Cyberpunk 2077 – Review

You could call the last month with this game a train wreck in how not to release a title, a wild ride, or just another video game that was released. I haven’t delved into all the drama of this games release because it didn’t really affect me that much. I wrote about how I bounced out of the PS4/5 version of the game just before launch and decided to play it on my PC. I got a refund before it was even launched, talk about a trend-setter. That was clearly the right choice to make and I don’t want to take anything away from the struggles and shitty experience players on other systems are experiencing. We can see now that this title was clearly meant to be played on PC and I’m lucky enough to have the ability to do just that. The big thing I want to go into is, did this game live up to my expectations, and is it a masterpiece that will forever change role playing games.

The Start

I went into the game wanting a challenging and rewarding experience, so I decided to start on Very Hard difficulty. I wanted my decisions to matter as much as possible and I didn’t want to blow through enemies like they were nothing. That was my mentality going in and I’ll dive into if that actually lived up to expectations. I also picked the Corpo path since it felt like the more “cyberpunk” route to go. Having finished the game, it does feel like my character really was a Corpo. It makes me wonder more and more about the other two paths and how those affect the gameplay and dialogue choices. It’s engrained in who my character is and the game did a great job at implementing that choice.

The game has a decent character creator, where I was allowed to make my female V. I gave her a vagina and the perfect size breasts and an attractive face with an edgy hairstyle. She looked pretty cool to me. There wasn’t a lot of body customization as I thought there was going to be. No changing arms into robotic parts, coloring sections of your skin, or really having a wild time making a synthe’d out V that is super unique. It’s all a bit locked up and slightly disappointing in that regard. It makes me want to create a mod with a bunch of different options for others to mess with. You’ll come into contact with other characters that have modified their bodies in more extreme ways, but none of those options are given to you.

Have a drink for your choom!

Graphics

I’m going to jump right into the graphics section of this review since I spent a lot of my early time with the game doing just that. I’ve never spent this much time in a games graphics menu. For reference, I have a 12 core 3900x CPU and an RTX 2070 Super with 64GB of RAM and a 3440 ultra-wide GSync monitor.

For the longest time I jumped into the graphics and turned ray tracing on and off while changing the amount of DLSS used. The issue is that I could turn on ray tracing in one scene, either just a setting like reflections or every RTX option available, and the game would give decent frame rates that felt playable. I’d go like 10 minutes and be in a new area and drop to 20 FPS all of a sudden. So I’d have to jump into the menu and turn off ray tracing and my frames would jump up to 75. I would constantly go back and forth between ray tracing and using optimized settings, I wanted to see what the experience was like with RTX on and how playable it really was.

Ray tracing on the right. The lighting helps ground objects into the environment, also notice the improved reflections.

I found that the game really does need more granular controls of how ray tracing works. Instead of just having a reflection slider that turns it on and off, add another slider under it that controls the amount of rays used for reflections, allow me to only use a quarter of the rays, apply a filter on them and smooth out the reflections a bit. I’ll still get the affects of ray traced reflections but at a less dramatic hit to the resources of the card. It would be a similar situation to how Battlefield changed the resolution of their reflections after the game came out. These RTX cards are only at the beginning of the technology and could use a bit more help to make the game really playable at a decent frame rate.

A good thing about the graphics is that it’s so easy and fast to change any of the settings, turning ray tracing on and off is instantly applied and you can just get back into the game. There’s a bit of a hitch and the graphics have to switch over from full rasterization to ray traced but it’s not bad at all.

One of the more drastic differences of having ray tracing enabled.

One thing I immediately noticed and was worried about is how blurry your character looks in the menu and in reflections. I found that if you run the game in with DLSS on, your character is being rendered at a lower resolution, even with reflection quality turned all the way up. So if you play with ray tracing and DLSS to gain a bit of performance back, your character will look like a blurry mess in mirrors and the menu. This might not bother some, but I had an issue with it. This actually started putting me over the edge in the ray tracing and I would eventually just turn it off completely (for the most part). I just wanted my character to look crisp and clean and having RTX off allowed me to put DLSS at quality or even off with playable FPS.

