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Cyberpunk 2077 Review | The City of Dreams

Cyberpunk 2077 Review | The City of Dreams

I did not like Fallout 3 when I first played it. After saving up for months to buy the game I was very excited to finally get my hands on it, but I stopped playing after only a few hours. I returned to it a few months later and didn't make it much further. I gave up on Fallout 3 at the time, chalking it up to the game simply not being for my taste. For a simple Pokémon fan like myself, something about the plethora of bugs I experienced in the opening hours of Fallout 3, the daunting map size, and the general open-ended-ness of it all scared me away. Then, years later, I returned to it once more, wanting to see if the years had given me what it takes to finally enjoy the game. To my surprise: they did. I loved Fallout 3 by the time I finished it for the first time, and it now happily sits somewhere at the top of my favorite games of all-time list.

If you're wondering why the first paragraph of my Cyberpunk 2077 review is all about Fallout 3, it's because I found a sort of parallel between my experience with both games. I originally played Cyberpunk 2077 a few months after it was released to see how true those viral bug-ridden gameplay clips really were. After a few hours, I stopped playing. I was used to bugs, I have put too many hours into Bethesda games for that to still be a problem for me, but I wasn't prepared for the sheer number of crashes and (not purposeful) visual glitches that I witnessed before the title card even dropped. So, I put the game away until the next-gen version was released. This brings us to a few months ago, when CD Projekt Red surprise released the next-gen patch, claiming to have ironed out many of the problems in the game while also allowing people who were lucky enough to get their hands on a next-gen system to play it natively and not just via backwards compatibility. Now, is the game bug-free? Nope. But is it worth playing? Let's talk about that.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a (you guessed it) cyberpunk RPG from the acclaimed developers behind The Witcher game series. The game, which went on to have one of the most notorious releases in modern gaming history, is set in the neon-drenched backdrop of Night City, where human augmentation is the new norm and human life is worth next to nothing. You play as V, a street kid, corp, or nomad, who ends up at the bottom of the food chain after a series of events go horribly wrong. This all unfolds in the first five to six hours and it isn't until then that the game throws up the title card. After that, act 2 begins and you have to work your way up the chain while fighting for your survival. Act 2 is where you will spend a majority of your time with the game because in order to start act 3, you have to lock yourself out of all side content until the game is finished. Just a warning for those trying to plan their time.

If you watched the trailers for the game, you will have seen a plot twist that occurs at the end of that first act, which is unfortunate because the surprise would have been better when experienced organically in the story. But, since it's common knowledge at this point, V has the construct of a long-dead rock star and anarchist, Johnny Silverhand, in his head. While Keanu Reeves sort of became the poster child for the game since the famous "wake the fuck up samurai" line debuted, the entire cast of Cyberpunk 2077 is equally as breathtaking. Gavin Drea as male V, Emily Woo Zeller as Panam, Carla Tassara as Judy, Jane Perry as Rogue, the list goes on. They all bring the characters to life with their voices, but it's the strong writing and effective-when-working animations that really tie it together. Night City has some wonderfully diverse characters, all morally grey in their own way, and seeing them interact was always a pleasure.

Cyberpunk 2077 Review in 2022

I want to touch on writing here because not only is it good, but there is a lot of it. Entering Night City is an investment, it is littered with worldbuilding opportunities from NPC chatter while you walk down the street, radio or news broadcasts that play in the background as you sneak through an enemy area, and the hundreds of readable shards that share random details about some nook or cranny of the city. When I first played the game back in early 2021, I found the world to be rather flat, something that the duplicating NPCs on the streets didn't help amend. The bugs and glitches, which were so frequent in that version of the game, made me not even want to commit to that investment in the first place. However, this time around, I never had the same problem. By the time I noticed the bugs, which were nowhere near as bad as they were, I was already hooked. After that, I made sure to listen out for what NPCs were talking about, stay tuned to news reports, and read shards whenever I wasn't being shot at.

That's not all you need to bring a world to life, however, and these all work well in this game as accessories to the main story. As you progress in the game, NPCs will recognize you on the street, news reports will talk about something you did, and shards or files on computers will shed light on a topic you thought you understood already. Plus, I think the phone mechanics, which let you call and text other characters at points in the game, was a really nice touch. Sometimes in video games, it can seem like characters just faze out of existence when they aren't on screen, as if they go into cryosleep as soon as their scene ends, but getting texts from Panam even after I had finished her storyline and having her sort of check up on me really helped negate that feeling.

