Developer: CD Projekt Red
Publisher: CD Projekt Red
Platforms: Xbox Series X (Reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Stadia
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $59.99 USD – Available Here $109.95 AUD – Available Here
There was a time that The Witcher series was seen as a rather niche series but every subsequent title in the series saw CD Projekt Red grow as a developer with the series exploding in popularity with the most recent 2015 release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Following on the heels of such a substantial release that was given excellent post-release support, the development team had plenty of eyes on them to see how exactly their next game, Cyberpunk 2077 would turn out. After being announced in 2012 and stepping into the public eye in 2013, it has been a long road for Cyberpunk 2077 to arrive on PC and consoles but now that it has arrived, will all the goodwill that CD Projekt Red built up over the years keep the game together?
Players take on the role of V, a character that they take the reigns in creating right off the bat with what is a surprisingly limited character creation system. Here players can determine V’s orientations as well as their starting path, with Nomad, Corpo, and Streetkid being the choices that will then provide players the initial hour or so of gameplay and provide a number of background based dialogue choices throughout the game’s various character interactions. No matter how players choose to start V’s journey, it always ends the same way and culminates in a rather odd slapdash montage of events that feels like something players should be experiencing and playing through themselves but instead serves to place players in an established place.
After the montage V has become something of a mercenary for hire willing to take on any job, be it working for the police, something completely illegal, or a gray area, and her best friend/partner in crime Jackie and tech wizard T-Bug have just landed a job that will set them up for life, stealing a mysterious chip from the largest tech organization in the city the Arasaka Corporation. Despite the risks that come with taking on such a large scale job the crew agrees only for things to go incredibly wrong at the eleventh hour.
As a result not only does V end up with basically no one who can help her out, the result of the heist has left her with a ticking time-bomb in her mind, a biochip containing the mentality of Johnny Silverhand, an infamous terrorist who had long since passed away in Night City, planted firmly inside of her skull. With Johnny’s techno-ghost now haunting V and being a threat to her long term being, it is up to V’s connections with those willing to work with her and others seeking to find the truth behind various nefarious events that would be spoilers to mention to find a way to survive her current predicament.
Cyberpunk 2077 tells a tale that is filled with some great surprises and can really shine at times but it is also one that doesn’t really know how to pace itself. Players will meet a number of outlandish characters that seem to have so much depth to them only for them to be quickly shuffled along in an attempt to move the story along in regards to the core storyline, in fact at points it almost seems like a few of the game’s core story missions have missing sections where V is randomly jumped forward in time to progress events or flat out given an option to skip a silent car ride that could have been filled with more dialogue or interaction which, given the core storyline’s relatively short length for an open world RPG, should not be an option.
Thankfully many of these characters are given some of their own chances to shine in the numerous side-quests that players can tackle. These quests often provide much of the desperately needed character interactions that Cyberpunk 2077 needs, including a few romance options, and are often some of the zanier missions as they can freely explore just how strange life has become in this futuristic dystopia. These side-quests as well as collectible data-logs help fill in various lore gaps about the world that simply aren’t touched that well upon in the core story.
That being said, there is a certain character that does stand out as an exception from the rest and that is Johnny Silverhand who plays the key role of being the “Devil” on the player’s shoulder more often than not. Silverhand constantly chimes in regarding player choices in missions and can react positively or negatively to the way player’s choose to interact with some quests or characters and this does end up being one of the strongest points of Cyberpunk 2077 as a whole, bringing the quality of the core narrative up by a significant degree.
Once the player completes the prologue sequences, which serve to run them through most of the gameplay mechanics that players will be able to use to take on any given situation, they are given access to a small chunk of what eventually opens into the full massive map that is Night City. This map is filled with everything from main story quests, side-quests, smaller missions called “gigs,” criminal activity in progress, and more but players will need to be careful because every district has enemies at different strengths so it is entirely possible to head to a district to, let’s say track down an AWOL AI taxi, only to find an enemy capable of dropping V with a single shot sitting close by. It is worth noting that while missions do warn players of how strong enemies might be through a “danger” system and high level enemies do have skulls in their data, these often aren’t accurate.
Most missions and tasks in Cyberpunk 2077 offer players a number of different approaches when it comes to navigating through an area and completing their objective. In some areas there may be doors or shutters that can be brute forced open with enhanced strength or hacked with technical skill, giving players a stealthy backdoor into a hostile area. Other options for the same location may include smooth talking past a receptionist, paying “eurodollars” as a bribe,” hacking enemy vision or disabling security equipment from a distance, or if all else fails simply going in guns blazing.
