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August 2022

Cyberpunk 2077

Platform(s): Google Stadia, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Developer: CD Projekt RED Studio
Release Date: Dec. 10, 2020


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PS4 Review - 'Cyberpunk 2077'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Dec. 14, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Cyberpunk 2077 is a narrative-driven, open world RPG set in the most vibrant and dangerous metropolis of the future — Night City.

Buy Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 is set in the distant future of an alternate America. Night City is a large megacity that's run by corporations and feeds upon the people. You play as V, who can begin with a variety of lifestyles. They dovetail when V becomes a mercenary for hire and is tasked with stealing something immensely valuable from one of the biggest megacorporations. One thing leads to another, and V ends up with that valuable something in their head: a chip containing the memories and personality of Johnny Silverhand, an infamous rocker-slash-terrorist who died 50 years prior. Now V must find a way to remove Johnny from their head or else his personality will overwrite theirs, bringing back Johnny from the dead and erasing V from existence.

The main plot of Cyberpunk 2077 is by far its weakest part. It feels toothless and afraid to take a stand about anything, which is ironic considering that is all Silverhand seems to want. The actual plot is a series of fetch-quests that amount to the same few things, and while it waves its hands at interesting ideas, nothing is fleshed out too much. The character writing is strong, and the characters are likeable, but I never felt engaged with the "cyberghost in your head killing you" plot and was more interested in exploring the world and the setting.

One thing that might be problematic for players is that the game is relentlessly crude enough to make a Grand Theft Auto game blush. It mostly works for the setting, but be prepared to hear some genuinely foul things. It's also heavily sexual, with nudity being almost omnipresent and several sex scenes that are basically like watching pornography. Admittedly, this is what one expects when the game allows you to customize your character's penis, but it's worth noting. After all, it didn't get an "M" rating for violence.

I was a bit disappointed by how inconsistent the game was about addressing its setting. Sometimes it was awesome, like a questline where a politician is being gradually modified to be more controllable without their knowledge and left to wonder if they are even the same person anymore. Other times, it feels like little more than set dressing over something more generic. The coolest writing involves the moments where it deals with corporate cruelty or the complexity of a cybernetic world, and it's worst when it tells a generic plot that could exist in any setting and seems to ignore world elements to tell its story. Fortunately, in my experience, there are more of the former than the latter.

Cyberpunk 2077 can best be described as an open-world version of Deus Ex. It's a first-person shooter/RPG where you can play as a modified character who can upgrade their augmentations, sneak around and hack things, and hit a lot of the same niches due to having the same inspiration. If you've played any of the Deus Ex games, you have a pretty good idea of what awaits, barring the addition of a standard driving mechanic. Deus Ex is the best cyberpunk simulator on the block, and any comparisons to it are usually positive.

Cyberpunk is heavily geared toward combat. While you can open doors with brute strength or tech skills, most of the time, you're going to go in, kill/knock out everyone, and leave. As such, when building your character, you should consider combat first and foremost and passive attributes second. Fortunately, the game seems to allow for a variety of builds. You can be a brutal gorilla-armed bruiser who can rip doors right off their hinges, or you can be a stealthy samurai who can slow time. Another choice is to be a master hacker who can electrocute enemies from a mile away.

The game makes sure that every play style feels appropriately powerful if you invest in it. Guns are hilariously powerful, and you can get guns that automatically lock onto enemies or fire huge, damaging blasts. Hacking is basically the game's version of magic, with a recharging RAM bar, which starts off in a limited amount, but by the end of the game, you can literally walk into a room and make everyone instantly explode. Swords and melee weapons take some getting used to, but they do absurd amounts of damage. Whatever ridiculous combat style you want, the game supports it.

The non-combat gameplay options are more limited. Several skills (body and technical ability) can open certain doors, and an upgrade to your hacking ability means that you can break into certain computers for extra money and items, but you don't have many non-combat ways to solve problems. It's a minor but disappointing issue when compared to something that inspired the game as obviously as Deus Ex. Some missions do have those options, and they're among the best in the game.

