Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the best digital storytelling experiences ever created. Only once in a while comes a game that keeps my thoughts occupied even when I am not playing it. Cyberpunk 2077 was that game that kept me wanting to play more, and I still have powerful yearnings to keep playing and replaying it after spending more than 50 hours with it. It is a triumph in storytelling, presentation, combat mechanics, and open-world design.
Stairway to Night City – Cyberpunk storytelling Triumph
For someone that read most of William Gibson’s books, Cyberpunk 2077 is a wet dream come to life. Setting aside my personal preferences, I still feel free to state that the quality of stories you will experience in Night City can be matched by very few other video games if any. The scale and production values of the stories being told are just on the level of their own. Stories are delivered through lengthy main quests that hold your attention and leave a lasting impression. There are also side quests that will introduce you to new and goofy characters and provide variety and, sometimes, much needed comic relief. More importantly, there are lengthy side quest chains that are as well produced and important as the main story quest. True accomplishment is environmental storytelling brought on by the Night City itself, but let’s cover things one by one and get one breathtaking Johnny Silverhand out of the way.
Having Keanu Reeves playing this character suddenly upped the expectations for this game, and I am glad to say that CD Projekt Red and Keanu both delivered and met the hype in every aspect imaginable. The moment Johnny enters the stage kept me glued to the screen, although it was 3 AM on the first day of my playthrough. This “Johnny effect” persists throughout the game, adding just a little bit of atmosphere with his snide remarks or thoughtful insights. Johnny is this anarchist punk many would consider disgusting and narcissistic. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with one Tyler Durden from Fight Club. He is not your goody-two-shoes do-gooder kind of guy. Still, such as he is, he is a better human than the corrupt reality of the corporate future surrounding you. Playing the game just to experience Johnny is worth it.
It is not Johnny that is the only one that shines through. Most of the primary and side quest protagonists have excellent stories. Their voice acting is masterfully done. In the PC version of the game, their models are so detailed and life-like that you are not sure whether, at some point, you started watching a high production Hollywood movie. This is brought on mostly by the sheer number of excellent animation work seen at each corner of the game.
The last star is the Night City itself. Hyper technological megapolis that is unlike anything seen before. In some other open-world games, the cities you visit are mostly copies of existing places in the real world. Night City was designed from scratch. CD Projekt Red used architects and urban planners to help them create something more organic. They painstakingly hand-designed each and every corner of the city to produce something that feels organic. The game’s world might not be the same in square mileage as the Witcher 3, for example, but it is so dense and develops vertically that it feels bigger. The city is constantly bombarding you with audio/visual “torture” so very much fitting for the world’s Cyberpunk vision of the year 2077. If I had to compare it to anything, it would be the first season of Altered Carbon on Netflix. You will be passing thousands of NPCs that all look like handcrafted residents of the most dangerous, tech-obsessed city in the world.
Janie’s Got a Gun – RPG combat that does not suck
“First person shooting game with RPG mechanics” is a description with built-in controversy. This fusion of genres usually end up with the gunplay not being exciting and the RPG portion being less than adequate. I am happy to report that in this case, gunplay was very satisfying. It is not Destiny or Call of Duty level of shooting, and it is not supposed to be. But, it has a much better feel than Fallout ever did. What makes the combat system shine is the Attribute and Perk system developers put in place. Yes, you can be a gun-toting, special forces kind of guy that yells headshot from the top of his lungs, but you don’t have to. RPG aspect comes into play because you can choose alternative ways to resolve conflicts in the game.
By investing skill points into your Body attribute, you unlock perks that will help you become a melee character that will take fights up close and personal in combination with the usage of blades. You want to resolve conflicts in a more assassin like fashion and approach each combat situation as a puzzle? Invest in cool and become a stealth master. You can sneak up on enemies and incapacitate them. Hide their bodies in dumpsters and loot everything along the way without a drop of blood being spilled. I believe that you can play through the whole game without a single casualty by using stealth and fighting bosses with non-lethal weapons. How about being a hacker instead? Use those high-tech gadgets and implants to incapacitate enemies, hack security systems, and wreak havoc across the board.
I would also like to mention how cool some of the weapons can be. Some guns will apply status effects like fire or electricity to your enemies, which is all your run of the mill stuff. But, how about guns that have bullet ricochet off of surfaces to hit enemies behind cover? Or how about smart guns that fire bullets that do not travel in a straight line and follow your enemies around? Replace that katana with your very own Mantis Blade cybernetic implants to slice and dice like some kind of high tech arachnid nightmare. This weapon design combined with a versatile skill system lets you enjoy combat most of the time
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – When ambition does not match your technical capabilities
The version of the game I had access to was not patched for release day yet. Within the first 5 minutes of the game, I had one NPC character missing its legs and a cell phone just hanging in the air being detached from its owner in a spooky kind of way. This broke the immersion for me and resulted in a very jarring experience for the first couple of hours. When I got to the first act’s more set pieces and higher quality storytelling, I started ignoring these problems. After playing for more than 50 hours, I can say that I would rather not have had that many problems with the game, but, in the end, it did not prevent me from enjoying the game. CD Projekt Red will not be able to fix all bugs by launch or even a few months after it. However, you will be able to complete the game and enjoy the full extent of its storytelling and gameplay mechanics. Occasional T-pose NPC be damned.
