Cyberpunk 2077 Review
(full review further down)
Cyberpunk 2077 would have been a welcome addition to CD Projekt Red's resume, but it always has that feeling that it still needs time to incubate. There are moments of brilliance and some amazing weaponry, but the hacks aren't that inspiring. At this point in its life Cyberpunk 2077 is still in an unfinished state.
Good: Branching dialogue, interesting story and side characters, weaponry and fighting
Okay: City is lackluster, hacking skills
Bad: Numerous bugs and glitches
Completely off kilter from what we're used to seeing from CD Projekt Red, Cyberpunk 2077 is a first-person, open world game with several different genres tossed in as well. You won't see the usual magic and sorcery CDPR is known for, instead you'll find a dense, sprawling city in a whole new world from the near future. Now, we all know there's a lot of controversy surrounding this game, but was it because of the fact that CDPR stepped out of their comfort zone? Let's fine out.
In Cyberpunk 2077 you play as V-- a street-smart protagonist who gets dragged to hell and back by the local scum and villainy the city has to offer, and is ready to set Night City and those whole rule in her ivory towers and on her moldy streets on fire. But what got V to this point? Well, there’re a series of reasons. But to begin you'll have to make a choice of what lifepath V came from by choosing one of three options. These lifepaths are:
Nomad: which is a drifter who plays by their own rules and lives to survive.
Streetkid: who’s gang-minded and lives by the rules on the streets.
Corpo: who’s a former corporate worker, but left that world on bad terms.
For V no option is an easy one and each come with their own set of pros and cons during the roughly 20+ hour campaign. For my first playthrough I went with Streetkid, already knowing a lot of the story was to take place down there, I had a feeling my street smarts could come in handy. But I have to admit that it didn’t sway the story too greatly. I did receive special dialogue options here and there, but nothing that really changed my path forward by any noticeable degree. On my second playthrough, I did go choose a Corpo lifepath which showed a few major differences at the beginning and end of the campaign, but still nothing that made the story substantially different.
Of course you have the option to customize the appearance of V, but in all seriousness you may see your character a total of roughly three times outside of the first-person view. This makes customization practically useless. But what initially bothered me were the male and female voices CD Projekt Red cast as V; both of which tend to boarder on generic NPC background voices-- the kind you hear in low-budget productions. And it’s most apparent when story-related characters, and even the true background NPCs sound better and more qualified to be the game’s protagonist than V.
There are tall buildings and some cool landscapes to see both inside and outside the city, but nothing that really stuck out and made it feel like this was what future open-world games would strive to be.
Let’s get to the real meat on the bone and talk story. The trials and tribulations V encounters are convincingly dependent on your skill at reading people, and navigating the jungle of stories that bombard you at every turn. Cyberpunk tells an intricately interwoven, multilayered main arc that’s both detailed and full of alternate paths. But if you go with the standard answers for every dialogue option, you’re bound to find yourself knee-deep in a predictable story. Whichever lifepath you’ve chosen, V eventually gets caught up in a high-profile murder that he’s got to often shoot or smooth talk his way out of.
This is quite interesting and intense when it becomes a constant struggle to navigate your way through the city that wants your head.
Add to that Johnny Silverhand— (played by the breathtaking Keanu Reeves). Johnny Silverhand is a deceased rocker who’s stuck in his own murder mystery, and managed to become a construct in V’s head, leading V down alternate paths to seek his own rocker revenge. As with V, Keanu didn’t do Johnny Silverhand’s voice justice by any means. The dialogue comes off flat and uninspired. But I blame a lot of this on the writers at CD Projekt Red. For some reason a large portion of dialogue is written in partial sentences— I’m guessing this was an attempt to make it sound more colloquial? I really don’t know, but to me it sounded awful, improper and badly written.
Now the branching dialogue really lets you construct a story all your own, which allows Cyberpunk to be more interesting and open up a lot more as you go along. I found myself rifling my way among stories paths, figuring out just which ones I should be taking in order to maintain a somewhat decent moral with my character. But what I discovered within the first couple hours is that CD Projekt Red threw the typical morals compass out the window.
Oddly, moral choices aren’t factored in, except for a sad attempt at street credit that was never really utilized correctly. You can virtually do anything without having to suffer much consequence. See a stack of cash sitting next to club goer? Just take it-- no one is going to even question you stealing it. Now, killing someone in public can trigger the cops to come in or another gang to hunt you down, but it doesn't last for more than a few moment-- that's if they even see you before you escape the scene, which is super simple to do.
For the first hour, the game keeps Night City under wraps, amping you up, and holding out the big reveal of the city for when you finally exit your apartment complex. When you do --sigh-- it’s not much of a spectacle to behold. Surprisingly, Night City is just another video game city. Not far enough into the future to look mind-blowing, but not current enough to be too familiar. It looks all right. Don’t expect anything as enticing as San Andreas from Grand Theft Auto V— both cities of course take place in a caricatures of Southern California.