I noticed in those reflections that my character was definitely not as good looking as I thought she was. There was definitely a disconnect between the character creator and what you see in mirrors and when you look down at your body. The way the lighting works on the face just made her look a little jacked up, which was not what I wanted.

I’ll just leave that reflection right there.

The games graphics are really nice as an overall package. It’s great knowing that this game can’t just be played at maxed out settings on my computer. That means when I upgrade to a future graphics card, if they’re available at MSRP, that I can get an even better product and gives me more of an incentive to replay the game. PC games need to be pushing the envelope a lot more often. It’s a little sad when Doom comes out and you can immediately crank up all the settings and get 200 fps. They’re leaving a lot on the table and the title could have looked that much better, both now and in the future.

Don’t feel too bad if you can’t do RTX shadows.

What Is This Game?

The biggest question I had when starting this game is how is it going to be played, what’s the meat and potatoes of it all? Does it resemble other games I’ve played or are we talking about a completely revolutionary title that pushes the envelope?

This is where my first real disappointment of the game stems from. The game is basically a Fallout style game combined with Deus Ex. That’s kind of it. I really did not expect this from the game. I did not expect to free roam a map, find a mission, enter a building and kill everyone while picking up everything in the room. Selling items I collected for cash, or scraping them for resources to use in crafting.

If I was to honestly describe what I thought the game would be, perhaps I was fooled by the hype I built up from the trailers, but I thought it was going to be the most immersive game ever made. I was expecting an insanely in-depth mechanical game where story and characters were intertwined at every move. Think The Last of Us crossed with a completely open world. Where character animations blended smoothly with every environmental interaction. Romance options with characters that had depth and complexity unlike anything I’ve seen before. Fight mechanics that used “cyberpunk” tropes to create unique and engaging combat scenarios that made me truly feel like the character of V. Scripted combat sequences were enemies would team up and use cool cyberpunk mechanics to try and destroy me.

All I can say to all that is that the game is a video game. It doesn’t transcend any of those areas I mentioned. It is not the genre defining game that shakes the industry and raises the bar for what this style of game can be. While I’m disappointed in saying that, the game we got is more realistic in the hype scale and was still enjoyable to play, so I can’t be that upset at it.

Characters

The character models in this game are all great. It’s pretty amazing that a game of this type can have so many great looking character models that are completely unique from each other. Every important character in the game is their own unique model, no Fallout style character creator people to worry about here.

What I also found impressive about the character models are the random NPCs that fill out the city. While interactions with these characters are comically limited, the look of them are all way above board. I found myself just stopping to check them out, look at their clothes and the quality of their models. It feels like a new standard was set by this game in this regard, I only wish the lighting was a tad better on these characters.

Immersion

The amount of immersion you feel when playing this game is really uneven for me. Just take one example of visiting Vik, one of your ripperdocs that can alter your body to improve different aspects. The first time you visit him he makes a modification to your body and he’s talking to you and performing the “surgery” using his special ripperdoc equipment. It makes you feel like your character is really changing. People spent time on this scene and it’s important for your character development, it means something (Again, this is also a scene shown in previous trailers). If you leave him and go to any ripperdoc in the world, or even back to Vik for that matter, for another upgrade, all you do is select one from a menu and your done. There is no animation or talk about the mod, how it will change your body. The attention to detail and world building ends there. Why not add some flavor text, have the doc talk about how you’ll feel with these upgrades, or express concern for your health if you make too many changes. Just think about watching Ellie in The Last of Us 2 working on her guns at the upgrade bench and how that attention to detail brings you in and makes the experience of your weapon evolution more personal.

Not every location is this dense, this is from a section used in the demo.

To help turn that around, perhaps they should had 90 percent less pickups in the environment, but make the ones you find that much more important. Make super unique items that mean something and have specific lines or dialogue and animation. Give it a history. Make the lake wider, not just as deep as possible. Bring a level of immersion reserved for a bespoke small game and expand it to a game the size of Cyberpunk 2077.

