Now, I’m not Joseph Anderson, so I can’t really give you a rather in-depth rip into the game. In fact, I personally don’t really loathe games I play. I am the type of person who will spend his money wisely, so I would never pay for anything I don’t think I’ll enjoy.
Still, with everyone shitting on Cyberpunk 2077, I think I should join in after sinking 90+ hours into the game.
I will try to keep this as spoiler-free as I can, but you need to keep in mind that a review of this games means digging into the contents. Therefore, this is not 100% spoiler-free. If you haven’t played the game and care about being spoiled, do not read this.
How I Got to Play the Game
From what I understand, Cyberpunk 2077 is the most anticipated game of 2020. It has been delayed three times and, in that time, CD Projekt RED has seemed to promise a lot. It garnered over eight million pre-orders.
Though, we all know how well that panned out.
I somehow managed to avoid any and all mentions of the game. I wasn’t in the hype-train, I didn’t know a single thing about the story, and I wasn’t even aware that it was due to release three times over. The most I’ve seen that was related to the game was the “You’re Breathtaking” meme and a glimpse of the teaser where Johnny Silverhand takes off his sunglasses to look down at the camera.
The first time I’ve ever seen the game properly advertised in front of me was on the front page of Steam, when it was finally released. I wasn’t interested at first. I didn’t find the modern setting and the shooting very appealing. I’m not the kind of gamer that likes using guns, you see. The only game that uses guns that I like to play is Left 4 Dead 2. Other than that, I’m not a big fan. There’s nothing wrong with games with guns, it’s just not my cup of tea. I much prefer medieval type games. I’m a melee guy. I can’t aim for shit.
Now, the only reason I changed my mind is when a friend of mine streamed himself playing it. I thought the story was quite interesting, and I can never turn down an opportunity to enjoy a good story. I also found out that the game was supposed to be an RPG and I quite like RPGs, so I got it.
From the conversations I’ve had with my friend, as well as watching his gameplay, I understood very quickly that the game was rushed to meet the final release date and is plagued with bugs. The final straw for my friend is when there is a fatal bug that crashes save files over 8MB.
I waited until the bug was fixed before I started the game. It wasn’t because I was patient and wanted to wait until CDPR ironed out most of the deadly bugs, I had other obligations that prevented me from spending my leisure time gaming. So, by the time I was free, CDPR had fixed the bug and I was free to play for however long I want.
Enjoying the Game (And All Its Bugs)
Cyberpunk 2077 is, at its core, a story-driven game. Even though it says it’s an RPG, it doesn’t really let you choose what your character is like other than the life they led before you are plunged into its main story. The backstory you can choose for your V is also very limited, with only three choices: a nomad, a streetkid, and a corporation employee. In the grand scheme of things, these three choices do not affect the story in any way. At most, you get different dialogue choices in certain conversations, an extra sex scene, or an extra car. It does not have the big impact that you wish it to be, there’s nothing major that is locked off for you.
I am not complaining. I hate missing out on things. In fact, I hated the fact that I messed up and missed the extra sex scene that comes with choosing a male V with a corpo background (the whole reason why I decided to choose the corpo backstory to begin with).
And even though the “branching narrative” isn’t as “branching” as CDPR has claimed it would be, there are still consequences to your choices. They may be small and won’t affect your overall experience, but they’re still there and you may feel the effects of it quite heavily if you choose to use that character for the remainder of your game. For example, Fingers sells some legendary cyberware that can be locked off for you if you chose to be violent with him.
Speaking of violence, CDPR had mentioned that the game would react differently if you are violent or not. That doesn’t really happen. Unlike Dishonored, you being lethal and non-lethal has no affect on the game and how the citizens of Night City would treat you. There may be a few different lines of dialogue that comment on your actions, but again, it doesn’t affect the story at all. You still progress and you still get rewarded. In fact, the game is coded in such a way that non-lethal takedowns can still be considered lethal. So, that turned out to be a useless gimmick and I habitually press “F” to do a lethal takedown even when I should have pressed “R.” In the one instance that I should have pressed “R” to do a non-lethal takedown, but instead pressed “F,” I was rewarded the same amount of eddies. The character I helped only commented that I wasn’t supposed to kill anyone, but ultimately decided that it was the better choice.
