It has been a difficult launch for Cyberpunk 2077. Plagued by bugs, and performance issues, it leaves a lot left to be desired for both PC and Console gamers. If The Witcher 3 is anything to go by however, I trust in CD Projekt to deliver a polished game. But only time will tell if this is the case.
Since my first impressions review, I have spent a further 55 hours in the world of Cyberpunk, bringing me to a total of 75 hours played. I can finally say I’m done – For now. The following review will be spoiler free, so have no fear, and read on.
Cyberpunk delivers a brilliant story
The story sees you playing as V, an alias for Vincent or Valerie (depending on your gender choice). The gender and the lifepath you choose will impact the story you experience, and your usable dialogue options. There are three lifepaths in total, Street Kid, Corpo and Nomad, and each has their own unique prologue. Personally, I opted to play as a male following the Street Kid lifepath.
Corporate dystopias, gang violence, and the hopelessness of the Night City Police Department (NCPD) are emphasised throughout the story of Cyberpunk. It’s a bleak future, where only the toughest will survive. You’re value as a citizen comes from one thing – How useful you are to those in control. Each interaction follows the theme of “I’ll help you, if you help me”.
The pace at which you experience Cyberpunk and the direction the story takes are all within your control. You’ll find yourself in a position where you’re forced to select one of several contrasting choices. Your choice not only impacts the here and now but are felt later in the game as well. Many of the choices I made during the first sections of the game impacted story elements and dialogue options much later – This made for an amazing experience because it added meaning to my selections.
For those looking for a deeper understanding of Night City, you’ll find shards scattered throughout the world. Reading these provides extra information about quests, to lore about the world and its contents. The number of shards I found during my playthrough was mind blowing. Reading these gave me a greater appreciation of the world I was in.
The Environment Absorbs you
You’re in a living, breathing city. Depending on time and location, civilian numbers and traffic patterns will vary. Central hubs are lively, markets are noisy, and slums are depressing. Each area feels distinct.
Divided into several smaller districts, Cyberpunk takes this distinction to a new level. A total of eight roam the game world, each ruling their own district. Shootouts occur as you drive through the streets as you witness the NCPD fight a losing battle. Outside of gangs, architecture, vehicles, and citizens have their own unique style based on the district.
Changes in the environment are noticeable, but not overwhelming. As a result, you can see how gangs, corporations, and the flow of wealth have impacted the development of Night City and its citizens. This theme flows throughout the world.
Living within their means, focusing on necessities, the poorer regions follow a utilitarian design – It’s simple, it’s practical. Recovering regions are much brighter, and livelier – Bright colours, bold shapes. The wealthiest regions enjoy nothing less than the best – Style, substance, wealth. Finally, the city centre, a corporate domain – With a domineering feeling overhead.
Cyberpunk takes graphics to the next level
The graphics are nothing short of amazing. From a distance, the world looks breathtaking. Many times I would find myself simply staring in awe as I tried to take in the sheer size of the city. This causes you to feel like a citizen in the world, rather than a player outside of it.
Time moves slowly in game, compared to other titles, so you’re given ample time to enjoy the contrasting feelings of day and night. Sunlight, rain, and fog effects appears life like. Reflections are accurate and shadows are dynamic. Because of its dynamic nature, the world feels alive.
Night time however, is where Cyberpunk truly shines. Depending where you are in the city, the world really livens up. Neon signs, street lights, and vehicles all do their part and illuminate the world brilliantly. Advertising lights up and captures your attention, and highlights how aggressively the corporations target their affluent citizens.
This disappears as you move to poorer districts. Nothing but streetlights will brighten up the world. Why advertise to people who can’t afford it, eh? If the environment didn’t convince you that different classes exist within this world, the graphics will. They do an amazing job at highlighting the divide in Cyberpunk.
This does come at a price
The brilliant visuals, and lively world do come at a cost. Performance issues and bugs plague the game. They caused the Playstation 4 version to no longer available as a digital purchase.
There have been two hotfix patches to improve some of the issues, along with a large update planned to arrive in January 2021. Looking back at the development of The Witcher 3, I expect the game to improve via patches and DLC. However, it is too early to tell how much will be corrected and improved upon. Personally, I’ve not seen any improvement in my experiences after installing each hotfix.
While performance is stable, with no notable frame drops, it does make for a poor experience when no other game challenges your hardware. Seeing games such as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Red Dead Redemption 2 running flawlessly, it’s upsetting that Cyberpunk cannot do the same. Do note however, the number of developers working on each of these games was much higher than Cyberpunk.
Music to set the mood
Audio can make or break a game – A tool used to set the tone of the story. It allows for more immersive experiences. In this regard Cyberpunk has done well.
The soundtrack is brilliant and does an amazing job at setting the scene. One piece in particular immediately takes me back to the opening stages of the game. Each time I hear it, I remember the urgency of the mission, and relive the same emotions I felt 75 hours ago. This is great. The soundtrack captures the way the developers intended you to feel during these moments.
The sound effects are well done. Vehicles and weapons sound unique. The world is as loud as it is vibrant and sounds as you’d hear in the real world. Simple sound effects such as crosswalks saying “walk” and “stop”, to dynamic audio, shifting volumes as you move in and out of buildings and vehicles, all make for an engaging experience.