While there is a lot of dialogue in the game, the recording quality seems to fluctuate to a degree as to become distracting. I don’t remember ever playing a game where the tone in dialogue changes so frequently from line to line. I can only imagine that the dialogue was recorded out of order over a long period of time with little care to the overall scene. It feels like an AI did the dialogue at some points. One sentence will portray a laid back tone and the next will just be yelling because that’s where the tone was supposed to be shifted in that line reading. It doesn’t present in a natural way were an actor reads the lines and gradually ramps up the anger. Instead, you can feel the mechanics of the dialogue process. It’s like I know how they recorded the lines and I can see the process behind it, there is less craft and more mechanics.

If only the whole game was at this level of immersion.

Side Missions

One of the best aspects of the game and the reason I put over 80 hours into it over the last month or so is the side missions. I did every single one of the side missions before even attempting the last mission of the game. In fact, once I got to that point I only had one mission to actually break off and do before returning.

What’s so great about the side missions are that they all involve a specific building or area in the game world. They feel like these little single-player levels where you have to clear out a building or get to a computer terminal to upload a virus or something. If I wanted to be sneaky I found that I could always get away with it without getting spotted, or if I wanted to perch up somewhere and do some sniping then I could do that also. There are typically multiple ways to do any side mission and it just depends on the way you spec your character. I kind of thought there should be more, but perhaps I’m just living in a weird time period that is distorting reality for me.

It’s a big world out there, look to hidden surprises on the rooftops.

Those missions are almost always provided to you by going near a particular building, where you fixer for the area will hit you up and give you a little exposition on what the situation is. It makes for a fairly straightforward affair that is easy to jump in and out of without worrying about anything else. Makes for picking up and playing a bit each day an easy and satisfying affair.

The issue I had with side quests that made me feel a little let down had to do more with The Witcher 3 and what I got from that game. I remember so many more side stories from a game I finished years ago that this game I just finished. It has to do with the way it was so much about the characters, people like the Bloody Baron, were so integral in every aspect of those quest lines. They were also more fleshed out, their stories felt personal and they stick with you in a way I feel like Cyberpunk 2077 never truly achieves. This is because of the writing, sure, but also in the way the game tells its narratives.

Here you can meet with a person who will tell you a bit about your mission, perhaps you’ll sit in a chair in front of them and pick some dialogue options to get started on your mission. There are no cinematic camera angles, everything stays in first-person perspective. This would be okay if they instead did more with character and facial animation of these NPCs in your quests. I was never once sold on a performance as I am in games like The Last of Us or oven The Witcher 3. Jackie was probably the best this game offered in that regards, and probably because he was in the early demos (sense a pattern?). There is too much of a disconnect between the players character of V and the environment around you and the interactions you have with other main characters in the game.

I should have been able to steal this.

While this maybe seems like a bit of a nitpick to some, it truly is where I feel this game lets me down the most. You take the mission shown in the gameplay reveal, where you find the naked woman in the bathtub in the shitty apartment building and have to extract her to the medical team on the balcony. The player character gets into the bathroom, notices the woman is in the tub and is animated moving the male body off her and holding her, V then jacks in and eventually picks her up from the tub, there is movement and expression. Your partner Jackie throws a medical device to you and you use it on her, all animated together immersing you into the world and the characters at the same time. This is the immersion I expected the whole game to convey and express, it just isn’t the case in the slightest.

Listen, I get that this stuff is hard. It’s a lot of work that needs talented people and a lot of time to animate and implement. I just thought the massive scale of this games development and the incredibly talented people working on it would have brought this level of immersion to the table. Let me take that back a bit, the people working on the game are not to blame, they’ve crunched an insane amount on this title and I’m sure they did their best. The higher-ups are more to blame, they should have given more time, planned better, and even outsourced more (if that was the game they wanted to make).