Aside from the wildly imbalanced three acts, the game has really solid mission pacing. I played another open-world game recently which had me doing the same boring mission types over and over again, to the point that playing the game turned into a chore. In 2077, there is a nice mission and level variety, with each area giving you a few options on how you want to tackle it. Your objective is simply to breach the compound, whether you want to go find a hole in the fence and sneak under, highjack an oncoming worker van and drive in undercover, or just go in guns blazing, is up to you. Furthermore, there are points in the main story where you have to wait for other characters to finish tasks, like doing recon work or building a tank, and in that way, the game encourages you to do side missions. You can of course "skip time" in the start menu, but I recommend exploring the map at the very least. This helps the main story not feel rushed and gives you a real sense of the passage of time.

Like most games that blend the first-person shooter genre with RPG mechanics, it doesn't do it incredibly well on one of those fronts. For Cyberpunk, that is the shooting. I didn't use a whole lot of guns in my playthrough, but the ones I did use didn't really have much of a kick to them. I remember one rare SMG in specific that didn't even vibrate the controller when fired, making it feel like a toy on screen. That doesn't really matter though because it worked wonders on the field and remained my favorite weapon until the end of the game. As for the RPG mechanics, there are a lot of skill trees and perk systems at play here. As you progress, you will unlock skill points and perk points, which you can spend in your start menu. These are essential in helping you fine-tune V for your liking. There are a ton of guides online for various character builds (and I may refer to them for future playthroughs) but the first time around, I went in by hand and really shaped my character to be my own and fit my play style.

Cyberpunk 2077 Xbox Series X Review

Next let's talk about that one L that gamers love: looting. This game features a Fallout-esque loot system, which lets you look at a body or container and see a list of items for you to borrow permanently. Each item you get, both clothing and weapons, have a rarity and, depending on that rarity, mods that go with it. The weapon loot is great and finding new guns and testing them out to see what worked for me was fun. When it comes to clothing, Cyberpunk can get ridiculous. By the end of the game, I was wearing a short dress because of the stat boost and after trying so hard to shape V to my vision, that felt like an odd choice to have to make. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with wearing a dress as a guy (irl or in a video game) but I wanted V to have style and color coordination, neither of which was the case for a majority of the runtime. Because of that, I wish Cyberpunk had a transmog system like Outriders or The Ascent, where you can pick the stats of the item but you can also freely change the look of it to be of any other piece you have picked up in the past. Such a feature is rumored to be in the works for the game, but no timeline or release date have been announced as of yet.

I do have one problem with the gameplay and that is the driving. The cars in the game control really wildly and, despite pulling off a few Baby Driver maneuvers, I had a hard time wrangling them to consistently do what I wanted. There are a few different handling methods in settings, and though I ended up on Dynamic, even that one didn't really work for me. This resulted in me using bikes for most of my playthrough, which were also a bit off in handling but, in my opinion, much better than the cars. If I had to use a car for mission purposes, I switched to third-person to make it a bit easier. Notwithstanding all that, I still only used the fast travel terminals once in my entire playthrough. In spite of my frustrations with the driving mechanics, I preferred driving between the points of interest around the map.

This is the last part I am writing in this review (despite it not being the last paragraph) because I pretty much forgot it was a thing. Cyberpunk 2077 has crafting mechanics that let you create and upgrade items through the use of components. Now, I picked up a lot of components in my time with the game, yet I only ever used a few of them. The crafting in this game is not only weird and confusing but also pretty useless. I say this because I played the game on normal difficulty, and I never struggled to get past an area. This isn't a brag, but simply me saying that I never had to stop and really consider the crafting mechanics in the game to supplement my gameplay. And, due to the allocation of my skill/perk points, I didn't really have an emphasis on this either.

When playing Cyberpunk on next-gen systems there are two graphics modes: performance and raytracing. The difference being that performance prioritizes FPS and raytracing prioritizes raytracing. I played a majority of the game in performance mode because the relatively reliable 60fps made for a much better gameplay experience than the choppy raytracing mode, which is good for when you're standing still, but starts to almost hurt your eyes when you move, especially if you're used to smooth 60fps. As for how it looks, there's a lot to like about Cyberpunk's visuals. The scope of the city is amazing and seeing skyscrapers so large you have to crane your in-game neck all the way up introduces a wonderful sense of scale. That being said, for every high-quality skin texture or weapon detail you notice, there are some oddities that will make you double take. If you are someone who only plays high polished games like those from Naughty Dog, you will certainly think 2077 is rough around the edges. If you are like our team member Nick, who has trooped through Fallout 76 for a platinum, nothing here will really shock you. Generally speaking, I rarely saw something that really pulled me out of the game and that was fine by me.

