Cyberpunk 2077: The case for and against

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Is Cyberpunk 2077 really all that bad? No, says Nick Cowen who defends it in the long gaze of history. Yes, says Brad Lang, who breaks out his chainsaw.

Type the phrase “Cyberpunk 2077” into a search engine and it’s likely your monitor will scream back at you. Since its release in December last year, CD Projekt Red’s first-person RPG has been kicked up and down the street for everything from (amongst other things) being more bug-ridden than a city suffering from a lice outbreak.

Yet, while I can see that many of the barbs aimed at both the game and its publisher are more than justified I just don’t share the ire that’s being hurled in their direction. If I’m honest, I enjoyed Cyberpunk 2077 and furthermore, I got what I expected to pay for.

Full disclosure; I played Cyberpunk on an Xbox One. Yes, that fat slab of a console released all the way back in 2013, and I’ll admit that the game had more than its fair share of issues. Most of them have been filed and receipted by pretty much every single gaming outlet on the entire Internet, so I probably don’t need to go into that much detail here.

That having been said, these issues didn’t deter me. I was expecting them.

Much has been made of the notion that CDPR has squandered a lot of the good will it earned with consumers with the superb Witcher 3. Well, it eventually was regarded as superb. While the third instalment in CDPR’s sword and sorcery franchise reviewed very well at launch, players complained right from the get-go about bugs in the game, some hilarious (horses contorting or getting stuck on scenery) and others game-breaking. Perhaps people were happy to give that game a pass, given the sheer size of its scale and ambition – and also the fact that if you were prepared to put up with the glitches, the game really was very good.

One could argue that Witcher 3 wasn’t as hyped as Cyberpunk, but then, the former wasn’t a launch title for a new generation of platforms. It had less pressure heaped on its back. One could also argue that its bugs weren’t as egregious, but once again, I’d argue that nearly a decade of hype only throws them into sharper relief than those of its predecessor’s.

What Cyberpunk 2077 absolutely gets right is the creation of an awesome spectacle that is not only entertaining – it’s completely faithful to its source material. From the braindance segments, to the cynical dystopian feel, to the hellish, yet cool vision of the future, Cyberpunk is Mike Pondsmith’s table-top game brought to life. Hell, even the map layout is the same as it is in the source book! It’s also a hell of a lot of fun to play.

So Cyberpunk 2077 then, was what I wanted. It was what I expected. And as CDPR rolls out the patches, I can see a future where those that roasted it at launch will likely stick it in the same bracket as No Man’s Sky eventually – a process The Witcher 3 went through as well, without even a tenth of flaming Cyberpunk has suffered.

All yours, Brad:

I really disliked Cyberpunk 2077. “Hate” feels too strong but I certainly wouldn’t say I enjoyed my experience.. A lot can be made from the overblown promises dished out by CD Projekt Red’s PR team and while people’s anger for the hidden truths and misleading trailers is justified, that’s not the source of my dissatisfaction with the game.

My biggest grip is that it’s just… boring. Uninspired. A vapid adaptation that pays lip service to the tabletop RPG that inspired it and not much else.

Cyberpunk 2077 feels dated in its design. Open-world games have changed dramatically since Keanu Reeve’s side-project was announced and for the most part it feels like CD Projekt Red ignored all the improvements we’ve seen in the space.

Night City, while gorgeous to look at (on the right hardware) feels like it was built out of cardboard. There’s no spark that makes it feel alive. The NPCs are mindless drones that walk around the street, occasionally chiming in to say, “Hey,” or “What you want?” when spoken to. Remember in Red Dead Redemption 2 when NPCs would comment on what you were doing as you were doing it? They had contextual remarks and barks to really cement your place in that world. You existed in that world, rather than the world existing for you. Same for Breath of the Wild and Metal Gear Solid V, off the top of my head.

None of that is present in Cyberpunk 2077 and the end result feels like a town in Skyrim. Pretty to look at but no depth.

Hey, while I’m talking about Skyrim let’s stick to the topic of horrific UIs and quest logs. Cyberpunk 2077’s user interface is an absolute nightmare of pointless quest entries and clutter. Firstly, the distribution of quests is awkwardly implemented; driving into a new district only to have some random fixer give you a call and start dishing out chores feels impersonal and distant.

These quests begin to build up as you have no way of filtering the list, so players eventually end up with this overwhelming jumble of objectives and quests with little context as to why they should be completing them. It feels like the game is bashing players over the head with the amount of content on offer rather than focusing on fewer, more hand-crafted experiences. It’s the reason every car available for purchase is a part of that quest log; it’s a pointless addition to the game that clutters it all up. This was a problem in The Witcher 3 (albeit that was Gwent related) and it baffles me that it wasn’t fixed here.

Those are my two main problems but there’s a load of stuff that ground me down. Stealth is broken beyond belief and isn’t fun to play with the game clearly wanting you to go in guns blazing but begrudgingly offering a quieter alternative because that’s just what AAA games do these days, I guess. Enemy AI is dumb and never reacts appropriately, vehicles handle like melted butter sliding across a hot pan and the gunplays feels like a very intense Nerf blaster fight.

I’ll level with you, I missed the hype train for Cyberpunk 2077. I watched the 2018 trailer, thought it looked cool and then proceeded to ignore it. These issues aren’t coming from a place of disappointment. They’re stemming from the fact that Cyberpunk 2077 feels like a game designed in a time bubble, isolated from the progress we’ve made in the industry over the last seven years. It’s outdated, awkwardly assembled and, worst of all, an uninspired bore to play.

Panam’s pretty cool though.

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I completed a Masters Degree just so someone might take my opinions seriously one day. Also writes about video games over at Critical Hit.

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