SCORE
7.5/10
PUBLISHED
CATEGORY
READING TIME

6 minutes

Summary

  • It’s decent/good on PC, and could reach “pretty good” status in the future depending on DLC and bugfixes
  • Good: there’s a ton of quality content, complete freedom in how you build your character, and generally fulfulling side quests
  • Bad: it’s buggy. You’ll find spelling mistakes, random freezes, and whacked out unfinishable quests. Enemies are mostly brain-dead
  • Sad: braindances were initially hyped up and are a great concept, but are rarely used and the actual gameplay behind them is incredibly bland
  • Call it Grand Theft Auto 2077

Let’s get this out of the way first: I’m playing on a PC – albeit a very underpowered one with an i5-4590 processor despite having an RTX 2060 Super video card – so I can’t comment on the console experience.

All in all, I enjoyed my experience rampaging through Night City despite numerous bugs. Cyberpunk 2077 kind of, sort of scratched the itch that used to be reserved for games like Deus Ex [RIP] and Fallout: New Vegas. But in a lot of ways, it’s more similar to Grand Theft Auto 5 than anything else.

I clocked over 200 hours into Cyberpunk and completed the main quest, all side jobs, and gigs minus the Epistrophy questline which I could not get working in any way despite trying various workarounds.


There’s plenty of debate to be had about Cyberpunk 2077’s level of immersion and the overall quality of the open-world experience, but it’s hard to question the sheer amount of content in the game. Yet there’s a definite trade-off involved here: while you’ve got a ton of optional activities to keep you occupied in the open-world, the main storyline is way shorter than the one in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, at maybe 30-50 hours (rough estimate). It’s the amusement park ride that ends too soon.

And for all the hoopla with the ability to pick your character’s lifepath, you’d think they would play a larger role in the story. It turns out that they matter for all of about ten minutes of backstory before you get unceremoniously dropped into your new life as a mercenary. After that, the paths are only good for extra dialogue options and an incredibly minor quest. 

Still, Cyberpunk’s story ends up being an enjoyable one filled with (bugs, but also) a well-rounded cast of memorable characters that sees you sneaking or blasting your way through the districts of Night City. Keanu Reeves hamming it up as the legendary rocker Johnny Silverhand needs to be mentioned here as one of the best (but occasionally worst) things in the game. 

While you can rush through Cyberpunk’s story, you’ll end up missing a huge chunk of the game, like side jobs. These are the shorter, smaller-scale nitty-gritty stories that add quite a bit of local flavor: stuff like boxing (more on this later), street racing, character questlines (each major character generally has a series of quests) and other wacky (sometimes downright disturbing) stuff you happen to come across.

Then there are gigs, which are side-side jobs that you can run into by either exploring the open-world (hah!) or going to the yellow “?” areas on the map. These are parceled out to you by fixers [the middlemen or middlewomen that control a district] and usually involve assassinations, stealing/planting stuff, or rescuing NPCs. Standard filler.

skill tree

One of Cyberpunk’s many skill trees

There’s a lot of freedom in how you want to build your character, with skill trees for every major player archetype. There’s a tree for rifles, a tree for pistols, a tree for melee fighters, etc. 

I typically play stealthy sniper-types in shooters, and initially approached Cyberpunk the same way – unfortunately, snipers are what you’d call “complete garbo” since most sniper rifles can’t be silenced and do pathetic damage considering their fire rate and reload time. And toggling the scope lagged my PC. So, early on, I swapped the rifle for a silenced revolver and proceeded to wreak havoc on enemies. It worked well, maybe a little too well.

Once I got myself a decent Cyberdeck [think of it like a spellbook for netrunners, where you can equip various quickhacks aka spells], combat became a huge joke. No more was I some lowly gun-for-hire gonk named V, no- I was now V, Master Hacker Cracker Extraordinaire. I literally marked enemies and browsed Reddit on my laptop while they burned to a crisp (“non-lethal”).

