The game of the year that stole the headlines for all the wrong reasons, but is Cyberpunk 2077 quite the travesty the media would have you believe? Set in a post-apocalyptic world where society is reforming under the hand of giant corporations, those that live outside the system or actively fight it are either on a short list or are short lived. Choose your path as V under the flickering neon lights of Night City, to become a legend or rusting scrap on a landfill.
If you are one to read online reviews and I gather you are, the fervent venting outrage against Cyberpunk has been loud and long lived. It started with hopeful fans looking towards a bright spot in a difficult year and having that light dowsed repeatedly. The game finally released after 7 years of what they would have us believe was barely enough development time. The day of wonder finally arrived in December, and for most of the console users the game juddered into life with the grace of a rusting farm tractor. Personally, outside of the 4-hour crash cycle my Xbox One X ran it okay. The day 1 patch did solve the majority of the issues for me at the cost of making the graphics look somewhat like an oil painting. There has been plenty more meme worthy glitches and bugs but it won’t take up more of the review with them as I think the initial point has been made.
Putting aside game breaking issues, I will now attempt to look a bit more objectively at the game. As you boot into the experience for the first time there is the essential task of character building. As with all good RPGs the player must create an avatar in their own image, thus satisfying their god complex. Cyberpunk starts you off with 3 main factions available, which may seem cheap compared to Elder Scrolls but these are actually more storylines than something that affects the character. The sculpting of the character visually had more to offer in its non-binary options, gender expression and all-important default genitalia options (literal option). It fell short in the cyber-ware department but some of that does come in the game, and it certainly could not boast to come close to the breadth of customisation in many other titles.
Dropped into the story I started out as a Nomad making his way into Night City for gory glory and glitz. The introduction does not rush you and functions well as a tutorial but it’s certainly not a shock and awe start to the game. As you bumble through the story meeting new people there is very little sense of urgency, this is not necessarily a bad thing as enjoying the city and its side missions is a lot of the charm, but it is perplexing given the nature of the main story. You will find characters that you drop tools and run to meet; these are the moments of the game that shine, but it does rather highlight the dark stretches which are absent of magic. The set pieces are part of those bright sparks where the game comes alive and shows there is more here than just an overhyped B list RPG.
Graphically the design of the city is eye catching, it is only the resolution and rendering that suffers. It has a distinct art form and does not shy from small details that give the world texture (vast amounts of sex toys that had to be patched out due to the sheer number). It is a shame however that you cannot leave your mark on that world more, be that via spray paint, custom cars, custom housing, water response when you shoot it… These small details are certainly minor but the lack of them when games like GTA implemented them decades ago, does not help the 2077 cause.
There are some great voice actors in Cyberpunk, including Keanu Reeves, and it should be pointed out that rather than subtitles the team used native language recording artists for many parts of the globe. These voice actors may be the saving grace of the game as it was rare I skipped audio and it led to me being greatly invested in some characters and my ultimate decisions. On the flip side I ended up turning music off in the game for a while, as I found the standard combat or hostile area soundtrack a bit grating with no variance. I did switch it back on to listen to campsite music or the occasional live gig which was enjoyable. I also found it hard balancing the radio in the car with the rest of the FX but that’s a personal bug bear with most games, listening to the turbo whine of my Tuned Arch bike however was music enough to my ears. FYI bikes are infinitely more fun than cars, never thought I would utter that as a 4 wheel fan!
A game is not the sum of its parts and Cyberpunk proves this rather well. Its parts are a design team’s coffee morning dream, put together with the structural integrity of overcooked broccoli. The remaining stem of the game contains a taste of those amazing ideas, a glimpse of what could be. It has a mystical power to create memes, headlines and even in review lure you away from grasping the key essence of its attraction. Lurking beneath it all however is a world, characters and story worth discovering, not only to join in your friends WhatsApp meme frenzy. A last piece of advice is to at least try it on the hardest difficulty to start with, all the games systems start to make a whole lot more sense when real danger is not such a rarity!
Author: Joe, Bath store