Most of the side missions are brought to you by a fixer, with each section of the city having a different fixer for their respective turf. Your interactions with these fixers, which are supposed to take the place of people like the Bloody Baron (I’m guessing), don’t live up to that level of immersion and care. It works as a method of delivering great nuggets of side missions but they don’t truly draw you into your character and the world. They end up just being this little characters in a box yapping at you, telling you that you did a great job and your eddies should be in your account shortly.

Romance

It feels like I’m just shitting on this game left and right and now I have to talk about the romance in the game. Listen, I played as a female V and I fell, I mean my character fell, madly in love with Judy Alverez. She’s clearly the sexiest and coolest person in the game and is my one and only. I was able to hang out with her on multiple occasions and even had a romantic night by the lake with her were we finally went all the way. It was a great night and she even invited me to use her apartment whenever I wanted. I went to visit her there, wanting to spend some more time with her, It’s a game and I wanted to role play. She’s now my girlfriend and we can enjoy each others company and continue our wild romance, it wasn’t even out of some pervy “let’s have sex because this is a video game” thing. I really do just like Judy and wanted our story to get deeper.

Judy Judy Judy

Turns out Judy wasn’t having any of it. Check out her (our) apartment, we have one little bed in the bedroom and the other room is used for her computers. Every time I go over to visit her, and I’ve done this at multiple parts in the story to see if anything changes, she’s just chilling by the window. Go up and talk to her and her dialogue boxes are all greyed out since we’ve already talked as much as we can. There’s literally nothing else to learn about her. We can’t sit on the couch and watch TV together, be intimate together or anything. I can’t even kiss her again. We had one crazy night and then that’s it. Not including what happens at the end of the story (no spoilers) and doesn’t really count for anything in my mind.

It’s a huge letdown when I realized that every time I went to her place it would just be the same thing. If felt so pointless, you feel this connection and then you just run into a wall with it. Perhaps you’re just supposed to find another person to romance and work towards that instead, but I didn’t want to cheat on my girl. I get that this game isn’t a dating simulator or something like that, but they could have at least gone just a little bit further with the dialogue or something.

Inventory System and Crafting

The inventory system in the game needs to be discussed, mostly because you’ll spend a lot of time in it so it deserves some attention. I don’t really have an issue with it overall, I just think it could be improved a lot and that’s where my discussion will focus because it will cover a few key areas. The first issue is something I poked at earlier, the resolution of the character when you’re in your inventory, it made me turn off DLSS or keep it to the quality setting so my character looked sharp. Perhaps DLSS doesn’t work in the menu and that’s what’s happening, not sure but interesting.

I spec’d into the crafting system because I wanted to craft those juicy legendary weapons and all that. The issue was that I only maxed out my crafting tree at the end of the game. So I really just did a little extra at the end for the last mission. I wish I had more of an opportunity to craft more and use all those skills. I get that it’s partly my problem and if I went about things in a different way I could have gotten more of a use out of the skill tree. Also sucks that I don’t have any more side missions to do because what’s the point of crafting bomb ass weapons if you’re done with the game? New game plus?

One of the better head pieces, others are really ugly.

Let’s also let players mark your items as junk so that when you hit up the shop you can sell it all with a press of the button. We need way more variety in options, take a page out of the Diablo 3 playbook. Have me lock favorites so they can’t accidently be sold or scraped, mark others for scraping and so on. Instead, you’re going to spend a fair bit of time going through you inventory every time you hit encumbrance and digging through that backpack finding what you want to sell and scrap (if you care about crafting that is).

I don’t know if I just missed a bunch of stuff, but I really wish there were more full body outfits, these are clothing items that that ignore the other items you have and only provide an aesthetic look to your character. They override your whole look and give you a single style. I think I only found like 3 or 4 of them in my playthrough, and they all sucked. It could just be a part of future DLC, but who knows when that will drop now. The hats in the game are some of the ugliest things imaginable, and you can’t even hide them! If you’re giving me all these stats from wearing a hat and it’s ugly as shit, why not give me the option to hide its visibility? Instead, you have to remove it from your character completely.

