Archives by Day

July 2024

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

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PS4/PC Review - 'Cyberpunk 2077'

by Andreas Salmen on Jan. 7, 2021 @ 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.

Buy Cyberpunk 2077

Reviewing Cyberpunk 2077 on the PS4 feels odd. It's the culmination of years of hype and promises for the most anticipated game of 2020 and quite an unexpected gut punch at the same time. Although the PC version still has bugs, PC players have a mostly positive experience with CD Projekt Red's ambitious action-RPG. Meanwhile, console players experienced a sub-par or borderline-unplayable version, depending on their system. While the PS4 iteration has vanished from online stores and refunds are being offered as of this review, we took another look at the title on PS4 Pro. We also compared our relative experience across the PS4 Pro and the PC version, and our impressions are based on observations since launch up to hotfix 1.05. If you're on the fence and have no means to play the PC version — and even then — we'd suggest that you wait for more updates.

I remember a quote from one of Cyberpunk 2077's earlier missions that perfectly captures my feelings about the console version: "...don't quit if you feel uncomfortable — you could miss out on something truly remarkable." It's what kept me playing through performance issues, bugs, storage-related issues, and odd crashes. The promise that this was "one of the year's greatest" made me endure a lot of quite unfun technical hurdles in the hopes of uncovering something great. Even when you manage to look past the most obvious flaws, the game's underlying structure is decent rather than great, and it's sometimes even less than that. It's a project that seems to stumble over its own ambition too many times to deliver on its promises. What's left is a decent and entertaining story-driven action-RPG that wants to do so many things at once that it rarely excels at any one of them. That doesn't mean Cyberpunk 2077 is a bad game; it's just very broken.

Cyberpunk 2077 gets you going rather quickly. Four difficulty settings, a decent character creator, and three lifepaths offer a decent choice to personalize your character. CDPR's marketing department has spent quite some time on lifepaths, but ultimately, lifepaths mean a slightly different 20-minute beginning to your story and additional dialogue choices throughout the experience. Apart from alternate endings and minor deviations, the general story remains relatively unchanged.

A botched heist sees the mind of protagonist V threatened by the digital construct of a past terrorist, Johnny Silverhand. The main quest has the player trying to separate from Silverhand, which can take at least 15 hours — or much more time if you indulge in side-quests, which impact the main quest. I enjoyed this approach to storytelling since it enabled me to complete the story at my own pace and to spend time with optional quests as I saw fit. Cyberpunk's biggest strength is its characters and storytelling. The main quest could benefit from another act or twist, but the story is more than solid. The main quest is at odds with taking your time to explore side-quests, since the stakes are high and life-threatening. Kicking back and taking in the experience doesn't quite fit that context. I would've welcomed more content setting up the different lifepaths with a slightly longer dedicated quest to kick things off.

As long as you are in the quests and cut scenes, Cyberpunk feels truly next-gen, including the PS4 version. Across the board, animations, lip-syncing, and voice acting are exceptional. A lot of what sells the atmosphere and characters are subtle interactions, such as tapping the hood of a car during a call. The title tells interesting stories and creates diverse and engaging scenarios that keep you entertained for hours as you work your way through the seedy underbelly of Night City.

I had hoped for more daring stories. Here's a dystopian future where people willingly meet unsanitary back-alley doctors to replace body parts with augmentations. Your head has a port to plug in data shards, and people can record and relive human experiences in braindances. The material is intriguing and would lend itself to far more than Cyberpunk ever does with it. Your protagonist and the NPCs just live in the world. I haven't seen all of the quests in the game, but in my 40+ hours, there weren't too many situations where I felt there is actual resistance to the status quo — except the entity stuck in your brain.

Night City looks remarkable. It looks like a city grown out of necessity, where limited space made skyscrapers the only viable solution to the increasing population. Streets are tangled around structures in odd ways, and stairs and buildings overlap. It's dense, it's messy, and the skyline looks great.

