Cyberpunk 2077: A Thorough Review
Cyberpunk 2077 has gotten a bit of a bad reputation. Some of this is indeed well-deserved, but it varies drastically how well-deserved it is depending on which platform you tried to play the game. I was lucky. Being an early adopter of the Xbox Series X, and having a backup console of the Xbox One X, I didn’t see nearly the amount of glitch issues that others have reported on older consoles. And I did see quite a bit of glitches in the game. Apparently the glitches were so bad on PS4's that Playstation completely removed it from their online store!
The game developer CD Projekt Red has faced a lot of criticism, and even may face legal action over all the drama this game release has caused. But all of that is just noise and distraction at the end of the day. What is important to me really is quite simple: is this a good video game or not? I just finished a play through of the main story, and I’m here to tell you, not only is this a great game, but it’s one of the best games I’ve ever played.
Does it have its problems? Yes. Like any game does when it is first released. It always takes a few updates and patches to smooth the kinks out of a new release. But, to be quite frank about it, Cyberpunk 2077 has literally so much to love, it really really sucks that gamers are focusing on the negatives and taking attention from the experience this game has to offer. Let’s look at the positives.
Cyberpunk 2077 tells a fascinating and compelling story. It combines elements from several cornerstone pieces of science-fiction, such as Bladerunner, The Matrix, and mixes in some more niche references like Strange Days and Johnny Mnemonic. In this narrative, you find yourself in a large open world setting of a futuristic/dystopian society, where everyone is competing for status among different syndicate crime rings. The character you build gets a variation of a starting point depending on what allegiances you choose, but the story progresses in a similar fashion either way.
Due to a heist that goes wrong, you end up with a digitally extracted version of someone else implanted in your own brain. This makes you literally a character carrying another personality, and that other personality belongs to Johnny Silverhand, played by Keanu Reeves. The main crux of the story is that if you don’t find a way to remove the implanted digital imprint of Johnny from your mind, it will end up overwriting your own mind, basically allowing Johnny to replace your existence, and “killing” you in the process. Your body will go on living, just without your consciousness within its brain.
As far as game storylines go, this is pretty awesome. It gives the narrative a real sense of urgency. It’s an original concept, and it provides lots of cool moments for twists and turns along the way. There are obvious decision making moments that end up altering the way things play out later. One thing I really loved about it, was the relationship that builds between your character and the character of Johnny, even though Johnny is a character that lives inside your own brain. You are literally fighting the character of Johnny for your own existence, and yet, you find yourself attached to him anyway, as a sort of friendship builds between you. This may also be a result of my choices within the game. I could also have decided to make him more my enemy if I wanted, and the game could have went a different route. I like that a lot.
Along the way, in trying to save your own life while also somehow keeping Johnny alive, you meet a cast of characters that you can have assist you. These people within the context of the game all have their own storylines, and you can help them and get to know them along the way as well, or you can ignore them and keep pursuing your own path. I found them worth pursuing for the most part, and interacting with these characters only enhanced the outcome of the overall story. One thing that did frustrate me somewhat, was how once you completed a side character’s storyline, you could no longer really interact with that character other than through messages or video calls. This kind of felt a bit shunted. One character that I started a romantic relationship with, for instance, I could not reconnect with later, even if I wanted to. I found that odd.
I’m not going to spoil the storyline for those who have yet to get very far in the narrative, but I can say that I feel it resolves itself in a satisfying manner. The choices you make in the process matter. They have weight and consequence. You find yourself thoroughly invested and emotionally affected. You care about the characters. This is what you want from a gaming experience.
The gameplay mechanics are solid. This is an immersive game that is also a lot of fun to play. It’s a first person shooter, that is also a stealth strategy game, and a bit of an RPG in that you build your character stats to suit your own method of who you want your character to be. If I was going to fault it for something, I would fault it maybe for not being completely original in its gameplay system. But I what I found was a gameplay experience that was somewhat comfortably familiar to me, within a story framework that was so cool and unique, it felt kind of like the perfect mix of ingredients.
If I were to compare it to other games, I would say lovers of the original PC game Deus Ex are going to be extremely happy, because it pulls many of the best elements of that game, and applies them to the open world setting that is extremely similar to Grand Theft Auto. The way you build the character is reminiscent of Deus Ex, with a skill tree that allows you to build strengths in areas such as stealth or computer hacking or body strength. There are also body mod choices and weapon mod choices that feel borrowed from Deus Ex, albeit with updates. For me, this was awesome, because Deus Ex remains to this day one of my favorite games of all time.
