Cyberpunk 2077 is the long-awaited first-person RPG from CD Projekt Red, the esteemed developers behind hit games like The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. Set in Night City, a fictionalized California town bustling with neon and vice, players are set loose as a mercenary with the world resting on their shoulders. The level of hype surrounding Cyberpunk 2077 has been almost unbearable, spurred on by extended delays and excessive fan expectations. In concept, Cyberpunk 2077 offers you a futuristic city packed with things to do, people to kill, and cybernetic upgrades to equip. There’s no doubt that many fan’s expectations are too high to satisfy, but disregarding that, does Cyberpunk 2077 live up to the hype? Does it innovate in the first-person genre where other modern RPGs have failed? Let’s see if Cyberpunk 2077 was worth the decade-long wait.
Note: In its current state, Cyberpunk 2077 has massive performance issues on last-generation hardware such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. This game was reviewed on an Xbox Series X and reflects the performance of that system only. Due to a slew of frame-rate issues, system crashes, and other game-breaking glitches, the last-gen versions of Cyberpunk 2077 can feel unplayable at times. Until significant improvements are made to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of the game via patches, we recommend you do not buy the game on those platforms.
Your V, Your Way
In Cyberpunk 2077, you control V, a mercenary working in the flashy, crime-infested metropolis of Night City. At the start of the game, you get to personalize V’s physical appearance and backstory via the character creator, which offers a rich variety in aesthetic customization. In addition to normal cosmetic options like hairstyle, facial features, and eye color, Cyberpunk 2077 lets you adjust V in some surprising ways. Instead of the standard “male” and “female” options that most RPGs utilize, Cyberpunk lets you mix and match different physical traits including voice tone and the appearance of your genitalia. This allows players to create a V that feels representative of any gender they prefer, unrestricted by artificial limits and boundaries. Generally speaking though, it’s great fun to tinker with your character’s appearance, experimenting with cool features like cosmetic cybernetics, inventive hairstyles, and nail-paint.
You also get the choice of three different lifepaths, each of which provides a unique backstory for V. Firstly, there’s the survivalist Nomad, a scavenger and straggler who lives on the outskirts of town. If that’s not your speed, you can be a rough-and-tough Streetkid, raised on the streets of Night City. For those who like to play the darkest of evils, you can also opt to be a Corpo, a member of the rich elite class who defects for a life of crime.
Each lifepath offers a different prologue mission, as well as exclusive dialogue options. While the Nomad was my final choice, both the Streetkid and Corpo seemed intriguing enough to warrant additional save files, even if just to experience the unique opening missions. Regardless of the lifepath you choose, you’ll eventually wind up in Night City and start climbing the ranks of the mercenary underworld.
Working All Night in Night City
Night City is a robust and technologically-advanced metropolis, blazing its way through the futuristic year of 2077. Split into six unique and visually distinct regions, each representing various industries and cyberpunk aesthetics, Night City is home to every vice you can think of and several more you didn’t even know existed. Drenched in neon signs that sell everything from inventive sex-toys to deep and invasive body modifications, the culture of Night City is both grimy and gorgeous. Hidden beneath the facade of attractive advertising and corporate achievement, unhinged gangs and various factions rule the streets of Night City, and it’s up to you to play judge, jury, and executioner.
The story in Cyberpunk 2077 revolves around V’s career as a mercenary-for-hire, working the many beats of Night City solving whatever problem comes their way. The main plot is split into three acts, leading V through a twisting whirlwind of sci-fi intrigue, disturbing technologies, and a wide cast of personable characters. In an effort to avoid spoilers, we won’t mention any specific details here, but Cyberpunk 2077‘s narrative is both compelling and well-written. Some of the overarching plot elements can be cliché at times, but there is an equal amount of inventive and cool ideas on display.
The main quest is a sprawling narrative that takes you to tons of interesting locations, guiding you through some of Night City’s most wicked and engaging offerings. At it’s worst, Cyberpunk 2077‘s plot can be a bit slow-paced, with some lengthy dialogue sections that grow tedious. However, the abundance of memorable characters, cool plot twists, and wonderful references to classic science fiction films make Cyberpunk 2077‘s story one of the most engaging of the year. It also helps that Night City and the surrounding landscape is pure eye-candy, offering scenic vistas and stunning city skylines. The game has five endings with unique missions and outcomes, based on various decisions you make toward the end of the game. While some endings are better than others, it’s rewarding to have your decisions make a notable impact on the story at hand. It might not be as compelling as The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, but Cyberpunk 2077 still has a pretty damn cool world and plot.
To the untrained eye, Cyberpunk 2077 might look like an open-world first-person shooter, but there are lots of RPG mechanics at work. As you make progress through the various missions and side-activities, you’ll earn experience points to level up V. There are five main character stats that you can improve, including Body, Reflexes, Technical Ability, Intelligence, and Cool. Each of these stats offers dozens of “perks” to unlock and upgrade, strengthening V’s talent in a variety of areas. For instance, the Reflexes stat bolsters your damage with assault rifles, pistols, and blades, while the Intelligence stat makes you a more efficient and deadly hacker. There are also sub-categories in each of these skills, allowing you to further refine your abilities.