However, Night City feels pretty empty. There are street shops on every corner, but you can't interact with most of them. When you can, you're presented with a simple purchasing menu. This extends to civilians on the street, which are a rare sight if you're playing on the PS4. Night City feels practically empty all the time, since crowd density is set to the lowest possible setting, and the few remaining civilians may as well not exist. They're aimlessly wandering around the city and may even appear in front of you. Turning the camera makes them disappear or change in appearance, and their reactions are stiff and uninspired.

That critique also extends to the police in the game. There is a wanted system, but it's more than broken at this stage, even with the most recent patches. Police response is spotty at best, but once they're onto you, they are intolerable. They will spawn within buildings or within walls, and they are powerful when you face a group of them. The civilians and wanted system are vitally important to make a city feel real, but right now, the world feels relatively lifeless on both the PC and consoles — with consoles looking much grimmer due to the reduced crowds.

Traversing Night City is all right. There aren't many issues when on foot, but driving is a pain, especially on PS4. Regardless of the version, cars feel like they're hovering a few inches off the ground. Minor collisions can send your car flying, and turning feels like sliding across a plate of butter. I'd compare it to The Witcher 3's wonky horse controls, but it's a means to an end, especially since the game has so many fast-travel points that you won't need to drive. There may be some side-quests peppered along your path, but there aren't many organic events occurring to make driving worth your while after the initial novelty has worn off.

It's not as if you'd have an easy time finding and organizing the gigs. V has a smartphone that is under constant barrage from fixers who have cars to sell and missions to take on. While I like the idea of being a merc who's connected to a criminal network via phone, it's too much at once. There are too many offers and useless car ads to organize your quests. The quest log stores everything you come across, and you have limited ways to filter the information. The map is overbearing and has more icons spread across it than any recent Ubisoft game. I'm hoping that CDPR figures out a better way to signpost and organize quests in the future.

The PS4 version doesn't differ greatly from the PC version here, but it does play noticeably worse due to its HDD. We could have installed an SSD in our PS4, but most will play this title on their integrated hard drive, which happens to be mechanical. The game has substantial streaming issues due to slower drive speeds, especially when driving around. Assets will often not load in time. NPCs may appear as low-poly blobs, whole buildings look like brown mush, and objects on the screen noticeably stutter at times. The worst of all is when the UI doesn't load. The PS4 version even struggles to load the loading screens, which are mostly static images.

Returning to driving for a moment, don't even think about reading an incoming text message (SMS) on V's phone while driving. The game seems to be unable to load the UI in time and locks all player input for several seconds until the UI is loaded, but the game moves on as if nothing happened. That means you're shooting down a street with no control over your vehicle for several seconds because you wanted to read a notification on your phone. (Editor's note: Don't text and drive, kids!) Similarly, expect other menus to occasionally not load, gun models to disappear, and many more incidents along those lines. Compared to footage from a base PS4, the Pro seems to load in assets slightly faster, but it's still intrusive from start to finish.

Combat is a central piece in the adventure. Even if you are more focused on stealth and hacking, you won't get around occasionally shooting NPCs in the face. Encounters are a mix between Borderlands' looter-shooter systems and the most recent Deus Ex games. Guns look, sound, and feel great, and there's a decent variety of weapon types that can pierce walls, ricochet, or even find their target automatically, but it never feels great. Melee weapons are floaty, and aside from some cool animations, it never felt like a viable alternative to go in with guns blazing.

Combat suffers from a general rinse and repeat approach. By hour 30, it felt like I was doing the same things over and over again: Get the highest damage weapon from your backpack, shoot things, loot them, and scram. There are many more mechanics to leverage in combat, but there was rarely a need, even on higher difficulty settings. I went for a weapon-focused build on PS4 Pro while playing a hacking-centric build on the PC and, in comparison, I did not feel that much of a difference. Hacking is advantageous for stealth to distract enemies and deactivate cameras. I cleared some hacking encounters alone, but the simplistic hacking system (especially compared to Watchdogs Legion) feels underwhelming in the limited ways that the player can interact with the environment. The more hacking abilities and weapons you get, the flashier combat looks and feels, but it's style over substance.

