feel silly owning it without completing the game. Any title of this size and length is going to have story elements that hit you in the feels. There are two tragedies in this game. The good tragedies: the dramatic story and voice acting that pulls your heart strings for well developed characters, and also the bad tragedies: the underdeveloped game engine that underscores the magnificent story with tight work schedules that forced developers to rush and squeeze a game out the door before it’s ready.
Overall, I did enjoy playing Cyberpunk 2077. It took me into a dynamic world I had only experienced before in Science Fiction comics, novels and movies. The writers had a solid foundation and built an amazing world around a rich universe. At first the bugs were humorous and didn’t deter from the game itself, but they began to wear over time. The enemy A.I. was usually horrible, and the endless stealth missions became exhausting. It saddens me because with more testing and polish to the game engine, it could have easily been a futuristic dystopia competitor to Red Dead Redemption II. It’s still a great story rich game, and might get better with further patches, but one I’d only suggest for people who love story, or the cyberpunk genre.