When Cyberpunk 2077 came out at the end of last year I was, like many I expect, apprehensive about buying it. Even before release, word was spreading fast that it was an incredibly buggy mess full of performance issues and that players of pre-release review copies were practically tripping over the issues present in that build of the game but weren't able to showcase them with their own footage because of restrictions imposed by CDPR. Then it finally did come out on December 10th 2020 and the shit hit the fan.
Monumental numbers of bug and glitch reports came flooding in on various forums and social media, complaints were rife about apparent cut content based on what had been seen in years gone by, reviews started painting the game and especially developer CDPR in a poor light to say the least, while Sony even took the somewhat unprecedented move (for them at least) to pull it off the PlayStation Store and offer refunds for anyone who'd bought it there. The game became a veritable meme overnight.
What followed were months of the same sort of shit hitting the same sort of fan. CD Projekt Red put out a few apologies of sorts including a video from the CEO and a roadmap for fixing the game, both of which got plenty of flak. Even now if you venture onto a forum related to the game you generally see people pissing and moaning about it in one shape or form. And can you really blame them?
The PC Version Is King
One thing that initially got glossed over in amongst all the hatred that was spewing forth was the fact that much of this bile was created from the 'last gen' console releases. The ever popular PlayStation 4 and its Pro upgrade and the Xbox One and its subsequent X upgrade. The game's largely flawed on these platforms it seems, with not only a lovely array of bugs and glitches but also plenty of performance issues as well; low frame rates, poor quality graphics even by those consoles' standards and a myriad of unhappy customers as a result.
Now I'm not defending CDPR in their handling of the release of the game, especially on those consoles, but I've played the game on PC and I've yet to have any major issues with it. It does seem as though it has been a victim of having terrible console ports along with suffering from severe hyped-up marketing. I can't emphasise enough here that I don't have any experience of what the console version is like and I'm sure a lot of people who do have that experience have been given a shitty game, have every right to be annoyed by it and would quite rightly deserve a refund or some sort of compensation for their trouble. However, the PC version by all accounts (including my own), runs pretty well and while it isn't devoid of bugs, I've not encountered anything truly terrible.
I don't even play it on new hardware; my CPU is an AMD FX-8370 from 2014 (overclocked to 4.7Ghz) and my GPU is a Nvidia GTX 1080 from 2016 (a flagship at the time admittedly, mine being a EVGA model with 8GB of RAM). I do however only play on a 1080p monitor so don't suffer the penalty of playing at 4k resolutions and the increased overhead that brings, though it always amuses me when you see people complain about poor frame rates in a new PC game like this because they're usually trying to run said game on a lower-end graphics card at too high of a resolution, but they think the fact they spaffed a load on a top-tier Intel CPU makes up for it. 🙄
It's Not All About the Performance
While it seems a large majority of the complaints about performance issues stemmed from the console releases, there are plenty of other complaints about the game that exist across the board. The bugs and glitches also account for a large amount of the disdain the game initially got, with people claiming it had broken AI, broken quests and even saved-game corruption. There's also a lot of annoyance stemming from apparent missing or outright cut content that was supposedly planned to be in the game, as well as others considering the game world bland and uninteresting compared to what was originally promised.
The state of the actual gameplay is no doubt oft up there among the hate it gets not least of all because of how long it was in development. It was originally put into pre-production sometime around 2012, with it being based on a table-top role-playing game, then it saw the odd mention and teaser here and there in the proceeding years. Development didn't really start proper until around 2016 when CDPR finished The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. More drip-fed info on it was apparently funnelled out over the next couple of years until a demo was shown at E3 2018 to much fanfare and praise. Fast forward another year and CDPR pulled out all the stops at E3 2019 with Keanu Reeves starring front and centre as well as an official release date of April 16th 2020 being announced.
I've rarely kept up with any game's development in my latter years; I used to do that shit when I was a kid and I got burned by the hype machine many times, so when I reached my 20's I opted to just stop caring. Having said that, while I don't follow E3's coverage it's usually hard to miss any big news from that or similar events, as such after E3 2019 happened that is when I first found out about Cyberpunk 2077.
So the stage was set and the hype train was rolling full steam ahead. Then the delays came. First in January 2020; CDPR delayed the game to September 17th. Then later in the year they delayed it again to November 19th. And finally, they delayed it one more time to December 10th. The last delay was probably the one that people should have started to think maybe something was wrong, as the delay was done entirely because of a day one patch not being ready for prime time. Most games these days get released with a day one patch, but it rarely causes an actual delay in the release of the game.
You could also account for the fact we've had (and are still in) a global pandemic, something of which has had a major global impact on all walks of life and occurred at the same time the game was entering it's final phases of development. I doubt a game of this scope was ever likely to have emerged unscathed from lockdown restrictions and economic instabilities.
Expectations Be Damned
Beyond the launch issues there were various expectations people found were not met with the full release. The demo shown at E3 2018 being among the bigger gripes it seems (even though it's clearly stated several times that it isn't representative of the final product). I've seen it brought up several times in rants about how it shows a lot of things that clearly didn't make it to the finished product, but I'd counter this by asking how that's any different from any other game that's had a demo shown off (especially at E3) years in advanced of its release?
Has everyone forgotten The Division? Another game I of course didn't know existed until pretty much after it got released, but that apparently had an E3 demo that showed a much larger section of New York was explorable than what you eventually got in the finished product, among other things.
Then there's Destiny, remember that? Bungie spent years showing that thing off as an epic story-driven RPG-like shooter only for it to get released with the story practically ripped right out of it and largely replaced with shitty little cards you could only look at using a companion app on your mobile device, not to mention how most of the actual plot was changed as well.
