Creating an open-world RPG is no small feat. Creating worlds like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Skyrim take huge amounts of planning, preparation, and work. To put it into perspective, Red Dead 2 had a team of over 1600 people that spent several years crafting that world. Most realistic RPG fans, patiently waiting years for the next instalment are quite happy to expect bugs, glitches and maybe some issues that require patches. The ability to playtest a vast open-world, with moving quest lines and multiple choices is very different from testing a linear path driven game. That said, this isn’t a defence of Cyberpunk 2077, nor an attack. It’s a review from my perspective. But I feel that a lot needs to be said before we get to the actual nuts and bolts of the game.
Firstly, I’ve seen a lot of people say the game has been in development for varyingly inaccurate lengths of time, with some quoting as high as nine years. Games can be announced way before development starts and I feel this is part of a misunderstanding of how development cycles actually work. Cyberpunk 2077 entered pre-production with approximately 50 staff members after CD Projekt Red finished The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine in 2016. The development team size was also a third of Red Dead 2’s size at circa 500 people in total. I think this really changes the dynamic knowing it was four years and 50 people working on the game as opposed to what some assume was a team of thousands taking seven to eight-plus years to make. Not to mention Cyberpunk 2077 didn’t have a pre-established world like Fallout or Red Ded, where it could be built on, sometimes even using existing assets and artwork that has been flushed out.
Also, it’s worth noting clear motivations for CD Projekt Red to release this game and avoid further delays. In 2017 they were given subventions of around $7million USD to expand their team and world for Cyberpunk 2077. Their development costs were an estimated 1.2 billion Polish Złoty which is roughly US$317 million to develop making it one of the most expensive games ever made. Pre-orders for Cyberpunk 2077 were around eight million units with 74% being digital (the shift is happening) and one-third of sales through their own platform, GOG.com. Digital pre-orders for the title alone recouped the game’s production costs and 2020’s marketing cost.
This gets us to the two big fat elephants in the room – no not me and Stef – but the performance of Cyberpunk 2077 on consoles, and the quality of the game in terms of glitches, bugs, and broken quests. If I was reviewing this game on a console like a PS4 or Xbox One, it would be getting a poor score. At this point this is clear, the game cannot run on 7-year-old consoles. The tech cannot handle the sheer power of this game and its engine. Can we blame owners of consoles for expecting it to? No! of course, we can’t. If you buy a console game you expect it to run on your console. This world is very different from PC gaming with the minimum, recommended, and ideal specs to run games. Part of a game being sold is an understanding this game runs at an acceptable level. However, blaming CD Projekt Red for playing trailers in the best PC hardware isn’t fair in my opening. Name me one game that’s not going to show its full potential in trailers. Ubisoft is notorious for downgrading games and does anyone remember the trailers for Rainbow 6 Siege or The Division? Massive downgrades at play there.
Since its launch on consoles, we have seen a huge demand for refunds pushed by CD Projekt Red, which cements the fact it isn’t at a playable quality. CD Projekt Red even directed players towards the respective Microsoft and Playstation stores. With the news this week, Sony abruptly pulled the game from its online Playstation Store. A very unexpected move that has sent shockwaves through the industry. Remember how many pre-orders were made before the rerelease of those eight million? How many do you think were for consoles? Now we’ve even seen CD Projekt Red have a 35% share price fall since the eve of the game’s release.
It’s clear to me they knew this game couldn’t run well on consoles and with time running out and vast costs to recoup, invested interests from the Polish government, grants and pressure from the industry and fans to get the game launched, they hit a critical mass and released a game that can only really run-on PCs and surprisingly. Google Stadia!
Now we’ve got that out of the way I must say for everything bad which we will get to, the world and story of this game is simply fantastic. As I look at friends’ stats on GOG.com we’re all averaging 30+ hours already. Joe is on 55 hours but I’m sure he’s cheating and leaving his PC on, the sneaky boy! I’ve completed the game to feel comfortable to write this review. I’ve even gone back since, and completed multiple endings and most of the main side quests.
I’m a big fan of the cyberpunk aesthetic and RPGs, so it’s fair to say I’m a tad biased. William Gibson’s ‘Neuromancer’ is one of my favorite books and as a kid, Akira and Blade Runner blew me away and still do to this day. I’ve got a huge framed A1 Blade Runner poster above the screen I’m looking at to write this. There’s something about those hazy, foggy visuals as skyscrapers loom above cloaked in neon adverts selling you a better life those on the streets could only dream of. I think the division between rich and poor is what captivated me to this cyberpunk aesthetic. And given the state of the real world and the widening gap between the ultra-wealth and the poverty line, it’s becoming more accurate than ever.
