Cyberpunk 2077, at one point, was the most overhyped RPG in history. Its hype, was mainly based on CD Projekt’s stellar reputation as a great developer with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Despite the fact that Cyberpunk 2077 was set in a world that couldn’t have been more different from The Witcher’s and that it was to be a first person shooter, as opposed to a 3rd person action game based on Sword play and magic; CD Project fanatics swore by the game’s greatness, with many proclaiming it “2020’s game of year” months before release.
In many ways, Cyberpunk 2077 was a lesson on the dangers of overhyping a game before playing a single minute of gameplay. The game was released in an unfinished, nearly unplayable shape, on last generation consoles, despite the fact that the game’s conception originated before the last generation machines arrived in 2013.
Cyberpunk’s launch was, perhaps, the darkest chapter in CD Projekt’s history. This revision of the game will not make any excuses for the awful shape in which the game was originally released. There is no excuse for how poor, glitchy, and incomplete the game was in 2020. It was a lesson on the pitfalls of rushing a game into the store shelves in order to meet certain commercial deadlines.
Most of us, at the time of its release, speculated that Cyberpunk 2077 needed at least two more years in the oven before reaching an acceptable level of polish, and just plain competence.
So, here we are, 2 years later. Has Cyberpunk 2077 finally reached a state where one can say that “the hype was warranted”?
Cyberpunk 2077, and my Early Impressions
I have a unique perspective on this game. I purchase it before I was able to acquire a current generation system. So, I was stuck playing Cyberpunk 2077 in the most powerful console that the last generation of machines offered: The Xbox One X.
Because the Xbox One X, was prominently featured in some of the marketing stints for the game, and well, its superior horsepower (over the PS4 Pro), Cyberpunk left a sour taste after 4-5 hours of play. Materials, and textures looked pretty good, but animation (partially because of the awful frame rates) was poor. NPCs would pop up out of nowhere, and sometimes, improperly rendered. For a game that was touted as the most ambitious RPG to have ever been made, it was not very visually appealing.
If we add to that, the game’s ridiculous A.I., we had a recipe for a major cluster “fuark”. I played PS2 games with better car driving and NPC A.I. than Cyberpunk 2077 has. The game was, for a lack of a better word, embarrassing to witness in motion.
I stopped playing right after the first big ‘story turn’ moment, when you are first introduced to Johnny Silverhand. The reason why I quit? I couldn’t equip pants. For some strange reason (and bug), my V would run around night city waist down naked despite my best effort to equip him with pants. After these issues, I decided to put the game on hold (which I had purchased new for only $9.99 only about a month after release) until I was able to acquire an Xbox Series X, and CD Projekt corrected most of its technical issues.
To put it bluntly, at the time, I could see some of the positives in Cyberpunk, but questioned why CD Projekt didn’t just deliver The Witcher 4 instead of this first person futuristic mess.
Cyberpunk 2077 Now
Before I dive into my analysis, I will start by stating this: Cyberpunk 2077 is finally “finished”, and it is a pretty good experience that is worth at least a single play through in its current shape on new premium consoles. The game still has plenty of technical hiccups, and I suspect, many of these will never receive a fix. However, I never ran into a single crash in the game, or any other glitch that forced me to reset my playthrough. At least on Xbox Series X, the game has no ‘game breaking’ bugs.
I have been genuinely impressed by the resolution on the game’s materials. Leather looks like leather, and skin is detailed all they way down to visible skin pores. For an open world game, filled with NPCs, Cyberpunk 2077 might have some of the best materials and texture work around.
Facial animation remains a step or two below Sony’s best efforts on PS4, and games like Red Dead Redemption 2, but given all of the things that Night City has going around at any given time, the attention to detail given to these human models is pretty impressive.
Cyberpunk does materials, and character models (as far as open world goes) better than anyone else, but there are major issues on the game’s the department.
The game’s facial animations are not the best, they are not bad, but they are a bit on the stiff side of things. Also, ‘pop-up’ remains a huge issue. Driving around Night City accentuates these issues. Cars disappear and appear out of thin air in the distance. It is a strange phenomenon, but it happens all the time.
It is hard not to be impressed with Night City’s grandeur, and wet (reflective) streets, but also it is hard not to notice the game’s streaming issues, and completely dumb A.I.
The Ray Tracing effect on new consoles is subtle, but worth it (even though it works mostly on indoor areas). I played a few hours on Performance mode, but missed the gritty, if organic, look of the Ray Traced interiors, so I stuck to the quality mode for 95 percent of my playthrough. A game like this doesn’t really benefit from 60fps because its combat is very clunky, despite being a “First Person Shooter” RPG.
Enemies have the same issues as the cars in the city. Sometimes, they just pop out of thin air. Despite these, and other technical hiccups; CD Projekt has done a good job in polishing up the game’s visuals over the last two years, and it is a very pleasing virtual world to look at this point.
