After a disastrous launch in December 2020, CD Projekt Red has begun rolling out promised improvements for players in Night City.
Cyberpunk 2077 takes an action-based approach to the open-world RPG formula. Night City features a huge amount of freedom where players can progress the main story, take on side quests across the city, collect vehicles, craft and customize new weapons and more. Overshadowing Cyberpunk 2077’s ambitious scope, the game released on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to great controversy. Players reported the console versions were nearly unplayable, decrying numerous bugs, hilarious glitches and several game-crashing moments. The PC version also suffered issues, including a notable bug where saved games became corrupted if they exceeded a certain size. Developer CD Project Red vowed to fix these issues over time through a series of updates. This review covers the updates released with patch 1.11.
Cyberpunk 2077 is mostly playable on consoles now. Compared to launch, the current version of the game feels smoother on the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro—for the most part. Some bugs pop up here and there, such as NPCs randomly falling to their deaths in the streets and characters walking through cars and closed doors. Across an entire playthrough, the game still crashes a few times. On the original Xbox One and PlayStation 4, you’ll run into even more problems. Frequent instances of significant slowdown and harsh FPS drops continue to plague the older consoles.
Beyond these technical issues, Cyberpunk 2077 suffers from an identity crisis. Players have the option to create highly customized characters with a robust amount of hairstyles, a solid range of skin tones and a few inclusive gender options. But because the game is in first person, you rarely see yourself, including in cutscenes, which defeats the purpose. It’s possible we’re missing some cutscenes due to scrapped content. For the time being, the hyper-detailed character creator feels like a misallocation of resources. These wasted resources feel emblematic of the rest of the game’s shortcomings.
Cyberpunk 2077 offers plenty of choice when it comes to gameplay, where players can choose to focus on action-based gunplay or a quieter, stealthy approach to missions. You can customize your skill points to increase your physical-based stats for an action approach or focus on hacking and stealth skills instead. While the gunplay is satisfying, each type of gun having its own feel and personality, the missions often push players to use guns over stealth. The stealth option is mandatory on occasion, but most of the time you can ignore the rules and just shoot your way through the level. Sneaking around and quietly incapacitating enemies doesn’t feel quite as rewarding or efficient as the gunplay.
On the exploration side, Night City boasts an impressive size and scope. Side missions and contracts take players to neat locations, and it’s easy to get around the city, whether by driving or fast travel. Smaller places like clothing shops and bars are spread out everywhere, but something about the scale of Night City feels bloated, empty and pointless. That emptiness makes the whole game feel lifeless and soulless as a result—and this problem only continues with Cyberpunk 2077’s main story.
The narrative starts off strong, allowing you to choose between three distinct origin paths: the astute Corpo (corporate) employee, the shrewd Street Kid or the wandering Nomad. From there you’re introduced to Night City through one of these unique points of view. For example, the Corpo path shows off the impressive company you work for, filled with high-stakes politics and dangerous backroom dealings. Throughout the game, you have the option to negotiate with other characters based on your background, answering questions or providing input with your unique perspective. But your life path becomes irrelevant after the game’s first twenty minutes because it affects little else aside from those occasional dialogue options.
The story itself is disappointing. Looking closely at the writing, it’s easy to tell if a major character will die (they’re too obviously likable), if someone will betray you (they’re never straight up with you) or if someone has too much wasted potential. The dialogue is sometimes unbearable, especially when a character tries too hard to sound like a hardened thug, a sex worker who’s seen it all or an all-powerful corporate overlord. Outside of a few exceptions, it’s difficult to form attachments to Cyberpunk 2077’s characters because they’re often flat, boring or unlikable. The playable protagonist, V, doesn’t have a tale of his or her own outside of those underutilized life paths. You primarily run errands for the game’s mediocre characters, playing along as a pawn in a larger story about them, not you. The main exception is Judy, a tech genius you meet early in the story. Her chill personality and her appreciation of V as a friend or lover make Judy an outstanding character, but you won’t find many others like her.
Your role in the story only becomes critical later on because of an implant that slowly kills V over time. This piece of technology brings about the real main character of the story, Johnny Silverhand, modeled after and voiced by Keanu Reeves. Johnny is an aggravating fixture in the story, showing up at unwanted times to antagonize V or just to make snide remarks about whatever’s going on. He continues the narrative’s problem where the plot is too often about someone else. V could be replaced by anyone else, and it wouldn’t change much. This awful cast of characters sends your disposable V on job after job, ultimately using you to further their own ends, which turns the story into a slog. While your choices can lead to vastly different endings, the journey itself isn’t compelling in the slightest.
Graphics and Visuals
The sights in Cyberpunk 2077 are stunning, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in video games. For such a broad, open world, there’s an unreal amount of detail everywhere. The bright neon lights in Night City, the stunning vistas across the space, the packed skyline filled with skyscrapers and the colorful ads are a sight to behold. It’s clear that the developers put a ton of time into perfecting the visuals above everything else.
Despite rarely getting to see your personalized V, the range of character customization options can lead to some gorgeous characters. Additionally, the main NPCs you interact with each have their own unique designs and fashion. You get to see those details up close thanks to the first-person camera. Characters in cutscenes aren’t afraid to get in your face if their personality calls for it, whether they’re trying to be friendly or intimidating. However, the game’s performance issues can seriously impact the experience. It’s hard to admire the sheen of rain spreading like dew across a city district when your FPS drops, your gameplay stutters and slows to a crawl or your game crashes altogether.
Music and Sound
Cyberpunk 2077’s soundtrack is another standout feature. The dark, atmospheric music and the rambunctious combat tracks inject some much-needed life into the game. Driving around in your car is entertaining thanks to all the different radio stations. But even while a memorable track plays during a cutscene, the questionable voice acting can easily kill the mood.
The male V’s voice acting is passable, even if his gruff tone is cliché by now, but he mostly sounds like he belongs in Night City’s dark, grimy underbelly. By contrast, the female V’s voice acting isn’t nearly as convincing. She’s wonderful during regular conversation, since her voice is quite pleasing to listen to as a normal character. But the moment the tone darkens, and the atmosphere becomes grim, it’s difficult to believe she belongs in this environment. Johnny Silverhand’s menacing monotone is usually one note, which makes his frequent presence in the story all the more grating. Judy’s smooth voice acting solidifies her as one of Cyberpunk 2077’s great personalities. She’s easy to talk to, she sounds incredible and she evokes a genuine heart and spirit. Not so much with other characters, who at times sound like they’re reading a script word for word or otherwise trying too hard to sound like someone they’re not.
It’s highly unlikely that CD Project Red will solve all of the game’s problems through future updates and downloadable content. Many of the core issues seem unfixable because they are simply part of the game itself. The wasted space across Night City, the shaky writing and voice acting, the dull characters and the lack of meaningful choice in action versus stealth gameplay are all set in stone by now. Cyberpunk 2077 needs a significant upgrade from the ground up. Fixing the embarrassing bugs and glitches with these Band-Aid updates is an important first step. The game is playable now, but technical issues aside, it’s arguably not even worth playing in the first place.