Cyberpunk 2077 is full of promise but ultimately a disappointment
It’s never easy to live up to expectations, especially when you’ve created those expectations yourself. So it is with Cyberpunk 2077, the highly anticipated action role-playing game from CD Projekt Red.
The game is rooted in the pen-and-paper role playing game created by Mike Pondsmith and first published in 1988. Pondsmith continued to expand on the world and the characters, and that rich detail has found its way into this game. (Pondsmith was a consultant to CD Projekt Red.)
And it’s in this world building and storytelling that Cyberpunk 2077 excels.
You begin by creating your version of the protagonist, V. You choose facial features, body types, and even genitalia. One of three backstories—rural, street urchin, or corporate city type—sets you up for your relationship with Night City, the metropolis where it all goes down, and its denizens.
You get to decide where to assign points to five attributes: body, reflexes, intelligence, technical ability, and cool. As you progress through the game you’ll be able to improve these attributes and related skills.
You’ll also adapt your version of V with cyberware, the technical gear that becomes part of your body, and includes tools to improve sensory and physical abilities as well as weapons.
Which is how everyone’s V will be completely different. Mostly.
Cyberpunk 2077’s narrative trees seem endless
While all the characters may look different, they still have the same dialogue choices in the mix. To their credit, the writers on this project have created narrative trees that seem endless (nearly 600,000 words, according to CD Projekt Red). The non-player characters are varied and compelling, if a little stereotypical.
Keanu Reeves plays a significant supporting character, Johnny Silverhand. I won’t spoil the experience by going into detail about how he features in the story. It’s enough to know that the character came from the original Pondsmith work, and that Reeves put everything into the role.
In terms of play, there’s also lots of variety. You’ll navigate through Night City on foot and in vehicles and you can talk to most of the citizens. You’ll get into battles of all types, from street melees to full-on firearm fights with militarized security forces.
One of my favourite systems in Cyberpunk 2077 is the braindance technology that is part of the world. This is the process of recording and playing back memories (if you’ve seen either Strange Days or Total Recall you’ll get the idea). Throughout the game you’ll have opportunities to explore the memories of others in order to get necessary intelligence.
Night City and the surrounding rural area is massive, and CD Projekt Red developed distinct art styles for different sectors, all in line with the history of the city and the corporations which run it.
Crashes and glitches that break the game
There’s no denying that the game often looks stunning, but this depends on what you’re playing on. My review copy is for the PS4, and I’m playing it on a PS5 connected to a 4K Samsung Q60T equipped with HDR. Cyberpunk 2077 looks great for me.
Even so, there are visual hiccups that I’m willing to overlook. But having the game crash is not something that players should be experiencing, and that happened to me more than once.
And the bugs and crashes for players on PS4 and Xbox One consoles are much more severe. The game is just not running properly for most of them. People are often willing to ignore visual weirdness like bodies floating around or passing through each other. Constant crashes and glitches that break the game are not as easy to forgive.
The situation is bad enough that CD Projekt Red issued an apology just a few days after the game was released, and is offering refunds.
It’s true that CD Projekt Red will continue to work on Cyberpunk 2077 and the game will improve with each iteration. This is a world and a game that is interesting and compelling, and if futuristic, dystopic role playing games are your thing, you should have this on your list to pick up some day. But not today.
While there’s lots to like here, ultimately the experience is too tenuous to risk spending time with. You never know if you’ll run into a game-breaking error, or a series of crashes that will have you constantly stopping and starting.
Cyberpunk 2077 is available now for PS4, PS5, Stadia, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. Rated mature.