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Despite my distinguished status as an accredited gaming journalist, I’ve never really considered myself part of the gaming community. Well, a “gamer” as it were. I’ve been part of hangouts with people who love games and sometimes participate with the community of a particular title, but a community built around the concept at large is rarely worth the effort and stress. It’s just never really appealed to me. Too much pedantry, too much in-fighting, and lately there’s too many attempts at gatekeeping from too many factions, in the end it’s really just not worth the time.
That includes things like becoming needlessly excited over upcoming games. I’ll check out a trailer and maybe get a little hopeful, but that’s about it, particularly if I know the game in question isn’t coming out for years in advance. That’s probably why I haven’t freaked out over Cyberpunk 2077, the latest action-RPG from The Witcher developers CD Projekt RED. It’s hard to be disappointed by something you had no expectations for, after all. On the contrary, it’s pretty easy to find some pleasant surprises.
V’s having a bad day. Well, week, maybe. We might even go with month. See, our boy or girl was living their normal life when things went downhill for them. In order to pay for a place to sleep and stuff to eat, they had to start living the life of an edgerunner – a mercenary willing to take pretty much any job for any reason. It pays alright, but it’s dangerous work, so many edgerunners keep their eyes open for a big heist that just might lift them out of the bottom rung of Night City’s ladder. V discovers just that…but sometimes the price you pay to reach the top might be a bit too much.
Here it is, folks! The latest RPG sensation from RPG sensationalists CD Projekt RED! You’ve spent the past year or two being told what to think, how to feel and when you should get angry regarding this game, but what’s really going on here? Well…put simply, what you’re getting here is a pretty buggy take on GTA through futuristic lenses with some light RPG elements. It’s a perfectly acceptable adventure that’s not going to redefine the gaming landscape as one might have expected, but it’s absolutely worth the time and money you might spend on it.
V’s adventure mixes up elements of both RPGs and first-person shooters. You’ve got levels to gain, stats to upgrade, skills to improve and perks to purchase you proceed along the way, not to mention there’s a wide variety of gear to check out. You can take various approaches to solving situations based on the stats, gear and cybernetic implants you use – the latter are essentially accessories set into a separate array of gear slots from your usual equipment. A character with high Body stats can bust down doors and intimidate others, for instance, while an Intelligent character is good at hacking and can subvert enemies’ cybernetics to their advantage.
Your weapon choices include firearms of various flavors, melee weapons, implanted gear like a set of arm-blades and a monomolecular whip, a few grenades and some hacking techniques. You’re bound to find something you like.
In practice, though, the situations offered by Cyberpunk 2077 basically boil down to “kill all these guys and get the thing.” There’s a splash of “also, don’t be seen if you can avoid it and we might offer a little bonus” here and there, as well, but in terms of actual gameplay your stats largely amount to how you’d like to go about killing everything in sight. On higher difficulties you’ll probably get a bit more use out of stealth, since enemies are spongier and you’ll want the instant kills offered by being a cyber-ninja, and hacking becomes a little more impressive when you get the ability to just pop your foes’ brains.
Additionally, your combat options aren’t necessarily equal to one another, with cybernetic melee implants being absurdly powerful in comparison to many other options, especially when combined with hacking. Still, depending on your patience, pretty much every option can work, and it’s nice that the game’s environments are designed to allow essentially every character build to excel in its own way – which can be a good or a bad thing, since it ends up feeling like every character can accomplish everything, just in different ways.
Cyberpunk 2077’s plot and presentation, meanwhile, are pretty exceptional. It’s just as dark as you’d expect from a cybernetic dystopia sort of story and the game does a fantastic job of selling just that. The prominent placement of Keanu Reeves as what is essentially the game’s lead character certainly doesn’t hurt. Further, the ability to make decisions with some degree of ramification on future events is nice. There’s some significant swerves in how the plot works out at times based on your character’s decisions. It’s a nice touch.
It’s worth noting that this has a cost of its own: Cyberpunk 2077’s plot is very short and the game can probably be cleared, at least technically, over the course of a weekend. You can expect 8-10 hours out of the main story. If you go straight for story quests and aim to get the job done, such as it is, you can probably manage to complete this game in about eight to ten hours, though if you can deal with the similarity of Cyberpunk’s sidequests to one another you could probably get several times’ that out of a completionist run.
There’s a fair chance you’ll miss out on quite a bit of content if you do this, however, and there are several endings if you want to play through the last parts of the game a few more times. But Cyberpunk’s length pales in comparison to that of the legendary Witcher 3. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, of course, but it’ll definitely be done in a weekend rather than a week. Be prepared with something else to play.
This is a game that’s been hyped up for years now, so you’d expect it to have a top-notch presentation to match that hype, right? Well, Cyberpunk certainly looks great when it’s cooperating. It’s a stylish game with tons of attention paid to how things look and feel. There’s no guarantee that it’s going to do so from moment to moment, though. Even on PC the framerate can swing horribly, particularly in more exciting situations, and I’m rocking the game with a fairly new RTX-powered graphics card. When everything is up and running correctly on a well-equipped PC, the game looks absolutely stellar.
The less said about the last-gen console versions, the better. There’s more bugs than a roach motel as well, with characters, quests, enemies and the world at large glitching out at random. It’s a shame so much confusion surrounds which version of the game plays best on which generation console, and I suspect there will be many unhappy cyberfans disappointed their version of the game isn’t as top-notch as the others.
Pretty much every issue I encountered while playing could be solved with the good ol’ save-and-reload, but it’s still a little disappointing that this is the case.
In my opinion the best way to enjoy Cyberpunk 2077 is to go in blind without having any baseline for what you’re going to get from it – which I’d recommend for any game, really. If you come in expecting 2020’s Game of the Year, you’re going to be disappointed when you realize that’s not the case. Instead, Cyberpunk 2077 is a perfectly acceptable action-RPG with some interesting plot elements and a fantastic style…but 2020’s Game of the Year is probably Hades, and it’s in no danger of being dethroned.