Riding on the back of nearly a decade of development and hype, Cyberpunk 2077 has finally landed at our feet like a Christmas present, for better or for worse. A massive world and intricately designed cityscape show the scope of CD Projekt Red’s vision, a grand world filled to the brim with content that is tailor made for each individual playthrough. While there is a level of player agency present in the game, a lot of it boils down to very binary choices, and at times the end result isn’t even different. While Cyberpunk 2077 was a massive undertaking and it is a miracle release, the experience is fully dependent on whether you can even get the game running or not.
While there is much to be said about the other aspects of Cyberpunk 2077, one of the major praises it warrants is in the graphics. Night City is nothing short of marvelous, even in the run down early game areas. Cyberpunk 2077 does an amazing job of having a wide variety of environments while still maintaining the overall themes of Night City. There are areas that feel gritty, vibrant, desolate or some combination of the aforementioned. While these areas cover pretty large chunks of the map, once you move past them there’s an instant change-up, leading to a pleasant “wow” factor when exploring. This wow factor allows for a very easy transition into sidequests, as exploration feels like you’re getting a lot done in the early parts of the game. Exploration and random events are sometimes rewarded by a bit of gear or some dialogue if you’re not explicitly going for a side-gig, but outside of that they can get repetitive. Side-gigs for the most part make the most of Night City, having you traverse new environments and buildings you normally wouldn’t have explored, and many side-gigs have entire storylines attached. This fleshing out of not only the environments, but the characters, plays a lot into the world and development of Night City and its residents.
The fleshing out is not only presented in these side-gigs, but the performances of the cast really sell the emotion of characters in Cyberpunk 2077. It is pretty well known that the scripts for this game were absurdly long, but characters like V and Johnny Silverhand were pulled off with aplomb. Keanu Reeves does an amazing job with making Johnny Silverhand a complex character, which is essentially making him look like a jerk for most of the game. While Keanu’s performance is superb, there are tone deaf moments that come from some parts of the game feeling like they were written years apart. Depending on where you are in the story, it can feel like character regression for Johnny Silverhand when you enter a side-gig. There are moments in the main story with massive development where he begins to unravel and feel like a real character, and then you can enter a side gig and that’s all thrown out and he’s talking about his expletives again. That being said, his interactions with V are really where his character shines, and both actors seem to be very at home with the internal conversations they have. While it can take a dive at times, the performance for each main character is very solid, and there’s a lot of emotion to be shown even with side characters.
Cyberpunk 2077 set out not only to be a one off divergent path story like most other RPGs, but an immersive, interactive world that felt malleable to player choice. The result is, in the best case, mixed. While there are some side-gigs that allow you to have very different outcomes because of your choices, rarely do these feel like they have impacted something massive enough to take note of. These massive quests tend to be tied to the story, and mostly involve Johnny Silverhand. At the beginning of the game, you’re introduced to V and their lifepath; giving you a glimpse of the choices you’re able to make due to your selection. This segment is the one variation of the game that feels truthfully drastic, and can help in roleplaying into your choices down the road. The lifepath choice tends to be the largest change in dialogue options, which can open up different ways to complete or progress missions, should you choose it. That being said, the lifepath only really affects the dialogue options and opening segment of the game, and not necessarily much else. While it can help spice up subsequent playthroughs, this only holds true if you only ever choose the lifepath dialogue option, as other options for progressing missions are locked in. Some options are also tied to your skill points, but these oftentimes are more for vanity or for a combat advantage if the situation has already gone sour.
Combat and exploration in Cyberpunk 2077 are inherently linked, and this leads to one of the major issues with mid to late term gameplay. When creating a character, you can allocate different stat points in order to cater to a certain style of play, and seemingly there is a lot of variation to what you can do. Admittedly, there are fun playstyles and a lot to mess around with, but it all boils down to a plateau point. During my playthrough, I went for an Intelligence build to capitalize on Quickhacks in order to debilitate enemies for the upcoming shootouts. As I progressed through the skill tree, I realized that there was a point where combat altogether was invalidated. Once my intelligence stat was capped at 20, which is before player level 20, I was able to waltz through any combat situation unharmed by Quickhacking enemies with the strongest hacks, even on the hardest difficulty. There was no reason to arm myself with guns or gear, fights would just end before they began. This held true for a blade build as well, at reflex level 20 being able to super speed and one hit enemies before combat even begins. Variation in playstyle is still present, but the plateau comes very early, and any progression after the fact feels artificial.
Cyberpunk 2077, while we’ve been excited for it for a very long time, has a ton of flaws. While this is partly due to the massive scale of the game, a lot of these issues feel like they’re entirely due to rushing of a product that should have stayed in the oven a bit longer. Features like character editing are flat out not in the game, and there are an incredible amount of glitches that are so easy to replicate it’s surprising they’re still in. Even on my PC with a 3080 RTX card I’ve had issues with performance and textures loading in, and the game flat out barely works on consoles. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experience with Cyberpunk 2077, and trust CDProjeckt Red with fixing the problems presented through patches; but it’s hard to recommend someone to play the game in the state it is now. In a few more months, I feel like this can be a strong recommendation.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows 10 PC (Steam)