At the start of the game, it’s easy to stick to guns and blast your way through enemies, as you’ll find tons of weapons to use by looting fallen enemies and crates. Unfortunately, employing a brute-force use of bullets has its downsides, as ammo can be scarce and is costly to purchase. Luckily, run-and-gun gameplay is not the only option in Cyberpunk 2077, as you’re free to focus on using stealth, hacking abilities, or melee weapons instead. You can upgrade your character to be sneaky and deft, outfitting them with katanas, knives, and other pieces of slice-and-dice gear. If you’re a fan of advanced tech, V can be outfitted with a slew of cybernetic enhancements, including “quick-hacks” that let you damage and distract enemies and pieces of the environment from afar. Quick-hacks help in both combat and navigation, as you’re able to blind foes and cameras, shut down or commandeer turrets and drones, and much more.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll combine all of Cyberpunk‘s offerings together to create a jack-of-all-trades character that’s suited for all possibilities. In truth, the FPS gunplay in Cyberpunk 2077 is decent, but nothing remarkable. When compared to other big-budget shooters like Destiny 2 and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Cyberpunk 2077 can feel slightly clunky. I still had great fun blasting through the streets of Night City with an assault rifle, shotgun, and pistol at my hip, but things can grow repetitive after dozens of hours of gameplay. Whenever shooting got stale, it was just as enjoyable to whip out a katana, use my “reset optics” quick-hack to blind some enemies, and start slicing.
A Midnight Stroll
As you would expect in a game about a mercenary living in a packed metropolis with rampant crime, there are tons of side-missions and bonus activities to complete. The map is littered with an overwhelming amount of icons, including crimes-in-progress, rescue missions, high-level enemy encounters, and more. Although you receive plenty of jobs direct to your phone from “fixers” you meet, you’ll also discover side-missions while exploring the map.
Night City feels alive and full of atmosphere, so it’s plenty of fun to simply walk around town and see what’s going on. You’ll organically run into characters that need a hand, crimes that need to be prevented, and cool vendors to shop at. Every side-quest you complete raises your “street cred”, unlocking new gigs and missions to pick up. As is usual in open-world games, you’ll find some of the most outrageous, interesting, and shocking moments tucked away in these innocuous side-missions.
The game separates missions into a few categories, including main quests, side-jobs, gigs, and police scanner activities. Although most of the side-jobs are interesting, the police scanner jobs and gigs feel wholly run-of-the-mill. Whether you’re trying to take down a criminal kingpin, stop an assault in progress, or rescue a hostage, the experience is the same. You’ll approach a group of enemies, sometimes located outdoors or within a building or hideout, kill everyone in sight, and then loot a single container or talk to an NPC.
Most of the storytelling in these missions are confined to text message briefings, along with some scattered digital notepads. These notes and briefings are decently written, but unless you’re an avid reader, you’ll likely skip over a large portion of the text. The police scanner missions are good for a solid dose of combat, but lack any narrative intrigue. Simply put, while some of the side-quests are fun and inventive, a large portion of the open-world activities can feel boring and repetitive.
The Woes of Technology
Whether you’re playing on the last-generation Xbox One and PlayStation 4 or a high-end gaming PC, Cyberpunk 2077 has some issues. Generally speaking, the launch of Cyberpunk 2077 has been plagued by all manner of technical problems, ranging from horrendous frame-rates on older hardware to numerous bugs and glitches on all platforms. On new consoles like the Xbox Series X, Cyberpunk 2077 manages to hold 60 frames-per-second without much problem, but on older systems, expect frame-rates as low as 15 to 20 frames-per-second. The game is also prone to visual glitches, including NPCs that walk through walls, items that levitate in mid-air, and awkward texture pop-in. When this all piles up, Cyberpunk 2077 starts to feel like an unpolished mess.
If you’re lucky enough to dodge the overwhelming amount of visual and performance issues that Cyberpunk 2077 has, you’ll probably run into one of the many gameplay bugs. This includes stuff like missions not starting, menus not working properly, and occasional soft-locks. For example, I encountered a frustrating bug with the loot system that incorrectly displayed item stats, which led to many moments of confusion while trying to equip new gear. This particular bug persisted throughout my entire 50+ hour playthrough. I’ve also had glitches that prevented the progress of main story missions, forcing me to reload earlier saves. Occasional crashes also popped up during my playthrough, only further emboldening my frustration. It’s disappointing that Cyberpunk 2077 is so buggy, as these persistent glitches continuously impacted my enjoyment of this otherwise well-written and entertaining game.
The Bottom Line on Cyberpunk 2077
Cyberpunk 2077 is an ambitious experience with a lot of potential, and at times, offers a fantastic and immersive ride. If you take your time and smell the holographic roses, there’s anywhere from 30 – 100 hours of content to enjoy. With the game’s excellent cast of characters, evocative world, and consistently cool aesthetic, it’s easy to swoon over the finer parts of Cyberpunk 2077, until it all comes crashing down. Far too often, Cyberpunk 2077 crumbles under the weight of its own ambition, resulting in excessive glitches, gameplay bugs, and even full game crashes. Depending on the power of your system, the frequency of these issues may vary, but they’re persistent throughout the entire game.
If Cyberpunk 2077 is anything, it’s a mixed bag. The main story is enthralling for the most part, although it suffers from occasional pacing issues. Side-missions range from exceptionally cool to extremely dull, with mindless fetch quests mixed in with other truly inventive stories. The combat is decent enough and offers some cool ways to dispatch enemies, specifically with futuristic hacking methods, but it’s still not as smooth or satisfying as other mainstream shooters. While I had a great time getting lost in the streets of Night City and living out the mercenary lifestyle, a good portion of the experience was marred by a huge host of technical bugs. In time, I hope these issues are rectified with significant patches and updates, as Cyberpunk 2077‘s greatness is overshadowed by these problems. If you’re interested in the game, I still recommend picking it up, but don’t expect it to be a polished masterpiece.
- Excellent world-building, sub-plots, and characters
- Combat is rich with variety
- Lots of content with branching paths
- Overwhelmingly persistent glitches including game crashes
- Gunplay feels stiff
- Lots of boring filler missions