It’s no secret that Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most anticipated games of all time. CD Projekt Red is a developer known for their quality and their latest release is following the once in a generation masterpiece that is The Witcher 3. Did Cyberpunk 2077 live up to the hype?
Depends on who you ask and what you’re looking for.
Is Cyberpunk 2077 this groundbreaking, immersive, and genre-defining title that redefines open-world gaming? No. Is it an exceptional RPG that sets a new standard for how the genre should be viewed? No. Does it work at least? Sometimes. Is it worth playing? Yes, but it has so many things it needs to fix before it can be truly recommended because what is there right now will depend on your tolerance.
This game as a whole is a buggy, unoptimized, and unpolished mess that would make even make the most hardcore fan ponder how CDPR could release a title in this state. We aren’t just talking about the occasional visual glitches or bugs which are commonplace in open-world gaming, we are talking about how the game crashes on console regularly, how on every platform there are instances of main quests and side quests being impeded because an NPC or an enemy won’t spawn or how you’ll receive phone calls during missions that may prevent you from selecting key dialogue choices. That shit is frustrating.
These issues are happening so regularly that they feel like a feature and depending on how far you’ve gotten in the narrative, you might actually believe its true because it perfectly aligns with what happens in-game. Now, you’re probably expecting me to pivot and say that underneath it all, this game is great. But after putting in thirty plus hours, I can say the game is really good, but every system outside of the shooting mechanics are just okay because they come off as fairly shallow.
Let’s get the awful out of the way shall we? Driving is…not great, vehicles are floaty, can’t turn for shit, and there is ZERO customization, which is super disappointing because the visual designs are fantastic. Unfortunately, they all function the same with maybe the exception of one vehicle, but regardless driving as a whole is rough because the mini-map is so zoomed in it makes navigation feel like a chore. There are occasions where you’ll unexpectedly have to make a turn and to make it you’ll end up drifting unto that turn, which may or may not result in you killing four or five civilians and cause unknown amounts of property damage to the city.
Where it gets somewhat shallow is the RPG elements, most notably the skill trees. None of the skill trees grant you abilities, the points you put in are for passive bonuses and depending on how you conduct yourself, you’ll level up that particularly skill which will grant more bonuses which can then help boost your overall effectiveness in combat. When it comes to active abilities that is where Cyberware comes into play.
Cyberware, on the other hand, can have a huge impact on how you play. These are physical augmentations that will grant you new abilities that can make navigation easier, assist you in combat, and further buff skills to assist you when you don’t have enough points. The only issue that I can think of with Cyberware as a whole is that the launcher augmentation is broken. Seriously, once you get the launcher and the tranquilizer, almost every encounter becomes trivial no matter how under-leveled you are, just fire and forget because once it connects that enemy is out for the count.
Now you wouldn’t think looting would be play such a big part in Cyberpunk 2077, but you’d be wrong. Looting is a prevalent system in this game and holy shit, is there a lot of loot. This can be overwhelming because every enemy drops loot and environments are filled to the brim, so there will always be shinies for you to grab and sort through. Its underwhelming because when it comes to gear that is looted, it’s all about DPS and nothing else.
While gear can be upgraded through crafting, its actually easier to just progress naturally and find better gear. You practically can’t get attached to anything because there is always something better regardless of the rarity. Even with crafting, you might not find the components required to create an item and sometimes that crafted item won’t be better than gear you found off a downed enemy, which practically negates the need to craft at all and this kind of sucks, because why have this feature when looting is far easier?
When it comes to combat, this is where the game shines. Shooting is king, melee is average, and stealth can be laughable. Shooting in Cyberpunk feels great, weapons all handle well and each have impact and can knock down or stun enemies. Melee depends on what you’re using, mantis blades and blades in general, are really fun to use and come with a number stylish flourishes. Hand to hand combat is janky, looks awkward, and overall lacks impact. I honestly don’t know what you could do to fix it, but I tried to steer clear from it because it doesn’t feel great at any point and time.
Stealth is a mixed bag and this will disappoint fans of Deus Ex. While it is fun to disrupt enemies and the environment, the AI is hit or miss when it comes to detection. Sometimes they’re super sleuths and will out you immediately, other times you’re stumbling all over the place, knocking shit down as you go and they could care less. There are sections of the game in which stealth is “required” but there is no penalty if you get caught. You just have to eliminate everyone and with the shooting being so good, you’ll never mind that “alternative”.
When it comes to Night City, it is downright impressive what CDPR has created. You will find yourself getting lost and distracted by the sheer size, density, and verticality of this environment. It is insane and a sight to behold. With that being said, the citizens of Night City are rather lifeless and outside of quest-giving NPC’s offer nothing to the overall experience. They just kinda pop-in and pop-out at a whim, even the NCPD does that when you commit a crime, and this is disappointing because it feels like a missed opportunity for a level of immersion not seen in an open-world title.
When it comes to the writing, CDPR mostly nails it. The main campaign is strong and the side quests found throughout that act as a means to flesh out key characters are deeply engaging and times incredibly emotional. Dialogue can be hit or miss, sometimes being too edgy and melodramatic for its own good, but it does add personality to the characters you interact with. Its just unfortunate that some characters are only there to provide quests, because these individuals can come off as fascinating as those involved in the main narrative.
Overall, the magic of Cyberpunk 2077 is that even with all of the issues, there is a captivating title that will immediately dig its hooks into you if given the chance. Its not groundbreaking like it was hyped up to be, in fact its kind of shallow with a smoke and mirrors vibe, but this is a title that has a lot going for it, you just have sift through a bunch of shit to get there. As it stands right now, this a AAA early access title and CDPR should be held accountable for its current release state.
Transparency matters and CDPR was not at all honest during its marketing campaign. Forget the promises and the build-up, every developer does this and it usually ends up biting them in the ass because a feature is missing or its not visually up to par with what was shown in preview builds. This is about deceptive marketing, withholding key information about performance issues, and then saying fuck it and releasing an unfinished product knowing that it will take months to correct. That’s fucked up regardless of who the developer is and CDPR should be admonished because if it was EA or Bethesda, they would never hear the end of it.
Eventually, Cyberpunk 2077 will be a title worth recommending. But as of this writing, it depends on your own tolerance because the current state may leave you underwhelmed, which is a shame given that the main campaign and its side quests are worth experiencing. Night City is one of the best open-world environments in gaming, but just like the city itself, the game is currently a mess and in dire need of correcting.