Review – Cyberpunk 2077
Developer: CD Projekt Red
Publisher: CD Projekt
Director: Adam Badowski
Genre: Open-world RPG
Release Date: December 10th 2020
As today marks the six month anniversary of its release, I decided that it was finally a fair time to review Cyberpunk 2077. Since its infamous release in December of last year we have seen a number of interesting things emerge surrounding this game. First of all, we saw the hype train for the game come to a screeching halt when its review embargo eventually lifted, (just a worrying 3 days before the game’s release, which is always a red flag,) and we first learned of the type of game that we were getting.
The realisation hit gaming fans collectively that we were not getting the ultra-polished, smooth, flawless experience that we were promised in the game’s marketing and previews. Instead we were getting something that was janky, largely unfinished and even totally unplayable on certain platforms.
The next scandal came when Sony announced that they were pulling the game from the PS Store following an overwhelming mass of complaints regarding the game’s lack of quality. Refunds on Steam also reached a quarter of a million the very next day after the game released on December 11th.
Then in January of this year, Jason Schreier published an article via Bloomberg, where it was reported that the game’s developers knew that this game was never going to be ready by late 2020. The dev team apparently thought that they had another two years left to finish the game saying, “they expected the game to be ready in 2022.”
Multiple memes, apologies, hotfixes and patches later and I finally feel that writing a critique of Cyberpunk is now fair game. CDPR have had their chance to fix their mess and if a game still isn’t ready to be experienced six months after its release, then it probably never will be.
First of all, I’d like to say something in the game’s defence. As the internet likes to do with most things, the glitches and other technical issues present in the game were vastly overblown. While I did enjoy the memes that spawned from this, the game is far from unplayable. I played in on 3 platforms; a base PS4, a PS4 Pro and PC. Whilst it did run slightly better on the Pro and the PC, it was far from unplayable on the base PS4, – even back in January before the patches dropped.
I did run into multiple graphical issues, lagginess, mini map problems and two or three crashes, but nothing that really made me feel that this thing was totally unplayable at any point.
That said, a AAA game of this calibre still should not have launched with that many issues still present. Although I think that the technical problems were exaggerated, that does not excuse them entirely and I still don’t think that it is acceptable to let a AAA developer like CDPR get away with releasing a game in this state.
The thing is though, most people would have been willing to suffer through the technical issues that plagued the game, if the game itself was an incredible experience that made it worth persisting with. Unfortunately, I really don’t feel that it is.
Let’s start with the game’s plot as the story is usually my main reason for playing a game and the aspect of any game that I enjoy the most. The story in Cyberpunk is mediocre at best. First of all, just because Cyberpunk takes some of its aesthetic influences from Blade Runner, that doesn’t mean that you are going to get a story worthy of Philip K. Dick.
Rather than that, you can expect to endure some of the cringiest dialogue I have possibly ever heard in a western videogame and some really try-hard edgelord quips. There were no characters that I ever felt attached to through this entire game. I won’t spoil it here, but a character dies early on in the story and the game tries to make a big deal out of it suggesting that you should care. I felt absolutely nothing during this entire sequence due to the sub-par writing and voice acting and eventually resorted to skipping through the dialogue just to get it over with.
Still though I persisted, telling myself that maybe the game it will get better once Keanu comes into it. I like Keanu. Everyone likes Keanu.
And then the game does the impossible, – it manages to turn one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors into an insufferable dick.
I never thought that I would have said this in a million years, but Keanu’s character of Johnny is one of the worst parts of this game. Again, the dialogue that he is forced to spout is total bottom of the barrel garbage that sounds as though it has been written by a basement-dwelling 15 year old.
Frankly the story’s greatest mercy is its brevity, as the main plot in Cyberpunk is a lot shorter that most people expected. A short game is usually fine with me, as it usually results in a tightly woven, well-constructed narrative that doesn’t overstay its welcome or drag on too long. However, that is not the case with Cyberpunk.
Instead, the final mission is upon you like a slap in the face, without any significant build up or indication that you are approaching the story’s conclusion. I approached the waypoint for what I thought was just the next mundane mission and was greeted with an immersion-breaking ‘point of no return,’ dialogue box. That message doesn’t always mean that the game is ending though, as other games will hit you with this message when you are about to start a particularly long mission. I thought that this must be the case, but decided to look it up anyway on the off-chance and sure enough I had reached the final mission in the game.
It genuinely left me scratching my head, baffled as to how they had made absolutely no attempt to set up any sort of a resolution to the majority of the game’s major plot elements at this point and yet, this was the final main mission in the game. I really didn’t feel that I had adequately experienced the game when I arrived at this point and I hadn’t exactly been mainlining just main story missions either.
So, I left the last mission for a while, completed the other side-quests and then played through the game’s multiple different endings. Yet, even after all of that, I feel that the story to Cyberpunk was largely unfulfilling overall and that I never actually got to experience the immersive plot that I was promised by the game’s marketing.
Another aspect of the game that is fairly off-putting is the presentation and art style that they chose to go with here. The garish colour palette along with the obnoxious voice acting and the janky and invasive visual effects are headache-inducing at times. Overall, graphical fidelity aside, this is not a nice game to look at.
Sure, an argument could be made that the loud, ugly presentation is purposeful to reflect the social commentary attempted on modern capitalism in the game, but it is still a lofty expectation to expect your audience to endure that level of gaudiness for 20+ hours. Also, I refuse to call this game a satire as I genuinely think that would be giving the writers too much credit.
In terms of gameplay, I never thought it felt great. At first, I really didn’t like how the gunplay felt, but after a while of getting used to it, the moment to moment gameplay felt fine, but never particularly satisfying at any point. It plays like a standard open world FPS RPG, similar to a Borderlands game. The loot system and crafting system are serviceable, as is the body augmentation system. The menus and interfaces are a bit overwhelming initially and although they never provide the smoothest experience, once you get more used to navigating them, you realise that the menus are actually pretty shallow.
Before I conclude my review, there is one last point that I want to bring up; Cyberpunk thinks that it is way cooler/edgier than it actually is. Perhaps I have been desensitised to a lot of explicit content from years of playing videogames, but for a game that includes first person sex scenes and allows you to decapitate enemies with your katana, it all feels pretty tame.
I think that the main reason for this is that the game never quite lands the tone that it is going for due to its overall immaturity. For example, the game’s dialogue contains a lot of swearing, but it never feels natural, instead feeling forced and out-of-place. The whole thing feels like a teenager’s version of a rated R story instead of the mature, futuristic take that gamers were expecting.
If I was asked to review Cyberpunk 2077 in one sentence, I’d say that it feels like a competent mid-tier game from 2004 game from a developer like Free Radical. However, that’s not what it is. It is a AAA blockbuster developed by one of the biggest studios in the world released in 2020, the same year as Ghost Of Tsushima. Perhaps this game could be saved with future updates, but as it stands just now, – six months to the day since Cyberpunk was released – the game still feels far from finished and there are far better open world experiences out there than this one.
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