The last thing I’ll touch on here is the weapon variety, which I don’t think there really is much of. You might contest that there is a decent amount of different weapons, and you’re partly right, but hear me out. As you spec out your character, you can go into any three routes with your guns. You can go into Power, Smart, or Tech. I chose the Tech weapon route because who doesn’t want to fire a gun through walls? It’s probably the most overpowered skill in the game and almost breaks the whole power structure of every fight. So okay, I’m a primarily Tech weapon user, now you can choose to go into shotguns, handguns, submachine guns, or rifles. I’d carry around a handgun, rifle, and sniper rifle. That was my loadout and it worked wonders for my V. The rifle and sniper that I carried were dictated by the Tech tree, which meant I only had a very small pool of available weapons to carry around. Get this, the first Tech rifle that I started using and loving was identical in appearance to the one I finished the game with. That really doesn’t feel satisfying in this style of game. A game where you’re constantly picking up new weapons and seeing how their stats improve like a Borderlands game. I would have expected 3-4 times more weapon models than what was offered. Everyone was using the same thing and it got a bit boring.

Bugs

I started playing this game on the PC at launch and finished up in the second week of January so I know a bit about the bugs in this game. My experience wasn’t that bad overall. I felt like the game itself was solid as a rock. I didn’t get any crashes or corrupted saves (none of my saves went over 8MB), loading was always surprisingly fast and the menus felt snappy.

My big bug issues had to do with just random jank in the world. The worst thing that happened was during a scene were a friend was dying in front of me a gun they were holding was just stuck inside of their head as they die. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the developers had intended to happen in that scene. It just sucked since this was supposed to be a really emotional and I’m just looking at this gun sticking out of both ends their head, just silly. Of course you’ll get the common T-pose characters, or you’ll pop out of your car as you drive and T-pose above it. The more annoying things would be the items you can’t pick up because they are embedded just into the ground a little too far, luckily none of those pickups were mission critical for me.

Now that would hurt.

There’s a bunch of little menu and zoom issues, which were often resolved by going to the menu for a second. I think this game gets more of a pass from me because it’s technically more advanced than a Skyrim or Fallout, perhaps if those games didn’t have loading screens to enter a building I wouldn’t have dinged them that much, because that’s some old school shit right there.

I played this game through the Epic store, and apparently they have achievements support now. Granted, I only popped 4 of them in my whole time playing. That’s because my achievements were clearly bugged out, which was really annoying. What year is this? It feels like an early PS3 game or something. Also, let’s sync Playstation and Epic achievements/trophies. That’d be nice. Should do something with that Sony investment.

My Playthrough

This is what the game is all about here, what was my playthrough of this game like? I easily got max (50) street cred and hit level 48 on my character, which is just shy of the level 50 cap. I could probably jump in and fuck around for a bit to knock that out, just not sure if I have it in me right now though. I went in wanting a challenge and to get immersed into this world of Cyberpunk. I started the game on very hard and kept it there the whole time. It started out hard but quickly became a fairly normal difficulty level with a few cheap deaths thrown in randomly.

My weapons became a destructive force of nature. I could shoot through walls and extinguish life without ever being seen. Enemies would run around after my first shot trying to find cover, but I would ping them or hack a camera so their outlines were ever present. I hold down my rifle’s trigger to charge a shot, headshot after headshot tearing through the walls as they drop, one by one. The game would feel too easy if I continued on this way so I would stealth through levels, sneaking up on my prey and choking them out, sometimes tossing their bodies into the bins to hide them from their friends.

A really cool looking bar with a fitting title.

I wished at times that my prey would become smarter, or find technological ways to counter my overpowered weapons. Perhaps it’s simply impossible for them to handle my gaming acumen. The combat and weapons were fun, I had a blast running through side missions, each a small puzzle to be solved or blasted through. I tried to live in the world, to be my V as much as I could. I wanted to like this experience and for the most part I did, the game succeeded in that aspect for me.

The story found a way to carry me through my journey. The inclusion of Keanu Reeves as a guiding construct of rocker glory, providing insight into my character and the history of the world and it’s characters was an unexpected and brilliant inclusion. I felt like his character grew throughout the game and my connection to him also grew in the same way that felt natural. This is perhaps one of the strongest relationships the game offers, which makes sense since it’s the central pillar of the story.

