Cyberpunk 2077 review (One Year Later…)


I gave up on Cyberpunk 2077 shortly after release. I pre-ordered it, played it on day one, and it was unplayable on my hardware. The bugs were too much for me, making it pretty much unplayable. However, it’s a year since the initial launch and it’s now in a much better state than it was then. I redownloaded the game recently, and I haven’t been able to put it down since.

Much has been said about Cyberpunk 2077, and a lot has happened in the year since it came out. At first, reviewers weren’t allowed to show captured footage of the game, they were only permitted to use the b-roll that CD Projekt Red provided. We soon found out why… the game wasn’t in a good state on consoles (eventually leading to it being pulled from the PlayStation store, only to be reinstated months later). On lower-end PCs, it wasn’t much better, and you had to have an expensive, state-of-the-art rig to play.

It’s a shame the launch panned out the way it did because, under all the bugs and nonsense of the launch, there is a great game there waiting to be played. The main campaign is fairly shortcoming in at around the lower or mid 20 hours, but that’s not taking into account the numerous side quests. The side quests are so rich in storytelling, that any one of them could be a main campaign story mission. If you’ve sat on Cyberpunk 2077 for all this time, then many of the bugs have been patched out and numerous quality of life upgrades have been added. What we’re left with now is an enjoyable rollercoaster of an RPG, in a rich and vibrant world that is begging to be explored.

You play as V, a mercenary who lives in Night City. You can also start off at three points – a Street Kid, Corpo, or Nomad. I’m going to be describing the game from the perspective of the Street Kid, although I think over time I’d like to go back and play through as the other life choices, the game is that compelling. Early on your team up with friend Jackie Wells, and pull off a series of small-time jobs, before getting sucked into what they call ‘the big time’. Unfortunately, they witness the murder of the owner of one of the main corporations who dominate Night City when they are trying to steal a chip.

V has to stash the chip in his head to keep it safe, and the image of terrorist Johnny Silverhand (played by Keanu Reeves) is put in there with it. Johnny Silverhand’s image is programmed to take over a new host body, meaning V will be slowly deleted, so it’s a race against time to find a way to stop this from happening, all the while unraveling the mysteries of Night City.

The story in Cyberpunk 2077 is compelling, full of action, but also full of quieter moments packed full of character development. It takes a few hours to get past the introduction and to the point where you can venture out on your own, and pick your own path. There is a clear main story campaign, and you can b-line this and power your way through the game, but there are benefits to taking your time and getting to know the world around you. I think if you mainline the story you’ll get 2-3 options for the end of the game, but if you invest in meeting others and branching out, then this expands into five separate endings (including the secret one).

I was impressed with the dense nature of Night City. It’s one of the most immersive worlds I’ve played in, packed full of characters, people chatting, characters seemingly living their own lives. I walked out of my apartment at one point only to find the cops banging on the door of one of my neighbors, demanding he come out and let them know he was OK. I don’t know if he was a fellow cop, but the whole interaction seemed very natural. It felt deeper than most, if not all video game interactions I’d had before.

Cyberpunk 2077 is played from the first person, which is a big factor in terms of how immersive the game feels. When you are interacting with the weird and wonderful characters in the game you are doing so from your perspective, looking through Vs eyes. There’s many an occasion where you are wielding a gun, and the game moves into a first-person shooter. However, first and foremost this is an RPG, with elements of first-person shooting. The FPS features of the game aren’t quite good enough to be the central mechanic of the game. Don’t get me wrong, the shooting feels good, but it feels ‘off’ when compared to the masters of the FPS space like Destiny 2, Apex Legends, or the new kid on the block, Halo Infinite.

Structurally, Cyberpunk 2077 is pretty different from other RPGs. The main questline can be focused on, but before too long you can branch out into one of the many sidequests and get lost down a path. The sidequests are of such quality, it feels a little strange calling them sidequests. The game does a great job of distracting you with these quests too, given you have a phone and multiple quest givers are falling over themselves calling you constantly offering you work, as your reputation starts to grow in Night City. It’s well worth jumping into the side stories. The characters in Cyberpunk 2077 are rich, offer great complimentary stories, and will make your playthrough much more enjoyable. It’s a very ambitious approach to the game design, by offering you a dense sandbox full of different directions and paths to travel. Thematically everything is pulled together very well in the Cyberpunk overarching story and world, so side missions don’t ever feel out of place or tacked on.

