Reviewed on Xbox Series X|S
One of the best open-world RPGs of all-time is held back in part by a rushed release that fails to tap into the full power of the new generation of consoles or perform acceptably on the previous one.
The marketing for Cyberpunk 2077 and the reported issues of the forced crunch by developer CD Projekt Red has been a serious issue surrounding this game. We have written about it here. I would highly suggest reading up on the situation. Instances of transphobia, poor representation of minorities, and reports of a harsh workplace environment deserve to be known about. Trans rights are human rights and a properly managed studio does not need forced crunch.– The Xbox Era Team
An Incredible Achievement With A Few Major Issues
Cyberpunk 2077 is a truly remarkable game in many ways. There are some of the highest highs I have ever experienced in the medium. These unfortunately have often been accompanied by some truly baffling lows. The graphics (on high-end machines) are breathtaking. Voice acting is stellar across the board. The majority of the writing is excellent, and the gameplay is genuinely fun in a way I was not expecting.
The bugs and glitches however, are numerous and frustrating. At launch it was one of the buggiest games I have ever played, and though a patch hit a few days later that made things more stable and of a higher visual fidelity the game still feels undercooked in a few ways. Despite all that, the overall package of what the game is now is something to be marvelled at – as long as you are on the right platform.
Visual Splendor (Well, On PC)
Originally announced in May of 2012, CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 has finally been released. After numerous delays, Night City is finally available in all of its splendor. Those with a capable PC will be treated to what is one of the most beautiful games ever created. The lucky few that own one of the next generation consoles have a slightly enhanced version of the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game to play through.
Performance mode on the Xbox Series X is what I played through for the entirety of my time. The feel of the game at 60 frames per second (most of the time) was worth the small downgrade in image quality over quality mode. I did check the game out on the Series S and the image quality was high and the 30fps felt steady.
However, the majority of the player base will be on the base PS4 and Xbox One consoles, and they are left with a game that is clearly unfinished, and nearing unplayable. It is in such a bad state that CD Projekt Red has had to apologize for it with promises of fixing it no later than February of 2021.
Actual next-gen versions that may possibly include the PC’s beautiful looking but highly demanding ray-tracing mode are only listed as “coming next year” by the developer.
V For Variety
At its heart Cyberpunk is most similar to Fallout 4 in both its world and gameplay setup. Your first choice is the backstory for your character. V is a highly customizable avatar though only CIS Male and Female are available as choices despite the game allowing you to set whatever genitalia you choose. It lends the illusion of a better gender choice than most games but in the end your genitalia is nothing more than a prop.
Origin stories come in three varieties. These are Nomad, Street Kid, and Corpo. Nomads begin out in the Badlands just outside of Night City and have lived a nomadic life with their family the Bakkers up until a recent split. Street Kids grew up in the slums of Night City and know the seedier parts of it like the back of their hands. Corpos are used to living where the real power lies, with the corporations that run the local government like a group of soulless puppets.
Depending on your choice you will have a completely different 1st mission of the game, and your dialogue choices throughout your journey will have specific lines tailored to your history. All three choices though end up with you starting life as a Merc looking to make your name as a Night City legend.
There are 5 main Attributes to put your talent and perk points into. Body, Intelligence, Reflexes, Technical Ability, and Cool all give various bonuses depending on how you want to power your protagonist. Within each of these are at least 2 and occasionally 3 subsets of Perks. These give you boosts in specific categories such as longer durations on your hacks or things as simple as 10% more health. It is a deep and dense system that requires forethought as you cannot earn enough talent or perk points to max it all out.
Combat is a mix of stealth, hacking, melee, and ranged combat. Nearly every scenario in the game can be approached in any of these ways and certain items allow you to have a kill free playthrough if you so desire. In my playthrough I ended up focusing on sniper rifles and the Mantis Blades. These are set of Cybernetic Blades that pop out of your forearms. I became a whirling dervish of gore, healing every time I hit an enemy I had caused to bleed. There are a wide variety of melee weapon types including just getting “Gorilla Arms” and bashing everything in your site like an absolute madman. Guns are limited to 4 classes: Pistols, Rifles, Shotguns, and Snipers. There is a small but diverse enough variety in each subset and the tech versions allow you to shoot through walls. Combined with the ability to spot enemies through your hacking this becomes an incredible tool for safely picking people off from a distance.
Hack the Planet!!!
QuickHacks can be crafted, purchased, or looted and added to your CyberDeck. Use of these in or out of combat causes everything to slow down as you choose through a suite of offensive, defensive, and control moves to take over any situation. Breach Protocol is a simple number puzzle you will run through hundreds of times and it is quick and satisfying enough that I was never tired of it. It is used to give a few bonuses against anyone you are about to encounter or helps you earn your “Eddies” or Euro Dollars in this future America. The systems in play here are varied and generally feel satisfying in a way that I feared they would not after watching early gameplay videos. Shooting feels good, melee feels great, and hacking is both viable and potentially incredibly powerful. You level things in the Skyrim approach, use it if you want to make it better. After 53 hours I was only level 35 out of 50 and I plan to immediately dig back in to finish powering my V up to the max. Another system in place is the “street cred” leveling system, which is primarily a gating system for unlocking gear, cyberware, and missions.