That might be considered nitpicking, but if the game offers you options to be lethal or non-lethal, I would expect it to play a part to the story. I understand that making a game is hard, especially for an open world, so I don’t hold this against CDPR.
The thing that I do quite enjoy about Cyberpunk 2077 and what CDPR got right, are the female characters. Man, I would die for Judy and Panam. It is clear that they put a lot of care and attention into them. On the surface level, their models aren’t oversexualized and they’re dressed appropriately. They don’t have unrealistic body standards. On a deeper level, they are complex characters that ain’t need no man (one of them quite literally). I really feel as though they are real people and I appreciate the friendship (and romantic relationship) that V can build with them. It breaks my heart to see alternate ending messages for these two characters that result in V neglecting to build a relationship with them, or as a direct reaction to V’s drastic measures.
Judy is someone you want to see thrive, and Panam is your ride or die. It’s like gaining a new family (literally) with them. They are the highlight of my game and I get excited when they call or text me.
Oh! And you can call them any time. They will have additional dialogue that you might have missed if you don’t also visit them in person. If you romance or finish their quests, you can also receive additional text messages which really bring these characters to life.
Another part of the game that I really, really enjoy are (funnily enough) the bugs. As a player and lover of Bethesda games, I am no stranger to bugs and glitches. Since I played a little later than most people, as CDPR have already released two hotfixes and an official patch by the time I booted the game up, I was lucky enough to not have encountered any bugs that softlocked my game. My gaming experience wasn’t impacted by the glitches that I have encountered, either. The only time where I was forced to hard-restart the game was when I tab out without pressing “esc” first, so I’m not sure if that is an issue with Steam of the game itself. The other two times I fixed immediately by saving and then reloading that save. These issues are child’s play compared to the glitches and bugs that I’ve faced when playing Bethesda’s beloved The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Busting out the console to force the quest to advance to the next level is not very immersive. Just open the damn door, Esbern.
I suppose, now that we are on the topic of comparing this game to Skyrim, Cyberpunk 2077 actually feels like a challenge at low levels. The combat system might not be the best, but it’s way better than Skyrim. There are times where I’ve felt helpless (and die) in a fight because I didn’t prepare enough, while in Skyrim, you can just pause the game, gorge yourself on cheese wheels, and then continue like nothing happened.
The utter fear I feel when I try to sneak behind people that turn around just when I’m about to strangle them makes me more cautious, while I can just sneak in front of someone in Skyrim because the stealth system is completely broken. While it is funny when you can be standing right in front of an enemy with them looking directly at you but still not detecting you, it really does make me wish something was different. Luckily enough, Cyberpunk 2077 is that something different. Well, there’s much to improve on when it comes to enemies detecting you, but I think it’ll take out all elements of fun if they instantly realize you’re there after catching a glimpse of you. Even Hitman, the ultimate “stealth” game, has a countdown timer on when enemies properly realize you’re there.
There are other bugs and glitches in the game that simultaneously break and not break the game for you. I’m talking about money hacks, duplication glitches, XP farms, and other bugs. You can level up your athletics ability to max while you’re AFK, you can farm your XP in a matter of hours by running a loop and getting enemies to respawn immediately. You can sell and buy back a painting with a $3995 profit each time. You can duplicate that painting to drain the drop point of all its money immediately, racking up millions of eddies so you don’t have to worry about grinding radiant assault quests just so you can buy all these cars that you’re not going to drive. These might take away the fun of playing the game, maybe CDPR wants you to grind, but hey, I’m going to take the lazy way out and you can’t stop me (until CDPR patches these bugs out).
Missed the iconic weapons Satori and Kongou during The Heist? That’s fine. Glitch your way into the locked Konpeki Plaza by parking your car by the gate and then exiting! Gate didn’t open when you phased through it? That’s fine. Once you’re at the AV landing pad, climb up on the fence, run, then slide off the building to avoid taking any fall damage and let gravity do its job.
Did you know?
