Cyberpunk 2077 Review
developed by CD Projekt Red
By Taban Lewis
art by cd projekt red
Cyberpunk 2077 is a game full of wonder and potential. Fulfilling the fantasy of Blade Runner the video game. However, where the presentation of the game is fun it's only when you get behind the wheel do you see the bugs and poor design choices from a studio that made the witcher 3.
As a disclaimer at the time of launch, I played the PC version of cyberpunk 2077 and know about how bad the game is on ps4 and Xbox one. Leading to the mass refunds and removal of the game from the PlayStation store as well as the lawsuit cd Projekt red now face.
No spoiler story
Picking the street kid storyline I don’t know how much of an impact it had on the game’s overall story from what I have heard, each storyline only has one mission before converging on the main mission. The first 5-6 hours of the game can be summarized as a tech demo most if not all of it was showed as promotional material. Your character V goes on jobs with his best friend Jackie wells. When the player reaches the turning point of the story this is where the game gets interesting, you learn more about the lore of the game and the story gets cyberpunky. With cool technology being able to make the impossible possible. The main story is probably for me the best part of the game and although the writing is not as good as the Witcher 3 it's still fun.
Story with mixed messages
If you’re like me you went into this game thinking it would be Blade runner the video game and it kinda is but closer to Blade Runner 2049. However, before we get into the meat and potatoes that is Keanu Reeves let’s go back to act 1 of the game. Jackie is a character that will later die in the heist mission that really gets the game’s story going. This character and well every character from act 1 of the game are a waste of space both Jackie, t-bug, and rick ross have no real sentimental value to the player. Ariths death works in ff7(final fantasy 7) because we spend so much time with her getting to know her she's part of the game as much as the Cloud is and her death changes Cloud. Jackie does not serve the same purpose even though the game thinks we the player feels this way even having a funeral mission for him. But moving forward from the wast of time that is act 1.
When we finally steal the biochip from the game's big mega corporations Arasaka and witness a son murder a father as well as V's death and revival we are introduced to johnny silver hand. (keno reves) A terrorist who constructs in the chip that is slowly killing V by erasing his personality. Now V is on a quest to find a way to save himself from the chip and he meets many allies along the way. In act 2 this is where the game starts to shine. Characters like Judy, Panam, Victor, Misty, Rouge, and johnny are nice to interact with and you learn more about them as the game goes on about their fears, hopes, and dreams. The main story missions are fun and exciting and the formula of making the player sit down with the characters or drive with them in the first person adds to the depth.
The problem with the game’s story is the message and I don’t know if being a street kid or nomad/corp had an effect on the message of the game. The game does not understand that V is the player so when V is mad at the chip for killing him, the game suggests killing yourself but as the player why would I do that. Another example is when Johnny is preaching how evil the corporations are even though V or the player has had no interaction with them outside of the one mission. This message gets even more confusing in act 3 which consists of the last 3 missions of the game. I was confused about what the game, V, and me as the player wants, in the end, was living the main goal or not selling out? Did the game want to teach us the dangers of technology or just the basics of becoming a legend I don’t know? Even the standard devil ending the ending most players will experience feels like a waste of time because I, the player didn't get the message of the story.
If we were in a different timeline and the story was about getting revenge on the Arasaka corporation like I think it wanted to be rather than becoming a legend or saving V’s life the game would have been incredible. Besides the biochip, the game explores some scary stuff to do with technology. Like a soul prison that saves your personality, or a super virus that will erase your personality, or the fact that you can become immortal like a god by putting yourself in a computer. The game has this theme that you can replace the body but not the mind but stops exploring that and forgets about it.
Overall the story is not bad, it can just be better. There were times where I just wanted it to be Bladerunner the game or that we played a johnny rather than V.
A World as Cool as Blade Runner
Night city looks amazing but feels empty. At any point in the game, you can just look at the city and take a picture that can be a beautiful wallpaper but that’s all it is. CD Projekt red focuses so much on the look of this game that everything suffers. In Skyrim, you can open every door or explore different caves, and in GTA you can't do that, but the NPC will fight you/curse at you and you can fly to the top of the tallest building. In cyberpunk, doors either can't be open at all, or a prompt is shown saying “locked” NPC didn't say or do anything and feels like NPC in an old Ubisoft game.
Gameplay in 2077
The gameplay is nothing special, stealth is as simple as crouching walking and firefights are just shooting them with a simple cover mechanic. The most interesting part of gameplay is quick hacking, having the power to tell a mob to commit suicide is interesting and fun. Guns feel nice and iconic weapons are iconic. The doge mechanic I found to be useless but maybe help more if I was going a melee build and some cyberwere is cool. Driving is also terrible but so was Roach in the Witcher. As a designer, I have no issue with the gameplay. It's a formula that works for a reason. The problem is with systems and design that we will talk about in a bit.