The game is also plagued with semi-decent NPCs that love to stand in the middle of rooms or change cover while under fire. Higher difficulty levels don't change that, except to increase damage and make some encounters feel almost unfair. Cyberpunk 2077 has an auto-cover system, so crouching behind an object or corner is all you can do while you peek out and aim your weapon. There is never a good sense of how well you're hidden, and the peeking can sometimes fail to trigger. These finicky situations aren't frequent, but they pop up often enough that they can be annoying.

Cyberpunk 2077 was always advertised as an RPG, but the RPG mechanics are not as deep as expected. V can level up in five areas, such as Body (health and brawler skills), Cool (stealth), or Tech. Progress by investing points among these general proficiencies, which affect actions and dialogue options, and sub-trees to unlock buffs and skills. Dialogue options make sense, but their impact is often negligible. Having a certain level in some areas opens up different routes. A door may only open when you're strong enough or when your technical abilities are high enough. In many instances, the game offers several different entryways at once. The system feels pointless when an optional path is available regardless of how your character is built. Similarly, buffs and skills are often percentage increases. It works fine, but in terms of character progression, it doesn't do much more than the bare minimum.

What I'm most excited about are the augmentations, cyberware, and enhancements that we can install in our body. They range from gorilla arms and mantis blades to better firmware for hacking, smart gun functionality, and similar boons. It's a fun system, but again, it can feel artificial. Gorilla arms provide a strong melee weapon. Opening certain doors is still determined by your body level, but you have hydraulic arms drilled into your biceps. There is a general sense that these systems could flow and work well together, but they feel like separate systems that coexist much lot of the time instead of creating an interconnected experience with skills and pros and cons for certain character builds. It's not completely devoid of that, but it doesn't offer much in that regard.

We cannot look past the technical issues in the PS4 version, but we'll try to put them into as much context as possible. The main issue we saw on PS4 Pro was related to the HDD. The game did run far better on the PS4 Pro than on the base model, and things seem to have improved with recent patches. The game hits 30fps at around 1080p most of the time, but even the PS4 Pro starts to stutter and drop below 30fps and 1080p, especially when driving around the city.

We are also aware that many PS4 and PS5 users have complained about hard crashes. We only encountered two crashes in our entire playthrough, which happened back to back. In theory, it's borderline playable if the persistent bugs didn't make things so much harder to enjoy. We've seen characters disappear in cut scenes, clip into each other, V spawning and being locked to NPCs during cut scenes, and plenty more.

I have also played parts of the game locally on a medium-range PC with an AMD four-core CPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070; it isn't a great combination for this game, but it consistently and vastly outperformed the PS4 Pro version. It ran at 1440p with 30fps on medium settings, and it looked and played infinitely better on the PC than the console. There seems to be a difference in assets between the base PS4 and Pro version, so the jump is possibly even greater compared to that.

We also gave the game a go on GeForce Now both in 1080p ultra settings and ray tracing. The game feels a lot more atmospheric and better to play on the PC, and even on a mid-tier system, you'll likely get better performance and visuals. Even Stadia and GeForce Now or similar streaming services are a much better investment at this time than any of the console versions.

Regardless of the intended platform, I'd still wait to purchase Cyberpunk because bugs are plentiful on all versions. Half of the bugs I encountered on the PS4 were also found on the PC under different circumstances. What's funny on a rare occasion quickly got in the way and destroyed complete story moments. A death scene is half as impactful when random objects float into the character's head and stay there.

Cyberpunk 2077 is far from ready on the consoles, but it's not close to being ready on the PC, either. Cyberpunk 2077 truly excels in the characters and stories it creates by forming a beautiful, dystopian city that dwarfs many digital cityscapes that came before it. Progression systems are solid if underwhelming; other areas, like civilians and the wanted system, are broken or neglected. The experience is undermined every step of the way, especially on the PS4. This was a disastrous release, and you're better off getting a refund or not purchasing the game until these issues are fixed — if not for your own sake, then perhaps out of principle after we were all misled by CDPR's attempt to hide last-gen issues until it was too late.

Score: 6.0/10

More articles about Cyberpunk 2077
blog comments powered by Disqus