Potentially controversial counterpoint: Cyberpunk 2077 is a very good game that’s been almost entirely undone by CD Projekt RED’s decision to push it out of the door prematurely. Seeing the game delisted from the PS Store overnight – after a sh*tstorm that somehow stinks more than Fallout 76 and ANTHEM – was a real mind-blowing moment for me, not just because it’s unprecedented action from Sony but also because it completely contrasts the experience I’m having.
Here’s the thing: I love Cyberpunk 2077.
First, it’s important to get the caveats out of the way: I’m not being contrary on purpose, and I think it’s crucial to point out that I’ve played every single second of the campaign on a PlayStation 5 console, where performance is – for the most part – perfectly adequate. I’m also not, for a single second, excusing the state of the release on standard systems – a few framerate dips here and there is not ideal but acceptable, yet we’re talking about unforgivable drops to 15 frames-per-second at 720p in this instance.
The bugs and crashes are also, of course, not acceptable. It seems I’m having a somewhat better experience than others, but in 45 hours of play even I’ve experienced around eight or so crashes back to the PS5 home screen, while I also can’t access my stash – an in-game storage mechanic designed to offload gear you’re not currently using. I’ve even had incorrect button prompts stuck to my screen for about 15 hours of my playthrough. No idea how that happened!
It could have been worse for me, is what I’m saying, and I want to acknowledge that before I move onto my next point. And that point is simple: this is a fantastic game. Personally, I was never an enormous fan of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but more of a distant admirer. The title’s fantasy setting and stilted combat just didn’t really appeal to me, though I could appreciate the density of its stories and the overall quality of its quests.
Cyberpunk 2077, however, is right up my alley – perhaps more than I ever anticipated. Night City, the title’s futuristic sci-fi sandbox, is frankly one of the best open worlds I’ve ever explored – and I stand by that knowing that the population density is dramatically reduced compared to the PC build.
I, obviously, appreciate that it’s not the open world the developer promised: the artificial intelligence, to put it flatteringly, is non-existent compared to even the near-decade-old Grand Theft Auto V, and it’s not exactly what the studio said it would be. But in terms of artistry, even with all of the bizarre scripting bugs, I think the way back alleys like Jig-Jig Street contrast tonally to other districts such as Pacifica is nothing short of staggering. It’s an outrageously immersive backdrop.
I’ve also been impressed by the quality of the characters I’m encountering – I really feel like I know some of these people personally. Horizon Zero Dawn is a title that I truly deeply love, but I honestly couldn’t name more than a couple of the non-playable characters from that release; Cyberpunk 2077’s cast, and the stories that accompany them, will stick with me. That’s a testament to the writing, performances, and animation work.
In fact, let’s just talk about those animations for one second. In most first-person RPGs of this ilk, you’re rooted to the spot during conversation, and forced to stare at ugly character models. But in CD Projekt RED’s game, not only are you given the freedom to naturally move around and take in your surroundings, but characters also don’t stand still: they move, they communicate, and they have body language. It’s an impressive achievement.
I think some of this helps to shape the story-telling. Without giving too much away, there’s one quest where you’re investigating a dodgy Ripperdoc – effectively, someone in the fiction who reprograms people and installs different parts. This particular character has a hand-sanitizer bottle attached to his belt, and the way he uses it tells you everything you need to know about him. This kind of subtle plot development just doesn’t exist in comparable games.
And, considering I found The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt a chore to play, I think the gameplay here is sublime. Obviously, again, I’m getting a better experience because my title’s running at 60 frames-per-second through backwards compatibility, but I think the combat is superb. Most crucial of all, though, missions are designed in a way that allows for a multitude of different approaches, and the character builder is so dynamic that no two playthroughs are likely to be the same.
Yes, you can blast people in the face, and that’s good fun – but the stealth also has a Dishonored-esque appeal to it, especially when you consider just how many options the hacking mechanics afford you. Make no mistake, Cyberpunk 2077’s plaudits do not begin and end with the story-telling – it’s also a well-designed game, and even if you stripped it of all its characters and narrative, it’d still be a lot of fun to play.
Ultimately, I think what’s happened to this title has got to be one of the biggest head-scratchers of all-time. The reality is that CD Projekt RED has, in my opinion, crafted one of the best open worlds I’ve ever experienced and paired it with a largely captivating cast of characters, a dense progression tree, and top-notch gameplay. I love the game, I really do – and I’m flabbergasted that the studio, knowing it had something special on its hands, allowed it to release like this, undoing virtually all of its otherwise excellent efforts.
What are your thoughts on Cyberpunk 2077? Are you enjoying the game despite its very obvious flaws, or has the dismal launch completely soured you on the release? Get it all out in the comments section below.