There’s a glitch where Johnny Silverhand’s silver hand turns into an item in your inventory after the quest Tapeworm and you can equip it afterwards. It’s only a hologram and I believe it’s an item that automatically equips onto your character when you let Johnny take control of your body.
I doubt the game will be half as fun (for me) without any of these glitches. I would be slaving away, looting everything I can to earn money. I would lament the idiotic decisions I’ve made during early game, making me miss out on certain things later on and only realizing when it’s too late.
So, yeah, we can call some of these a Bethesda’s Bug and hope they stay in for no other reason than it’s just a bit of fun. And, hey, another bonus for me is that Cyberpunk 2077 is very pretty to look at.
You can’t deny CDPR has paid some level of attention to detail. If you go to the graveyard, you can find the graves of characters that have passed away. It’s quite bittersweet, but at least that is consistent to the lore of the universe.
Where It Went Wrong
Fundamentally, a lot of issues with Cyberpunk 2077 can be chalked up to CDPR trying to rush and meet the release date so they don’t disappoint fans again. These can be forgiven, if only they didn’t claim that the game was ready when they released it. I understand the frustration that other people, especially those who have pre-ordered, must have felt when they first booted up the game.
A lot of these issues, from my limited understanding of video games and how they are made, are engine issues. This means, no matter how many hotfixes or patches they release, these issues would not be solved. Unless, of course, they do a complete rewrite of the game.
One of these issues that irk me the most is the car AI. Cars in Cyberpunk 2077 are drones, the people inside only spawn when you get close. Something went wrong with their path finding and now they (and some NPCs) seem to not realize there are obstacles in front of them, or beside them, and they drive (or walk) straight through those concrete blocks or walls. The icing on the cake is when you try to park your car as close to the pavement as possible, because you’re an outstanding citizen and you don’t want to inconvenience this fake traffic, but because a tire or a side-view mirror is two millimeters too close to the road, other cars just can’t drive past. Now, you have a long line of traffic in one line because they can’t change lanes, or learn how to swerve to avoid your vehicle.
Despite Cyberpunk 2077 being an open world game that encourages exploration, they seem to be unable to anticipate the spontaneous actions of most players. I understand that Konpeki Plaza is supposed to be locked off after The Heist and you aren’t supposed to go back in, but I feel like CDPR should have taken into account people’s desire to backtrack and explore.
This is painfully evident when you go back inside and all the enemies you have defeated during The Heist are still there, some of them still alive and in pain. It seems unrealistic, in universe, for the corporation to not clean the place up. It’s effectively abandoned and any survivors are left to bleed out and die (which doesn’t actually happen because the game doesn’t have that feature).
When you get back into the penthouse, you can see they didn’t even bother to write a script to despawn Saburo’s body. That is equal parts funny and frustrating, as if you look at this in terms of in-universe behavior, that means Arasaka (the corporation) decided to just leave the dead body of their ex-CEO to rot on the floor of his spoilt youngest son’s penthouse.
This, coupled with the T-posing iguana, makes it pretty obvious that CDPR didn’t want you to come back here. Oh, well, at least now I have Satori and Kongou.
Backtracking to defeated enemies, I quite dislike the fact that enemies you take down non-lethally and fail to hide don’t ever get back up, even if their comrades find them. They just stay down forever, so they may as well be dead. I feel like there could be an added challenge where if you leave a trail of unconscious bodies behind you, they can get back up after a while and hunt for you again if you don’t properly hide them.
Another issue I take is the lack of care CDPR put into the male love interests. It’s an insult to people who want to romance them. If you’re gay, you get an old man that has to be at least 70-years-old. If you’re straight, you get a discount Markus from Detroit: Become Human whose only defining quest is saving his nephew because he’s got too much justice for NCPD to keep him. Their quests are (or feel) much shorter than the female love interests’ quests, and I could not feel the affection growing at all. With Judy and Panam, I could feel the friendship/relationship manifesting and then solidifying. With River and Kerry, it’s like, “Hey, you did this one thing for me. Thanks. Want to fuck?”