If I can just slide one more good example in there, it'd be S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. Released in 2007, after being in development hell since at least 2004, THQ (the now defunct publisher), actually had to send a guy in called Dean Sharpe to get the game finished because GSC GameWorld kept losing focus. Mr. Sharpe resorted to taking a hacksaw to the game's code and butchered so much stuff out of it to dumb it down into a playable state, that it lost a lot of the features that the developers had been touting for years. Even then, when it finally got released it was an unbelievably buggy mess.
You could almost make an entirely new game out of the amount of content cut from that title too and in some ways many modders actually have. Even I made a mod for it with a lot of cut content spliced back in, although I never finished my project. My point is, Cyberpunk 2077 may well have been a different, potentially bigger and better game in 2018. Unfortunately developers often set their sights on a goal and wind up missing it by a mile and have to make cut backs and Cyberpunk was evidently one such case.
Multiplayer for example was teased early on in the game's development but during a shareholder Q&A conference call CDPR held after the first delay was announced it was stated the multiplayer component wasn't likely to make release day. To be perfectly honest though I'd be completely uninterested in a multiplayer feature in a game like this anyway, so if it comes or not I really couldn't care less. I'm sure I'm in a minority with that opinion, though to be perfectly honest given what has happened I'd be surprised if a multiplayer component got released at all at this point.
Hype Is Bad
As you should now know, I don't follow game development and Cyberpunk 2077 was no exception. I didn't follow this game at all, even after I found out about it in 2019. I did not buy a ticket to ride any kind of hype train, I did not look into what the game was about, I did not read any articles about it or watch any videos and I certainly didn't take any notice of what the developer was spouting out about it (though as stated previously it was hard to miss at least some of the news about it with all the Keanu Reeves memes popping up).
So yes, harking all the way back to the beginning of this article, I too was apprehensive about buying it when it came out because of all the aforementioned horse shit being shovelled out by the media and unhappy gamers alike. But it didn't surprise me in the slightest when a lot of the clear-cut melodrama about the game turned out to be based on people's expectations of what it should have been like, or rather what they were expecting it to be like, versus what it actually ended up being.
Hype. I fucking hate hype. It has always been a con; a way for developers (but mainly publishers) to garner interest for their new game to ramp up pre-orders, to gauge how many millions they'll make out of it to justify the costs. It goes hand in hand as to why no one should ever pre-order a fecking game! I've read so many comments from people burned by Cyberpunk 2077 that all say the same thing too:
I'll never pre-order a game ever again.
No shit. I won't bother going off on one about pre-orders here as I could write an opinion piece about it long enough to be its own article. It's just safe to say that too many people got on the Cyberpunk hype wagon and the fucking wheels fell off.
Expect to be dissapointed, then you can only be pleasantly surprised.
But, when all was said and done, from what I had been seeing of the game, good and (mostly) bad, I was still intrigued. So I bought it anyway a day after release as an early Christmas present to myself, despite all the unpleasantries; I took a gamble. At the very least I thought it would get patched up eventually to be playable, if it really was that bad. And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised, so there's a lot to be said about expecting to be disappointed. The moral of this story is, don't believe the hype and make your own informed opinion by experiencing something for yourself. Clearly too many people formed their opinions on marketing gimmicks and have suffered the consequences.
Cyberpunk: 2077 — A Review
So, I've covered the game's release and vaguely the run up to that release and how CDPR have upset an awful lot of gamers. But what about the actual game itself? I've already stated I didn't encounter much in the way of issues with it and it performs quite nicely for me. And in the end I can describe how I feel about it in just three words:
I love it.
But allow me to elaborate with a further 9637 words. I actually started writing this article & review before I'd finished playing the game to completion, but I decided however that before I would continue with this I would finish the game first and not only that try and do as much if not all the side jobs and various other bits and pieces you can do in the game besides the main story missions.
I simply wanted to take in everything the game had to offer before I wound up forming an elongated opinion of it, as up to that point I had played through perhaps about two thirds of the game's main storyline. I've been playing it since December 2020, on and off mostly, although that prolonged playtime isn't because of the game but rather because of my own difficulty I have in getting invested in something big like this (I've been known to play a game for an hour and then not touch it again for months).
I did exactly that with Cyberpunk; played it for a few hours initially (and liked what I saw) but then didn't really pick it up again until later in February 2021. And now I've finished it completely (by completely, I mean side jobs 'n' all). So first off, you should already know if you read the above sections of this article that I have an oldish rig (by today's standards); a 2016 graphics card, a 2014 CPU (which is overclocked but it doesn't make that much of a difference to be honest) and I have a 1080p monitor. Nothing too special, but nothing to sniff at either. As for the game, I played it from start to finish with patch 1.03. You may ask why, when there have been a multitude of patches since then — that is a good question.
I apparently bought and downloaded it shortly before patch 1.04 was released, but I wasn't really paying much attention to anything except if I'd like the game or not at the time; I wanted to get to know what I'd just taken a gamble on. And an hour or two into the game I wasn't experiencing any performance issues or game-breaking bugs and I did quite enjoy what I had experienced thus far, so I made a conscious decision to just keep on going without bothering with the minor 1.04 hotfix patch that probably wouldn't affect me much.
Then of course I stopped playing it for near enough two and a half months and completely forgot about any patches. To date there have been several more patches released, but as I still hadn't really come up against anything that reminded me I should update the game, I haven't done so. Anyway, before I get into the meat and potatoes of Cyberpunk, namely the gameplay and the story, I'm going to briefly discuss my visual and audio experiences.
Graphically speaking the game is beautiful, though perhaps I'd agree with anyone who said that maybe it isn't the best looking game ever, but it certainly holds its own in the visual department. Night City is an ever changing slew of neon lights and as you can imagine it really comes alive at night. Because I don't play at resolutions higher than 1080p I am probably missing out on the sort of detailed textures you'd expect to be able to appreciate a lot more at higher resolutions, but I certainly noticed the fine details on show even at 1920x1080.
