Happy New Year Choombas! Well, it's here. Cyberpunk 2077 has been out since December 10th. It's no secret that this has been my most anticipated game for several years, so why have I been silent so far? Simple, life. I've been playing Cyberpunk 2077 of course, but I'm nowhere close to done. However, I can at least for now give my initial impressions of the game, as well as my thoughts on the disastrous release of what was supposed to be the biggest game this year. I discussed this in detail with my friends Jim Dietz and Gil Colon on the latest episode of The Player's Club, which you can check out here.
The Good: Despite the numerous flaws (which we WILL get to), Cyberpunk 2077 is a good game. Over my fifty hours, I've been having an absolute blast. Cyberpunk 2077 has everything I want in an RPG. An engaging main story, interesting side quests, an incredible world packed with things to do, and a ton of customization that allows you to play how you want too. The sheer number of weapons available in this game is insane and could put most first-person shooters to shame. Not only are there numerous weapon types, there are legendary weapons and blueprints scattered throughout the world for the taking if you know where to go, or available as rewards for completing quests. Combined with the available perks you can choose, it's very easy to synergize your playthrough, making you a more effective mercenary.
The shooting starts off a little rough, but as you continue to play it tightens up. That's because in addition to skill points and perks you get from leveling up, the more you use skills the better you get at them. So the more you use handguns, for example, the better you'll get at using them, reducing recoil and load times, even if you don't take any perks in the handgun skill tree. It's like a combination between the way you level up in most RPGs, and the way you level up in Skyrim, giving you the best of both worlds.
Guns aren't your only available resource though, there's also melee weapons, cybernetic implants hacking. My playstyle leans heavily towards hacking, which almost works like magic does in a fantasy RPG. Hacking doesn't just get you into computers, since most people have cybernetic implants you can hack into their networks and do things like upload viruses and lower their defenses. At lower levels you can hack enemy cyberware, cripple their movement or overload their sensors. At higher levels you can force them to turn on their companions, or even commit suicide. Of course, enemy Netrunners can hack you as well, so you'd better have some countermeasures ready. Gameplay wise the hacking feels like a more advanced version of the system used in Watch Dogs, that's really the only game mechanic I can compare it to.
Cyberware allows you to really augment your character and feel like you're becoming more powerful. The early levels can be a bit rough, but as you gain money and street cred, you can buy better augmentations that make you harder to kill, and in some cases can actually change the gameplay mechanics. For example, when you purchase reinforced tendons, you gain the ability to double-jump, and it's literally a game changer. Suddenly you can climb to areas that were inaccessible and run along rooftops. It really opens up the world since Night City has more verticality than open space.
The world. Night City is one of the best open worlds I've ever seen in a video game. Night City is dense and packed with content, it reminds me of Yakuza in that way. There are always things to do and secrets to find. Whether it's a talking smart-gun in a back alley, a gang shootout with cops, or a man's penis enhancements catching on fire, you never know what's around the next corner. Personally, I recommend forgoing fast travel because you'll miss out on so much. I've spent countless hours merely doing side hustles, mercenary jobs and grabbing legendary equipment that's just hidden around the world.
Lastly, your choices feel like they matter. I'm only in Act 2, but I've already seen how the story changes based on your decisions during certain quests. And even when you're playing a set piece with a determined outcome, the story is always engaging. Without going into spoilers, the end of Act 1 left my jaw on the floor, particularly since I'm somewhat familiar with the lore of the original tabletop game. For someone who is into RPGs, Cyberpunk 2077 is a smorgasbord of goodies that will leave you wanting more, and I for one can't wait to get back into the world. However, I always strive for objectivity, which means we also have to take a look at Cyberpunk's serious flaws.