The amount of options available to players is quite nice, though there are some balance issues when it comes to stealth and simply taking the violent route especially when one considers that, outside of occasionally providing a bit of extra dialogue, there is no reward for playing non-lethally. There is no karma system or even a reputation system for the various gang factions in the city outside of simple “Street Cred” that is awarded for defeating any enemy. In fact, a whole series of side missions that specifically requests players only knock out certain enemies in the world can be brutally taken down with any weapon and are still treated as unconscious. This means that players who want to sneak around, avoiding enemy vision cones and using V’s hacking abilities to limit what enemies can do have no real reason to do so other than to see how capable they’ve managed to become at stealth.
Actual combat works rather well with players being able to make use of a variety of firearms, most of which feature various futuristic elements such as homing bullets or ricocheting ammo, melee weapons that are about as straightforward as they come, and of course the various cybernetic enhancements they have equipped themselves with such as the incredibly powerful Mantis Blades. These augments come with a number of different abilities of their own and can have mods equipped to apply elemental damage for some extra oomph.
Exploring the world itself is a bit of a mixed bag primarily thanks to the fact that, while there are a number of unique districts to explore and tons of side-activities to take part in, most of the city is made up of locked doors and NPCs with generic dialogue with zero interaction. Oddly enough, even crime doesn’t pay in Night City as any killed civilians or police will not drop items when slain, even if doing so puts a temporary warrant on V’s head. Driving a standard vehicle is also clunky at its best though thankfully an easier to handle motorcycle is one of the first things V is provided with. Even exploring with enhanced augments such as double-jump can lead to more problems as the developers did not seem to think that players would use such abilities to try and explore rooftops as doing so often led to a forced reload once V either fell through the world or ended up stuck in a rooftop unable to move.
These types of bugs were only the tip of the iceberg when it came to my time with Cyberpunk 2077. Multiple times throughout the game there have been side-quests that have either failed to complete properly or failed to spawn enemies that must be defeated unless a previous save was reloaded. On one spectacular instance all enemies spawned in invisibly only to fire wildly around the rooms and, since players cannot save in combat, required a lengthy replay from the previous save file. Thankfully auto saves are made frequently by the game and players can quick save at a moment’s notice but this doesn’t stop the saves from corrupting entirely as was the case about ten hours into my time with Cyberpunk 2077, resulting in almost all of my saves being corrupted outside of a handful five hours prior. Other such glitches such as lootable items sinking straight into the ground, enemy AI glitching and standing still, cars spawning randomly, characters T-posing or sitting on invisible chairs, textures of the world and even the characters themselves flicker into random chrome colors, and these are only a few of the many that we’ve seen, not to mention crashing multiple times straight to the Xbox home screen. This means that those who want to see what Cyberpunk 2077 has to offer have to be prepared to save often or risk losing progress either glitched quests, bugs that may kill V suddenly or render her unable to advance, or worst of all, lose hours of progress should any type of corruption occur.
Visuals & Audio
When everything is working fine, Cyberpunk 2077 is an outstanding looking game with almost every aspect of the world dripping with futuristic aesthetics. Buildings are covered in bright holographic billboards advertising the latest augments, most firearms feature morphing animations the first time V equips them as they form to her hand, and almost every story character features some form of unique futuristic looking design though once again, vehicles do feel a bit on the weaker side when it comes to design. As mentioned before, this is only the case when everything is working fine players will likely run into many of the aforementioned problems as well as other issues such as witnessing strange vehicle pop-ins or the complete loss of texture for NPCs that can only be fixed by fast traveling.
The soundtrack for the game features a number of great pieces of music and players will have access to a large number of radio stations whenever they are driving in a vehicle though it may take some time to figure out just what type of genre each station plays due to their unusual naming conventions. As for the voice work CD Projekt Red has gone all out for the game’s signature character Johnny Silverhand as he is both modeled after and voiced by the famous actor Keanu Reeves. Reeves’ voice work for Johnny is top-notch and it is nice to note that every line in the game is voiced, even V’s dialogue choices, which is a nice touch, especially since the voice acting for most of the game’s story and side-quests are handled quite well. Of course, there is a caveat here that players will need to keep an eye on the game’s subtitles as quest dialogue can glitch out entirely with NPCs not actually speaking or having a random NPC or shopkeeper talking over them instead.
Cyberpunk 2077 has found itself in perhaps the worst situation a highly anticipated title can end up in. When everything is working the storyline is quite engaging and features plenty of enjoyable side-content that helps expand the world in a satisfying manner as players take down their foes with a wide-array of tools and options at their disposal. Unfortunately a lack of balance in combat can make certain elements feel unrewarding and as engaging as the story is, it is rather short as a whole should the player focus only on the core story path. When things aren’t working right, which is more often than not, players will experience hard crashes, buggy quests that require reloads, items vanishing from storage, frequent visual glitches, and many more issues that plague almost every element of the game. As a result it is clear that Cyberpunk 2077 can be a great game, perhaps not quite as extensive as some may have hoped, but that is only after it manages to clean itself up much like V can clean up the streets of Night City.
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