by Nathan Rowland
reviewed on PC
I myself, like many others, upgraded my entire PC rig ahead of the release of Cyberpunk 2077, believing it to be the herald towards a newer generation of gaming where photo-realistic, hyper dynamic worlds were seamlessly interposed with fresh sci-fi fantasy aesthetics. I knew that was a bit of a long shot to begin with and tentatively naive, but did the release version at least hold a glimmer of that promise, a validation for my investment? No, not really. It was very, very pretty, don’t get me wrong. But too many faults stood in the way of that seamless experience, one which could transport and enthrall a part of me and suspend my disbelief. Namely, the truly endless list of bugs and glitches, but I’ll return to that.
What Cyberpunk absolutely excels at is its story, motivated by character driven narratives whereby strong performance captures hold together the messy construction that make up its overall structure. The surly Panam, rash and intelligent Judy, loyal and starry-eyed Jackie and most of all, rocker-boy Johnny Silverhand. The performance and direction afforded to Silverhand’s character was by far my most under anticipated and over-performing part of the game. In hindsight now, why should I have ever doubted it? Reeve’s choice seems like such a recipe for success. An airhead rock-icon (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) combined with a skeptical neo-terrorist trapped inside a simulation of real-life (The Matrix) - this character was written for Reeves! He brings emotion and depth to a narrative that would almost fall flat without him, providing a distinctly profound counterpart to V, the protagonist’s own opinions, and by extension challenges the player-character’s thoughts and feelings towards the mega-corpo owned, Night City.
The glossy, neon-infested tower blocks that make up a dominating part of the west coat horizon in the year 2077. By this time in the 21st century, businesses have become the dominant powers in capitalistic despotism. CEO’s amount to world leaders, civilians are armed to fight and die in ‘corpo wars’ and money speaks the loudest in a world stripped of morals & law-abiding citizens. Choosing from one of the three lifestyles from the outset: Corpo, Street Kid or Nomad - the player will have a brief (20 minutes of so) introduction into the world, only slightly so different from the others before they’ve reached the same path to walk down. This beginning fell a bit short for me. Having picked the Corpo opening, I expected an entire lifestyle crafted towards corporate espionage, business meetings mixed with skullduggery and going on a killing spree like a cyber-infused Patrick Bateman. The reality is, no matter your opening, you are forced down the path of becoming a mercenary, gun-for-hire within the first hour no matter your choices. Most of the game will follow suit with shallow choices towards the overall game’s direction, save for the absolute final mission where you can decide V’s and Johnny’s ultimate fate in Night City.
To touch on the game’s minute to minute gameplay: combat is pleasing, to a generic degree, and serves the same amount of serviceability as combat often did in The Witcher 3, allowing you to unwind and engage a bit more actively between narrative-heavy sections, but nothing to be relied upon to carry the experience forward. Melee combat however is not worth investing in at the time of writing, as the variation between attacks is laughably tiny and does not present any stimulating gameplay in the moment to moment action. Another noticeable foible is that the in-built map, soon littered with quest markers and waypoints all screaming for your intention, does not distinguish between the extremely engaging, thoughtfully written sidequests with story-driven narratives against the fillers: escort-missions, taxi-driving, waste-of-time quests that seem to plague every open-world game of yesteryear.
Falling on your sword
It is worth considering the video recently released by CD Projekt Red on the 13th January titled ‘Our Commitment to Quality’ and the roadmap they unveiled directed towards restoring Cyberpunk’s glaring faults and its diminished reputation in the months ahead. Goodwill or not, it is good to see the developers address the conversation which has enveloped the game’s discussion since release. For this reason, to me, Cyberpunk 2077 has come to represent a piece of the game development landscape that became noticeable and ever growing in this last decade. This being the degree to which games are delivered in increasingly unfinished conditions when ‘completion’ can be fulfilled in day one patches and so on. Release dates and “going gold” no longer carry the same weight that they once did when mechanisms exist for developers to re-write their wrongs. I’ve certainly had my share of fun and amazement soaking up what bits of Night City’s world that I could in my 80 hour playthrough, but nevertheless with a bad taste in the mouth when so many glitches and inconsistencies pulled me out of its overall experience.
But this goes beyond what I’m trying to say here and now, in this review, which is what? Is Cyberpunk 2077 worth buying today? Probably Not. Will it ever be? Only time will tell.
Night City looks gorgeous, character performances are superb
Combat is lacklustre, glitches and faults are abound, open-world tack remains