For instance at one point I was sat on a bench in a cafe talking to an NPC and my gaze drifted onto the fabric I was sitting on — I was amazed at the detail in the texturing. And it is true for so much in this game; one minute you'll be running down a street focused on getting to your destination and the next you've stopped briefly to get your bearings and wound up gawping at something because the detail has caught your eye, such as some of the many beautiful vistas you will encounter throughout your travels. Even just look up at the skyscrapers is awe inspiring.
Sometimes the immersion like this is suddenly broken quite drastically though, for example while sat on the same aforementioned bench in the same cafe talking to the same NPC I also noticed another NPC sitting at a nearby table eating a burger that just didn't look right. I think though I'd be hitting new lows if I started critiquing a game because the cheeseburger props NPC's were eating didn't look all that realistic.
I did occasionally come across some odd graphical glitches too of course, for instance sometimes you could see a car (or even an NPC) slightly stuck in the ground rather than on it, or merged into another object entirely, though that didn't happen to me much more than a handful of times that I noticed. Some NPCs you talk to also suffered from peculiar animation errors, which was usually related to an object they were holding (it would often get stuck floating in mid-air, or the object would magically turn into a weapon).
Pop-up was also a bit inconsistent at times, it seemed worse out in the badlands more than anything with cars springing up out of nowhere and occasionally (to some amusement) even spawning on top of each other and often blowing up as a result. None of this really bothered me personally but I can imagine it would break the immersion enough to annoy other people that care about such things. I'm sure as time goes by though weird glitches like these will get patched out.
The various screenshots I have taken and uploaded to this article all showcase the sort of graphics I was experiencing all the time; none of the shots were doctored either, I used good ol' Print Screen to create the images in all cases except for the very last one at the bottom of this article where I used the game's built-in photo mode. That does allow you to change things like exposure levels and focus, but I really couldn't get the hang of the camera angles and so didn't use it much. Instead I opted to turn off all the HUD elements in the settings and just do screen grabs that way instead (though doing that didn't remove absolutely everything from view as you can see in the bottom right-hand corner of most of the images).
It's a visually stunning game for sure, but it has a great sound design too. The city ambience is convincing and usually wherever you go there's some sort of musical number playing to aid your immersion. The sombre tune that often plays when you're conversing with Johnny Silverhand for example perfectly frames his rather pessimistic view on life and the somewhat bleak outlook for V. You can also have music piped in to vehicles courtesy of the various radio stations available which can be changed easily enough and there's quite a range of music you can listen to. It all fits the style of the game well and compliments a lot of the situations you find yourself in, though the only thing that maybe does start to become a bit repetitive is the combat music, but I suppose that entirely depends on how often you wind up in combat.
As stated before I played the game with the settings cranked all the way up to max and I had very few performance issues, though naturally not having an RTX capable graphics card means I didn't get to see ray tracing in action and my monitor isn't HDR capable either, so performance wise it perhaps didn't actually have to work all that hard even with all the other settings jacked right up.
I did get the odd slowdown in areas where I was driving and there were a fuckton of NPCs and vehicles all being rendered at the same time, but I only noticed it happen twice throughout my entire play-through. Generally my frame rates seem to stay in the high 50s if not higher, so overall I've been extremely happy with how the game performed on my rig and how it looks and sounds too. Anyway, onwards to the gameplay!
So there I was; new to the world of Cyberpunk 2077 and ready to dive in, my first task being to create a character. I fiddled around with that for quite a while, but all I can say is I'm indifferent to the character creation system. It's not something I'm all that amazed by but it certainly does it better than a lot of other games even if the options you're given can be slightly limited. What the game does seem to jump ahead of the curve with is the fact you can customize your character's gender more thoroughly than simply picking male or female, which I'm sure would satisfy plenty of Twitter SJW's though none of that bullshit interests me in the slightest. I always tend to create a female character in games like this, so that's exactly what I did and off I went.
I picked the normal difficulty since I always play games for the first time on the normal setting. I then chose the nomad lifepath to start with, the lifepath being more a system that will give you certain different dialogue options throughout the game and different character backstory and prologue, but it doesn't really have much bearing on the overall gameplay. The nomad lifestyle is perhaps the most unique of the three as it starts you off outside of Night City in the badlands as an outcast, after which you meet Jackie Wells, your soon-to-be partner in crime. The other two lifestyle choices, Corpo and Streetkid, actually have you start off in the city already and you already know Jackie to some extent.
Ultimately as a choice it's not worth worrying about, as it just gives you a bit of variation in the game but not much else. That is a theme throughout though; you're often given choices mainly through dialogue options and they don't always seem all that important to how things generally pan out. However, while I'm sure a lot of people would label it as 'the illusion of choice' and pin it down to have a good moan about, this isn't really anything new in gaming, especially for this type of game. Very few games in fact that offer choice via dialogue or actions seem to go very deep with it beyond merely altering what some characters say or do at certain points. The game Life is Strange being a very good example.
Anyway, after the initial job you do with your new acquaintance Jackie, time seems to advance in a bit of a montage sequence of sorts. I can't honestly say I've ever actually encountered this kind of montage in a game before; I don't doubt there have been plenty over the years, I just mean I haven't played those games (or at least I don't remember playing them). It was a bit odd I must admit; however because I went into this game knowing fuck all about it beyond some of the more obvious aspects, odd as this montage was to me it didn't piss me off and I didn't feel cheated by it either.
It does seem to have been a bitter pill to swallow for some people from what I gather, since this montage essentially jumps time forward around 6 months in the plot: You go from nobody to a slightly more well-known nobody, with some contacts to boot. I've seen some opinions suggest being able to play the sections the montage depicts might have been a good chapter to start the game off with, working your way up the food chain and giving some good opportunities to flesh out backstory, however I really don't agree.
Of course some people always want more than what they get, but quite frankly with the amount of dialogue, text to read, side jobs and other things you'll end up spending lots of time on, having this montage fleshed out with actual playable sections would probably have just been overkill… And then you'd have people complaining the game was too long.
