Cyberpunk 2077 is without a doubt one of the most anticipated games of this generation. After CD Projekt Red delivered one of the best RPGs of the decade with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Many people had wondered if Cyberpunk 2077 could elevate what they have done to even greater heights. After spending roughly 90 hours with the game, here are my full and comprehensive review of Cyberpunk 2077.
Night City And It’s Aesthetic
You will spend much of your journey in Cyberpunk 2077 in the corrupted world of Night City. Later portions of the game allow you to explore the outer lands, but more on that later. One of the best aspects of Cyberpunk 2077, is Night City itself. A lot of cities in open-world games blend together often through the use of a single common color palette. The city feels the same from one district to another. This however is not the case with Night City where each region has its own unique style and enemies. From gorgeous areas like Japantown that feature futuristic Japanese architecture and structures. To the dirty slums of Watson, where the BORG-styled Maelstrom gang resides. You always know exactly where you are, and more importantly, what to expect based solely on the design of the world around you.
In contrast to Night City, there are the Badlands, which represent an almost post-apocalyptic world. The barren deserts are filled with gangs of scavengers who fight over the scraps discarded by the people of Night City. It creates a stark contrast between the two worlds, and both are stunning in their own ways. Interactions with the Nomads who occupy the Badlands are vastly different than your interactions with Night City Corpo goons. Whenever I found myself growing bored of the city, I would strike out into the outer lands for a refreshing pallet cleanse.
Immersion Breaking Glitches
While Night City is beautiful to explore, there are certain aspects that detract from the overall immersion. The game suffers very bad pop-in with textures and assets. Some of these are minor things. For instance, when I enter a motorcycle in the third person, it takes upwards of 10 seconds for my character to fully render. I have had issues with the world not rendering properly while driving some of the high-end supercars. Driving fast enough to plunge off of the world and through the ground is a speed I never thought possible. Another immersion-breaking factor is civilian vehicles and how they spawn. It can be very jarring to be driving along an empty road and then suddenly rush hour traffic falls out of the sky and begins moving like it was always there. While these kinds of glitches and faults are not game-breaking, I did find it hampered my ability to immerse myself in the world during these moments.
Due to the sheer number of visual glitches, pop-ins, and animation hiccups often Cyberpunk 2077 felt very ugly in comparison to other open-world games this year such as Ghost Of Tsushima and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. With that being said, when the game was running as intended, and everything came together the incredible amount of attention to detail was breathtaking. From luxury penthouses to the filthy slums, each location was packed to the brim with more detail than I have frankly seen in an open-world game. I have to wonder if all these small details are behind the massive texture pop-in issues that I experienced throughout the game.
Cars and Navigating The City
In terms of scale, Night City feels like a very compact open world. While it is packed to brim with crimes to stop, and gigs to complete. Navigating the city is incredibly easy to do, thanks to a wide variety of cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Not only is there a wide variety of vehicles to transport you throughout the city, but there is also an easy to use fast travel system with points smartly spread across the city. This makes getting from one side of the city to the other a breeze. However, I found myself not using the system much due to just how inspired a lot of the vehicles are in Cyberpunk 2077. It feels impossible to describe how cool I felt driving a futuristic motorbike or a car that looks like the batmobile across Night City. While the lack of customization is disappointing, CD Projekt Red made up for this shortcoming by creating some incredibly stylish rides. Unfortunately, it is a shame the driving system itself is incredibly lackluster.
A complaint I have with a lot of open-world games is how bad driving often feels. Cyberpunk 2077 is no exception. I often found myself losing control of my vehicle while performing the simplest turns. The controls feel floaty, which ultimately makes the cars all feel like they have no weight to them. Aside from different top speeds, a lot of cars especially the non-super cars feel exactly the same. This is disappointing, as so much thought was put into the detail of making these vehicles look beautiful and detailed from the inside and out only for driving them to feel like a chore. After 90 hours of play, I found that I got used to them, but still did not find the driving to be enjoyable.
How Does The Combat Stack Up?
A lot of concern was directed at CD Projekt Red for their ability to deliver on an FPS game, after only having worked in 3rd person with the Witcher franchise. Ultimately, the combat is where Cyberpunk 2077 really shines. There is a wide variety of branching paths with the game supporting a fair number of play styles. Whether you choose to play a cyber hacking ninja with a katana, an explosive gun-wielding mercenary, or anywhere in between, the play styles are well-balanced and equally viable. Personally, I focused my build around stealth and handguns, which led to me being an incredible assassin by the end of the game. Whether it was with my revolver or sniper rifle, I could dispatch enemies in a bloody and silent fashion. Because I was able to build to my playstyle, the game feels incredibly personal with its combat. Going from clumsy mercenary to feeling like your character has just been hijacked from the Matrix universe is a childhood dream come true.
While the gunplay is tight, the hacking abilities and powers tie in beautifully. This is another part, where I have to tip my hat to the developers. While many games trip over their own ideas when trying to combine gunplay and abilities, Cyberpunk 2077 is not one of these games. Hacking an enemy is a single button click which allows you access to your selected hacks and abilities. These hacks can be as simple as causing a distraction, they can escalate quickly.
A short-circuit of an enemy’s cybernetics was a personal favorite, initially causing damage, and eventually just straight up killing enemies. You can purchase, craft, and even find upgrades to these cybernetics and hacks while completing optional content throughout the world. With the mixture of a kinetic and completely flexible combat system, combined with an intuitive hacking system. Cyberpunk 2077 is incredibly enjoyable when facing off against the many villains within Night City.
