Playing Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox Series X, when I came across a couple of downed enemies in an early mission lying on the ground with their arms and legs in a weird standing position, it dawned on me that CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 will forever have a dash of that Bethesda-style jank.
Characters and NPCs that walk into walls, cars that behave erratically or explode into the stratosphere when physics go a little haywire. Basically the sorts of things we see in games like Skyrim and Fallout 4. Cyberpunk 2077 is never going to be perfect or that sort of experience where you can see and feel the polish in every little thing; from how a room is arranged through to how characters animate and react in cinematic sequences.
This is a good realisation to make because the size, scope, and grandeur of Night City is nothing to sneeze at – it’ll always have glitches here and there. In terms of size and detail though, Night City is a monumental achievement. And one that still feels on the cutting edge of where in-game visuals are headed.
Even now, a year and change after the game’s initial (and very rough) debut, it’s the star of the show. A bustling future metropolis that is simply put, breath-taking. If its look, feel, and lore you can find just about everywhere grabs you, well, Cyberpunk 2077 is an immersive feast. Again, it’s not perfect by any means, but it is an experience to savour. Especially now.
And that’s because the next-gen patch finally optimises the game for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X (reviewed here). With the results definitely giving off a “this is what it should have been” vibe. On next-gen consoles this is basically a soft reboot, gone are the countless game breaking bugs and never-ending list of quest glitches. Gone is the shitty 20-fps level performance. Now there’s a Performance Mode, and it’s a game changer in its own right. And with SSD storage the loading times are minimal too. It might not maintain a steady 60-fps at all times, but for the most part it’s pretty much always up there, even during combat.
The fact that you can go from V’s apartment down to a bustling intersection without a loading screen or seeing texture pop-in is remarkable too. There’s a ray-tracing mode capped at 30-fps for those wanting that true next-gen feel, but being limited to ray-traced shadows it doesn’t live up to what’s possible on PC. Granted, we’re talking about a GeForce RTX 3090 powered rig where you enable a whole suite of game changing ray-tracing effects.
Really though, this update brings the console release up to the performance standard experienced by many on the PC front – especially with just how smooth it is to get around town. When coupled with the level of detail and the much needed bump in NPCs roaming the streets, it feels every bit like the next-gen experience we all expected it to be. In fact, it’s so good on Xbox Series X that I went right back to what I did when I played on PC back in 2020; I walked from job to job, no vehicle, no matter if the destination was a few hundred metres or a couple of kilometres.
It’s here where I found a number of awesome, yet subtle, additions; the ability to pet animals, watch traffic behave more like traffic, see more diverse characters go about their day or evening, check out a lot more billboards the launch version didn’t have, and watch as NPCs busted out umbrellas when it started to rain. With everything here making Cyberpunk 2077 feel alive in a way the launch version did not.
Outside of impressive console performance, which is reason enough to call this a substantial update, there’s all of the other goodness that comes with Cyberpunk 2077’s Patch 1.5. If you haven’t played the game since launch or have held off until now, the difference is massive.
There’s the giant mountain of bug fixes that sort out all manner of quest-related issues and open-world glitches and bugs. There’s the arrival of player customisation, the ability to buy new apartments, the revamped enemy AI and skill-tree system, better driving physics, the aforementioned new traffic simulation.
Really though it’s the effect of the improved enemy AI and much better skill-trees that is probably the most profound. In a lot of ways it makes Cyberpunk 2077 feel like the RPG it wasn’t at launch, where weapon and character stats and skills and upgrades and cyberware actually matter and become a core part of the combat experience. Having all of that there but in the midst of a shooting gallery at launch was something of a letdown. Fast forward to 2022 and the combat, both melee and projectile-based is fast, tense, and incredible.
Netrunner and stealth builds feel better catered for too.
In terms of fundamental changes players expected, well, this next-gen Cyberpunk 2077 falls short. There’s still no proper policing system and the whole completing gigs and jobs for the various gangs of Night City is still very-much a static to-do list. Faction rewards have been added, but there’s very little in the way of making a true impact on how Night City operates. Finite things to see and do with not a lot that feels emergent. Put it this way, you can cause destruction to anyone and everyone, run a block or too, and still be in the good books with cops and gangs everywhere.
Coming back to the idea that Cyberpunk 2077 will probably never be perfect, not that such a thing exists, is a nice reality check. Based on the stunning beauty and scope of Night City there’s always going to be a big list of things that I’d want to do. I want to be able to buy food from vendors, visit specific clothing stores picking out outfits off the rack, engage with NPCs in a way that makes their lives important. Join one gang and stick it to the others with a turf war.
The good news is that Patch 1.5 can also be viewed as a clean slate in terms of DLC, new features, and planned expansions. Based on the 14-months it took to get here though, it’s anyone’s guess as to where Cyberpunk 2077 is headed. That said, expanding what you can see and do in Night City is still an exciting prospect. Which might be a good as an endorsement one can give. There’s still that feeling of awe, even after all of the blowback and the poor state of the game on consoles in 2020.
In addition to Night City you’ve also got the expansive cinematic story chock full of ambitious story beats and wonderful side stories. CD Projekt Red’s bread and butter, and with a 5-hour trial available on PS5 and Xbox Series X there’s no reason not to jump into what is an amazing first few hours of narrative action. Even though the mainline Johnny Silverhand story feels a little too linear and eventually becomes completely detached from the idea of creating your own story within the world, there’s still plenty of brilliantly quests featuring Judy, Panam, River, Rogue, and many others to discover.
There’s memorable characters to find and crazy discoveries too. From a sentient vending machine through to Skippy the smart gun. When Cyberpunk 2077 launched in December of 2020, a lot of press made it clear that the game – for the most part – impressed on PC. On PlayStation 4 and Xbox One though, the memes and jaw-dropping videos and clips came thick and fast. For all of the wrong reasons.
To call its launch-day stability and performance on consoles terrible is something of an understatement, and something that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. A videogame cautionary tale for the ages. Thanks to the impressive next-gen update, that’s what it’ll become. A tale, a story. Cyberpunk 2077 is now something you’d want to fire up on PS5 or Xbox Series X. Come for the incredible Night City and stay for the engaging (if messy) story, the intense combat, the improved exploration and immersion, and the newfound focus on open-world RPG action.
Cyberpunk 2077’s long-awaited next-gen console update is here, and the extended wait looks to have been worth it. The Performance Mode corrects all of the poor frame-rate issues in one fell swoop, not to mention the several thousand bug fixes that 14-months and change can bring. There’s even some new stuff to discover, from the ability to purchase/rent apartments to an overhaul of enemy AI. As a reboot of sorts it’s by no means perfect, but it’s now a great foundation on which to deliver more Night City stories.
Night City is gorgeous
Increased NPC activity and smooth performance
Great writing and memorable quests
Loading times are essentially non-existent
Notable improvements to enemy AI
That and the skill-tree rework really ramp up the RPG side
Very little that’s new in the way of story content
Still no police/wanted system
Main quest and side quests still the main reason to stick with it
Proof that it needed at least another year of development