Wake the f**k up Samurai, we have a game to patch.
I could go on and on about the anticipation and hype that CD Projekt Red has instilled in the vast majority of gamers over the last eight years, but if you’re reading this, you know all about it. You’ve lived it; you’ve felt it. Getting players excited about an upcoming title is great for business though when the hype levels grow as strong as they have for Cyberpunk 2077, a major concern arises in that for many, no work could ever possibly live up to the high expectations set for it in our own subconscious.
For Cyberpunk 2077 this is both true and untrue, depending on where you look.
There is a high chance that many will find Cyberpunk is not the game they expected, nor wanted it to be. Sure, its setting, combat, cybernetic upgrades and GTA-like open-world & mission structure will come as no surprise. What’s more of a shocker is the level at which Cyberpunk is a story-driven experience, especially compared to other titles. Don’t expect to spend the vast majority of your time in Night City with your finger on the trigger aiming for headshots or hacking everything in sight, à la Watch Dogs. That’s not Cyberpunk.
Firefights will happen and when they occur they’re just as satisfying as one would expect, though the bullet sponge enemies that won’t drop from a single headshot might not be favoured by some. Same goes for stealth sequences, be they optional or mandatory. The inability to use tools of your trade or body mods to take out unsuspecting opponents is disappointing. These sequences while frequent, are only a piece of Cyberpunk’s deal and they’ll fall between lengthy sections of story driven dialogue delivered to you by the most impressive and believable NPC’s you’re likely to see in a video game for years to come.
As is usually the case with RPGs after choosing one of three backstories, Cyberpunk starts with a detailed character customisation screen where you select your appearance. This ranges from facial features right down to your genitalia… or lack thereof, should you prefer. From there you move on to adjusting V’s attribute scores. Body will impact your strength, Cool relates to stealth, Intelligence impacts your hacking prowess and so on. When given the option, my preference is usually to utilise stealth tactics in game, though I’ll always balance out attributes or upgrade my characters evenly rather than working on a one-sided build. After all, by the the endgame, the majority of perks and upgrades would be unlocked one way or another. Right? Wrong.
As was the case in The Witcher series, side quests are not so much short deviations from the main story, but instead serve as complimentary pieces that overlap and intertwine with its narrative. They make Cyberpunk more about the journey and less about the destination. Having bypassed many of them in a bid to get through the campaign for the sake of this review, I learned the hard way that this may not have been the best approach; after roughly 36 hours, I watched end credits roll and by that time I had barely unlocked half of the perks available to any one of the character traits available. I fell well short of earning enough eddies (aka currency) to apply more than just a few cybernetic enhancements to my character. It left me feeling that either the game has some serious issues with balancing, or perhaps I just didn’t play it “the right way”. Looking over the quest log — which shows the tasks I’ve yet to complete — I’d estimate roughly a further 20 or 30 hours of gameplay could come from side quests alone. In short, take your time with this one.
That said, it became clear that visiting my local ripper doc to have body mods installed was more of a novelty than a strategic necessity by the end of the game. A targeting system built into my eyeball and a pair of mantis blades in my arms were really all I needed in addition to the plethora of weapons at my disposal. Knowing what I know now, I suspect my next playthrough will be very different, though I have little doubt that my view of the necessity (or lack thereof) of cybernetic mods will remain unchanged. I’m not one to jump straight back in to replay a story-driven game, though with Cyberpunk I am actually very keen to get back into a second and third run with different builds and alternative approaches to play style. I’m definitely going to wait on that until masses of bugs are fixed, however.
