I won’t even pretend to have scratched the surface of what Cyberpunk 2077 has to offer so far, I’d wager few have. It’s clear from the near dozen hours I’ve spent in Night City so far that this game is big, offering bang for buck like few can claim to. It’s also clear that CD Projekt Red hasn’t dared roam from what they know, offering a dense world teeming with things to do, interesting people to meet in a game that’s, as much as anything else, about moments.
All those moments.
Although the earliest hours of Cyberpunk 2077 are the ones I’m already most familiar with thanks to behind closed door demonstrations and the general press cycle, it’s been exciting to revisit them within the context of the game’s beginnings. With a near five-hour prologue before we even see a title screen, CD Projekt Red set up Night City as a home to all manner of people: the powered corrupt, the unsavoury, the self-interested betrayers. As V, you’ll meet them all. It’s who your V becomes that you’ve some control over.
The game’s character creator offers so much option, I could have spent hours sculpting my V from the clay of choice offered by a development team intent on offering everything in overwhelming abundance. The definition of an exhausting amount of depth is seen here as we’re afforded the option of genital customisation which, over ten hours in, has yet to bear fruit. Of course, with any deep role-playing game, the game tasks you with assigning favoured attributes, beginning your character build on an ever-winding path for the journey ahead. While I admit I found it confusing at first, I appreciate the elegance of the skill tree on offer. The game’s countless skills all fall under the game’s five blanket attributes: body, reflexes, cool, intelligence and tech.
Gaining levels in Cyberpunk won’t only gift you skill points, it’ll also award attribute points which can be used to bolster the overall value of one of the above attributes. This achieves two things, you’ll deepen the pool of skills you’re able to unlock while opening new possibilities for V within Night City—from charisma-reliant dialogue choices to doors that expect a surprising level of gusto to break down, it serves you to level and assign points to suit your style of play. For example, I didn’t really waste points levelling up any of the stealth options because that isn’t how I play. While there’s not a lot of agency within the game’s predestined narrative, there’s a lot of freedom afforded in how your V handles himself in Night City.
For full disclosure, I opted for the Street Kid lifepath which introduces V to us as he (or she) nurses a broken nose and a bruised ego only to help a bartender from getting his legs broken from a lowly street tough. Each life path the game offers introduces V to us in its own way, although once the introductory questlines are completed, the stories converge and the differences appear to be minimal. Although I’ve only seen the game through one act and change, it certainly hits on all of the big thematic concepts the game’s namesake genre is known for. From anti-corporate sentiment to populism and transhumanism, it’s all cemented as integral to the Cyberpunk 2077 experience.
Although I’ve seen only a few of the game’s major story beats so far, they’ve all hit in a profound way that has guaranteed my investment for the remainder of whatever the game’s mammoth runtime will be. Although I’m sure what I’ve seen is only the tip of a much larger, still unseen, iceberg, I’ve fallen in love with many of the game’s supporting cast. As expected, Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand is a spectacular revelation and the way he’s introduced into the fold after the game’s protracted prologue is riveting. I’ve spent a large portion of my time in Night City so far pursuing the main questline so I’m not able to speak to the quality of the game’s optional content, although the quantity is certainly unquestionable—my journal has been overwhelmingly full of things to do from the moment Jackie and V emerge as semi-experienced street thugs after the game’s first quest.
One of the primary concerns I had for Cyberpunk 2077 during the game’s preview periods was regarding its capabilities as a first-person shooter, something the developer wasn’t exactly versed in prior to this game’s development. Fortunately, I’m pleased with how this particular game handles itself. It’s closer to the ultra-tightness of Call of Duty than it is the systemic misfiring of Fallout and while there are the slightest hints of jank, it performs far better than I expected as a shooter. The game’s hand-to-hand combat is pretty good too, it reminded me a lot of slow and deliberate fighting from Escape from Butcher Bay. The game’s A.I. leaves a little to be desired, I’ve not seen a lot of instances where I’ve been impressed by the challenge put forward by the game’s pretty dull foes.
Sadly, the A.I. isn’t the game’s only disappointment during this pre-launch build. The development cycle, coupled with the eleventh-hour dash toward the finish line, has left the game riddled with bugs and some frustrating performance woes. Personally, I experienced a number of unfortunate crashes at key story moments which diminished the intended emotional impact significantly. Although DLSS did its job, for the most part, I also experienced some weird framerate dives which required a full reboot to resolve. The game also suffers from several visual glitches that range from hilarious to downright unfortunate, from the midair suspension of discarded weapons to items exchanging for other items in the middle of cutscenes. Instead of a biochip, I watched Jackie pull a full gun out of his head and offer it up.
That being said, I expect problems like these to be resolved through patches and hotfixes. Knowing this, it’s easy to overlook these problems and appreciate the game’s staggering beauty. My computer couldn’t quite nudge the game at its ultra settings, though my now modest 2080 Super made sure I got to experience the game’s medium ray tracing settings and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s a small luxury, but it’s essential to the experience. The moisture slicks on the roads reflecting the gaudy neon signage always manage to impress, there’s minute detail poured into everything.
Not only are the performances in Cyberpunk 2077 first-class, but the game’s sound design is also a resounding success. There are so many small, fleeting moments, like those I spoke of earlier, that are all punctuated and enhanced by the game’s bone-crunching and, at times, melancholic score. So far, standout moments include a tense stand-off with the Maelstrom gang’s head as I gave him a chin massage with the snout of my pistol to a roaring, chaotic ripsaw soundscape as well as a brief and peaceful reprieve from the violent day-to-day as I engaged in pensive pillow talk with a ‘doll’—the game’s equivalent of a sex worker.
It’s quite the achievement for Cyberpunk 2077 to look and sound as good as it does when one considers its size and how feature-complete it is. CD Projekt Red are world-building luminaries, a fact that was established through their work on The Witcher and reaffirmed with Night City.
THE PC VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Cyberpunk 2077 is staggering, overwhelming, and even surprising at times in its spectacle. Although my first dozen hours with the game has been marred by easy-to-fix problems, Nighty City, along with all it offers and all that call it home, makes for an intoxicating escape. Here’s hoping the next one hundred hours are as utterly compelling.
Another intoxicating CD Projekt Red world
So much to see and do
Looks absolutely gorgeous
All of its systems marry to create the ultimate role playing shooter