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Cyberpunk 2077

Platform(s): 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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PC Review - 'Cyberpunk 2077'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 29, 2020 @ 1:00 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.

The video game lineup of 2020 was supposed to end with a bang. After five years of hype and numerous delays, Cyberpunk 2077 was finally going to be released to the masses on multiple platforms. It did, but on the console side, the title was a big bust and resulted in mass refund campaigns on each platform. There's still hope that next year's next-generation-specific versions can set things right, but for many console players, it may be too little, too late. That leaves the PC, CDPR's home before its dalliance with platforms. Some hope that Cyberpunk 2077 will shine on the PC version; whether that's true depends on what you're willing to accept.

Cyberpunk 2077 takes place in the titular year of 2077 in Night City, California, which can be seen as a stand-in for Los Angeles. You play the role of V, a person with a varied past who eventually became a mercenary. Along with their small crew, V has done well, but the desire for more has led the crew to a big job that involves one of the biggest megacorporations. As expected, the job quickly goes sideways, and while V has the goods, it can end up killing them if a solution isn't found in a few days.

The initial allure of the game comes from the world. Even if you're not familiar with the tabletop game this is based on, only those who aren't attentive to pop culture would miss out on the similarities with other forms of media, like "Blade Runner" or Syndicate. It's a future steeped in technology, but there's more of a class divide than ever between those who can afford the top-of-the-line implants and those who settle for black market goods. It's a place and time where corporations run things instead of formal governments, while monks preach about how technology and corporations are stripping away what makes us human. This is a future where Japanese influence is strong, and the major corporations are Japanese, with smaller nations filling in the gaps.

Some things in the world might catch you off guard. For example, the ads are excessive in gore and absurdity. There's also a ton of sexual content, from the constant presence of sex bars to the posters and braindance porn tapes littering the street. There's even a dildo shop and constant ads for a popular show named "Watson Whore." It feels like Saints Row in that the sex isn't for titillation but for laughs. All of this is here to flesh out the environment, which can either be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about entertainment taking a stance on such topics.

Don't expect a profound tale when compared to the studio's previous work, but expect the tale can be surprising in good ways. The idea of having a piece of technology in V's head that acts as a ticking time bomb feels much like the premise to "Johnny Mnemonic," a funny coincidence since Keanu Reeves played a role in both that movie and this game. The actual story has no surprises, although there are a few moments where V and a few other characters have introspective moments that lend humanity to what is otherwise a sci-fi action film. Beyond that, the characters are likeable enough and resonate well with players — more so in the earlier moments of the game.

Cyberpunk 2077 follows the same blueprint as the studio's previous titles, as it is also an open-world RPG that's more action-oriented. You can use knives and swords and arm blades, but you're mostly using firearms for primary attacks. Instead of magic, you learn hacking modules for both defense and offense. You have quite a few traits to level up whenever you have points to do so, and you can gain new abilities from several deep tech trees; using your abilities levels them up even further. Aside from the setting, the main difference is the game's first-person perspective.

When it comes to actual gameplay during quests, there are several possible approaches. Some quests give you the option to handle things more diplomatically, so you can talk your way to a bloodless resolution. There aren't too many dialogue choices, so it feels binary instead of more nuanced. In other quests, you can hack to disable cameras or cause distractions to sneak through areas. None of this is useful until you power up your stats to high levels; your default stats aren't strong enough, and it takes a while to activate some abilities. There are moments when enemies don't react to distractions in a timely manner or don't care that boxes fell in front of them. What's more likely is that any distraction places enemies on high alert, and the only way to get out of it is to engage in firefights. Eventually, you'll succumb to using firearms, since it's a no-fuss solution and you don't have to worry about whether the approach will work.

When it comes to the quests, there are a few standout moments in the main questline. You'll have one moment when you'll control a spider-bot through rooms to ultimately knock out the security guard. Another moment might have you talking to a sex worker to get information on a missing person, resulting in deep conversation that doesn't end up in sex. Perhaps the more intriguing quests are ones that involve brain dances where you can dive into a recording of a person's moment and dissect the scene for clues. Those moments don't happen too often, since most of your missions in the main storyline have you fighting into and out of places or taking lengthy car rides with others, but you'll be glad they exist just to break up all of the shooting.

There are side-quests in Cyberpunk 2077, and they come through at a rather rapid clip. It doesn't take long before your world map is absolutely flooded with enough icons that you can instantly forget what you were trying to look up, and the phone calls and text messages seem to arrive nonstop. Once you come to grips with the icon flood, you'll find a wide variety of side-quests. Some are standard, like hunting down those with malfunctioning implants or busting into gang territory. Other quests are more interesting, like attending a funeral or visiting a cop so they back off a case that could get them killed. There's also an unusual set that has you checking off a list of cars to buy from quest-givers. It's a diverse and plentiful set that equals or surpasses the amount of time spent in the main questline.