It's impossible to discuss Cyberpunk without acknowledging that it was released in a buggy and unfinished state. This isn't unheard of for open-world games, but Cyberpunk's overall polish is almost nonexistent. This is a review of the PS4 version playing on PS5, so I've managed to avoid some of the problems but have still encountered plenty. The game would regularly crash (I had upward of 30 crashes during my playthrough) almost exclusively during what was clearly the game streaming or loading a new area — which, unfortunately, occurred very often if I was driving somewhere and made a sharp turn. I used fast-travel to avoid this issue, but even then, it would pop up sometimes after a mission if I was transferred somewhere else. This is the most significant issue of the PS4 iteration played on the PS5, but it's an issue that makes the game hard to enjoy.

However, it is far from the only problem in Cyberpunk. I would regularly have character dialogue cut out, quests refuse to trigger without a reload, goofy physics, and things generally breaking. It was usually more annoying than serious, but once or twice, it left me feeling frustrated, including having to redo a lengthy sequence because the last conversation wouldn't trigger. An experienced Skyrim player won't bat an eye, but it's disappointing after the serious polish of The Witcher 3.

For me, the bigger problem is that the game does not feel equipped to handle doing anything that deviates even slightly from the norm, despite the game allowing you to do it. For example, by using the charge jump augment, you can reach places that you normally can't, and sometimes, this is clearly intended. Other times, however, I would find seemingly solid objects were ghostly, despite something next to them being solid, or it would clip through a wall. Most frustrating is that I encountered a bunch of situations where events were only set to trigger if you came into an area by the "front door," and I ended up breaking several missions by hopping up through a vent. Likewise, my hacking abilities allowed me to defeat enemies without even entering the room, and that would massively break scripting despite that being the intended way to use hacking powers. Sometimes, I'd have to go in and hit an enemy with a sword for it to recognize that I had cleared a room.

On top of that, there are a lot of small things that felt like elements were cut for time. For example, there seems to be absolutely no response to stealing at all, so you can go into a corporate exec's office, grab his prize sword, and walk out with zero consequences. There is a sixth attribute square on the attribute screen, but it is completely blank and inaccessible. Based on early demos, this seems like it may have been the Constitution stat, but instead, it's just a weird empty blank square that I kept expecting would be filled out. Despite having a billion pieces of clothing, you can't glamor appearances to equipment, so you're usually going to end up as a random day-glo neon mess because that is what has the best stats. There's a lot of genuinely messy UI quirks and absent gameplay features that give the title the feel of being rushed out for Christmas.

It's a shame because when Cyberpunk 2077 is on, it is extremely on. Some of the best moments are in side-quests where you get some really likeable characters, interesting writing, and striking moments. My favorite moment in the game was an eerie underwater dive through a drowned town. There are plenty of signs of the same strength that The Witcher 3 had in these moments, and I had the most fun when I did the side-quests, despite the bugs and glitches. If you can play it on PC, I can imagine you'll have the best possible time with it and may come away less frustrating by its flaws than a console player.

Bugs aside, Cyberpunk 2077 is a nice-looking game. There are a lot of cool animations, and the art design is top-notch to replicate the feel of a grimy megatropolis. I had a lot of fun exploring the world, and the variety in augmentations drove home the haves and have-nots. There was a somewhat common issue where textures would load in and remain low-quality, but thankfully not too common. The voice acting is top-notch, but some of the accents feel over the top. It's impressive that Keanu Reeve's Silverhand manages to take the nicest guy in the world and turn him into a grimy, horrible, pathetic pile of scum while still retaining some charisma.

It may not sound like it, but I enjoyed many aspects of Cyberpunk 2077. It doesn't hit the highs of The Witcher 3, but it still has a lot going for it. However, it was released in such an unfinished state that it's hard to give it a positive review. It's an 8.0 game hiding in a 4.0 game wrapper. I might change my tune in a few months, when patches have rolled out, but even when playing the best version available on the PlayStation systems, there's no getting around it: Cyberpunk 2077 might have been mocked for its delays, but it needed more of them. You'll still have fun if you pick it up now, but unless you're dying for it, it's best to wait until it's been patched and improved.

Score: 6.5/10

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