I did find that once it was over I ended up dolloped into the world feeling a bit lost. It felt like I was being bombarded with information at that point too and I immediately started to skip reading things because I just couldn't be bothered to absorb it. So in that case a montage was a damned good idea; who knows what I'd have felt like if I'd actually had to play various missions up to that point. Then again maybe they could have worked the information I was having trouble absorbing in a bit easier if the gameplay existed to present it to me differently.
To add to the overwhelming nature of everything the game has to offer for a first time player, I had to get my head around the cyberware, modifications for cyberware, weapons and clothing, the crafting system, the level points and perks system and not least of all the fact I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. In the end it took me a very long time before I actually started to get the hang of things, but generally speaking it is fairly simple once you do, it just looks daunting at first.
With regard to cyberware you have various slots on your body that you can buy and acquire tech to put into. Usually you can only buy or install this tech at a Ripperdoc whom are easily found across Night City (the in-game map has all the locations marked from the start). Each bit of tech depending on how advanced it is might also allow for modifications to be added to it which improves or adds to their base abilities, with the same going for weapons and clothing too.
I am a one-man plague of locusts when it comes to looting corpses and item boxes, so when I go through an area I will ransack everything and everyone I come across and nick anything on offer. Doing this usually means I always ended up with another gun or another item of clothing that was better than what I already had on me, so I was never short of increasing my own armour rating and weapon DPS (Damage Per Second for the uninformed) without spending any eddies — eddies being slang for the currency used in the game's world, Eurodollars. They're also referred to as ennies in some instances which is presumably similar to what you'd know as pennies.
Most items in your inventory add to the weight you're carrying and of course you can only carry so much before you get bogged down (the capacity can be increased with cyberware implants or perks though). Once overloaded you can't run any more though you can still drive thankfully, but you have three options open to you when you do get overloaded: The first is in the form of various vendors of guns/clothes/junk and so fourth dotted around the city, all of whom will buy whatever you have on you at the time.
They only have a set amount of money on them but you can always clean them out and go to another one. Aside from vendors there are also various drop points that offer the same service, you just can't buy anything from them. It makes for an easy cash flow, as you can vacuum up loot from a recent job where you obliterated everyone in your path and then toss it all to a vendor for quick coin turnover. It is a simple system, since as I say you can walk into a clothes shop and sell the vendor there all the guns you picked up, but I quite liked this uncomplicated trade system because it just made the game more enjoyable in the long run. I can imagine if I had to trudge to specific vendors to offload specific loot constantly it would have got annoying relatively quickly.
Alternatively the second option is you can also just drop anything you don't want, but naturally that makes picking it up in the first place a bit pointless. There is a third option which is infinitely more useful than dropping stuff and that is to dismantle whatever you have, which can then provide you with all sorts of useful components used in the crafting and upgrading system. The final option is your own stash located inside V's apartment, in which you can store whatever you like. I found I only really bothered to do this with legendary and iconic items I came across though and in hind sight it probably wasn't even worth doing that, because there's usually always a better gun or piece of clothing waiting for you on your next job.
V's apartment is portrayed initially as a sort of go-to place for sleep and said storage, but it becomes apparent quite quickly that it isn't all that useful, as you you don't actually need to sleep (if you want to skip time you can just open the inventory wherever you are and use the skip time feature). Aside from not needing to sleep, you also don't need to eat or drink either but you will undoubtedly start quite a collection of food and beverages, as well as alcohol. Food and drink will give you a timed buff so it can be useful to replenish health when you're not in combat without using a healing item, though I seemed to find so many healing items it really didn't matter in the long run. Alcohol on the other hand as you might be able to guess gives you wonky vision and slows you down for a short time so isn't worth consuming at all.
At any rate the apartment does serve some minor purpose beyond just existing though, since on certain jobs you may acquire things that will show up in it (though these are few and far between). It's a far cry from the sort of abode customisation you got in games like Skyrim, but then Skyrim went as far as letting you build houses, marry NPCs and literally settle down with them so quite frankly given how Cyberpunk just isn't that kind of game, if they had implemented the ability to customise V's apartment it would still probably be rather superfluous in the greater scheme of things.
Talking of superfluous features though, Cyberpunk also has a crafting system. Although I can see why CDPR implemented crafting into the game, I actually went from start to finish having never crafted a single sodding thing. Not that I didn't try on a few occasions but I always seemed to lack the ability to craft anything. It seems you can only really craft good things (such as legendary items) when you unlock the related perks under the crafting skill of the Technical Ability with points earned through levelling up. And even then I believe you have to have 'blueprints' or whatever they call them in the game to be able to craft certain things, so from the beginning you won't really be able to craft anything good anyway.
By the time I'd even bothered trying to craft anything and failed due to the above limitations I'd already got pretty good gear that was seeing me through well enough, making the entire crafting system seem a bit pointless, for me at least. I suspect crafting may become infinitely more useful if you play on the harder difficulties as you'll want the very best 'iron' to use and crafting is likely the only way you'll get that. Aside from crafting though you can also upgrade things, which I did do, but only with one gun I had and only once. Again, I ended up finding a better gun that replaced the one I upgraded after a while anyway so I just used that instead.
It's a shame in a way because the crafting and upgrade system looked like it might actually be a fairly fun gameplay mechanic to give you a severe edge over your enemies, but it ended up being wholly unnecessary in the long run. As I've said I do tend to pick up anything and everything I can in an area I'm searching but for those less interested in such endeavours, crafting may be a much more appealing prospect.
As for actually carrying weapons, you get three weapon slots that you can have whatever you like in and along with that is your unarmed ability which initially is just your bog standard fists but again, with cyberware upgrades, you can install things like gorilla arms, which makes you pack a much more powerful punch. Or you can forgo punching altogether and install mantis blades, which is what I went with when I got the loot to buy them. As it turned out though I never used anything except guns in combat and only usually whipped out my mantis blades because I accidentally selected them.
