Good God. Over seven years since that first CG trailer, and this is what we get? We always thought that writing this review was going to be difficult, but CD Projekt Red has made it a lot easier than we had ever imagined. Why? Because, as of v1.05, Cyberpunk 2077's a damn mess on PS4, PS4 Pro, and yes, even PS5 via backwards compatibility.
To be brutally honest, it feels like the Polish developer has sold us down the river. We've been covering Cyberpunk 2077 since October 2015 here on Push Square. Off the back of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — one of our absolute favourite games of the last generation — we had near unshakable faith in the studio's next project.
As the years ticked on, we started noting the lack of console gameplay for Cyberpunk 2077. The open world adventure looked so advanced and next-gen during previews, where it was always running on a very high end PC. But still, our hope remained. Even with all of the delays, we knew that, one day, we'd be playing Cyberpunk 2077 on a PlayStation console. That day has come, and the crushing disappointment that we now feel is a bitter pill to swallow.
Buried deep beneath the immersion-breaking bugs and shockingly bad performance issues, there's an excellent open world RPG at the heart of Cyberpunk 2077. The scope and ambition of the game is plain to see, but right here, right now, the title seriously struggles to live up to and maintain its own potential. At its best, Cyberpunk 2077 is outstanding in terms of atmosphere. A truly engrossing experience that refuses to let go even when you're not playing it.
Night City is an incredible setting — a sprawling post-apocalyptic metropolis that takes pleasure in beating your senses to a pulp. Just walking its streets, taking in its many sights and sounds is special. No open world game has ever conveyed the sheer scale of a city like this before, with skyscrapers and other, massive futuristic constructs obscuring the sky.
That sense of scale also lends itself to how brilliantly intricate the map is. There are countless backstreets and alleyways to explore as you sniff out both trouble and loot. There's always something around the next corner, which gives Night City a distinct air of intrigue.
It really is a genre-defining backdrop, but its functionality as an open world leaves much to be desired. This is primarily down to the city's non-playable characters — the citizens, cops, and gang members that populate the metropolis. So many of these NPCs look great, with really interesting cyber-human designs, but they almost feel like an illusion because their AI routines are so dreadfully basic. Shoot a gun in a crowded marketplace and the surrounding NPCs will simultaneously squat on the floor, hands over their heads. And they'll just stay like this for ages, instead of running away or attempting any kind of self defence.
Members of the infamous Night City Police Department are arguably even worse. Cyberpunk 2077 features a wanted system similar to what you'd find in Grand Theft Auto. If you go around murdering innocent people, you'll gain a bounty, and the cops will come running. Except they don't actually come running — they just spawn right beside you in plain sight and start shooting. Lose your wanted level by fleeing the scene, and they simply vanish into thin air. It beggars belief.
But it's the population count that really kills the illusion that this is a living, breathing, dangerously overcrowded hellhole. When you're on foot, just taking a leisurely stroll, the amount of NPCs that the game spawns isn't so bad — it feels reasonably busy. But hop in a vehicle, and the population count plummets. You can take the biggest highway in Night City — the one that stretches right across the outer limits — and you'll see maybe two or three other vehicles. How are we meant to believe that this is one of humanity's most bustling cities when the roads are this barren?
It's abundantly clear that sacrifices had to be made in order to get Cyberpunk 2077 running on PS4 — but that's no excuse. On Sony's base system, the game's performance is woeful, with both a dire framerate and an egregious amount of pop-in. It's a bit better on PS4 Pro, but it's still not good enough. On PS5, via backwards compatibility, it's a night and day difference thanks to a (relatively) smooth 60 frames-per-second, but the game's still plagued by bugs, and, worst of all, a consistent crashing issue that shuts the software down every couple of hours, pretty much without fail. Frankly, it's a disgrace — especially after CD Projekt Red went on record in multiple interviews saying that the console versions of Cyberpunk 2077 would be up to snuff.
Again, we find ourselves in such a disappointing situation. If Cyberpunk 2077 just worked exactly as it should — without the often ridiculous bugs and application errors — it would be right up there in our ongoing discussions for Game of the Year.
Indeed, one of the game's greatest strengths lies in its characters; the cast of Cyberpunk 2077 is outstanding. Night City is constantly bashing you around the head with overtly sexual imagery and wanton violence, yet its main characters bring welcome nuance to the adventure. In a world where it's about how you look and not how you feel, V's friends and allies come across as refreshingly human. You can't help but want to know everything about them.
Even Johnny Silverhand, the digitalised ghost of an extremist revolutionary who lives inside of your head, is shockingly well realised. This is in part thanks to the blunt and in some cases comical performance of Keanu Reeves, but again, its the writing and the interactions between characters that really propels Cyberpunk 2077 as a platform for excellent storytelling.
We love the conversation system, too. Given that the game takes place almost entirely from a first-person perspective, the dynamic nature of these dialogue scenes is incredibly impressive. Characters get up, walk about, and pose as you chat, giving conversations a very organic feel. When it's not bugging out, the game just oozes charisma. The immersion factor is usually off the charts during these intense story segments, which makes it downright soul-crushing when a technical problem wrenches you from the moment.
Speaking of, er, speaking, we can't help but be a bit disappointed in how stunted some of the role-playing options in Cyberpunk 2077 actually are. The game gives the illusion of being a branching experience, presenting you with multiple dialogue options on a frequent basis, but much more often than not, these choices all lead to the same outcome — just with a slightly different flavour.
Now let's not be hyperbolic: this is still an RPG and some choices do matter — but it's not the incredibly in-depth and expansive RPG that CD Projekt Red had promised for years up until this point. And it's with that in mind that you have to temper your expectations before taking a trip to Night City. This certainly isn't a CRPG in the form of a first-person shooter. It would be more accurate to say that Cyberpunk 2077 is like open world Deus Ex — or even a futuristic Far Cry, but with way better stories and characters.
That said, combat in Cyberpunk 2077 is a whole step ahead of what you'll find in those two examples. Things start off a bit wonky — aiming with guns can feel unwieldy and the melee system is all over the place — but the game's progression systems work wonders in time. As is the case in The Elder Scrolls series, you become more proficient with the title's various weapon types as you use them, and you're constantly bolstering your abilities with all kinds of crazy perks. It can take hours for it all to click, but combat does eventually blossom into something that's satisfyingly visceral.
In case you couldn't tell, there's so much to like about Cyberpunk 2077, but its issues can't be ignored on PlayStation consoles. The love and effort that's been poured into this project is clear to see, but the bottom line is that, even after all of its delays, the game isn't finished. The more cynical the eye, the easier it is to see all of the corners that have been cut. Venture away from the relative polish of the main story, and it's hard to ignore the stunted systems and barely formed mechanics that break the illusion of Night City being a living and breathing place. Let's just hope that, in time, Cyberpunk 2077 becomes the game that we were promised all those years ago.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a blatantly unfinished game, and the worst part is that CD Projekt has known this to be the case for quite some time. On PS4 and PS4 Pro, poor performance comes close to wrecking the experience. On PS5 via backwards compatibility, there's still fun to be had — a glimpse of the game's excellent potential — but even then, it's crippled by countless bugs and unforgivable crashing issues. There's something special at the core of Cyberpunk 2077, but in its current state, it's simply not good enough. A disaster of a launch that'll be remembered for years to come.