Head to Night City to explore the bustling world of CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077.
During the CD Projekt Red Summer Conference in May 2012, Martin Iwinski announced that the studio is working on a continuation of the game designed by Mike Pondsmith. Since that day, thousands of people waited patiently, religiously looking forward to a title that could outshine other productions by the studio.
That title was The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, even now considered one of the best action RPGs of all time. Its GOTY edition being one of few believed to truly hold onto this title, earning trust and respect that lasts to this day. Despite a relatively narrow portfolio of published games, the studio advertises itself as a creator of RPGs loved by players over the world - and rightfully so. However, a considerable amount of time has passed since the release of the White Wolf's final adventure, and one victory doesn't last forever.
Cyberpunk 2077 is, without a doubt, an enormous, ambitious title. However, aspiration is not everything - and definitely not enough of an excuse to cover up for any shortcomings that it contains. Without foreshadowing too much, the game is as far from "mediocre" as possible, but in its current state it's not the one you'd like to see. There's limits to leniency granted to the game, and straining it would be unfair towards the developers of other games. It's not an exaggeration to say that this is the most awaited release of the year, and as a player that looked forward to it as much as everyone, I'm going to honestly address every flaw.
Before we begin, a word of clarification: the following review applies to a PC version of the game which technically contained all of the available in-game content, and which, despite hours poured into it, I still didn't manage to fully complete. Additionally, the reviewed copy did not include the day one patch, so I cannot tell how much of the shortcomings are going to be hotfixed with the update. What I experienced made me convinced that I'd rather wait a year longer, as its current state is borderline unplayable.
It's the bugs that make it such. I made double-sure that my PC fulfils recommended hardware requirements beforehand, and in terms of graphics it's as stunning as advertised: for a game its size it's wonderfully optimised as well. Regardless of the settings, however, I've encountered; floating guns, endlessly loading models, cars falling from the sky, teleporting enemies, NPCs both vanishing into thin air and appearing out of the blue, A-posing and T-posing, ventriloquist characters - some even stuck animationless since the beginning of the game.
And it's just the beginning. Several days ago I received access to a 50GB patch, which sadly, hasn't changed much. And it pains me so because despite all of that, Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the best AAA titles I've ever come to play. It will enchant those who show the game enough patience until its problems are sorted out. Right now, however, does not seem like the best time to play it.
I was positively surprised by the game's customisation and adjustment of controls. My old Dualshock 4 V2 has a flawed left analogue stick and with the plethora of options in the game settings I was able to completely nullify my device's malfunction. If there is any problem with the settings it's that there are just so many of them that finding the perfect combination is not quite intuitive. Luckily, the game does it for us, picking the best default settings with a satisfying result.
Starting the game, we're choosing the difficulty mode - being primarily interested in the hardest and having tested all of them, I can say that the difference between them lies mainly within the damage taken and durability of the enemies. Sounds like a really simple approach, but the outcome is exactly what we asked for - properly balanced.
Before we move on, we have to choose one of the three character paths that most fans will probably know from promotional materials: a Nomad, Streetkid or Corpo; I went with the second one. Whichever we choose, changes how the game welcomes us into Night City and has different gameplay progression. As a Streetkid, I had to scold one of the rich kids or demonstrate my knowledge of the street creed. The introduction was fleshed out as necessary, and I felt where I came from.
The game's character creator is indeed extensive, though not as much as you might've imagined it to be. We can change the character's voice, skin type, eyes, hair, genitals, tattoos and even teeth. Customisation is limited to choosing from several dozen options and there are no sliders that would allow us to create a glitched out nightmare.
The last stage will be assigning our character's first attributes. There are five of them: Body, Reflexes, Cool, Intelligence and Technical Ability. Later, these separate into and affect several other aspects but, much like in classic RPGs of the past, it's those core values that influence the choices made in dialogue and style of the gameplay. For example, to throw someone out of a car, we need a certain value in Body, namely strength, to succeed. Or we can just shoot someone in the head, which does not require an extensive attribute - though may still result in a struggle with the vehicle's driver, if the game decides to glitch.
