Publisher: CD Projekt Red Studio
Developer: CD Projekt Red Studio
Release Date: 12/10/2020
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This is by far one of the most anticipated games in modern gaming history. I know I have been excited since its poorly chosen announcement date in 2012. Sadly, CDPR kind of dug its own grave from that date onward. The game is nothing like how it looked in its early concept videos and a lot of content is cut. Even if you look past all the bugs and launch woes, this is what’s going to stay long after the game has been patched up to a more playable state like it currently is as of this review.
However, if you look underneath all the hype, hate, and sometimes unfair controversy there’s a great game here. The story and the atmosphere are the main reason why I stayed. You play as V. A vigilante/mercenary for hire who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets involved in a corporate terror plot that changes his/her life forever. The entire story revolves around a device you end up acquiring on a job and this device is the key to immortality. This device also has Johnny Silverhands, played by Keanu Reeves, and one of the reasons why the game got so much hype, who is a digital construct that is trying to take over your mind. I don’t want to spoil too much of the main story, but my favorite parts of the game were the side missions with the other characters like Panam, Judy, and Claire. These missions really develop a relationship and strong personality and are one of the shining points in Cyberpunk.
One of the first problems sets in early is with character customization. Ignore all the sexist homophobes who were mad about being able to make your characters transgender. The anatomy is off, first off, and doesn’t look right, and what’s the point? You can only see the genitalia in the player menu, it’s censored in mirrors, and the “sex scenes” are awkward and pointless. One of the core gameplay elements of the game is Brain Dances which are virtual scenes that you can manipulate during missions, or basically a half-assed detective mode. Some Brain Dances are “sex scenes” but I just think these were added to add controversy. On top of all this, you can’t change your character’s looks after the initial start of the game…just why?
The way to get around the game and various missions can be a bit messy, but the open world of Night City is gorgeous and has a fantastic atmosphere. There’s the main city itself, the outskirts which are like a desert-type environment, there are suburbs, and various other locales to actually make it feel like Los Angeles. You can walk, run, hijack cars, and fast travel at certain points once you discover them. Missions are found via random encounters on the street, phone calls, texts, and other means. I never got around to finishing all of them as the ones revolving around the side characters are the most interesting and the rest get kind of repetitive. Driving the actual cars is not my favorite as before the 1.2 patch they were just broken. They look absolutely amazing and have some insanely cool designs, but sadly they just don’t drive very well.
With this being a CDPR game there are RPG elements involved. There’s a skill tree, cyberware implants, and stats on weapons and armor. It’s pretty detailed, especially with all the wearable armor parts on every part of your body, but it’s also one of the most flawed areas. The skill tree is nice with many paths you can take such as melee, various gun types, stealth, and so on, but I felt a lot of abilities were useless and I just got them to unlock an area I needed. Skill trees tend to be very useless in many games these days, and sadly they aren’t any better here. When it comes to weapons they are incredibly unbalanced with sniper rifles doing one-shot kills no matter where you hit the target early on in the game and at low levels. Then you will get a pistol that will barely do any damage at a much higher level even if you have the skills that boost pistols. It’s improved in patches but still remains a problem. The bottom line is Cyberpunk 2077 is incredibly easy. While stealth is fun and is a good option for most missions, blasting through the game isn’t that hard. I rarely ever died as health items are everywhere and so is ammo. While shooting is fun and satisfying and the weapons feel good, the game is just way too easy.
You can then visit Ripper Docs to install implants that add bonuses and unique weapons to your body, but in the end, I rarely ever visited these and never filled all my slots as what’s the point? The game is so easy I never really needed much. Just a shotgun, sniper rifle, and an assault rifle or sub-machine gun of some kind. You can add mods to these weapons like sights, silencers, and various others that modify the stats, but the combat is so unbalanced and easy there’s really no point. Stealth missions mostly rely on your stealth skill tree stats and you can also hack stuff, but I also found this rarely useful as the game is just so easy you don’t need these small advantages that would turn the tide of a battle like in say something like Deus Ex. If I got busted I could easily wipe everyone out with my one-shit kill sniper rifle and hold onto this gun through the entire game.
That brings me to the other side of Cyberpunk’s gameplay loop. After about 10 hours you will have seen everything the game can do, and you will know whether you want to complete every single side mission and gig call or just plow through the storyline and call it a day. While I love Night City, there’s nothing to do inside of it. Sure, there are various shops, you can visit, and you can look at dildos and sex toys inside of windows, but that’s it. There are no side activities like mini-games, no property you can purchase for player homes, nothing like that. I felt like this large gorgeous city was wasted away as it’s just a conduit between missions. This is not a cyberpunk playground like many of the early trailers suggested.
In the end, don’t go into this game expecting a true “next-gen” title that raises the bar and changes games for how we play them today. A lot of people went into this game expecting some unreal level of detail, and not to mention in the visuals. While the game looks amazing it’s poorly optimized even on the latest PC hardware. Ray-tracing is pretty much pointless even on my 2080 the game would dip well below 30 FPS. The only saving grace for PC gamers is the DLSS option or playing on 1080p resolutions. On my i7 10700 and 1660ti setup, the game played fine in 1080p, but I still got dips here and there. It’s one of the most poorly optimized games I have played in recent years, and while recent patches made the game more stable, it doesn’t fix the crazy dips all over the game. It’s even worse on PS4 and Xbox One base models. So, go in expecting a fun story, fun, albeit easy, combat, interesting vehicles, and a cool cyberpunk city to run around in. Don’t go in expecting something revolutionary.