Review: Cyberpunk 2077 –Few genres have as much appeal as the cyberpunk genre. The dystopian, futuristic settings, cities fused into a megalopolis, cybernetic enrichments of the human body, pumping music and the enormous differences between rich and poor. Perhaps more than any other genre, it appeals to our imagination, because it is also an immediate critique of our ethos; is this really going to be our future? Do we reject our humanity because we keep changing ourselves endlessly through augmentations? It is the real antithesis of what we as a society should strive for. And yet that makes us curious; we want to know what it’s like to walk the neon-clad streets rife with modern drugs, sex and violence. It is a reflection of humanity in its most primitive form, despite technological advancements. Cyberpunk 2077 must therefore become the culmination of the genre and now – more than eight years after the original announcement – the game is among us. Spoiler alert: this review is long and contains light spoilers about the first few hours.
A lesson in history
The Matrix, Blade Runner, Neuromancer, Shadowrun, Akira, Dredd, Ghost in the Shell, Altered Carbon, Westworld, Deus Ex, System Shock; these are just a few examples of manifestations in the cyberpunk genre and you could easily make the list much longer. Although a large part of the aforementioned titles are (rightly) true classics, nothing has ever been brought to the market that really makes you feel that you are in a dark extrapolation of our society. I started jumping up and down childishly when it became clear in 2012 that one of my favorite studios – CD Projekt RED, known from The Witcher games – was working on a game in the Cyberpunk universe (2077 is based on the Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop RPG by Mike Pondsmith). A match made in heaven, as they say so beautifully.
And yet the development of this enormous title was not going to be entirely flawless. After all, the unveiling was back in 2013, but full production wouldn’t start until mid-May 2016, after CD Projekt RED delivered the final expansion of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Then it was already clear that the Polish studio had enormous ambitions with Cyberpunk 2077, with only a short text release date: “Coming: when it’s ready”. A tagline that, given what we now know about the game, can be taken very sour. The story of CD Projekt RED can almost be called a fairytale; after only three full-fledged games and a number of spin-offs, the studio can compete with the greats and with Cyberpunk 2077 they hope to definitely place themselves in the “Rockstar” category. There has been a lot to do about this game, multiple delays and onecrunch in the last minutes to really get things done. But has Cyberpunk 2077 lived up to its sky-high ambitions?
Wake the fuck up, samurai. We have a city to burn. ”
The story starts with the main character: “V”. That starts with choosing your so-called Lifepath, of which there are three: Nomad, Street Kid and Corpo. Each Lifepath has – as the name might already say – its own background story and with it a different prologue in the game. This choice also has implications for dialogue options that will follow later in the game, which we will tell you more about later. For the first playthrough we went for the Nomad; As a member of a clan of bums living out of town, you’re done with your boring life and decide to head to Night City to make a name for yourself. Out of curiosity we went back to the other Lifepaths and although they are indeed unique in design, they end in the same way: you meet your buddy Jackie Wells,
A short montage shows how you and Jackie make Night City unsafe, it is after this that the real ‘hook’ of the whole starts. After a series of events, you find yourself with a chip in your head, bearing the personality of ‘rock star’ Johnny Silverhand (played by Keanu Reeves). That is not a friendly meeting, after all, the code of Silverhand is slowly taking over the body of V and Johnny thereby also expels his / her soul and psyche from the body, until only the rock star is left. Of course you will not accept that and so it is up to you to search Night City for a way to prevent an untimely end of your life, which of course will not go without a struggle.
Which brings us to the main quest, which deserves some serious compliments. From start to finish Cyberpunk 2077 knows how to take you along various beautiful locations, with interesting and unique characters along the way, each with their own story and rhythm. A large part of the main quests are also stories in themselves that can almost be seen as episodes in an ongoing series. By this we mean to say that they each have an underlying story, but still know how to contribute to the bigger picture. Despite the fact that you can sometimes be miles away from your final goal in terms of location or emotional investment, the game also knows how to always keep the common thread in sight, and that is quite clever.
It has to be said that the main quest is a lot shorter than that of CD Projekt RED’s predecessor, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. With the latter you could easily spend about 50 hours, while with Cyberpunk 2077 – depending on your pace of course – you can be ready within 25-30 hours. Nevertheless, the game is not afraid to slow down the pace here and there in between all the violence to put a little more focus on the dialogues, characters and the moments of down-time. The voice acting is generally very strong, with audience favorite Keanu Reeves who – despite his limited experience as a voice actor – still convincingly portrays the character of Johnny Silverhand with a fine degree of bravado and ‘cheesiness’. There are also different endings to experience in Cyberpunk 2077,
Your V …
As mentioned, you can create your V from the beginning as you wish. There is a character creator, and it is adequate enough to create a unique character with options such as gender, dozens of skin tones, hairstyles and so on. However, if you expect a character creator as is the case with Skyrim, with dozens of sliders to create a huge jawline, for example, you might be slightly disappointed. The character creator is not that extensive in this case, you can choose from a number of presets of different characteristics such as your eyes, hair, mouth and the colors thereof. Just to mention it: how your V ultimately looks has no consequences for the course of the story or the sidequests, and there is no possibility to change your character later on.
What is important is how you build your Attributes and the underlying skill trees, of which there are five categories: Body, Intelligence, Reflexes, Cool and Technical Ability and these stats are quite important right away. Every time you level up – through experience points you gain while playing – you get one Attribute and one skill tree point, which you can apply to your taste. Increasing your Attributes helps you to increase some basic stats, for example that you get a higher base health or stamina as soon as you put points in Body, or that your Cyberdeck has more RAM if you have more Intelligence and can therefore hack more extensively. The skill trees behind the Attributes will grow as you use those items.