What becomes apparent is that CD Projekt Red had such high aspirations with Cyberpunk 2077 that it just wasn’t possible to craft a product that would work out of the box as advertised. The complexity of the world they built has been matched by only a few games ever produced (Red Dead Redemption 2 comes to mind), and they tried to be better than all of them in multiple aspects. To be 99% free of problems, we would have to wait for the game another six months at least. This would have been disastrous. They had to pull the trigger at some point or get stuck in a constant loop of reiterating on their game forever.
Last Caress – A few more things before we go
Before we wrap up, I wanted to talk about a few more things. The sound design of the game is amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever heard sound design this good in any video game before. The sound stage is expansive and directional. As you walk around the city, there is not a single moment where you won’t hear background noises you would hear in real life. People are chatting at every corner. Advertisements are blasting everywhere, and traffic lights are beeping for you to go or not go. Music is heard in the markets and clubs, and it is bopping. At one moment, I experienced a bug where background noise was eliminated, and that is where I realized how much of an atmosphere was absent without it. The sound design of the game enhances it greatly and makes the world more believable.
Almost every side quest in the game is named after one of the iconic rock songs. You will be Beating on the Brat (Ramones), saying farewell to Heroes (David Bowie), Shooting to Thrill (AC/DC) and get a new iconic gun, and Imagine (John Lennon) new meditative methods. The game is chock full of cultural references, both old and new. This creates a dichotomy between experiencing this hyper-technological and futuristic city while constantly reminded of the classic rock tracks and sentiments. This goes hand in hand with the main story of the game where Johnny Silverhand is a relic of the past from the year 2020, and you are the up-and-coming kid of the year 2077. Gramps Johnny is the classic rock that embodies revolution, while you are this nihilistic millennial just trying to survive in a corporate-run and heartless world that leaves no space for greater ideals.
When the Music’s over
Cyberpunk 2077 dares to take on Bethesda at what they are best known for (first-person RPG), Bioware at what they are best known for (story-telling and acting), and Rockstar at what they are best known for (open-world design and gritty characters/environments) and comes out to be either equal or better than all of them. Bugs or not, I am pretty certain you have never played something like this. It will be reminiscent of many things, but it will always be original.
Cyberpunk 2077 is not a perfect game. You will always find things that could have been done better, whether gameplay mechanics, storytelling, or technical aspects. What Cyberpunk 2077 is, though, is on par with, and in several aspects, better than, anything I have ever played before.
This makes it the first game to receive a 10 out of 10 score on our website. (UPDATE December 14th 2020.) If nothing else, for pure audacity to challenge the best in the industry and hold its own against them.
UPDATE December 14th 2020 – Lowering the Review Score Based on Bugs
In an unprecedented turn of events, we had to update our Cyberpunk 2077 review to reflect the state of the game at launch. Turns out that the Day 0 patch did not help a lot. The version of the game customers got to play on Day One still had a horrendous number of bugs. After a few days, it became apparent that there are also a lot of bugs that block progress. The most read articles on our website were about not being able to finish the Pickup quest, the Tapeworm quest not triggering, Takemura not showing up, and the Riders on the Storm quest being bugged. The list goes on and on. The hotfix patch 1.04 that CD Projekt Red released a few days after launch helped alleviate a few of these, but not nearly enough. A large number of people are still able to thoroughly enjoy Cyberpunk 2077, because it is a really good game. However, its technical execution prevents it from receiving the best score. As with many CDPR games, the best version will come at a later date, in the form of a definitive edition a year or so after launch.
We have also decided to lower the score of our review by one more point because of the state of the console version of the game. Owners of PS4 and Xbox One had a horrible experience. What’s even worse, nobody got a console version of the game to review prior to launch. This leads us to suspect that CDPR purposefully hid how the game looks and plays on previous generation consoles. The frame rates and bugs people have been experiencing are just not acceptable. It was to be expected that seven-year-old hardware will struggle to run this game. However, if Rockstar was able to release Red Dead Redemption 2 and have it run smooth for everyone, CD Projekt Red could have, too, especially since more than 40% of all purchased copies of Cyberpunk 2077 were on previous gen consoles. Things have been alleviated by the first hotfix patch, but still; paying customers did not get the experience they were supposed to. This is why we have changed our review score of Cyberpunk to 8/10. We might review the game again in a year or two, when it is fully functional.
- Top of the line writing and acting.
- Open world city design is the most organic out of all video games and with a character of its own.
- Animation work is astounding.
- Cyberpunk fantasy come to life.
- Multitude of immersion breaking bugs with the unpatched version of the game.
- UPDATE: Horrible performance on consoles
- UPDATE: Multitude of game breaking and progress blocking bugs at launch.
- UPDATE: The game was not finished on launch and should not have been released in such technical state
If you need help with anything else in the game, we have guides for you to check out. For example, if you don’t know how to remove the virus from the chip and find the Militech Datashard correct cack sequence we can help. Or, can you save Jackie in Cyberpunk 2077? We'll also help with your first Cyberpunk 2077 braindance during the Information quest.