Tales Of Night City
In a large and expansive RPG, it is very likely that every quest will not be a thrilling adventure with important stories every time. However, I should, more often than not, walk away from a story and feel like that story ultimately was important to the world around me. This is something that Cyberpunk 2077 struggles with from its very beginning to the second the credits roll. Never have I been torn so down the middle on my opinion on the quality of storytelling in a single title. There are moments where the storytelling is gripping and it feels impossible to put the controller down. While some feel incredibly misplaced and repetitive, let’s start with the good.
The main story of Cyberpunk 2077 is intriguing right from the start. You and your close friends T-bug and Jackie Wells want nothing more than to become legends of Night City. You discover a wide cast of characters who want nothing more than to build their own legacy on the back of your deeds. The story is filled with plenty of twists and turns, and ultimately has a multi-path ending that depending on the relationships you built could be very different.
One glaring issue I had with the story quests, was often the lack of decision-making during side quest lines. In the early chapters of the game, there is an encounter with the Maelstrom gang. You have to secure a bot in order to execute the massive heist you are planning. When entering into the gang’s hideout, you have plenty of ways to approach the situation. You can try to haggle with the gang’s boss, try to intimidate him, or all-out assault him knocking him out of combat instantly if you pass the skill check. This decision can lead to a chain of events where you then can get a large chunk of bonus credits, as well as special gear depending on your decision. It was an incredible mission that absolutely set the tone for the entire game. However, there was never another mission in Cyberpunk 2077 that offered this variety of choices again.
It certainly was disappointing, as I found myself constantly thinking back to this mission throughout my time with the game. Alongside the main campaign, there are a variety of side gigs that will introduce the insane people that occupy Night City. A handful of these stories involve characters who will be part of the ending chapters of the game. This tie in however doesn’t become clear until closer to the end of the game. This means that some players may not experience certain endings due to not pursuing certain side quests and missions. This is an interesting twist on end game storytelling.
Now, a major disappointment about side content in Cyberpunk 2077 is the massive amount of filler content that litters the game that simply adds playtime, but nothing of actual value. There will be an endless supply of crime breakup jobs that will litter your map for much of the game. Each one usually involves killing 5+ enemies and then looting a backpack or suitcase for an item to complete. This becomes incredibly tedious, especially if you are a completionist like myself. These missions do not often even drop good loot or even pay well in credits. It was just mindless busy work for the sake of it.
Performances To Remember
One area that Cyberpunk 2077 delivers flawlessly, is its voice acting performances. There are many characters that stick out as memorable performances. The one voice performance that instantly is incredible is Keanu Reeves’s performance as Johnny Silverhand. Reeves does a fantastic job portraying the washed-out rocker and makes him absolutely unlikable in the first sections of the game. However, over time he begins to grow on you. He shows a different side that comes across in a very real and heartfelt way. All the while still being the bitter, anarchist rockstar that you come to love.
It is a testament of CD Projekt Red’s writing, as well as Reeve’s ability to deliver a memorable performance. With characters like Panam, Judy, River, Jackie Wells, and many more, I use no hyperbole when I say how rare it is for so many performances to hit home this hard. You will find yourself caring for a lot of these characters because they all feel distinctly human. They have plenty of flaws, but often they have your best interests at heart. It’s very easy to get lost in their stories, as each person comes from a unique walk of life.
I also have to credit CD Projekt Red for fully voice acting the player character, V. Too often the silent protagonist dominates the RPG genre, but whether you play as a male voiced or female-voiced V, you are in for an immersive experience, thanks to stellar performances. What decisions you choose is perfectly reflected in the voice of your V. It is not an easy thing to make all these different performances come together, but Cyberpunk 2077 does it brilliantly.
Music and Sound Bring Night City to Life
Cyberpunk 2077 has probably one of my favorite soundtracks of this year alongside Doom Eternal. The combat music feels very chaotic. It combines guitar and heavy drums with electronic elements to deliver a killer tune to murder too. The radio channels are packed with a variety of incredible tunes that branch a variety of different genres. From ear-pounding EDM to 80s style thrash metal, there are tunes for every taste in Cyberpunk 2077.
In contrast to the music, the audio design has some incredible highs with some lows as well. One of the big ups is the audio design around revolvers and shotguns. They sound powerful. When you fire a shotgun blast at point-blank range it creates a satisfying crunch with an explosive boom as it expels the shell. However, the assault rifles feel and sound like peashooters in comparison. It is unfortunate that they couldn’t deliver the same level of quality to the other weapons. It led me to build my character around revolvers and close quarters due to the glaring difference.
A Jack of All Trades and Master of None
Overall, Cyberpunk 2077 is a good game in the most basic of senses. However, after having been touted as the next step forward in the RPG genre the game simply falls short. Many games have done what Cyberpunk 2077 attempts to do and have even done it better. While the game has some incredible storytelling moments, it fails to make it feel like “your story”. It feels like many open-world action games before it. Good combat systems, music, and characters that enhance the world around it but ultimately your decisions feel meaningless.
Cyberpunk 2077 ultimately feels unfinished, not in the fact that it doesn’t run or is not content complete. More so that there are certain ideas brought forward very early on in the game that are brilliant. However, the further in the game you get, the rarer these moments become. The beginning and ending of Cyberpunk 2077 are a joy, but the middle feels like a collection of unfinished ideas. As an avid RPG and cyberpunk fan, it feels like ultimately this game missed the mark in delivering what was promised.