Then comes the sound, which Cyberpunk 2077 uses well to, you guessed it, bring Night City to life. The sound palette of the game is rich, full of diegetic sound from the hustle and bustle of Night City's streets and the booming bass of its nightclubs to the roar of the bikes you ride and more. I didn't even notice all this until I was on a mission outside of the city with Panam and someone mentioned how quiet it is and then it really hit me. Since then, every time I traveled into the city (something I did a lot as I completed my Panam side missions) I really noticed the serenity of the dessert fade away as the city soundscape attacked my auditory sense. It is worth mentioning that sometimes the game would glitch when you quick resume on the Series X and the sounds would cut out completely, which usually required a restart to fix.

Of course, we haven't even touched on the score, which is exactly what a game called Cyberpunk needed. Marcin Przybylowicz, who also did the score for The Witcher 3, returned to work on the pulsing electronic beats for Cyberpunk 2077, alongside PT Adamczyk and Paul Leonard-Morgan. Tracks like The Rebel Path, The Streets Are Long-Ass Gutters, and Been Good To Know Ya are my personal favorites. Apart from the score, there are also plenty of songs you can listen to via the game's handful of radio stations as you drive around Night City. The stations are varied and there's likely one to match your musical tastes. I personally liked going on long drives and listening to smooth jazz on Royal Blue Radio. The Night City meets Miles Davis vibes were immaculate.

Cyberpunk 2077 and Fallout 3

I have briefly mentioned the bugs multiple times throughout this review, but what exactly were they? Well, when I first played the game last year, Cyberpunk crashed four or so times before I even made it to the second act. This time around, I got no crashes and the worst bug I came across had to do with audio, where the dialogues for a certain character in a side mission did not play even though her mouth was moving like she was talking and the responsive dialogue options did pop up on my screen. I fixed that issue by simply reloading a save a few times. Additionally, there is a lot of odd object collision (or lack thereof) going on in the current version of Cyberpunk 2077. Flying cars will glide occasionally through a building and NPCs will casually walk through a pole you knocked over.  These are not game-breaking, but I do want to mention that bugs are all about the luck of the draw. Just because I didn't come across too many, doesn't necessarily mean you won't either.

Bringing it back to Fallout 3 one last time, there are a lot of reasons why that game is considered to be great, but in my opinion, one of the strongest reasons is the world. The wasteland in Fallout 3 almost turns into a character of its own, one that accompanies you in your post-apocalyptic adventure to remind you just how lonely you really are. This is the biggest similarity that the game shares with Cyberpunk. Night City is also another character, but instead of showing you how desolate the world is, it makes you feel small. You are one person, a nobody, in a city of millions. City inhabitants roam here and there as they live out their fictional lives and you have to push through that mass to make a name for yourself. There are no big Megaton-level decisions in the game, at least not ones that I came across, and there is no moral system either. However, it is still up to you on how you want your story to end. There are five endings, including a secret one, and which one you get depends on which side missions you take on, what characters you interact with, and how you interact with them.

At the end of the day, what I'm trying to say is that Cyberpunk 2077 is still not without its flaws, but you shouldn't let that stop you from experiencing one of the best video games ever conceived. Night City is a stunning backdrop for the action and whether you b-line it through the main story or take your time, it'll be a journey that very few games can get close to. I've played a lot of cyberpunk games that I liked over the last few months and this game feels like an amalgamation of all their best aspects. It's clearly ambitious and perhaps too much so for its own good, but when it works, it's a sight to behold. Cyberpunk 2077 is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC but you would be getting far from the ideal experience if you play on the last-gen hardware. Thank you to CD Projekt Red and their North American PR team for giving us a copy of the game to review.

One last thing (I promise), I enjoyed Cyberpunk 2077 so much that I am playing it again, this time with a live audience on YouTube. Click here to watch me play through the game again with a totally different character build from my first. It'll be a much slower playthrough where I take my time exploring and soaking in the world. I can't wait to see how the story progresses the second time around and what ending I stumble into. And since I am here for the plug, the team and I also do a lot of streams across YouTube and Twitch, including co-op walkthroughs where you can watch all perspectives as we play. We have a lot of great content on the way, so make sure to subscribe/follow to stay up to date. Thank you all for reading and let us know what you think of Cyberpunk 2077 down in the comments!

Cyberpunk 2077 | 9 | Excellent

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