A Story Of Mostly Highs
The soul of Cyberpunk is the character Johnny Silverhand played in a strange but ultimately appropriate way by Keanu Reeves. His delivery never feels quite like the way a human would actually talk, and as you get to know the character it starts to make sense. As this is a spoiler-free review I will not get too deep into the minutiae but suffice it to say that Cyberpunk has some of the best quests I have ever played.
The main story pulled me in the moment the Cyberpunk logo (seen up above) flashed on the screen. This did not happen until roughly 6 hours into my playthrough but it felt appropriate in its timing. The prologue is fun but limited in scope. The instant it is over and you are in the game proper it opens up into one of the largest and most dense open-world RPGs I can remember.
There may be bigger maps or games with more quests but none of them match the level of detail in the environment and few match the quality of the writing on average. The main quest can be completed in roughly 20-25 hours but my playthrough ended up at the aforementioned 53 in total. This was due in large part because of just how fantastic nearly every major side quest was. There is even a racing side quest which I would normally avoid like the plague but the writing in it was so solid that I powered through it in a few hours and ended up loving it.
The voice acting is uniformly excellent at least in the English version that I played through. Both the female and male voice actors for V, and sadly those are the only options, do a solid job reading the occasionally hokey and purposely try-hard sounding dialogue. Cyberpunk as a genre is meant to be an excess of 80’s ideas about the future. This carries through in the ‘terrified’ ideals of Japan taking over the world with their technology and while I have seen discourse about how “every ethnic character has a huge accent and is nothing more than a stereotype” – I have not found this to be true for the actual characters in the main and side quests. It is a world overrun by corporations where everyone and everything has the likelihood of being some form of degenerate morally. On the whole, I feel the voice acting is both appropriate for the themes and well done across the board.
The soundtrack is another area where the game shines. With a varied mix of genres, the game knows when to pick things up and when to fade lower into the mix allowing the dialogue to take center stage. Composers Marcin Przybyłowicz and Paul Leonard-Morgan have compiled music from a wide variety of genres such as jazz, hip-hop, metal, industrial, and rave. Certain background pieces are highly reminiscent of Deus Ex and Blade Runner in the best of ways.
Bugs, Unfinished Systems, and Poor Representation
Not everything is up to snuff though as a wide variety of bugs has plagued the game at launch. From the most powerful PC to the weakest of the last generation of consoles there has been no shortage of issues and glitches for consumers. For my part I was lucky enough to never have a mission stop working or the game itself to crash, but I did run into a large number of smaller bugs.
The majority of these were things such as odd physics leading to peoples jackets not moving along with the rest of their body, or enemies teleporting around as the game could not determine where they should exist in time and space. At launch the Xbox version was plagued with rare but occasionally long freezes. Most of these were 2-3 seconds for me on Series X but one lasted almost 45 seconds and I saw people saying they had them for up to two minutes on the base Xbox One.
The city itself is densely packed with entirely set dressing NPCs in what is clearly an area cut to release the game before 2020 ended. Citizens of Night City generally don’t care if a car is flipping around in a way that defies physics above their heads and proceed to go through one or two canned animations when violence breaks out around them. The Night City Police Department is not much better in how it reacts to you breaking the law. They routinely appear out of nowhere if you break the law like Cop Ninjas, and can be defeated by the brilliant tactic of “driving away in a straight line”. If the game had more focus on open-world exploring this would have been far more detrimental to my playthrough, but on the whole the gigantic map is littered with so many activities to complete that I rarely thought about just driving around and messing with the systems like in a GTA game.
Representation of minorities and the LGBTQ+ community is handled moderately okay in actual missions themselves but I found it wanting in the NPCs that actually fill up the city. Street vendors are dressed in what you’d expect a 1980’s American film’s stereotypical representation would be. I know this fits in a bit with the Cyberpunk genre itself but in 2020 it does not always live up to our more compassionate modern sensibilities. This is a game with a lot of compromises made to get it out the door and unfortunately the NPCs are one of the biggest.
The incredible highs outweigh the occasional lows. This game would have been a 10 if it had been more properly managed and released in a truly finished state. As is, it is still one of the best open-world RPGs I have ever played. The graphics, gameplay, story, and audio are all at the top of the industry. If you are on PC or have a next-gen console Cyberpunk 2077 is an easy recommendation. If not then I suggest giving it three to sixth months so that it may be brought up to an acceptable level. I fully believe that within a year this will be seen as one of the best games of all time.
I cannot emphasize enough though that if you are on a base PS4 or Xbox One then the score would be a 3 out of 10 because how putrid the performance is. Do NOT buy it for those systems (and well you can’t even get it digitally on Playstation at all right now.)
Reviewed on Xbox Series X|S
Cyberpunk 2077$59.99 US
- Some of the Best Quests I Have Ever Experienced
- Solid Shooting and Excellent Melee Combat
- An Incredibly Dense and Detailed World
- Top Notch Voice Acting
- A Truly Fantastic Soundtrack
- Bugs Bugs Bugs!
- Poor Representation of Minorities at Times
- Illusion of Gender Options for Character Creation
- Abysmal Performance on base Xbox One and PS4