It seems like CDPR bit off way more than they could chew with Cyberpunk 2077. As an open world game, the world feels empty and lifeless. NPCs wander around with no purpose and they don’t even interact with the world around them. Some of them stand still, others walk in a loop. They don’t react if you honk at them, so you’re forced to run them over and get the cops called on you. Hell, even the world of Skyrim feels more populated than Night City. At least the NPCs in Skyrim sit down and eat once and a while. The nonsense conversations the NPCs in Oblivion has also makes the place feel more alive than the occasional bits of conversation you get to hear in Night City, since those bits of conversations are all you can get. They repeat constantly, too, and never progress or amount to anything.
You really have to meet the game more than halfway to remain immersed and it is very frustrating when something stupid like this pulls you out.
I have a love-hate relationship with Johnny.
On one hand, he is a great character that many players of the tabletop game (I didn’t know that Cyberpunk is a tabletop game first!) surely remember. On the other hand, Keanu Reeves cannot voice act. I don’t hate the guy, but his voice doesn’t really change. He’s monotone and it is so hard to gauge his emotions if he isn’t outright saying it.
I feel like the relationship you build with Johnny is forced and unrealistic. He changes his mind so damn quickly that it is very obvious that the plot demands it. V’s voice acting does most of the heavy lifting when Johnny tries to convince you he’s on your side. Since he’s such a big part of the game, dogging your ever steps and appearing whenever he feels like, I think this is very disappointing. Still, his growth is very impactful toward the end of the game, when you realize that he has changed to become more self-aware and way less self-absorbed.
Hey, you can also become friends with Keanu Reeves and ride the roller-coaster with him, so I count this as an absolute win.
Did you know?
You can find the girl depicted in the 2013 teaser of Cyberpunk 2077 in the clothes store Jinguji, located in Downtown, Night City. After trading with Zane, leave the area and check the map. The store icon changes to an exclamation mark and is now an undiscovered event. Go back to Jinguji and Zane will chat with you. You then enter a trade window. Simply exit out the window and a cyberpsycho will spawn. The quest, Bullets, will start and you will have to defeat the cyberpsycho. MaxTac will arrive, with senior lieutenant Melissa Rory leading the team. Melissa Rory is the cyberpsycho depicted in the 2013 teaser.
There’s A Hole in My Heart
CDPR missed a lot of opportunities in this game. This sounds like nitpicking but I always wish there are more romance options. Four, plus three joytoys and one corpo-locked fling, is not enough. I understand CDPR’s decision to make these characters stand firm in their sexuality and it does feel unrealistic if they’re all bisexual, but c’mon, there are no other options!
For example, why isn’t Blue Moon one of the possible romance options? It would be so interesting to see what dating an idol would be like–well, other than Kerry. (Again, he’s an old man.)
You can only expect so much from an unfinished game that is forced to be published before it’s ready. CDPR had millions of people breathing down their necks demanding the release of the game, so I understand how pressured they must have felt. The studio is also very small, even if they did expand their team by the hundreds compared to their other successful title, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It must have been very hard for everyone trying to crank this game out so they don’t disappoint anticipating fans for the fourth time.
While I don’t blame CDPR for most of the bugs and issues, I do blame them for hyping up their game and not coming clean. They did, on numerous occasions, claimed they would never release something that’s not ready, but they did do that in the end. I understand that PR is very important and it wouldn’t do good for their brand and stock for them to delay the release another time, but I wish they would just be straight and admit that a lot of features and promises were not added in due to time. Their honesty might have saved them from losing shareholders.
Still, I’m not a game designer, or a public relations manager, or the head of customer service, or an employee of CDPR, so I have no understanding of how everything works. I’m sure they had their reasons, but whatever it is, it surely didn’t help them.
As a person who walked into this game blind and had no expectations beyond the basic, “I expect this game to be an open world RPG,” I tolerate it. It’s a fun game, very nice to look at, worth investing hours with certain in-game characters, and super interesting to mess with the combat to see how much damage you can do in one hit. The soundtrack is great, Keanu Reeves is there, and you can simp for Panam and Judy.
So, overall, if you’re a fan of Bethesda games, you should give this game a go. The bugs and glitches should definitely remind you of something familiar (Fallout 76).