I don’t know whether CD Projekt will further polish these visuals up, but as it stands, Cyberpunk 2077 can proudly stand with other open world games around, like Horizon Forbidden West, in terms of character modeling, textures, and materials. Of course, the game doesn’t run as smooth as Guerrilla’s masterpiece, and as a whole, it doesn’t look as good, especially in outdoor areas. But the big selling point here is Night City, and the game does an excellent job in delivering the “big, and populated” city atmosphere that it once promised.
On a positive note, CD Projekt is known for details in its game worlds, down to the micro details of weapons, and certain clothing materials. Cyberpunk takes the company’s attention to detail to the next level.
As hand gun lover in real life, I was genuinely enamored by the handgun designs and their animations in the game. You can see rounds being chambered in, and even ‘press check’ animations in different guns. Some of the designs lean more towards the “cool” factor than actual practicality. But I would love to carry some of the handguns featured in the game.
A lot more effort went into weapon design here than it went to Fallout 4, for example.
Where CD Projekt has Never Been Good…
…Gameplay. Playing through the Next Generation version of Witcher 3, has reminded me of two things, CD Projekt is terrible at optimizing games, and none of its games ever had tight combat, and overall great design when it came to simply ‘playing the game’.
The Witcher 3 has some of the clunkiest combat ever seen on an Action-RPG. The targeting system is hit or miss, and that was always frustrating given that Nintendo had perfected the mechanic, nearly 2 decades before the Witcher 3 was released, in its timeless The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Thus, it is not a surprising that Cyberpunk is a terrible shooter, even by RPG standards. While aiming is a bit off at times, the biggest issue in the game is that when faced with multiple enemies, the entire thing turns into an unrealistic “cluster fuark” that can have your avatar , “V”, killed in a few seconds under a hail of bullets (and hacking damage) that you never saw coming.
The game’s autosave feature is hit or miss, and you will have to find ‘spots’ in which to save while in the middle of combat in order to avoid losing substantial progress.
Despite my less than stellar experience with the game’s gameplay, I will give Cyberpunk 2077 this: You can’t go guns blazing into enemy populated areas with out some sort of ‘plan’. This isn’t always the case, but for the most part, I found myself sniping, and taking down turrets before deciding to engage an enemy force ‘Rambo’ style.
Cyberpunk 2077 remains an RPG, and statistical progression, and finding better equipment, healing items, weapons (and ammunition), remains critical to success in the game. Enemy A.I. can shoot extremely (if unrealistically well), but it is also very inefficient a covering, and self-preservation.
Again, given CD Projekt’s history, I don’t expect these systems to improve. The Witcher 3 for all of its accolades had less than stellar enemy A.I. and an unrefined combat system, and that never changed during its tenure.
I didn’t hate Cyberpunk’s gameplay. Quite often, CP2077 is an unrefined mess, but I was able to find “joy” in said mess.
What CD Projekt Does Well
Individual stories are the bread and butter of this game. Its main quest is a bit bland and predicable, but some of the game’s side stories are quite intricate and satisfying to follow to their respective conclusions. There are few romantic paths to follow, and all of them are worthy of “main” quest status.
Given the relatively short length of the game’s main campaign; Cyberpunk 2077 was designed around pursuing multiple paths within these side stories through repeated playthroughs. Important NPCs do feel unique, and this is not due to their beautiful design, but instead, the combination of awesome voice acting and coherent writing.
While The Witcher 3 has a better “overall” main plot line, I do feel that Cyperpunk 2077 is a proper evolution of that game’s sidequest and world building systems. It is hard for me to say that CP2077 has a “great” storyline, as I think it has good characters, and a compelling city to explore (even if isn’t all that explorable) that carry the day for the overall pedestrian main storyline.
That said, for at least 30 hours of playtime, Cyberpunk 2077 hooked me up. That’s not nearly as much time as I spent playing The Witcher 3, but Cyberpunk 2077’s shorter run time is actually a welcomed thing. I never grew tired of its world, or its characters, and this might keep me interested in returning to Night City when the eventual paid DLC comes around.
I never thought I would say this, but I am glad that Cyberpunk 2077 exists. Would I have preferred The Witcher 4 instead? Yes, but characters like Panam, Judy, and yes, Johnny Silverhand, are quite unique, and have tales worth pursuing. Talking about Johnny, Kenau Reeves is a beloved Hollywood actor, and this is more due to his good deeds outside of his movie roles; and not necessarily because of its acting abilities.
While I wouldn’t say he (Reeves) did bad here, early in the game, there seemed to be a bit of downgrade in voice acting quality between Johnny and some of the other prominent characters. I just found it ironic, that the game’s most famous actor, wasn’t its best voice actor.
Still, RPG fans who held off on purchasing Cyberpunk 2077 because of the terrible issues that it had at launch, should give the game a chance on new consoles. If I had to rate the game in its current state I would rate Cyberpunk 2077 as a 8.5/10 game.
Cyberpunk is finally a “good” game with some truly unforgettable moments that will make the game’s relatively cheap price of entry worth every penny.
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