And voila, welcome to Night City! As mentioned before - the introductions to the world of Cyberpunk 2077 are different depending on starting choice. One could compare them to threads leading to a knot, gradually bringing us to the gameplay fragments from the first presentation of the title. Soon after we accept the major quest, which becomes a pass to - as our heroes like to emphasize it - the Major Leagues. Eventually, the situation gets complicated and in the blink of an eye - if a few hours long prologue can be described as such - Act Two begins.
And that's where everything changes. Until now the gameplay and progression was captivating enough. In Act Two however, the City is wide open and the player may involuntarily choke on it. Suddenly the map fills with quest markers, with no indication what would be the wisest order to tackle them all. The map itself may seem complicated at the first glance, but one gets used to its nuances almost immediately.
In terms of storyline, CDPR hit us with the level of quality we got used to in their previous titles - and exceeded the expectations by a mile. The writing is captivating and fluent, making the conversations far from lacking. First person encounters work in favour of making interactions feel vivid, the dialogue choices offered to players brilliantly capture their reactions. Also, though I personally didn't feel that there's a need for a third person perspective in the scenes, there will be moments when we experience it as well.
For the main course, we're served a mature and engaging story about posthumanism, during which we'll be discovering not only the darkest corners of a futuristic megalopolis, but also of our own mind. While the world presented in game may seem distant from ours, characters still reflect on the familiar values such as bonds and brotherhood. It perfectly captures the pain of loss and the shock of a betrayal. CD Projekt Red once again provides us with a world that is not afraid to tell dark stories of rotten people, which corrodes said world's pillars.
Be it V, buddy Jackie, fixer Dex, rocker Johnny Silverhand, or Judy Alvarez who introduces us to braindance (the most popular form of entertainment in the world of Cyberpunk) - every single one of them is a first class, fleshed out character. One can feel unparalleled chemistry between them, visible from the very first moment. Our character, has a lot of stories to tell - which shouldn't surprise anyone, given that Cyberpunk 2077 is a pureblood RPG.
As expected from an RPG, there is no shortage of statistics to play around with. The attributes I've mentioned earlier come with a lot of advantages, divided into twelve categories. These are nicely grouped up in trees of passive skills we'll be investing our points into every time we level up. Due to the high difficulty mode, I've made survival my highest priority - I went with a basic combat oriented split of stat points. And these are only the simplest of decisions that can be made.
Skill trees include various weapons (pistols, shotguns, machine guns and sniper rifles of various firepower or utility), some of them being unique. What shapes your choices is your desired playstyle, and something that, surprisingly enough, caught my attention from the start - clothing. The amount is outstanding and it takes the place of armour with its own statistics, and if we're specifically fond of the style of a particular set, we get the option to improve their statistics instead.
In case a player still wouldn't be satisfied with equipment purchased at merchants, the game also offers a nifty crafting system, allowing one to fully arm up their hero. Top it off with a choice of the Ripperdoc's chips and implants; with a development of skills related to actions taken during the story parts of the game and reputation rewards obtained from a variety of quests - the freedom of creating your own dream build is nearly overwhelming.
The quests can appear anywhere, so take a look at the map, choose a destination and get there somehow. For this purpose, the game offers a multitude of vehicles, be it cars or motorcycles. I took a long ride with several of them and I must admit that the driving is not too shabby. Despite my initial fears, I wasn't brutally stopped by any curb or shrub in my way. Each vehicle is controlled in a slightly different manner - some are more responsive than others, which can be guessed by their design alone.
The combat experience in-game is challenging. One of my most enjoyable moments was when I was forced to dance my way through a rain of bullets and grenades coming from every direction, trying to gun down an enemy with a homing sniper rifle. Not only did I have to continuously watch for the direction the enemies were attacking from, instead of hiding behind one obstacle the entire time, but also I had to actively make sure the target was in the range of my radar. Shooting in Cyberpunk 2077 is extremely enjoyable, thanks to the well-designed system and the pleasant variety of weaponry to choose from.
