Cyberpunk 2077 – A Brief (mostly) Spoiler-Free Review
Playtime update on 3 January 2021: 90hrs PC, 70hrs Xbox One X.
It’s finally here. Probably the most hyped title of all time has finally released. I am of course talking about CD Projekt RED’s first foray into a game that is not partially titled The Witcher, Cyberpunk 2077.
NOTE: This review is mostly about the PC version of the game, with an AMD Ryzen 7 2700x, an AMD RX Vega 64 and 32GB of RAM with the game installed on an NVMe SSD. I will also cover the technical state of Cyberpunk on the Xbox One, One X and Xbox Series X|S.
First, let’s talk about the bad. Because there is plenty of it. Technical and visual bugs have reared their ugly heads in force in this game, with the base PS4/Xbox One versions being hit the hardest. Patch 1.04 did a bit to alleviate that, from what I’ve seen on the net so far, but it’s not enough yet. Besides that, the narrative controlling by CD Projekt is nigh-inexcusable. They should have shown actual gameplay of the base consoles and allowed those versions to be reviewed properly pre-launch, meaning that said reviewers were able to show live footage of the game instead of even more trailer material. Here’s to hoping that it’s a lesson learned for their next title, whenever that may release.
Back to bugs: this game is quite full of it. Many bugs are purely visual, but some of them can be severe enough that they make scenes that are intended to be emotionally heavy and heartfelt downright silly. As for the technical side of things, that is not as bad on PC, but on consoles the game has a tendency to crash fairly often. Especially on base Xbox One models, the game can sometimes look and run unconditionally horrible.
Technical state: PC: 8. Xbox Series: 7. Xbox One X: 6. Xbox One: 2.
But even without these problems, I can still say with confidence that this is one of the best games I have ever played. From the unbelievably detailed world that is Night City and the surrounding Badlands to the fast-paced, gripping story and side missions all over said city and some of the best writing in any game to date, the core of the game has all the ingredients to be remembered as a masterclass in its genre.
Night City is a place created with such unbelievable density and detail that you almost always can tell where exactly in the city you are, which is impressive for its size. Almost every corner has at least something to discover, from a bunch of gangers beating the shit out of hostages to a sidequest where you save a monk from becoming cybernetically augmented and many, many more. Traversing the city can sometimes be awkward, since vehicles seem to lose a lot of their control when going at high speeds. However, due to the density, fairly high base sprint speed and the city itself being as rich as it is, walking through the city is a worthwhile method of transport. I only used fast travel once in the entire game and that was more out of curiosity for the fast travel system than because I wanted to skip the journey.
The gameplay, while slightly less impressive than the city, still is fairly strong and it’s one of the elements where it really shows its RPG chops. Problems can be solved in many different ways and many different possible outcomes can result from those problems. Players can spec into almost any style they can think of, whether it is a full-on hacker operating from the shadows or someone who prefers to rush in and slap everything silly with a rather… adult weapon (I will not reveal more, it’s up to you to find out!). RPG stats also play a role in the environment, with some routes only becoming available with a sufficiently high stat in a certain attribute. Weapons initially handle rather clunky, but their effects get noticeably better as you gain proficiency with those weapons.
The story grips you by the proverbial nutsack from almost moment 1 and never lets go. It’s a relentless tale of surviving in a city that can easily chew you up and spit you out without anyone noticing. While the main campaign is fairly short, the side quests (especially the ones from major story characters) add much meat to the campaign and are absolutely worth playing through. Which brings me to the following topic: the characters and writing. Nearly everything is fantastically written in such a way that it stirs real emotion inside you while you’re playing. This is aided by excellent voice work from nearly everyone you meet (I’ve heard the voice acting for male V is not as good as the rest of the main cast). Especially the female VA for V knocked it out of the park with just the right husky twang in her voice to sound like a person genuinely inhabiting that world and interacting with the people inside. Besides the obvious main characters such as V and Johnny Silverhand (who is more than adequately voiced by Keanu Reeves), the major side characters could be main characters in their own story, such high quality is their voice work.
Dialogues are the other major way in which the game shows its RPG chops: probe far enough into a character’s dialogue and you may find hidden details which you would otherwise have never known. You can also use certain attributes to show that you really know your stuff or prevent a situation from escalating in a full-on shootout. Dialogue also offers quite a few different ways in which to interact with characters and can sometimes lead to either touching or downright funny situations. Because even in the dark future, a bit of humour is needed.
The soundtrack is yet another avenue where CDPR went all-out. Many different genres occupy the airwaves of Night City when using vehicles and the lack of ambient music while traversing NC on foot really allows the player to take in the sounds of the city. The original score made for main missions is a mostly heavy hitting, grungy 90’s style industrial electronic music that really accentuates the tone of the activity; from pulse-pounding beats in heavy combat to slow, melodical music during the game’s many emotional scenes, the music of Night City has something for everyone.
Core game: 10. (not perfect, but at the very least tied with the best core I’ve experienced so far).
When it comes to the above-described core, Cyberpunk 2077 has won a firm place in my list of favourite games of all time. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the technical state is mostly reflective (since a massive game like this is always going to have bugs) of the core game quality soon.
Verdict so far (technical state will be re-reviewed in February 2021): PC: 9, Xbox Series: 8,5, Xbox One X: 8, Xbox One: 6.
This score is ((core grade + technical grade) / 2), separated by platform.
EDIT: Buy recommendation: PC: Yes. Xbox Series, One X: It's fairly close to an unconditional yes, but it can be worth it to wait out at least the January patch. Xbox One S/base: Wait for the February 2021 patch at least
Ethics statement: Played on PC, completed the story and did quite a fair amount of side content in about 45 hours of playtime. Stats here: https://www.gog.com/u/RelentlessRDS/game/1423049311?sort=use...
Feedback on this review is always appreciated when constructive.
Edit number many: if you are craving RPGs in a similiar setting, check out Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mankind Divided.