When in stealth mode, which also feels similar to Deus Ex, in how you can find alternate routes around scenarios to avoid detection by cameras and foes, and then you can interact with computers to either remotely control the camera surveillance systems or shut them down, there is also a nod to another game, as when you are detected by an enemy the all-too-familiar bleep! from Metal Gear Solid sounds.
Overall, I enjoyed the gameplay mechanics of Cyberpunk. From the battle system to the stealth system to the cool Brain Dance review, within which you act like a detective capable of reliving others’ memories on multiple sensory levels searching for clues, I found lots to admire. I also was pleasantly surprised by the purely adult nature of the game. There are scenes in this that are so shockingly adult, I found myself slack-jawed and laughing. For instance, after a particularly raunchy sex scene, if you search the room, you find a double-ended dildo in the bed, and another dildo that you can take and use as a blunt weapon. Hilarious.
One minor quibble in this section, the boss battles leave a lot to be desired. I found none of the bosses in this game even the least bit challenging or requiring of strategy to defeat. I think this may be one of the major glitches of the game, because the bosses always made dramatic entrances and seemed like they were going to be extremely difficult, but they always ended up taking no effort at all other than running around the room and shooting them. The bosses also frequently got stuck in random corners or in midair, unable to hit me, while I was able to just keep firing bullets into their bodies. Others would attack ruthlessly and appear like they would do massive amounts of damage, but they barely hurt me at all. They need to fix this. It didn’t bother me too much, since it kept the story moving, but ultimately I’d like the game to challenge me more.
While I didn’t experience some of the worst glitches that others have reported, I did see my share. Often they were funny, such as times when clothes would disappear, and you would be walking around in the world with nothing on but underpants. Other times, they were extremely annoying. The game would lock up and have to be restarted. After a reload, I would find myself unable to switch guns in critical situations of battle, or even unable to fire my weapon while aiming with it. The vision scanner would stop working.
One extremely infuriating malfunction, was when the game would tell me I had earned a new character level or perk level, and I would go to the menu to apply that point I had just earned, only to find it had disappeared. And even though the point I earned had not been used, my stat accumulation bar was reset back to zero, meaning I had to earn the next level of stat to get the next point, even though the game had failed to let me use the one I just earned!
Characters would keep on talking like you were holding your conversation with them, even if you switched over to do something else. Things would randomly explode if you touched them. This includes dead bodies. One time I set a body down that I was merely moving from side of the room to the other and it exploded spraying a pool of blood over the floor of the room. Another time, my car somehow stuck itself in the space occupied by another vehicle. When I went to get in the car, it blew up both vehicles. I was still allowed to drive my car away, it just didn’t have any doors.
After shooting some characters, their guns would be left hanging in mid-air. You could often find yourself needing to select something to pick it up or move it, and the game just wouldn’t let you highlight it. For as large an open world as this game happens to claim to be, you do end up running into the same character builds on the street over and over. I couldn’t tell you how many times I walked by this one kid or this one overweight man in a tanktop.
The worst glitch I found though, was in the final cinematic. There is a pivotal choice you have to make that decides the entire fate of the game. When I went to make that choice, the game had glitched, and I was simply stuck, unable to make it. I had to reload a save and replay the entire cinematic in order to be able to make the choice. Talk about anti-climatic.
I think this game is much better than it gets credit for. The glitches got all the glory on the media attention of the perception of the product rather than what really matters, which is the story and the experience it offers to its players. So you may have to restart the game a few times, so what? So you may have to deal with some bugginess, and some annoyances, so what? All these things will be ironed out eventually. What matters is the story, and whether or not you have fun playing the damn game.
The story is awesome. The game is fun. End of rant.
Yes, maybe they could have delayed some more and got a more polished product released. But people had already complained and complained about how long they had already been forced to wait. In my opinion, I can’t fault them for releasing the game when they did.
And despite its flaws, I found Cyberpunk 2077 to be a marvelous video game, and one that I will no doubt play through multiple times to see the various ways I can change the final outcome of the story.
Give it a shot, and I’m almost certain you’ll end up agreeing with me.