At times the game can feel a little like Grand Theft Auto but from a first-person perspective. You’ll hop your car, drive around the city, come across some thugs trying to mug an unsuspecting passerby, only for you to go in there and finish off the gang with some well-timed shotgun shots. Beware local cops though, as they’ll come down on you fast with force. The scale of Night City is hard to comprehend until you get in there and explore. There’s the corporate playground with tall skyscrapers, there are slums and homeless, outskirt deserts, and green parks to discover. The verticality of the playspace is huge too, with Night City carved into many layers for you to discover above ground and underground also. It’s bright, neon, brash, full of advertisements, sex, and violence. It’s overwhelming, but often beautiful too.

It is easy to see why the game was in development for so many years and unfortunately came out a little hot. Looking past the action part of the game and peeling back the first-person shooter layer you have a complex and deep RPG full of choice. Action set-pieces are built up through quieter moments of conversation, where we’ll get to know characters through our preparation. Player choice is often spoken about in marketing for games, but here the player choice is front and center and has a massive impact on your playtime in Cyberpunk 2077 from speaking to NPCs, setting up V to go into battle, and choosing how you want to go into a fight. All guns blazing, stealthy hacker, sit back and snipe or use your charm.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a gaming experience that offers deep and meaningful interactions, complex storytelling, and genuinely thrilling set-piece action. The choices you make in the game early on will impact your playthrough later in the game. It may not be immediate, and sometimes maybe 20 hours after you’ve made that decision, however, know that your dialogue choices and your actions have consequences in the world of Night City and I’m here for it.

There isn’t your traditional class system in Cyberpunk 2077, instead, you invest points in different attributes to take V in the direction you want to take them. This includes Body, Intelligence, Reflexes, Technical, and Cool. Investing in these different systems unlocked vastly different playstyles, which you can respec at a cost at any time, so if you want to experiment then you can. Investing in Body means you can wield heavier weapons, Intelligence allows V to become a master of hacking, whereas Cool can prevent enemies from detecting you. The system is super flexible and promotes experimentation.

Combat is good fun. Even though it’s not a first-person shooter, it certainly has the guns to compete with the best of them. The guns have a weight to them, although controlling V in the battlefield doesn’t feel quite right, although I think that can be overlooked given the sheer scale of the game. The combat in the game is merely the starter, it’s the RPG and the interactions with other characters that make the game truly memorable.

I tried Cyberpunk 2077 when it first came out, and it didn’t perform well. I don’t have a state-of-the-art PC with the latest hardware, but I haven’t come across a game that broke as badly as Cyberpunk 2077. Characters were clipping through environments, textures were missing, and all these issues distracted me too much from the narrative. What makes the game special are these narrative moments and if you’ve constantly being distracted, then these moments aren’t going to hit you as they should. Now, 12 months later, with hopefully the worst behind them, CD Projekt Red has a fantastic RPG. Yes, mistakes were made, the game shouldn’t have launched on consoles in the state it did, and the game should have been in development until Summer 2021 and come out in the state that the game is now in with the 1.31 update.

We do have the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X versions hopefully coming in the first quarter of 2022. That would be a great way to play, if the game comes out as they intended. I have been playing on PC, where the game has been getting multiple patches over time, and Id say that’s the best place to play at the moment, until we have confirmation the console version works as intended. If CD Projekt Red can get the game right on consoles, this could be a big hit in 2022. I for one hope the game gets the credit its due, because under the horrible launch and mountain of bugs, a fantastic game is waiting to be discovered and played.

I am sure I’m like many people, either had a bad experience at launch, or head about the bugs and was put off Cyberpunk 2077. I can happily say the game plays much better now, allowing me to enjoy the wonderful and often thrilling story, the rich world and interact with the multiple meaningful characters. If you have been sitting on the fence, I’d say get off the fence, and check out Cyberpunk 2077, you definitely won’t regret it.

Developer: CD Projekt Red
Publisher: CD Projekt Red
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia and PC
Release date: 10 December 2020

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