Meanwhile, cyberware can be affected by your attributes and perks too. In fact, coupled with the perks you can unlock across your various skills you can become quite the unstoppable killing machine rather quickly. For example after a while I found myself able to pretty much walk through any locked door in my path either with my technical ability or simply forcing it open, plus quickhacking enemies became so simple and useful it made clearing areas a breeze (or at least a lot easier to run in and start shooting up the place).
How many points you put into your attributes can also determine if you can use certain dialogue options when speaking to NPCs. Sometimes it just showcases you know what you're talking about when in conversation with them, but more often than not it'll allow you to find out something interesting about the job you're on you'd otherwise have not been able to, or even influence a character to do something they otherwise wouldn't have. Anyone who's played a Fallout game will know exactly how this works.
Your level is of course increased as you gain experience points and you get them from doing all sorts of things in the game, from simply running around to hacking things. As you level up you gain attribute points and perk points to spend, your attributes (Body, Reflexes, Technical Ability, Cool and Intelligence) can each be levelled up individually, while each attribute has it's own set of skills that contain various perks. The number of perks available to unlock with points increases as you level up the attribute, with some perks even having several levels themselves.
It all comes across as a bit overwhelming at first but it is actually fairly straight forward because each perk tells you what it does. Some are infinitely more useful than others of course and because there is a level cap of 50 you won't be able to buy every perk or level up every ability to their own cap of 20. It became fairly obvious early on to me though that increasing the technical ability more than the other attributes was better overall than perhaps keeping things on an even keel, but I suppose it can vary depending on your own play-style.
Accompanying your character's level is street cred, which also tops out at 50 and is generally earned by doing Gigs. As it progresses higher you unlock better gear at vendors as well as new gigs to do. It adds a separate layer of progression to the game but I didn't really notice any major benefits from it, other than the fact I was able to do more gigs as time went on.
Much like any game with a levelling system enemies do have a level as well, though it isn't immediately obvious. I don't think you're actually shown what level enemies are compared to yourself, which makes for an interesting alteration to the norm for this kind of game where level numbers are often displayed quite prominently above character's heads. However, Cyberpunk does show enemies with a skull icon above their head when you scan them if they are of a much higher level than you and entering into combat with these enemies never usually ends well. Even taking a stealth approach can be difficult because you cannot successfully grapple enemies from behind when they're higher level (they just knock you back if you try).
Jobs, Gigs and whatnot that you're given also have a threat level indicator which shows you how likely you are to succeed. Moderate threats tend to be of the same level as you but dangerous threats will be difficult to complete as you can imagine. As you progress and your level increases, the threat level of existing jobs will obviously decrease as well. All fairly straight forward.
Now, I've read plenty of complaints about the AI in this game being as thick as two short ones and for the most part, I wouldn't necessarily disagree. Enemies do wonder around looking for you when they spot a corpse you've left lying somewhere or a security camera spots you and puts everyone on alert. While in combat they do take cover and I've even found myself seemingly flanked a few times, conversely I've also seen them stand in one spot and completely ignore the grenade I just lobbed at their feet.
You can often take a slightly slower, stealthy approach to jobs instead and come out better off. You could even probably try a pacifist play-though if you so desired and not kill anyone since you can grapple enemies from behind and perform a 'non-lethal take-down' but only when they're unaware of your presence. I don't really recall if any situations occurred where you were absolutely required to kill someone, though the game usually gives you the option to just knock them out instead even if all the dialogue is prompting you to kill them.
However once you start picking up some of the more overpowered guns you will eventually become an unstoppable force able to waltz into even a heavily guarded area and just start gunning everyone down without much of an issue. To be honest, that tends to be the quicker option rather than skulking about like something unhygienic giving everyone struggle snuggles, but having said that some jobs (especially a lot of the gigs) actually give you the task of not raising the alarm or killing anyone at all and you may get a bonus from following those orders.
Overall though I'd say the stealth is handled fairly well in the game and can be quite a fun experience. There were moments that I got noticed when I probably shouldn't have though and on some occasions the enemy went into alert mode due to a corpse I'd left lying somewhere that clearly wasn't visible to anyone. In those situations it's probably my own fault because you're (usually) given plenty of places to stash bodies, either in cars or handily placed crates, so leaving them lying around like I tended to do even if they are out of sight isn't always a good idea.
In terms of quickhacks, you start off with a breach daemon that presents as a hacking mini game (which is also used when you 'jack in' to access points to datamine them for eddies or components). The hacking mini-game requires you match the hex values in a grid (in which you can only select hex values in alternating rows and columns) to those of your daemons. Sometimes you can figure out a patten quite easily to install all your daemons, other times you may struggle to install more than one. When hacking access points for eddies and components you can usually just keep doing it until you succeed but if you fail to hack a an enemy they'll go into alert mode which makes things more complicated.
As you unlock more daemons via your perks you gain the upper hand with stealth as you can breach a network and install a mass vulnerability which makes quickhacks install, well, quicker. Or you can mass disable things like security turrets and cameras, though such actions actually wear off after a certain amount of time. You can of course scan individual things like cameras and shut them down, turn them onto friendly mode or even take control of them remotely, so for most jobs you're never short of methods to complete them in multiple ways. It's always amusing for instance to set all the turrets you come across to friendly mode then chuckle in your quiet corner as they start attacking the enemy.
The jobs you do are spread far and wide across the whole of Night City so there's ample opportunity for you to do some basic exploration along the way and see it living and breathing. Now, I've seen people get all aggravated about how 'lifeless' the NPCs and the Police that you find dotted around the streets are, but honestly, I think a lot of it is nitpicking for the sake of it. The standard NPC characters you encounter on the street can be talked to in a way, you get a small 'Talk' prompt and this causes them to say something to you, but V doesn't say anything to them. It is pointless but at least there is some interaction available and frankly this is how it is in a lot similar games too.
