Let’s make something clear off jump: I love cyberpunk...the genre.
Snow Crash and Neuromancer rank as some of my favorite books. Growing up, I was (and honestly still am) obsessed with anime like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and Serial Experiments Lain. I stay mad Strange Days isn’t streaming anywhere, and I even have a soft spot for ’90s trash classic Johnny Mnemonic.
So again: I love cyberpunk.
When Cyberpunk 2077 was initially announced in 2013 the hype was instant, and playing developer CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt only made it increase. “Bro, can you believe The Witcher niggas are gonna make a Cyberpunk game?,” I would frequently ask my best friend Oscar during our weekly ritual of smoking weed and watching anime.
I was one of the many people eagerly awaiting the release of this game. While the edgelord marketing campaign tried its best to dampen my excitement, ultimately I couldn’t help but look forward to an open-world role playing game set in one of my favorite genres.
So you can imagine my disappointment when the game came out last December and was a buggy, glitchy mess. I was lucky enough to get the PC version, which while not a complete mess like the console release, had enough glitches to turn me off from playing the game. The game was eventually removed from the PlayStation store, class-action lawsuits were filed, and the game became the poster child for every bad development practice used to make AAA games.
The game was recently re-released on the PlayStation Network, and the developer has released numerous patches over the past six months to fix the game. I figured now would be the perfect time to revisit the game and give an assessment of it without having to necessarily get into the nitty gritty of the fuckery surrounding its creation. (If you want to know all about it, here ya go.)
So having played through Cyberpunk 2077’s main story and a solid chunk of the side missions, is it good?
Well, it’s not bad?
Cyberpunk 2077 is essentially your standard Bethesda game. It provides a large, expansive open-world that can be immersive when shit isn’t breaking. I didn’t really have a bad time with the game, and there is a certain thrill to just driving around the decrepit future. Without a doubt, Cyberpunk 2077 nails the aesthetics of the genre, and the integration of hacking as a core gameplay mechanic is tight as hell. There are quite a few moments where the game just feels cool. Unfortunately, the game never feels like anything more than a surface level approach to the genre.
The game opens with the good old fashioned “one last heist that’s gonna change everything.” So of course, that goes to shit and it goes to shit hard. After suffering a tragedy and barely escaping with their life, the player character, V, is left with an experimental piece of technology in their head that’s killing them. Your journey through Night City will take you through abandoned desert towns, vast cityscapes, and even the edge of cyberspace itself as you try to figure out what the chip is.
Feature and environment-wise, it checks all the boxes for what you’d expect from an open-world game with the word “Cyberpunk” in the title. As I gradually made my way through the game’s narrative, I gradually became more and more underwhelmed. The game’s story feels like it was ripped from the Ubisoft school of “let’s make apolitical games out of inherently political subject matter.”
The best cyberpunk stories are inherently about something. Whether it’s political corruption, propaganda masquerading as news, themes of identity, power, or even just the dangers of technology, there’s usually always some larger idea lurking beneath the retro-futuristic surface.
Cyberpunk 2077 flirts with some interesting ideas, but never really commits to any of them. The stakes of the main story or life and death, with not much in the way of thematic resonance. Though, a handful of the side missions provide some interesting characterization and choices.
One standout was a mission that involves having to round up a group of rogue self-driving vehicles after the A.I. that manages them begins to develop multiple personalities. The mission culminates with you going to the main office of the company that manufactures the cars after the A.I.’s essentially enacts a virtual uprising. The climatic choice of the mission was an interesting moral quandary that I really dug and I wanted more like it. Unfortunately, most of the missions don’t ask questions as interesting as this one.
One of the things I really enjoyed about The Witcher 3 was the sense of discovery that came with just exploring the world. Simply traveling from point A to B can be an adventure in its own right, because you never know just what you might encounter throughout the world.
That sense of discovery is missing from Cyberpunk 2077. Just about all the missions you receive are as a result of someone calling you on the phone. There are very few opportunities to stumble into a cool adventure. You’ll occasionally encounter a sporadic shootout, or a crimes you could stop to assist the cops, but even in the virtual world it’s fuck 12 for me.
While the developers have released multiple patches in the months since release, I still encountered a variety of bugs ranging from enemies straight up not even acknowledging I was in the combat area to strange animations in cutscenes. I will say that throughout my playthrough I didn’t encounter anything game breaking, just quite a few oddities.
Even if Cyberpunk 2077 launched in a pristine state, though, in my opinion it would still be an underwhelming game. Should you still be curious about checking the game out, it’s currently discounted to $40 as part of the Steam Summer Sale. It’s not a terrible game by any means, it simply doesn’t do much that hasn’t already been done by Grand Theft Auto and Fallout. The game is undeniably cool, but considering where it gets its name from, I was hoping it would have a little bit more to offer than that.