The pre-release PC code provided for this review was full of issues with graphic, audio and gameplay problems. Dialogue wouldn’t play for some characters on occasion; at other times, characters’ mouths wouldn’t move to match what was being said. When driving, V’s character model — devoid of clothing — would pop through the roof of your car in a mocap calibration T-pose. After building a male version of V and choosing a pair of pants for him, I looked in the mirror located in his apartment to find him without pants, and without a penis. Venturing into the menu to confirm if I had indeed correctly applied V’s pants, I was faced with a full body view of him with pants on, though his wang was dangling through the front of them thanks to some strange digital dick osmosis. While this last matter was good for a chuckle, there were many more problems that were not so humorous; to list them all here wouldn’t be useful. Just know that they’re there, and these little annoyances are just that: little annoyances, very rarely game-breaking.
The keyword there is “rarely” — in addition to minor visual issues, some problems also arose which rendered the game unplayable without a restart. The most frequent of these took hold and made it look as though V’s character model would literally fold in half at the hips and I’d be stuck with her head between her ankles viewing the world upside down. Another, one-off, event meant a character I was supposed to take on an escort mission refused to get in his own car. The more I played, the more I got the sense that the build I was playing needed more polish; it was a testament to the need for Cyberpunk‘s third delay.
Right on queue, a 49 GB update — almost totalling the game’s original download on PC (that’s 59GB, by the way) — was deployed. I can confirm at least one of the problems I had noted had been resolved by the update, yet many others remained. We reported an extensive list of bugs to CDPR in a bid to get some feedback on what was going to continue to be patched at launch as I had genuine concerns that the product I was reviewing would be very different to the product you, dear reader, will be playing. CDPR has offered up patch notes for a Day 0 update ahead of release, and while the issues we detailed don’t appear to be resolved, a number of other issues have been resolved. One thing’s certain, though: if the level of bugs present after release of the game’s day 1 patch is as high as they are now, I’m concerned Cyberpunk will be compared to the likes of Assassin’s Creed Unity at its release: a meme generator that became the butt of the internet’s jokes. Cyberpunk is, and deserves to be, remembered as much more than that; its bugs are disappointing, a serious contrast to Night City’s otherwise stunning visuals. The world, the detail, the characters — everything in Night City is just so pleasing to look at. No open-world game has ever felt so alive, and none have made me audibly say to myself, “this is amazing!”
In contrast, Night City is without a doubt a shithole, cesspool of a place. It’s dirty, full of graffiti, garbage and crime. Kids walk down streets lined with animated billboards laden with images of gross old men, each ready to bury their face in the arse crack of g-string clad women. CDPR’s ability to make a masterpiece out of such a deplorable location is an unbelievable achievement; this alone is enough to make Cyberpunk 2077 a must-play for everyone. Throughout proceedings, Night City is repeatedly referred to as if it were a living breathing being. This is true to the story, and true to the world that CD Projekt Red has created.
Further, character models are animated and directed with such detail they’ll feel more human than you’ll be prepared for. It’s the little things that do it; during a conversation between V and Evelyn, a bartender approaches the pair to pour them a drink. While this is taking place Evelyn stops talking, subtly looks down at the drink being poured, and waits for the bartender to leave before carrying on with the conversation. It’s such a natural human behaviour that many wouldn’t notice, but tiny little moments like this occur in almost every interaction; each one is an absolute pleasure to watch and helps to immerse you in the world.
Lighting and reflections — thanks to ray tracing and the high-end, RTX 3080-enabled PC loaned to Stevivor for the purposes of the review — are just as incredible, with raindrops producing a haze around light sources and NPCs casting detailed reflections onto all shiny surfaces, even puddles. Strangely though, V casts no reflection save for some very specific scripted moments — it’s quite disappointing to see an NPC’s reflection when V, standing right next to them has none. Perhaps V stands for vampire?
With regards to its narrative, Cyberpunk largely delivers the goods. It tells multiple stories of complex relationships, many of which intertwine to form a meaningful little network. Some of these relationships come together nicely, whereas others are somewhat forgotten… though I’m hoping some of the side quests I had to bypass for the purposes of completing this review will fill in some of those gaps. In perhaps a similar vein, some aspects of the main narrative feel like sections have been cut out and pasted elsewhere – disjoined — or were cut out entirely, with well-established themes amounting to nothing.