The police on the other hand; that I can sort of understand the criticism over. You will come across them dotted around the city but you never see them driving anywhere. If you do start shooting police or civilians or running people over, you'll get a wanted level akin to the Grand Theft Auto series. That can go up depending how much you decide to fight back and cops will then be on the lookout for you, but the most they do is spawn on foot in your local vicinity and it's usually a simple case of driving (or even running) a couple of blocks away from them to lose the wanted level and have things go back to normal.
While not majorly different to the GTA games in that respect, they probably could have been a bit more similar in terms of actually chasing after you in vehicles. However one thing about GTA5 I really never liked was how aggressive the police AI can be and how it can become increasingly difficult to evade them, which I know is the point, but sometimes it became ridiculous as you'd just be about to lose your wanted level and a cop would spawn just close enough to see you and bang, wanted level would be solid again and you'd have to find somewhere else to hide. You could also for instance be in the middle of the desert and start shooting your gun off and get a wanted level which was just a tad unrealistic, especially when they'd then instantly spawn not far away and start chasing you.
The cops do seem to spawn out of thin air in Cyberpunk but at least they can easily be outrun and evaded. Given how lawless Night City is supposed to be portrayed as and with a clearly corrupt police force, as well as private militias that the corporations have, the retardation of the police AI is a bit more understandable in that respect and to some degree, welcome. Having said that though, apparently the developers are going to go some way to addressing the police in the upcoming 1.2 patch, though only in making them seem a bit more realistic (i.e. not spawning immediately behind you and so on).
The traffic AI is also fairly dumb, as cars won't drive around obstacles indicating they're pretty much on rails, which is likely why you don't get cops chasing you in vehicles. It's not just big obstacles like other cars they won't drive around either, in a lot of cases you only have to stand by the side of the road nowhere near their vehicle but they'll still stop as if you're blocking them. I personally don't care about such trivial issues though, as while the game may be open world it's not really supposed to be inspired by Grand Theft Auto; that name alone referencing the game being about stealing cars (though you can do that in Cyberpunk if you want). If CDPR are attempting to adjust the police behaviour in the game though they'll probably get around to the vehicle AI too in that case. Maybe.
Talking of vehicles, I actually quite like the way the game handles driving. A common complaint appears to have been that driving cars with a mouse and keyboard is difficult at low frame rates, but I don't tend to get low frame rates so perhaps haven't had an issue with it as a result. Even so CDPR are also addressing this by adding a steering sensitivity slider in the 1.2 patch. Meanwhile, the actual driving physics are… Well, they're funky. Sometimes they work well, other times you can bounce off obstacles like a pinball. It's definitely not perfect but to be honest it's not terrible either.
There are quite a number of vehicles that as stated you can simply hop into off the street and pinch, plus depending on your attribute levels you can also car-jack people minding their own business in traffic too. But there are also a large selection of vehicles you can actually buy. You start off with a car and you can summon it from almost anywhere and it'll self-drive itself up to you. Unfortunately there's no taxi mode, so you can't forgo driving anywhere if you don't want to outside of certain jobs that have an NPC drive for you, but this isn't too much of an issue since if you need to get across town quickly it's generally easier to get to a nearby fast-travel point and use that.
There are also a handful a jobs that will require you to follow a vehicle in a scripted sequence that sees you having to avoid traffic and stay close to it, though none of these pose much of a challenge. Lastly there's also four races you can partake in, which is part of plot involving another NPC called Claire. Again, they aren't too difficult to do provided you have a fairly fast car at your disposal (Claire's truck that is offered for use for some of the races is more than adequate).
The only thing about the races is the other NPC racers can rarely keep up with you around corners and they clearly despawn and respawn right behind you when you aren't looking (so in other words the AI cheats). But the AI as I've already covered really isn't up to much in terms of actual intelligence anyway so again it isn't that much of an issue. Add to the mix what I've also said about how the game really doesn't lend itself to being about driving anyway and you probably wouldn't want any more than four races to partake in. I know I wouldn't.
Side jobs in the game are more of a distraction than anything as you can imagine, as they're all completely optional as far as I'm aware. They do offer you a way to earn some eddies on the side as well as acquire new items, so they're worth dipping into at least. First there's the actual side jobs mostly found out about through interacting with certain NPCs or even things in the world. Then there are gigs which are given by the various fixers throughout Night City (of which there's generally one per district) and lastly you have NCPD scanner hustles which range from simply taking down a group of enemies to wandering around looking for something.
As I've briefly touched on before when talking about stealth, most if not all of the jobs that require you to go into a location, find something or someone, then vacate, either on your own or with another NPC, usually gives you some options on how to proceed. For instance you're often able to go in quietly and will get rewarded extra loot for the stealth approach, hence why earlier I said the stealth method can be a better way forward. You can always go in guns blazing though if you want, the game really doesn't care too much, but you may fail optional objectives by doing so which can in turn annoy whoever gave you the job if they wanted you to be stealthy and you might not get as much money out of completing it as a result.
While a lot of the side jobs, gigs and especially the NCPD scanner hustles do seem fairly repetitive, provided you do a little here and there interspersed with enough of the main story missions, there's enough variety to keep you interested each time you jump in for a gaming session. Added to which many of the side jobs and so on only become available after certain points are reached in the main story so you have to progress to access them anyway.
Throughout my play-through I encountered and completed nearly all jobs except for two in particular; one gig and one scanner hustle bugged out on me and I couldn't complete them. Now, you may have been wondering when I was going to bring up what bugs I actually encountered in the game since I've said several times now that I had a mostly pleasant experience with it. Well, to be honest, I didn't encounter that many. Certainly nothing that broke the game beyond redemption. At worst I had the two side jobs that bugged out and broke and couldn't be completed at all but beyond that I mostly just had the odd animation or graphical glitch or missing voice-overs in certain dialogues.