… But then again not
In theory this is a nice system, because the more experienced RPG players can immediately build towards a certain playing style. Are you planning to sneak through everything from the start and hack everything loose and stuck? Then you can do that just fine. However, if you are not quite sure yet, that’s fine too. The system offers enough space and flexibility to experiment along the way and determine what works best for you. However, it is true that the V you make, in whatever form, is an established character with a certain character and attitude. While you will get dialogue options here and there related to your chosen Lifepath or Attributes, they hardly ever affect the outcome of the quest apart from maybe some other dialogs you hear.
And that is undoubtedly one of the dilemmas CD Projekt RED encountered during the development of Cyberpunk 2077. As a studio you naturally want to tell a memorable and compelling story and that is simply a lot more difficult with a ‘tabula rasa’ character like you make in Fallout: New Vegas. In the case of Geralt from The Witcher, this was fine, of course, as that was already an established character from a series of books and thus there was already a character to work with. For a game based on a tabletop RPG with many in-depth mechanics, classes and focused on creating your own unique character, it’s a shame that V’s dialogue options are often limited to “Yes”, “ An insult, followed by yes ”or“ No, which is secretly yes because of some clever writing ”to promote the quests. Ultimately, this means that CD Projekt RED does not dare to fully commit to the RPG genre, which makes Cyberpunk 2077 feel more like Grand Theft Auto with some light RPG elements.
That makes us suspect that the bulk of the development time has gone into creating Night City and its surroundings, the bulging megalopolis where the game takes place. Where a game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution focuses on the “beautiful” aspect of transhumanism, Night City is a depraved melting pot of hedonism and corporations that see people as products. At night and during the day, Cyberpunk 2077 shows off beautiful lighting, views and most importantly the sheer scale of the city. You really feel very small when you look up at the huge skyscrapers accompanied by huge advertisements, billboards and huge piles of dirt. The city really breathes the cyberpunk atmosphere, especially the ‘punk’ part,
There is also a lot to do in the city. Looking at the map you will see that there are numerous question marks and other icons that mean there is always something to discover in Night City. In particular, a number of fantastic sidequests manage to break the cadence and are the absolute highlights of Cyberpunk 2077 in addition to the main quest. tell more about Night City and the people who live there. However, you will have to do some reading for this, because those stories are somewhat hidden in the so-called ‘shards’ that can be found here and there, which not everyone can appreciate. In addition, these gigs also function as a kind of mini-dungeons, where you can always find some useful loot. Fortunately, the combat also comes into its own here. Firearms feel unique, they each have their own weight and ‘punch’ as soon as you start firing and the melee combat is just fine, but there is nothing that will blow your socks.
Then we must now talk about the problems Cyberpunk 2077 is currently facing. You will not have missed the fact that the game was released in a fairly debatable state, to put it mildly. Especially on the base PlayStation 4 you will have to deal with a low resolution (and therefore a blurry image), extremely inconsistent frame rate and a high degree of so-called “pop-in” of objects and lighting. Fortunately, we have better news to report on the PS4 Pro: the frame rate is closer to that 30 frames per second and there is less of the aforementioned pop-in, but there too things want to dip considerably. Obviously Cyberpunk 2077 really wants to make use of better hardware and the seven and four year old consoles respectively are doing their best to keep up.
The big crux of this story, however, lies in the instability and things that are simply not finished. We mean, for example, the countless crashes we have experienced on various consoles, (graphic) bugs and glitches such as texts that are not spoken or NPCs that are stuck in a standard “T-pose”. Enemies’ AI is really stupid to say the least, and should you commit a crime, the police will spawn right behind you and car chases don’t seem to exist at all. CD Projekt RED is aware of these issues and has indicated to address these issues with several major patches, but even with the latest update – at the time of writing this is 1.04 – these issues are still widespread. Even then, the question is to what extent the Polish studio can straighten out the performance of the older consoles without having to reduce even more graphic bells and whistles. So if you have a PlayStation 4 (Pro) but you don’t have an internet connection to download patches, Cyberpunk 2077 is simply unplayable and it is unacceptable to release a game in this state.
Cyberpunk 2077 – Conclusion
As you can see there is a lot to read about Cyberpunk 2077 and this review is (quite) a bit longer than usual, in this case I thought it was important to create context because that is really necessary for a game of this size. Because for every thing that Cyberpunk 2077 does well, there is also something that is seriously below par. That brings us to a nice dilemma, because somewhere in Night City there is simply a good and sometimes even excellent game hidden. Unfortunately, more often than not, that experience is clouded by massive technical and even substantive flaws. The initial sales figures once again prove that there is a huge demand for the genre (are you co-writing, Eidos and Square Enix?), But the long-awaited Cyberpunk 2077 is not the messiah that many fans – myself included – have been waiting for. Absolutely not, even. All in all, it seems that CD Projekt RED has taken on too much hay, with all the consequences that entails. At the bottom of the line, Cyberpunk 2077 is a mixture of a linear yet cool story, a beautiful, atmospheric city with many activities, crashes, bugs and substandard performance.
Positives of Cyberpunk 2077
- Cool and intriguing main quest …
- Choice and flexibility in building your playing style …
- Night City is all atmosphere
- Baking activities and sidequests
- Pumping soundtrack
- Combat that works fine
Negatives of Cyberpunk 2077
- … which is very linear for an RPG
- … which has little effect on dialogue and interaction with the world
- Nonexistent AI
- Dramatic technical condition
- Lifepaths do not represent a jerk beyond the first half hour
Cyberpunk 2077 Bio
|Genre||Role Playing Game|
|Developers||CD Projekt, CD Projekt RED|
|Platforms||Google Stadia, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows|