It goes without saying that by now many of you are already aware of the challenges faced by CD Projekt Red’s (CDPR) latest launch, Cyberpunk 2077. The game was surrounded by so much hype and praises, winning hundreds of awards by just showing off trailers. Even when the studio had announced its delay 3 times, most of us just downplayed it by thinking “CDPR is just being a perfectionist!”.
But of course, now we know the cold hard truth – If the game is what people considered “broken” now, imagine what we would call it then if the studio had stuck to the original launch date? It would be April 16, 2020, when we played the game. The latest delay postponed the game’s launch by one whole month, from November 2020 to December 2020. I wonder what they ironed out during that period, what was the red line that prevented them from launching. I am curious because the launch quality we got is obviously what CDPR’s management thought acceptable, and all these rushes to release a game despite the fact that there’s no big-name/money publisher behind them whipping away the skin from their rear. If CDPR can readily agree to refund any purchases after the reception onslaught they received, I believe they could have as well told everyone “Look, we need another good 6 months on this baby. We are sorry and we will refund your Pre-orders if you want it”.
When I fired up my Cyberpunk 2077 on the PS4, it quickly became apparent to me that I’d be playing something very different from what I imagined. Stubborn textures that refused to load, clipping issues that are just impossible to ignore, and multitudes of other undesirable bugs and glitches that just rendered the entire experience joyless to play. It was so bad that I simply couldn’t play on without hating it. I uninstalled it and decided to wait for my PS5 that is scheduled to arrive 2 days later. Once it came, I installed the game again but since the game’s next-gen patch still in the works, I was playing the PS4 version via backward compatibility on my new console.
Things improved almost immediately on the PS5, there are some goodies here in the form of stable 60 frames per second and short loading time. The overall graphics and texture qualities still left much to be desired. Haptic support is not here yet and probably won’t be until next year. The most annoying thing now is probably the game crashing every hour or so – the latest patch (1.05 at the time of writing) did little to mitigate the issue. The game’s technical quality on the PS5 is still far from great, but at least it is playable.
I kicked off my journey in the vessel of a Street Kid, a mercenary dude (in my case) who grew up in Nightcity surrounded by a thug lifestyle. This is one of the 3 starting options a player can choose from, the other two being – Corporate and Nomad. The backgrounds meant little except for a few dialogue options down the road and how the game’s prologue starts. I thought there would be more to it but thought wrong apparently.
One of the first things I did when the open-world was available to me was to figure out how to change my appearance. I regretted how the Purpled coloured hair boyish looks of my male character looked in the cutscene – Like a chump instead of the champ I intend to be. But amazingly, the game that features one of the most detailed (down to the genital!) characters making features in modern gaming times, does not come with an appearance changing option. I wonder why.
“But hey, it shouldn’t matter in a first-person game anyways!”,
Well, it mattered to me. I did not expect such a simple feature to be omitted. It could have been fun to have it, really.
Nightcity is a city that never sleeps, and the rule of law rarely holds its ground here. The city’s running is heavily influenced by the Corporations (or Corpos), and factions of gangs oversee their own territory almost autonomously. The side tales offer an invaluable insight into life in Nightcity – including its secrets, treasures, and dark side. CDPR’s concept of Nightcity is a scene to behold. I loved every bit of the city design and layout, they spark life and mystery but it’s hard to ignore the sub-par graphics quality that took away most of its beauty. There are some buildings that I can access to explore, but the game mostly just takes place on the street. I was a little disappointed with this because I was expecting CDPR to do something different here. Something less flat and surfaced level, something out of the norm.
The Main Missions themselves are well written, striking a good balance between action and story. As interesting as the story goes, however, I cannot help but feel disconnected sometimes. The main plot in the game tells an on-going feud between the inner circles of a corporate ruling family and between the said corporate with a certain outside faction. To put it simply, our main character does not belong in any of these feuding factions, we just happened to be there at the wrong place, doing the wrong thing, at the wrong time. While my character’s objective in the game puts me in the middle of the said feud, I rarely feel entirely convinced about my role in it. I sometimes feel more like a passenger in the story or a glorified sidekick if I am being blunt.