This is because quickhacks have insane range and deal damage based on your level, and also don’t trigger combat (kind of stupid). There are some utility hacks that might have been helpful in a game with smarter enemies (like being able to jam an opponent’s weapon or making them move to a specific spot), but when you’ve got stuff like Short Circuit and Overheat that can down an enemy in one rotation from long-range stealth, why bother using anything else? It’s like playing a stealth archer in Skyrim except you don’t even need to aim, just mouse over a bad guy and pick an option from a menu.

I also found it interesting that there was no real way for enemies to deal with quickhacks, and how few enemy netrunners are actually in the game despite it being the most overpowered form of combat in Night City. QC fails again.

And this brings me to one of the sadder parts of the Cyberpunk experience, watching the enemy AI (and I use that term loosely) do the same crap over and over again: find a body, say something idiotic, then walk around randomly. Rinse and repeat. I’d hoped that by now, enemies could be at least show a bare minimum of fake intelligence and not just go around being controlled by if-then statements.

I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that you can customize your character’s appearance down to their pubic hair and other “interesting” bits. Interestingly enough, you can mix and match body types with different voices and types of genitalia. I’m not joking.


No problem. Just rush hour.

And now we come to the meat and potatoes of Cyberpunk 2077. The story The bugs.

It really goes without saying that the game clearly needed another couple of weeks/months of QC.

You’ve seen the memes, the GIFs, the videos. The game is goddamn buggy. Yeah, the last Witcher was buggy but there’s clearly a lot of QC that didn’t happen here. Given the game’s multiple delays, it seems like CD Projekt Red management eventually just put their foot down and set a hard deadline to get the game out, quality control be damned.

There’s one bug in particular that stands out to me as a good analogy of Cyberpunk’s quality control woes. In the Beat on the Brat series of quests, you’re trying to become the best underground boxer in Night City. So you grind your way through a series of fights and eventually get to the finals, where you face off against some mega tough guy. The fight is super hard even if you’re a specced-out brawler. Okay, fine. But! You can drop a blunt weapon in the ring beforehand, grab it when the fight starts and then beat the guy up with it (still took me at least 10 tries with an electric baton). And no one says a thing. It’s one of those stupid things that shouldn’t work and/or should’ve been fixed ASAP. That this bug is still around after 5 patches is more or less the story of Cyberpunk 2077.

Aside from that, I had issues with quests (being unable to complete the Episotrophy quest line, first from the quest-giver calling me and then not saying anything, and then nothing happening when I got to the specified areas), physics (who knew landing on garbage bags could cause a huge explosion?), enemy AI (bad guys freezing up in the middle of combat, and not because I hit them with a god-tier System Reset), and a general lack of polish (spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, missing text).

It really goes without saying that the game clearly needed another couple of weeks/months of QC.

There’s one other thing that I have mixed feelings about, and that’s the open world. In games like Fallout 3 and The Witcher, I’d be content going around and finding some random creepy place like Andale. But you don’t really do that in Cyberpunk 2077 partly because the world is huge-ish and partly because the interesting things are already marked on your map. There’s a city to explore but it’s superficial – you can’t enter most buildings, and the ones you can are usually empty.

This isn’t some criticism on how Cyberpunk should hide stuff on the map so you can discover new things. I don’t have a problem with the markers – it’s more that there’s no reward for exploration, and eventually the game becomes a paint-by-numbers, go-here-and-do-that shooter.


WHATEVER

In the end, Cyberpunk 2077 is a decent-to-good entry in the genre that falls short due to some questionable QC. Its one saving grace is that the game’s foundations are solid; bugs can be fixed, new areas and stories can be slotted in. The tech is there. CD Projekt Red released their roadmap recently that detailed a timeline of free DLC and other goodies, and these are a great start.

I see some parallels to be made here with No Man’s Sky, a game that promised the moon and couldn’t even deliver a fart in the wind. But with a year or two of TLC, it lived up to its lofty promises and now probably deserves all of its success. Given CD Projekt Red’s track record, I’m cautiously optimistic that Cyberpunk 2077 can do the same.

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