The whole thing is spiced up by the destruction engine and graphic violence. Much like The Witcher, Cyberpunk 2077 isn't afraid of nudity or dismemberment, and even that is optional. I've definitely seen an upgrade for weapons that allows players to stun an enemy instead of killing them outright. It's worth mentioning, however, that finishing them off gives additional Reputation Points, so (in my own experience) the game made it more favourable than attempts at pacifism.
The world of Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most authentic, fleshed out worlds I have visited in my life. In past months, players voiced concerns that the population density in Night City would not look like the same as it does in the first shown footage - and they were wrong. People are everywhere, each distinguished by style of clothing or body modifications, making it a challenge to find two identical NPCs in the same place.
Speaking of which, how does Cyberpunk 2077 perform as an open world game? Not too bad, I must say, though with some disappointments. If we put aside all the available tasks and quests, there isn't a great variety of activities to choose from. We can drown in a drink or drown in love, go shopping for clothes and guns or gun down those who are not eager to pay for their shopping. In the crowded metropolis there's plenty of distractions, though many can be compared simply to endless question marks from Wild Hunt's spacious map.
While the city's activities are not quite near GTA level of immersion, by committing crimes we get on the local police's wanted list all the same. The system is, however, underdeveloped, as regardless of severity of the crime, any pursuit can be lost with help of a vehicle. Police may have teleportation powers granted by frequent bugs, but (despite clearly owning enough cars for a chase) neither they nor their drones can catch up with a player who steps into a car and drives away.
The developers initially promised to provide our hero with several apartments for purchase, but the idea was eventually abandoned. There is also no option to modify your vehicle, which players had hoped for. As much as one wants to feel that they live in Night City, it's not quite possible. Future updates or expansions may change that, but at the moment we have to settle for the main storyline and ticking off markers. To some, this is more than enough, to me it feels like untapped potential.
I was finally able to hear the long awaited soundtrack "Pain", shown to us in a promo several months ago. This and a whole lot of other songs that play for us from radio stations or blast during the combat are of top-tier quality. Radio especially deserves to be mentioned, as it'll provide us with music of legendary artists such as SAMURAI (in-game band, real band name is Refused), Run the Jewels, Grimes or Nina Kraviz.
To sum it up, on one hand we received a plot-driven masterpiece and an exceptional single-player game, on the other, a product that is quite frankly incomplete. Basing my judgement on the copy I've received, I would say that this title isn't something one should reach for right away. Technically it's a disaster, not due to being underdeveloped or amateur, but because of bugs that make it impossible to truly enjoy and appreciate time spent with the game. If the developers get to polish it a little bit more, it would be a solid nine, or even a ten out of ten. It may eventually earn this score, if not with upcoming patches, then as a complete edition, like the Wild Hunt did. Which, to be honest, I'm genuinely hoping for, as the futuristic world of Cyberpunk appeals to me more than The Witcher universe ever did.
Today's conclusion? Cyberpunk 2077 is the game of the future - both literally and figuratively. It is without a doubt what I expected from the latest CD Projekt Red production - but it still requires some work to become something really special down the line. For now, the technical flaws are so intrusive that we have to take into account how they affect gameplay, and thus a score, which is why our rating is probably not what you were expecting from one of the most anticipated games of all time. We will however, be returning to Cyberpunk 2077 at a later date to see how updates and bug fixes impact this title, and maybe then this game can receive the sort of credit we all know it has the potential for.
7 / 10
Highest quality. Johnny Silverhand. Night City bursting with life. Rewarding exploration. Masterfully written characters. Classic RPG solutions. Enjoyable shooting system. Mature themes. Futuristic sound.
Critical errors and shortcomings. Driving license not included in police qualifications.