The most irritating thing I encountered was perhaps a bug with the subtitles. I have the subtitles turned off, but if loading a save at a point where subtitles would normally have been displayed (say if a character was talking at that exact moment), a subtitle of what they would have been saying would show on screen even though I have them turned off and there it would stay until I loaded another save (provided it was at a point where no character was saying anything). I also found that with subtitles turned off, it removed the ability to understand foreign language sections where English subs would normally be shown as characters spoke their different language. I'm not sure if that's a bug or more of an oversight on CDPR's end though.
I had a pleasant experience playing the game overall in spite of any issues I encountered (which I won't bother going into further details about because as you know I played entirely on patch 1.03 and there's every chance patches released since then have fixed said issues). Also I fully intend on playing it again from the start with patch 1.2 when it comes out sooner or later, so I'll be interested to compare my experience to see how much they've change and fixed compared to 1.03.
Yes, you read that right. I will play it again and soon. I've actually put in just under 85 hours on this first play-through of mine and that allowed me to complete it in its entirety (bar those two bugged side jobs I mentioned and possibly one or two others I didn't get due to my own in-game actions). In that 85 hours I've also managed to obtain two different endings. Two endings? Yes, I reloaded a save and played it again to get a different ending, which neatly leads me into my opinion on the game's storyline and its characters.
Cyberpunk 2077's story is complicated. I won't spoil it here, besides if I were to write an in-depth synopsis it'd be too long to include anyway. You should already know that you play as V, a merc for hire, who has to solve a predicament involving a legendary anti-corpo activist (or terrorist if you like) named Johnny Silverhand, while trying to make a name for yourself under the neon lights of Night City.
The story mostly starts off fairly simplistic regardless of which lifepath you pick for your character, though as stated previously you start off outside the city and do not initially know Jackie Wells if you you begin as a nomad. Once the prologue is over and you've watched the montage detailing (in bits) how you've got more prominent in the proceeding six months, you're in control again and given a few basic tasks to do before news of a big new job rears it's head from the incredibly overweight fixer Dexter DeShawn. These various jobs need completing before you start a big heist mission and that's when things start going a bit sideways for V.
Because I was overwhelmed from being new to this game and not having any clue what it was about, I did as stated previously, skip reading a lot of things. I also found myself looking out of windows and gawping at the visuals when I was being talked to by NPCs and ended up missing quite a bit of dialogue and as such a lot of exposition, but I carried on regardless (good job they give you objectives otherwise I'd have never been able to get anywhere). When the game's heist mission is over though, things change quite drastically and that's when the infamous Johnny Silverhand character shows up.
Along the way you meet all sorts of crazy, kooky characters. Some charming, some outright hateful, some absolutely lovely and some purely comedic. An example of the latter and perhaps one of my favourite encounters by far was a gun you pick up at one point that has a sentient AI that is represented by a holographic picture of a large grinning bullet called Skippy. His side job really wasn't long enough or in-depth enough I felt, but the short time I did spend with him was to say the least quite amusing (especially when he starts humming Disturbia by Rihanna as he does some system checks, or moaning with pleasure as you reload him).
The game also provides you with some basic romance options of course which have been much publicised over the course of the game's development, so understandably I suppose, the fact the romance options are fairly limited and not all that in-depth may have annoyed people. Being a female V (in body and voice) meant I only had two main romance options; a female character called Judy Alvarez and a male character called River Ward. Now, I'm not going to lie, I'm a heterosexual male myself so I was never going to romance River, but I did find that the romance (in terms of how you meet and interact with him) was a bit, sudden, to say the least.
You initially meet River during a side job regarding a politician and his wife investigating the death of the Mayor of Night City. Later River ends up calling you and asking for your help with locating his missing nephew. I didn't really feel like he had much 'screen time' with V, so when I got the later side job that is essentially the introduction to him 'fancying' V and giving the player the option to begin a romance with him, I was a bit surprised. As I say, it seemed a bit sudden and not all that 'organic'. Again maybe it's because I'm a man myself, thinking about it perhaps it did perfectly represent what men tend to do; jump in at the deep end. Or perhaps it was an example of a man taking the bull by the horns before he got friendzoned. And yet he still got friendzoned. Sorry not sorry, River.
By contrast, there's Judy. And I won't beat around the bush here, I almost fell in love with her myself. Judy is met through the main story even before you've done the fateful heist mission that changes the direction of the plot spectacularly, but like River she later asks for help with some personal matters close to her heart. Unlike River, she seems to have a lot more interaction with V over the course of her jobs so you can pretty much see the two of them growing closer as you play. You're brought ever more closer by the events that transpire in said jobs too so it does just gel perfectly. I also love Judy's accent, her voice actress did a damn good job bringing the character alive and it made it all the more believable.
I was actually quite happy once they got it on. Yea yea yea, there's a sex scene. Actually there's several throughout the game, as many as you like in fact since you can visit 'dolls' and get your end away whenever you feel like it. But the romance with Judy seemed so organic and so not-sudden that it worked brilliantly. It really made me empathise with both V's predicament and her future in Night City as well as Judy's own experiences. Not many games get me emotionally invested in my own player character or an NPC purely because of a romance, but then that's probably because games rarely portray romances all that well if at all.
However, there is a caveat. Once you've romanced Judy, or any of the other main characters that can be romanced for that matter, your choices become extremely limited as to how you can interact with them. This was actually quite disappointing for me and I'm sure I won't be the only one who thinks that. Since Judy was the only one I did romance in my play-through, not counting the other unavoidable encounters you tend to have through the main storyline, I was actually expecting it to continue up to a point. But unfortunately upon completion of that last side job of hers and 'romancing' her good and hard, she gives you access to her apartment where she stands ever vigilant gawping out the window whenever you visit. But beyond that you get a few lines of dialogue with her and that's about it.