I was expecting a world beyond belief; a wonderful, jaw droppingly, grand city as far up in the sky as it was out; but it never reached that level of expectation, even by the end. There are tall buildings and some cool landscapes to see both inside and outside the city, but nothing that really stuck out and made it feel like this was what future open-world games would strive to be. Imagine the world of Bladerunner, but toned down a few notches. The lights and holographic images are cool at night, but it becomes the same handful of designs repeated throughout the city.
The smart weapons with seeker bullets are fun, and even just using stealth to sneak up on the bad guys to choke them out is a blast.
The city and its outlying surroundings are vast, with many fun adventures to be had at every turn, and a lot of riffraff to tangle with along the way. As V and Silverhand unfold the mysteries Night City holds, you’ll have to learn how to fight like a futuristic mercenary. With no shortage of guns and melee weapons to choose from, there’s bound to be a weapon that fits your gameplay style. And if you can’t find one, create one in the craft menu after you’ve gathered enough parts. The smart weapons with seeker bullets are fun, and even just using stealth to sneak up on the bad guys to choke them out is a blast. The game allows you to take on missions in several ways. I got tired of shooting, so I snuck through a mall with dozens of gangsters just to reach my objective. I didn’t receive much experience for doing so, but the accomplishment in itself was nice.
Weapons aren’t the only fun you’ll have either. When you visit the ripperdocs-- a sort of doctor who implants technology directly into your mainframe, you’ll gain permanent upgrades that can really change up the game. From implemented weaponry or hacking abilities, there’s always something cool to unlock that comes in handy during any given mission.
When you unlock the game’s skill tree, making your way through missions will grant you attribute and perk points that can be used to unlock further abilities. For example, I loved to stealth my way through buildings with minimal conflict, so I placed points into camera hacking so I’d never be spotted. You can also blind enemies with eye implants, take down drones from the sky, or choose from several other. However, many of the unlockable abilities just aren’t that inspiring or interesting enough to want to unlock. I found myself with close to 20 ability and perk points by the game’s end, because I totally forgot to spend them after I’d been to the menu a couple times uninterested in the offerings.
There are cool hacks outside of battle as well. Moments that allow you to hack into someone’s interface to search for clues to solve a mystery through their eyes. This plays out like a movie, granting you control of visual playback. Using different sensors in this narrative, you can scan for hidden dialogue, sounds, and objects that will help push you toward your next objective in the story. These are sparsely scattered throughout the entire story and only last a few minutes, but it’s a nice feature nonetheless.
You’re granted a vehicle early on to roam Night City, explore it at your own pace, and are even given opportunities to buy other nicer styles. But with so many fast travel points, driving outside the mandatory driving moments feels useless. Yes, it’s nice to explore the city on foot or by car to see what it has to offer, but like I mentioned before Night City just look like at a lot of the same in most places— almost as if the developers got board of creating the game two years in and just copied and pasted the rest. The controls of the cars I drove felt way too loose and the brakes were never tight enough.
Yes, I’ve reached the part you’ve all feared: the games numerous flaws, with glitches, bugs and crashes running rampant.
The GPS on the mini map was too slow also, often causing me to miss a turn because I couldn’t see far enough ahead on the compass to know before I had already passed my exit. Combine that with terrible pop-in of the graphics around every bend, and low texture rates, seeing blurs or trees come into view out of nowhere isn’t that inspiring.
Yes, I’ve reached the part you’ve all feared: the games numerous flaws, with glitches, bugs and crashes running rampant. I experienced the floating gun with no enemy shooting at me, I was bounced back 200 feet from a window I was told I needed to jump through, and I even had my shadow detaching from my body, and much more. I can understand if these flaws were in lesser visited locations throughout the game, or the numerous blurry textures were placed on buildings away from the main gathering points. But these moments were literally front and center of each location and main mission. Floating objects, identical NPCs and so much worse were right in the main hub locations. I even had to replay the first mission eight times because I either walked too fast, or I didn’t have my character in the exact spot the game thought I should. This caused the enemies to not trigger correctly and remain in place, so stealth at that point became impossible. However, I was lucky and only had the game crash on me three times throughout my entire experience. But all of these seemingly little things add up, and cause the game to feel laborious rather than fun.
What also bothered me is if you don’t select a dialogue option fast enough, the person you’re talking to will tell you to hurry in as many words, but if you select it right before or even during them trying to hurry you along, the game causes both you and them to speak at the same time. This was frustrating because when you have so many dialogue options to choose from, reading through each one and selecting the one you feel is best takes a little time— so I was interrupted numerous times throughout.
In the aftermath of Cyberpunk 2077 I feel bad for CD Projekt Red. This isn't the work we're used to seeing from these devs, and I know they know they wished they could do better. But with the stay-at-home orders and the pressure and crunch their overlords were pressing on them, they lost that spark we’ve seen them deliver in games like The Witcher 3. But I have to critique a game by what’s delivered, and Cyberpunk is not the game I wish it was. But it’s also not a terrible game either— far from it. I have no doubt Cyberpunk 2077 will eventually be the game CD Projekt Red dreamed of delivering, but also the one we deserved receiving.
This game was purchased by The Age Of Z for this review.
Reviewed on Xbox One X