The Bad: To call Cyberpunk 2077 buggy would be an understatement. Bad frame rates, game crashes, corrupted save files, unbeatable sidequests, and in some cases gameplay so broken that the game literally cannot be played. This year CD Projekt Red gave Bethesda a run for its money. And that was just in the first week. I've been playing on a base PS4, one of the consoles with the worst performance. Now I've gotten lucky in that I haven't had anything game breaking during my fifty plus hours. The game has crashed on me a handful of times, but no more than Ghost of Tsushima or Assassin's Creed Valhalla did. I had a funny glitch during a cinematic, I can't always loot mechanical enemies, and sometimes guns will stop firing and I have to reload my save. These are all really annoying, but they aren't game breaking. The biggest issue for me has been the graphical downgrade. Now I knew that there was going to be a downgrade for last-gen consoles compared to the high-end PC that my friend Jim is running it on, but I wasn't prepared for how severe it was. People usually look fine, but it can take a few seconds for things to load, which leads to the screen briefly looking like a PS1. Also, the background often looks funny. You can improve how the game looks by turning off the film grain in settings, but it's still not going to look how it did during any of the E3 showings. However, CD Projekt Red also knows they screwed up and have committed to fixing the game. The current patch, 1.06, has fixed the absolute worst of the bugs on the base PS4. Furthermore, there's two more giant patches coming out, one in January and another in February that should fix almost everything according to CDPR. I'm certain CDPR will continue to put out smaller patches as well. The core of Cyberpunk 2077 is good, it's VERY good. This isn't a situation like Mass Effect Andromeda where even after all the bugs were fixed, you're still left with Mass Effect Andromeda. There is an amazing game in here, it's just unfortunately buried under a whole lot of bugs and controversy. Which brings us to…
The Ugly: Hooboy, where to begin. This is one of the only cases where the controversy surrounding a game has come out and somehow made EVERYONE look bad. CD Projekt Red looks bad because they released a broken game, while lying about the fact that it was broken; and now CDPR has lost over one billion dollars. Games Media looks bad because a large section has had it in for Cyberpunk 2077 since day one for perceived political problems they have with the devs, and arguably Polish culture in general, with many articles taking potshots at the studio and the devs. One YouTuber did a song and dance number celebrating Cyberpunk's "failure." I'm not kidding. And perhaps most egregiously, one article compared the game to Hitler winning Times man of the Year back in 1938. Now invoking Godwin's Law is always in poor taste, but in this instance it's even worse. CD Projekt Red is a Polish Studio located in Warsaw, and Poland was subject to a BRUTAL occupation by the Third Reich. Warsaw was nearly destroyed, and over one million Jews and Polish Catholics were murdered at the death camp Auschwitz. This was the straw that finally made one of the devs tell the publication in question to fuck off.
Unfortunately, the gaming community doesn't look much better thanks to the unacceptable behavior of some folks online, including doxing people and review bombing. One person in games media was sent videos intended to give her an epileptic seizure. I shouldn't have to point out how insane that is. As of right now, CD Projekt Red is facing a class action lawsuit from unhappy investors. Going into everything is honestly its own article, and I might do that at some point in the future. But at this moment the entire thing is so toxic that I don't want to touch it with a thirty-nine-and-a half foot pole. I think Jim, Gil and I did a really good job of tackling the controversy and issues while avoiding toxic rhetoric, which is why you should check out episode 4 of The Player's Club. All of this combined has turned what should have been the biggest game of the year, and something to bring the community together has instead turned into a toxic maelstrom of anger, broken trust and downright viscous behavior. To quote a beloved internet meme, "Pathetic."
So where do we go from here? Well, we know the game is going to be fixed and will become what it was promised to be, but that could take a while. Personally, I think once everything is fixed, CDPR should add a lot of DLC, not just the free stuff they promised, but some major post-game content. The Witcher 3 had two major expansions, Cyberpunk 2077 should probably have three or four if they want to recoup their losses. CD Projekt Red has lost a lot of goodwill they built up over the past five years, and while I hope they can turn things around, I don't know how long that will take. I really hope they didn't shoot themselves in the foot so badly that we don't see a sequel to Cyberpunk 2077. This is an awesome world, and a great IP that I want to see more of. Hopefully the next title will be fully cooked before release; and maybe everyone else can act like rational human beings, but that's probably asking too much.