Regardless of how you feel about the quests and how most of them rely too much on gunplay, the multitude hides the rather boring open world. There may be plenty of NPCs walking around, and you can talk to them, but their repetitive responses mean you'll stop talking to them after a handful of tries. There may be plenty of storefronts and food kiosks on every block, and there are tons of pathways and vertical spaces to explore, but only a few are interactive. You can only buy so much food before that also becomes useless. There's no emergent gameplay to speak of, as seemingly random events like crimes in the street always occur in the same spot unless you address it. Barely anyone reacts to your actions. Start a gunfight, and not many people will run away. Run around naked, and no one bats an eye. You can hit or carjack someone, and no one else says a thing. Mowing down people with your car is probably the only time cops will care, and if you pass by a crime scene, people are hypersensitive and attack almost immediately.

Of course, you can't talk about Cyberpunk 2077 without delving into the title's unintended highlight: the bugs. The good news is that the developers have delivered patches at a blistering pace. Five patches have been released in the span of 10 days — significantly reducing the chances of encountering a crash. The number of patches speaks to how sloppy the game was.

As of this writing, there are still a litany of bugs a player can encounter on every playthrough. Small objects like phones and cigarettes can float in front of characters. Grab an enemy, and there's a good chance their shadow flickers wildly while held, no matter the lighting. Whole NPCs disappear out of thin air and reappear just as mysteriously, with some of them sliding a good distance before walking. That also occurs with enemies, where some may pop out of an elevator and only be visible at certain angles. You can sometimes pull out an invisible gun that won't react to anything until you stash it and cycle back to it, while button prompts can disappear even if you can still activate their function. Clothes also go missing, but the fact that your genitals won't be visible indicates that you really aren't running around the city naked. The most damaging recent issue is that your save files get corrupted if they balloon past 8MB in size, something that can easily happen if you've gotten into the habit of crafting. For many, that potential save issue may be enough to hold off for weeks or even months until the game is in a more stable state.

As far as graphics go, many are calling Cyberpunk 2077 the new Crysis as far as being a title that'll need future parts to show off its full potential, and that's true if you're trying to turn on all of the RTX features. On our testing rig, which uses a Ryzen 5 2600 and a Geforce RTX 3080, we got the game running at 60fps most of the time with every RTX and non-RTX feature turned up to high. Reports from others state that an RTX 3090 couldn't do that at 4K unless you dropped everything to low and medium with DLSS running at Ultra Performance mode instead of Quality.

No matter your resolution, you'll want RTX features active because the game looks gorgeous with it. The heavy use of neon lights outdoors at night and in interiors, along with heavy presence of ads, make reflections come through cleanly, and the light and shadow from these sources add more volume to each scene. You may not be able to see yourself in the glass or water reflections, but it's still a sight to see everyone else walk by. Daytime scenarios also benefit greatly, as it feels rich and realistic to see colored surface reflections and correct lighting on objects. As a showcase title for the technology, this is it. The sad part is that this is only true for Nvidia cards; AMD cards aren't getting an opportunity to play with ray tracing until sometime in 2021.

If you're not interested in any of the ray tracing features, Cyberpunk 2077 can still be a sight to behold, since the regular volumetric lighting on surfaces is impressive. Character models display a tremendous amount of detail, and while that's expected from the major characters, it's impressive that numerous NPCs look better than average. The city might be dingy due to the omnipresent trash, but even the dirty scenes evoke the feeling of entering a technological world that's on the verge of ruin.

Where the game still falters in the visual category is the textures. We're running the game off an SSD, and even though we've armed the system with 16GB of RAM, we're still getting instances of some textures loading up in a subpar resolution. This becomes more apparent with ads and storefronts, especially the former, when you see the blurry ad appear alongside the same one that's presented at a much higher resolution; the blurry version refuses to get upgraded before it is cycled out. It's just another example of the many bugs plaguing the game that ruin the immersion.

The audio, however, is very good without any compromises. During battles and all other action sequences, the heavy synth soundtrack is excellent, while the other radio tracks sound like our current genres to fit in nicely with the game's future era. The voice acting is also quite good from both main characters and various NPCs; even the throwaway lines are delivered in a way that doesn't sound like they're being phoned in.

At this moment, Cyberpunk 2077 for the PC is a game of big ups and downs. The setting is fantastic, but there aren't too many characters you're going to resonate with. The missions may vary widely in terms of inventiveness and quality, but the open world feels sterile since there isn't much to do. The many abilities you can use seem to encourage inventiveness, but your gun is often the universal answer for almost all situations. Cyberpunk 2077 would be a good game if it weren't for all of the issues currently plaguing it; the bugs range from hilarious to deal-breakers, but we certainly hope that the developer's track record in fixing things over time means that this game will eventually become solid enough. It rates a little higher than the console versions due to the knockout beauty that's delivered with ray tracing, but don't expect this title to be in any of this year's Game of the Year discussions.

Score: 7.0/10

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