Cyberpunk 2077 does a great job of immersing you in the world by allowing you to select three life paths. From what I saw from my playthroughs, these didn’t alter the outcome of the game much. They only allow for some speech choices. However, these didn’t have an impact on the overall choices, as they were secondary choices that wouldn’t advance the dialogue. The speech highlighted in blue expands the narrative but doesn’t change anything and speech highlighted in yellow are the choices you can select to advance the dialogue. Life paths refer to the three introductions you can choose from in Cyberpunk 2077, with the choices being: Nomad, Street Kid, and Corpo. Each one starts you in a different area, with a different prologue. These last for around 30 to 40 minutes and are interesting to explore. I do wish they had unique endings based on your life path choices, however. All endings can be discovered no matter what life path you select and I understand why this was done. Some people will only want to play through this game once. I chose a Street Kid, specialising in hacking, going for a stealth net runner build. When you reach mid-game this build becomes truly broken and I could walk into a battlefield undetected, hack everyone and cause them to commit suicide, go mental and attack others, fry their brains, or remotely detonate grenades. If there were cameras around, even better as I can hack them and then hack the enemies through this. At this point, you may as well call me Sam Fisher.
As I progressed through the main story and side quests I found myself hooked, playing for six or seven hours a day. I even finished the game four days after release. The voice acting and character motivations really felt real to me. I felt invested in those I chose to spend time helping and furthering side quests. The main story is brilliant and I don’t want to spoil a thing. The crafting and weapons are some of the most fun I’ve had in a game. It’s very point and click sometimes so combat feels less dynamic, but there’s something about those weapon stats, crafting and finding mods, and legendary guns that hooked me. I even found a gun that talks to me and sings. Every single shot I fired was a headshot which I found hilarious. A proper smart gun! I’m sure there’s even more great stuff hidden out there.
The progression at first can be very daunting. First, you have your overarching skills. And inside of those, a sub-skill tree can be used to unlock perks. Perk availability is determined by your main skill level. On top of your clothes, armour and weapons are cybermods. Oh, and don’t forget crafting, upgrading weapons and cyberhacks and quickhacks as well. The great thing about this is it allows a large number of playstyles. Want to punch everyone with robot arms and activate rage mode? That’s possible with the perk Gorilla Arms. Be sure to level up the main Body level and take the Frenzy perk which increases blunt weapon damage when defeating opponents by 100% for 10 seconds. Or for a change of pace, you could be a ninja with a katana dealing 50,000 damage per blow. YouTube has some crazy and fun videos demonstrating the adaptability of the different playstyle. Frustratingly, you aren’t able to respec main skills, only the sub-skills by buying a special item from Ripperdocs which is frustrating. To really see the true power of a build, you will need to start a new game and with no New Game Plus option at this current time, only the very dedicated players will be doing this. Come on CD Projekt Red where’s our New Game + mode? I guess just like the Witcher, we will have to wait some time to see this.
The world is big and open. From sprawling cities to the outskirts and deserts, which have a bit more breathing space. However, it’s clear that the immersion of the world depends on what you’re using to factor this. If it’s NPC behaviour and driving, you’re going to be very upset. NPCs all act the same and don’t feel immersive at all compared to something like GTA. If you park your car on a motorway, a huge and very patient line will form and they will wait… forever!
Unfortunately, this is something that every so often did take me out of it, alongside kids eating never-ending burgers by pushing their face into it – just wait for the café scene. However, the overall aesthetic of the city is leaps above something like GTA V, with lots of dynamic events happening around you like ships and trauma teams flying above you making you feel very small in a very big world.
Driving is okay. Once I switched to a controller to drive it made a huge difference. Some of that was me but from a studio who has never had to handle driving before, they’ve not done badly. Some of it is a bit slip-n-slide, but overall it’s not terrible. Unfortunately, there are no customisation options for cars and bikes. However, there are some great vehicle designs to buy or steal to keep you entertained. I wonder if this is something that could be added in the future?
I’ve tried to keep this away from stories and any spoilers, but as previously stated, you’ve definitely got to play this for the story, the side quests, the unique and great items, the immersive city, and great and unique playstyles with multiple ways to complete missions, So, basically everything about it really. Expect lots of patches to fix the sometimes game-breaking glitches. By the way, don’t craft too many items as that may corrupt the save file, and regularly save your game. You know, just in case.
CD Projekt Red has all the hallmarks of a GOTY game once they fix it for consoles, patch the glitches and bugs, and continue optimising the game. For these reasons, I have to lower the score to 8/10 but with work, I can see this being a 10/10 easy.