One scene captured my attention early on. During the prologue, you witness the main antagonist sits on their leather couch. While this action serves no relevance to the plot, you hear the leather rubbing against their clothing. It’s because of moments like these that you sometimes forget you’re playing a game.
Moments such as these are easily missable. Consistently, I found myself walking across a conversation which I could have missed if I went down a different ally. Or if I chose to drive rather than walk. Cyberpunk takes great effort to craft a life like world that exists outside the player, rather than a story tailored around them. It all comes together to deliver a life like world.
Improvements in audio
While so much is done well with the audio, there is room for improvement. Character audio – Particularly the pace, tone, and volume of dialogue are poor. At one point the accent of a story NPC entirely changed.
Many times, I would hear the delivery of dialogue change drastically, as if the lines were pieced together from different recordings. There was a distinct lack of natural flow. Because of this, my immersion was quickly broken.
Directional sound also needs improvement. While facing an NPC I can hear them clearly but turning my back to them makes them inaudible. I could forgive this occurring in the overworld or in one of the many nightclubs, but this happened to me in an elevator. It’s disappointing.
What else does Cyberpunk offer?
Three things which I didn’t talk about in my initial review were crafting, cyberware, and the skill tree. Mainly because I lacked Eurodollars (the primary currency in Cyberpunk). But after 75 hours, I’ve more than enough currency to play around with these, and I’m impressed.
Crafting is much like any other game. You collect components to craft your desired item. Simple, right? There is a skill tree which ties back to crafting and is required for top tier items. I enjoyed this, as it prevents the player making weapons which are too powerful early on, nullifying any difficulty the game would otherwise have.
Cyberware is great addition to the game. It allows you to make improvements to your body for a price and allows for a more reckless playstyle (at least in my case it did). A charged jump allowed me to reach higher vantage points, upgrading my immune system reduced the damage I took by 10%, and improving my frontal cortex gave me health regen after each kill. I felt like an unstoppable killing machine.
Finally, the skill tree is massive and allows for great flexibility. Whether you want to min-max your stats, or you want to enhance your preferred playstyle, Cyberpunk has you covered. There are 5 available attributes (body, reflexes, technical ability, intelligence, and cool) and 12 different skill trees, allowing for plenty of replayability. Playing as a fast shooting critical hit machine – While fun, did negate some of the difficulty later on in the game.
While nothing new when it comes to a AAA title, Cyberpunk delivers a terrific photo mode. I’m not one for artistic screenshots, mainly because I’m not artistic. However, photo mode makes it easy to capture in game moments and has enough options to keep you busy. I spent hours adjusting angles, zoom, exposure, contrast, and highlight levels to capture the city in all its brilliance.
Being able to put the game on hold at the click of a button gives you an opportunity to capture moments you’d otherwise miss. As you play the game, many moments make you go “wow”, and photo mode lets you capture those memories however you like. Many times I’d find myself just looking around and admire the size of the city – It never got old.
The best feature was being able to move your character after entering photo mode, as this gave a sense of freedom not found in other titles. Cyberpunk allows you to move the position of your character, change the pose, or remove them entirely. Being a first person RPG, photo mode gives an opportunity to see your character in third person and capture them in the memory. This flexibility is greatly appreciated and allowed for some pretty funny (and NSFW) screenshots.
I would like to see a panoramic mode added, as the scale of the world is breathtaking. In addition to this, I’d like to see camera movement opened up even further. Presently, when you enter photo mode, your characters position determines your movement options – Limiting you to certain angles. However, these are just nice to haves, not necessities.
Honourable mentions and required improvements
I’d like to give an honourable mention to the humour in the game, mainly, in it’s advertising. While very explicit, it provides a nice break from the dark, gruesome world that is Night City. I’d also like to comment on loading screens and news reports from within the game. As you progress through the story, both update as well. It’s nice to see the game reacting to your actions.
In terms of improvements, I could comment on the performance, bugs, and glitches, but everyone is already aware of these. Instead, I will focus on the AI and the physics, as both of these ruin immersion and make for an unpleasant gameplay experience.
The AI, at times, seems to be oblivious to its surroundings. NPCs react (or in some cases, don’t react) to gunfire and murder unrealistically. Some live events see you rescuing NPCs from gunpoint. Once rescued, they say thanks in a calm tone and walk off like nothing happened. Other times they cower in fear but refuse to move from danger.
The enemy AI is no better. They don’t know how to shoot, and they don’t know how to use grenades – Even on the hardest difficulty. Other than bosses, the AI all follow the same actions – Slowly walk toward you in a straight line while emptying their clips. Tactics aren’t used.
The physics also need improvement. While cars do handle differently, all feel like a boat on wheels. Not only that, but they react unexpectedly when hit. Some cars go flying above me while others stop my car in its tracks. Similar with bikes. Collision with some objects sees you flying high up into the air, while others see you going from 150 to 0 in a split second.
The game doesn’t punish you for doing what you want. It offers plenty to see and do outside the main storyline. Side quests are just as engaging and memorable, with generous rewards upon completion. Bounties, collectibles, and live events – Cyberpunk is full of activities to do. I suggest taking your time and enjoying the experience rather than rushing through to reach the finale.
While it suffers from performance issues, bugs, and glitches, I trust the developers to work on this and deliver the masterpiece they promised. Despite all its flaws, I had a great time playing this game. If your PC is above the recommended requirements, I strongly suggest purchasing the game, you won’t be let down by this fantastic RPG shooter.