The starting of the plot was confusing at first because there were some gaps in the story as the scene transits, and players are supposed to just imagine what happened in the gap based on previously collected or shown information. You can easily make an educated guess of what happened in between, but the story would have flowed better and more natural if the extra scenes were added to convey them. Some of the gaps can be plugged with contents from doing the side quests and reading from the collectible datapads that can be found in the Nightcity. If you are a keen collector and a reader, you would benefit from the extra bits of information that really add on to the lore and overall atmosphere.
The main quests only capture and portrays a very specific part of how life is within Nightcity and its outskirt Badlands. The real attention to detail would come from the Side Quests and this is an area that CDPR did very well in my books. The quality of the side quests is nothing short of meeting my expectations for them. I was so into them that I once went 3 days straight just doing the side activities, immersing myself in the well-told story and lore of Cyberpunk 2077.
One of the most memorable side questlines that I’ve encountered was that of a couple whose husband was running to become the next Mayor of Nightcity – a single quest chain that includes drama, political scandals, and a hit of action. The way the story started, how it developed down the line, and how it concluded (albeit on a cliff-hanger) was just spectacular. I met an NPC in this questline that I thought was just a regular one-timed person accompanying the quest’s story. But as it turns out, he would later be an acquaintance who dishes out his own side quests. More stories for me to swim in? Perfecto. I loved this part of the game really, it never stops trying to tell us what’s going on within the city and its people.
While the technical qualities of the game left much to be desired, the storytelling itself and the dialogues really stood out and worthy of praise. The voice talents behind the characters in this game especially are top-notch – one of the best I’ve seen this year, and mind you, there’re many other great games this year with first-class voice actors and actresses. Keanu Reeves being absorbed in the role of Johnny Silverhand is the main attraction here but not the only highlight. Other actors/actresses are mighty in their performance too and this is probably one of the few games where I give a strong thumbs up for the entire cast.
Reeves’ Silverhand character would feature prominently throughout the game and have a constant exchange of words with the main character, V. I can never get tired of listening to the dialogues between them in this game. The only downside to Johnny Silverhand in this game is the fact that he looked like a long-haired Chinese man than the Keanu Reeves it was supposed to model after. It was hard to take the character seriously at first, but Reeves’ convincing performance turned it around for me. Here’s hoping CDPR grace us with a graphic upgrade soon.
This is probably one of the games where I’ve taken a serious interest in the city itself and its inhabitants, almost more than I care about its main storyline, in fact. The side quests did superbly well in offering a rich and rewarding perspective into the game’s overall lore and Cyberpunk society.
Most of my time in the game is spent exploring Nightcity for side quests to get money, street cred, and exp. Street cred is like a reputation system, the higher it is the better upgrades and weapons you can purchase. The economy in the game is quite straight forward – get your hands on every loot you can get, sell them for money, and spend your cash on Guns, Ammos, Cyberwares, Cars, and Hookers. Money is earned by the conventional loot-sell, hacking computers, and as a mission reward. But with the game hinting of a Space Casino and a Pachinko parlour that we already get to visit, it’s a shame that there isn’t a gambling mini-game or that sort where we could generate (or potentially lose) some moolah. I thought it was a big missed here considering that such a scene would fit perfectly into the Nightcity DNA.
Speaking of missed opportunities, many other elements in the game looked like CDPR had great plans for them (or could have) only for nothing to happen in the end. There are several factions in the game, and I thought I could align myself with one faction or a few while antagonising the others but no. They are nothing more than just antagonistic placeholders.
We can choose between the lethal or non-lethal options when dealing with our enemies, which suggests something like an honour system or moral compass in place, but again, no. There is little difference in choosing to kill an enemy or not except for a few following dialogues. There’s a wanted system in the game if you assaulted law enforcement officers but you can simply escape them by driving away because the idea of a car chase somewhat escaped CDPR’s plan.
The wanted system is also heavily bugged – Police reinforcements will simply spawn out of the blue as if beamed down from the USS Enterprise instead of arriving in a vehicle. Other than hacking into the cyberwares of their foes, players can also hack into a computer to steal money. This sounds kinda fun, except there’s only one type of hacking mini-game and it poses no challenge whatsoever at all.