Instead of going in the front door, look for a snipers perch and pick people off. One of the cool opportunities available to those who explore a bit.

The love and hate came from my romantic relationship with Judy. I felt like the game did this wonderful job of cultivating my relationship with her that by the end it felt wrong what they did. Why put in all that work? Having specific side missions to gain loyalty and to learn about her past and forming an emotional and romantic bond with this woman, only to sleep with her and that’s it. It feels like a game from 10 years ago where you put in all this work just to see the sex scene and get a little bit of nudity. Hey developers, be better than that, have more respect for your characters and for the players. They literally do the smallest amount of work in making your relationship feel real after you sex them up. Try texting your girl or boyfriend and have all the same options, or visit them and they’re standing in the same spot waiting to say the same thing, day after day. Don’t think you can go out on a date, romance them again, kiss them, hug them, or even talk to them. That part of the game is done you idiot, try romancing another person and get their sex scene instead. What a wonderful decision.

Trying to come to a conclusion about this title is really hard. You wrestle with the enjoyment you got out of it, the ways it fights against you, and the expectations you had coming into it. It’s not the game I thought it was going to be. It’s not this monumental achievement in gaming that only a studio like CD Projekt could bring. It’s a video game that had a lot to live up to, and with reports of it’s development coming out in the past few days, it wasn’t in development as long as we thought and it wasn’t as smooth either.

To all the broken hearts.

I can’t wait to see the patches and add-on content that they release in the next year or two. Build on the game and give me reasons to come back and enjoy this world that I loved. At the end of the day, I did enjoy the time I spent in the game. I might focus on a lot of the negatives I had but that’s because I was a little surprised to be experiencing them. Hope crashing against reality.

It will be fascinating seeing how the next gen ports of this game will hold up. I don’t know if my second playthrough will be on an upgraded GPU on my computer or on PS5 like I was expecting. I’d love to get some trophies for this game, but for me to platinum it they’re going to really have to get in there and massage some stuff.

The combat is a blast, I enjoyed sneaking around and shooting people. I wish enemies were a lot harder and forced me to use my weapons in combination with each other and with my skills to take them down. Instead, I felt like if I got in a tough spot I could just shoot people through walls and not even think about it. The fun came from forcing myself not to use that skill and try to silently take down every enemy in the building.

Final Score – 8.9

This was a flawed gem of a game. I think you should definitely play it, but only on a system that can play it correctly. Don’t even think of the last gen options as anything viable. Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that should look better in the future when graphics cards with better RTX support come out and you can really max the settings and resolution, so it gives you a reason to look forward to new hardware. The planned DLC and online stuff, I hope is interesting. It’d be cool if they were 20 hour DLC story packs like the Witcher 3 had. Of course, none of that has anything to do with this review, just things to look forward to. This game isn’t perfect, but I had a really enjoyable time in the 80+ hours I spent in the world. I’ll happily go back to Night City and chop it up with everyone and clear some buildings.

I can see my score changing in 6 months or a year from now. Perhaps when more is DLC is added. I have a positive outlook on this game. I do like the developers a lot and feel like they do understand where and how they fucked this all up. Perhaps companies shouldn’t be forgiven, but people should. I’m hopeful for more and can’t wait to see what they have to offer their customers to gain our good will back. Would people like a new game + option? How about a realistic mode like Fallout had?

3 Replies to “Cyberpunk 2077 – Review”

  1. Great review! I’m still on the fence about buying this game, I just recently completed The Witcher 3, so I feel like the difference in quality maybe a bit jarring. In any case, I’ll most likely wait for all the patches to be out before buying.

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    1. I agree, unless you’re really hurting to play it right now. It’s going to be a much better game when it’s patched up properly. The price has already dropped to 30 USD for the physical versions on Amazon so you could always scoop that up and hold onto it.

      Like

      1. No way 30 USD already?? That’s crazy, will have to check if it’s that cheap in the UK 😅

        Like

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