You can't sleep in her apartment, you can't bonk her again and she never moves or has any further dialogue options added for the rest of the game (not until the ending at least). She will occasionally send you a text message while you're playing other missions, talking about what she's doing and such, but there's only about three such instances of this before even that stops. She will also mention in person (or if you call her) at least one thing she's heard related to a job you've done, but I only encountered one such instance of this (she may mention other jobs you do, but I didn't catch any).
It's a disappointment for me because I do feel like the game's almost saying that after you've done her jobs, that's it; the romance was part of those jobs and now you've got her you've got nothing else to do together, which just seems like a missed opportunity when all is said and done. Being able to perhaps take her out to dinner or dancing or at the very least having further physical interactions would have been nice. The only character who seems to pop up more frequently after your potential romance blooms is Panam Palmer, as she provides you with quite a few jobs after that happens (not that I ever got to see a romance with her though because she's only into men).
Panam is actually another brilliant character, she's almost a polar opposite of what Judy is in terms of personality and it goes well with the situation she is in. Given I played a nomad character and Panam is also a nomad it seemed fairly obvious the two would get along and eventually they do quite well.
Beyond Judy and Panam there are plenty of other characters you'll encounter that may or may not have an impact on you. Of the many I could name, I would say Judy and Panam are the two that are most memorable for me, but a character named Rogue makes an appearance and is about as mysterious as she is a bitch but still respectfully admirable. River, although his romancing seemed more forced than anything was also well written as a role model for his sister's family. I also liked Vik Vector, the first Ripperdoc you encounter in the city and his slight father figure demeanour towards female V. And of course, who could forget your partner in crime, Jackie.
Jackie plays a major role in introducing you to the game's colourful dystopian world and injects quite a bit of humanity into the situations you both end up in. His girlfriend Misty also plays a role in giving V insight into the future; she will read your tarot if you ask her too and although I generally didn't pay much attention to what cards V was getting, I expect they do actually cryptically pertain to upcoming jobs you're about to do, which is a nice touch. I'll certainly have to take notice of the readings on a second play-through now I know how jobs tend to pan out just to see if her readings do have any bearing on them.
Now, he's the game's show piece for the most part, so allow me to finally divulge what I thought of Keanu Reeves' performance as Johnny Silverhand. I suspect he was told to give his character a cold, emotionless persona and he does that almost too well if that is the case; but if I'm honest he mostly comes across as wooden as a tree. Loosens up a bit eventually though, but he was definitely more of a novelty inclusion than anything.
It's nothing new for video games as I'm sure everyone's aware, to use the voice and even likeness of silver screen talent. But for me it's more a case of if I actually recognise a celebrity or if I've even heard of them to begin with. Case in point: I'd never even heard of 'Grimes' before this game came along.
Another example is how while I did vaguely know Hideo Kojima has a cameo in the game, I didn't know where it occurs and I went from start to finish not knowing if I'd actually seen or interacted with him in the world somewhere and just not realised it. Turns out I hadn't because after looking it up I found out he's in a certain location in one particular mission early on that I know I didn't even take a second glance at when I played through it.
Clearly, the idea of celebrities starring in games, even as a main role or just a cameo, really is only a marketing gimmick. Keanu Reeves does oddly enough fit into his role as Johnny though, even if his acting initially seems a bit lacklustre, his performance starts to grow on you as the game progresses.
Now, going back to before, I did play through two different endings. The first one wasn't a good decision on my part; there comes a point at the end of the game where you must make a choice on how to proceed, it is the only choice in the entire game that actually affects what ending you get. However the choices you're allowed to make do depend on how you went about doing certain side jobs previously so it isn't like nothing you do up to that point affects it. As it turned out I was able to pick any one of the endings I wanted and I actually nearly picked an ending I thought would be best fitting for my character's progression, but at the last second I decided to go with something else.
I regret that decision.
I can't obviously go into details about the endings without spoiling them, which I don't want to do, but essentially there are seven of them (or at least seven known endings so far one of which is fairly obscure to get). Only one really seems to fit with my character's romance with Judy and the friendship with Panam to provide a sort of 'happy' ending though, unfortunately I didn't pick that ending at first.
I'm a sucker for a happy ending even if it is just melancholy in disguise, but the one with Panam did feel like the ending V deserved. Coincidentally, that is also the ending path I was going to choose to begin with before I made the last second switch, so ultimately it's my own fault for second-guessing myself.
In the end though I got an emotional response out of the story overall. It started off seemingly like mostly any other game I'd played that involved a gun for hire going from point A to B in a unique world, but it really started to shine when I realised how realistic the characters all came across (even with Keanu Reeves' wooden performance as Johnny). Just looking at them while they talked; how they would look around or roll their eyes and make gestures with their hands in conversation really made it feel so much more alive than probably any other game I've played to date. Even L.A. Noire's characters didn't captivate me as much as Cyberpunk's has and they have uncanny valley levels of facial expression.
I ended up becoming invested with V and her story and it all played out so well I was actually upset when it finally came to an end. I can't stress it enough how I've rarely been affected as much as this by a game (or even a film) plot. I truly do feel that Cyberpunk's major strength is it's storytelling, so while everyone can sour it all with the rocky launch and the terrible console releases and the sensationalist hype, you can't fault CDPR on the way they've crafted an interesting world full of believable characters that really do make your overall experience that much more emotive and impactful.
I'm looking forward to playing it all again.
Platform: PC (Windows 10 64bit 20H2)
Version: 1.03 (gog.com)
In amongst all the angst and hate the game got for it's practically broken console release, it is actually a wonderful story-driven game with heavy RPG elements. While it does have some gameplay mechanics that come across as a bit pointless and is definitely lacking in some areas such as the AI, it has a great atmosphere with Night City truly looking beautiful and the characters you meet along the way adding a great amount of depth and colour to an otherwise drab dystopian view on the world. Ultimately It might not be the best open world offering to date but the story more than makes up for its shortcomings.