The Future is Plagued with Bugs
Bugs, bugs, and more bugs I don’t know if this adds to the fun or lessens it because there are some funny ones but there are a lot of bugs. From audio to textures to falling through the world. The game is extremely buggy at this point in time, luckily no real game-breaking bugs but sometimes I would have to reload a save. However, expect to run into bugs each time you hit play.
Missions and Side Quest
This where cd Projekt red disappoints me. The witcher has the upper hand of having good writing because it was originally a book. When I start a side quest in the Whitcher I get the whole story I learn about the characters in the world, the monsters I am hunting, I have to prepare for the monster and the side quest is a whole story in itself.
That’s not the case for cyberpunk gigs, side jobs, and police quests. Besides the side jobs that have a little more effort into them than the other quests the best, I can describe the quest in this game is that they feel like destiny strikes. When you get to a location you will get a call from a fixer this call can not be skipped and can bug out very easily the calls get really annoying. Then you are tasked with a fetch quest or kill quest and after completing the gig/side job/police job the fixer calls you, rinse and repeat. this poor design left me feeling empty as I performed a speedrun of uninteresting, unrewarding side quest.
Poor Systems and Design
I have pointed out lots of issues within my review and the reason I give this game its score is because of poor design. The game is a fun fulfilling RPG but, I do think it was overhyped, is kinda a broken game especially on old consoles, and could have spent more time in the oven. Some issues I have with design can be fixed with updates and quality of life (QoL) changes.
Let's start with talking about levels and street cred, both maxes at 50, and besides the added feel of moving up in the world of night city street cred does nothing. I did not find it to impact gameplay, dialog, or notice an NPC go "shit that's V." It only lets you buy better stuff from vendors, and often I found better guns in the world than from vendors or unlocks more gigs. Street cred is a pointless system and just a fun thing to say.
When leveling I like it a lot more it works like this you have character level the max is 50 and when you level up you can put a point in the body, cool, reflex ext. Each category then has a subcategory that specials in each weapon or skillset for your build and you can level up the subcategory by using that skill in the game. For example to level up handguns just use a handgun. Each category max out at 20 and each subcategory max out at what total points you have in that category sound good so far. With each level of a subcategory, you get a perk point that you can use to get a perk. It feels like a true RPG leveling system, and I wonder If the board game uses this system as well? However, here's the problem.
Perks are all passives and very basic passives at that. They don't change gameplay and most if not all the perks just add more damage or less recoil. In Skyrim if you use the bow skill tree you will get the ability to slow time or if it's the stealth tree the ability to roll. That's not the case for cyberpunk and so the passives feel underwhelming. The reason it's like this is because in order to get the game-changing abilities the game wants you to get cyberware.
Cyberware is the body parts that allow the player to double jump, slow time, have blades in their arms, and all that cool stuff. In my playthrough, I barely used cyberware because they are expensive and the game's economy is broken. I did all the gigs and police missions and cleared out each area of the map and still don't have enough dough to buy the best car in the game and they want you to buy a lot of cars on top of guns, clothes, and cyberware. The second reason is that cyberware is also mostly passive like more armor, increase carry loud if you get seen slows time. And then with arms, you only have 3 options: arms that do more damage when you punch enemies, arms that have blades that come out, and arms that shoot tiny rockets. The system is so bland that it shows me cd Projekt red was so focused on how cyberpunk 2077 looks rather than how it feels.
Let's move on to yet another system that feels shoehorned into the game crafting. I like crafting, growing up with alpha Minecraft, crafting thousand of iron daggers in Skyrim, and maxing out all professionals in final fantasy 14/ guild wars 2. However, crafting needs work in cyberpunk and really just some Qol updates. Yet again the economy I find to be broken, can either dismantle items or buy materials from vendors. This includes iconic items for some reason and if you dismantle them by accident like me they are gone forever. Like items, materials have different tiers from common to legendary and you can craft different tiers of items, upgrade items tiers, or just their states. This is fine when the problem comes up when the game wants you to buy schematics and materials which can be very expensive along with how hard it is to get late-game materials. Then the game does not tell you how many set items you are crafting so I assume when crafting ammo I am crafting 10 at a time or so and then to craft I have to hold mouse 1 over and over to craft no quick craft or just hit a button it becomes very tedious. Of Course, most if not all these problems can be fixed in an update but it does raise the question: did they play their own game? How did they launch it in this form and they were ok with it?
End Of An Era
I know I may come off as negative in this review but I am going to school for game design. I look at the design choices and systems cd Projekt red made. But the most important thing for everyone is that you have fun and I did have fun. seeing some of the bugs are funny, Keanu Reeves bad acting is entertaining so was the main story and experiencing night city. Cyberpunk 2077 is worth the price and your time and if you want it to go for it unless you're buying it on ps4 and Xbox one. However, if you feel like you can wait a couple of months for updates and the free content cp project red says is coming in 2021 then I think it would be wise to wait on your purchase. But don't be fooled this is a wonderful RPG to say goodbye to current-gen and into next-gen hardware.