Who knew that one of 2020’s most highly anticipated games would turn out to be a PR disaster? I’m not here to regurgitate everything about its bugs, crashes, or refunds. There’s plenty of articles out there to inform you. I’m writing this review to inform you of my experience playing the Cyberpunk 2077 and analyze the core gameplay mechanics…
Before I dive in, let me get it out of the way that I played the PlayStation 4 version of the game on my PS5. When I first popped in the game, I felt like I was playing a game that looked worse than games at the end of the PlayStation 3 generation. With every patch that followed, the game looked and felt significantly better. The biggest and most persistent performance issue is the game crashes about every hour, sometimes the audio cuts out, and sometimes the left stick won’t run or it’ll automatically aim the gun unprovoked.
The rest of the bugs are quite hysterical, as if I’m reliving some funny glitchy moments that were prominent in Bethesda games. It’s a shame that the studio who worked on the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — which set the bar for open world games at the time — somehow fell behind. Issues aside, I’m still having a lot of fun. There’s truly something special here and a little more time to bake in the oven could have gone a long way.
Night City is a beautiful, bright, dystopian cesspool filled with neon lights, raunchy advertisements, litter and piles of trash. NPC’s are stylized in punk outfits, intoxicated, and puffing on cigarettes to take off the city’s edge. Certain parts of Night City are filled with claustrophobic and dark alleyways. Other areas like Pacifica have a large open space with palm trees and a carousel by the beach. Go further out of Night City and you’ll reach The Badlands, which is a large land of dirt, filled with piles of trash and nomads in encampments. Each area within and around Night City has its own personality and aesthetic. Overall, it has the level of grit that NYC had in the 1980’s.
If the aesthetic of Night City didn’t inform you enough of this Cyberpunk world, there’s plenty of lore written in shard collectibles (data pads), messages or files in computers, and a web with news or other information sources. There are gangs, corrupt police, greedy corporations, criminals from all walks of life, high technology, and persistent access to sex workers. This world felt fully realized.
I get a certain level of sexuality comes with the Cyberpunk theme but this felt excessive and unnecessary most of the time. I had a similar complaint with The Witcher 3 except.. this is way worse. It actually desensitized me to sexual themes. Perhaps more of a focus on the games polish instead of the different genital options would have helped this be a better product. Sometimes this game felt like it was created by young boys who just hit puberty. I’m just asking that it be toned down a bit.
What gets to me the most is, I could spend an hour figuring out what my penis size is but at no point could I modify my appearance throughout the game. I couldn’t even dye my hair. This is definitely a lost opportunity for a game taking place in a setting where body modification is rampant. Even my characters clothing looked like a mess because you had to focus on armor ratings instead of style. Here I am, in a city full of NPC’s who all looked 1000 times cooler than me because CD Projekt RED didn’t take a page out of many video games’ books for transmogging or simply just keeping cosmetic separate from armor stats. In a game where I thought I can look however I wanted to, I felt zero autonomy outside of the character creation screen.
Not only did I look completely uncool, but the character you play as named V (female body and voice type) didn’t really have a personality worth connecting with. What made V interesting wasn’t her personality or dialogue choices, but rather the core NPC’s around her. They weren’t just supporting characters but they pretty much carried V as a character. She felt like nothing without them, and empty shell, or a vessel for their influence. The closer I got to the end, the more I realized that may have been the point.
But, damn those characters are cool. I found myself interested in getting to know every single one of them, even the ones I didn’t particularly like. The dialogue and storytelling is superb. Even side quests kept me engaged. Do be warned: a lot of the themes in even side missions tend to get very dark. To be clear, Cyberpunk’s narrative focuses on themes of sexual violence, child abuse, homicidal revenge, and suicide. There’s a lot of dialogue in this game in a similar way to a game like Fallout. The only downfall to the dialogue is sometimes the options would be on a timer that is way too quick. World building is a strong element to Cyberpunk 2077.
A big chunk of Cyberpunk‘s gameplay is a combination of Fallout and Grand Theft Auto. Like Fallout, there’s loot everywhere to sell, store, or dismantle. Don’t worry– they patched out how many dildos you’ll pick up. There’s random junk to sell, a variety of guns, armor/clothing, and mods for weapons, armor, and cybernetics. You can craft, purchase, and upgrade gear and weapons. Like Fallout, this is an RPG so there’s extensive upgrades to your attributes (body, tech, intelligence, reflexes, and cool). Upgrading specific attributes gives you access to perks that can aid hacking, stealth, gunplay, melee combat, and dialogue. Your attributes will impact how many options you have to approach missions, what items you can equip, and how many dialogue choices you can pick. I do wish there was a proper re-spec option for both attributes and perks, especially considering a lot of trophies are tied to specific builds and I had to do a lot of reloading saves.
The only aspect of GTA this game reminds me of is the driving, the amount of NPC’s, and how you can interact with them. Sometimes riding from Night City through Pacifica and all the way to The Badlands felt like riding from Los Santos to Blaine County in GTA V. You can also steal vehicles but you don’t keep them unless you buy them and there’s no car mods.
The driving initially controls poorly, but it feels better when you purchase or unlock better cars or bikes. Similar to the driving, gunplay feels better as you unlock better weapons. Legendary weapons allow you to equip more mods and have more perks to inflict status effects like poison or electric damage. There were certain combat sequences, specifically against bosses or cyberpsycho’s that felt sloppy. They would zip around, often glitch and get stuck on things, and I didn’t find myself using much strategy aside from running and gunning. For an RPG, the combat is fair, but more polish could have made it more solid.
Even the mission structure felt messy. Oftentimes I would be mid-dialogue with a mission giver and then get a call from an NPC, and would have to navigate listening to both dialogue’s at once. Another issue: sometimes I would have one mission active, but because I initiated another mission to have it in my quest log, walking too far would sometimes cause me to fail, and thus having to reload my save. It’s a shame the mission structure is sloppy because I really enjoyed most missions. There’s a lot of good long dialogue, but it was overshadowed by sloppy mission structure. I’m hopeful this will be patched.
For now, Cyberpunk is a sloppy game that exudes plentiful charm, intelligent storytelling, and fun gameplay. I have no doubt that this game will be something people look back on as a darling once CDPR patch things up. In the meantime, if you haven’t already purchased this game– don’t. I can’t recommend it yet. But, I know for a fact that once things are polished and optimized for the new-gen (Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5) consoles that Cyberpunk 2077 will be a memorable experience.
Even if the issues didn’t exist, there are much better games that released in 2020. 4/5 Bibles.