Further, the relationship between Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Silverhand and V is a complex one; an ongoing conundrum that will keep you guessing. More often than not, your interactions will leave you questioning whether or not the end should justify the means. The more you learn about Johnny, the more you’ll question the morality of his actions. That, in turn, makes you question the advice he provides to you along the way. At one, non-specific point I even had a moment where I wondered if I was being faced with a Bioshock, “would you kindly” type of relationship. It’s certainly compelling and I had a desire for Silverhand’s character to be much more front and centre than it was.
Despite minor hiccups, the overall narrative is engrossing and is delivered by the best voice acting in the history of video games — this is said with zero exaggeration. My complete playthrough was with a feminine V who was believable every single step of the way thanks to some top quality work from Cherami Leigh. Moreover, the supporting cast all deliver exceptional performances which set a whole new bar for what we’ll come to expect out of voice acting in games. It’s thanks to this that I found myself often struggling with dialogue options and game choices as I was constantly terrified that a decision I would make was going to have a negative impact on these amazing characters; it’s utterly engrossing. I sadly can’t say the same for V’s male voice actor, Gavin Drea, though this is less about his performance and more about his direction. Drea’s V comes across as a cocky, entitled turd whereas Leigh’s V is a tough and determined character who establishes respect and empathy early on. I would strongly suggest you stick to a feminine V for the best experience.
As for Keanu? He’s just Keanu: often monotone and sometimes a little vanilla, as he is in almost all of his roles. He actually doesn’t feel well-suited for the role of a long forgotten rock star. At the same time, his familiar face and his on-brand voice quickly establishes a connection between me the player, and Johnny Silverhand the arsehole.
Cyberpunk 2077 will either be much better on current-gen consoles when its proper upgrade is available… or, at the very least, when the game’s day one patch is.
Granted, I’m only a couple hours in — and ahead of release at that, and we are expecting that aforementioned day one patch — but Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox One (via Xbox Series X) isn’t nearly as spectacular as what Jay experienced on a high-end PC. Lighting and graphics are so-so (though mostly fluid), though it will occasionally just freeze for no real reason. Going into the Xbox Guide will usually snap it out of its stupour.
I’ve also, already, encountered some of the same bugs that Jay’s come across in his own playthrough. I’ve looked into a mirror to find my character naked, though I then back out of it to find he’s a Ken doll, devoid of a penis. Let me tell you: I unashamedly went for the XXLiest penis I could attach on V. That doesn’t matter though, because — weirdly — I looked down to find myself fully clothed when I regained control. Only two or so hours in, I’ve already found that my progress was blocked when a quest glitched out, removing a character I needed to speak with in order to complete it. In this case, thank heavens for the seven auto-saves the game kept in reserve.
While it’s early days — yet also, the game is about to become available at retail, so it needs to be assessed as-is — it’s clear to me that PC is the way to go in the short-term. As for the long-term? You’re maybe better off waiting for the current-gen upgrade to be released. While there’s nothing that will stop you from actually completing Cyberpunk 2077, I feel like playing on console in its current state is a bit of a compromise; like playing with all the sliders down to low.
– Steve Wright
The most important thing that everyone needs to know about Cyberpunk 2077 is that while it’s imperfect, it is without a doubt a superb game. You’ll connect with V, worry about which way the story will go and stress over the aspects of it that you can control because you’ll want only the best outcome for them. You’ll raise your eyebrows at the graphical bugs showing up in a game eight years in the making (and thrice delayed) and then quickly forget them all as you bask in the beauty of Night City; the greatest video game world ever built. You’ll feel firstly overwhelmed by the number of upgrades to consider, and then underwhelmed by their lack of necessity as you hurtle towards its end game. Enjoy the ride, a satisfying one without question.
Cyberpunk 2077 was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox Series X and a promotional code and high-end, RTX 3080-enabled PC, all as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.