The combat mechanism in the game is backed by a long and detailed series of perks, cyberwares, and weapons. It took me a while to study them and decide which path I wish to approach combat with but it didn’t take long before I realised I could just solve all my problems by picking up the biggest gun I can find and forget about builds. It’s boring playing this way but it’s the most straightforward way and because the perk upgrades do negligible difference until much later in the game. Most of the upgradeable perks are passives in nature, they make things better but don’t necessarily add anything to my arsenal. Hacking into an enemy’s cyberware to disable their vision, reset their memory, or just plain shock them to deal damage is fun and reminds me of Watch Dogs.
Discharging a weapon feels monotonous in this game due to the lack of shot feedback, the same is true for melee attacks. I hope the next-gen patch adds the much-needed haptic touch to the DualSense controller or shooting in Cyberpunk 2077 will remain unmemorable. For a game where violence is the bread-and-butter solution to most problems, having a rather unremarkable shooting experience kills the joy. As detailed as the whole combat thing looked on paper, the implementation of it feels surprisingly basic. There isn’t anything unique here that we didn’t already saw or experienced in other games. CDPR’s inexperience in making shooters is obvious here.
The build-up towards the ending had some nail-biting moment for me and since this game had some decision-consequences moment, I was anxious to see what my options for the ending were. Depending on what you did in the game and the side quests, it will determine what possible outcome will be available to the player at the end. When presented with the choice to choose the ending, I spent at least 15 minutes thinking about what decision I’d make. I chose the one that felt right for my character and proceeded with it, ready with the consequences.
But ultimately, the ending would disappoint me so much and not because of how it ended. But because the final mission was so underwhelming that it tore any sense of accomplishment off me. The final fight felt too casual and I was not at any point in time felt challenged. I thought it would be a multi-phased boss fight at least, but no. It was a 3-minutes long boss fight that should have concluded the game’s cannon action for me – I was not even strongly equipped and was just level 30. It kinda made all those hours spent grinding and playing up to this point feel like naught.
There is also multiple quality of life issues that I struggled with in the game. The inventory system is one of them. The inventory divides the collected loots into different categories, and I can browse them either by category or in a single “All” table, which is fine. But Ammo is not recorded in any of the known categories and can only be seen under “All”. The All tab is a huge mess where everything is just piled on top of each other and I’ve had to scrolled and squint my eyes to look for my little ammo boxes just to do my ammo check.
Opening a new message from the phone’s notification does not open the message itself, instead, it opens up the whole inbox where I have to manually look for the said new message again to view it. New/unread messages also do not appear on top of the list automatically.
All-in-all, there’s a lot to complain about if anyone wants to nitpick on everything wrong they saw in Cyberpunk 2077. But to admit where it has done well wasn’t easy too, especially when the game kept fighting against me with its bugs and crashes. With that said, here’s a sum-up of my experience with Cyberpunk 2077.
What I really liked –
[+] Good Loading Speed on the PS5.
[+] Stable 60 FPS.
[+] Quest qualities are top-notch except for a few.
[+] Nice city design.
[+] Excellent voice casts.
[+] Photo Mode
What I wished was better –
[-] Graphics and Visuals needs radical improvement.
[-] Crashing issue is still persisting.
[-] Better feedback from the weapon during combat.
[-] More gameplay opportunities.
[-] QoL settings could be better.
[-] Next-gen update is not here yet.
[-] Too many things to read, lol.
Cyberpunk 2077 is like a highly promising child prodigy who grew through troubling alcohol and drug-fueled teenage phase. Now, instead of being a young adult who had just graduated from a prestigious University with countless job offers lying in wait, our young chap had just completed his rehabilitation course. Many could not figure out where, or how it went wrong. How such a promising lad with everything seemingly set up to ensure his success, succumbed to this level. But he is still young, and his best years could still be ahead of him if he is willing to catch up and make sure he does not repeat his old ways.
The game is playable (on the PS5) but far from its desired form. It was heartbreaking when I saw it in this state when I first started, more so after I realised the extent of its problems. But as I have said above, most of the problems are technical and while the contents are not great, they are still good. As much as the game seemed to have hit rock bottom and I’ve talked smack about it, I just started my second playthrough because I just can’t resist the temptation that is the chemistry between Nightcity and its people. The story and side quests are just so well done that I don’t mind experiencing them again.
I look forward to the updates and fixes coming and depending on how they go, I’ll revisit this review and revise my score if necessary. But for now, the game will have to settle with a humble score of: