Cyberpunk 2077 had a rather interesting launch after marketing efforts brought a lot of hype during development. Despite high scores from many respected outlets and content creators heralding it as a masterpiece despite bugs and technical issues, things soon turned sour. Many players felt the last-gen console version was unplayable and in an unusual move, it was even pulled from the PlayStation store temporarily.
Slightly more than a year on from release, I’m jumping into Night City for the first time with the 1.5 Update. Among other things, this contains the Next Gen update, taking advantage of the Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5’s hardware.
Choose Your Story, V
You can choose your background when creating your character. Were you raised as a nomad in the badlands, did you grow up in the streets with the gangs or did you come through the corporate world and learn to exploit the rules? I chose ‘Corpo’, so that’s how my story started. Aside from that, it gave me extra dialogue options at times, where my corporate background let me know more about a situation.
It very quickly showed me that the world of Cyberpunk 2077 is a horrible place. Working for a corporation, I was given orders to ‘deal with’ another member of staff, along with their personal information and some money to hire people. We’re not exactly innocent here though – It was our suggestion to find a way to smack her down hard to teach her a lesson.
Things soon go wrong. We find ourselves with our cybernetics disabled and fired from our corporate job. Not only that, but they even disable our bank account. The corporations here rule everything. It’s made clear that we’re lucky to not have been ordered dead.
With the help of a friend, it soon moves on to our new life doing whatever will pay the bills. Essentially working as a mercenary, we soon find ourselves with a big job lined up.
I wasn’t too impressed with the story itself at this point – at least in terms of the basic line of events. It followed a fairly familiar plot, with us getting into trouble, falling into a group, and then having the big score – one that’s meant to be ‘one last job’. Following the standard trope here, things go horribly wrong.
It’s a bit of a slow start in terms of plot, but about five hours in it started to get a lot more interesting. After a dramatic turn of events, we learn that we have Johnny Silverhand’s personality in our head. This terrorist from fifty years ago is taking over our body, albeit not completely willingly. We’re told that we only have a few weeks of our own life left to live.
Following a few different paths along the way, we uncover the mystery behind the corporation that we used to work for, along with teasing Johnny’s history out of him. I felt that there were issues with pacing at times; one questline particularly felt like it was on for ages. The story explored some interesting themes though, including staying true to yourself, loyalty in a world where it’s rare, and what life is about.
There are multiple potential endings in Cyberpunk 2077. While questions from the main story won’t be left remaining, it’s worth noting that you won’t necessarily get a nicely wrapped-up ending.
Building a World
While the plot of Cyberpunk 2077 has some issues, the story is told as much, if not more through the world. While other areas are certainly good, this is where I start to see where all the praise for the title is coming from.
It shows how amoral the corporations are and how money rules everything with background chat. The company we worked for was noted to have been arming local conflicts in Africa and no one questioned it. A bit of commentary from a random NPC talking to another mentioned that someone from a corporation ran over his daughter. He seemed conflicted because he wants to get revenge, but they’ve paid him off – the money comes in each month and it doesn’t get reported.
Sex is everywhere too and certainly a product. Adverts are all over the world and ‘dollhouses’ where you can buy sex with people who won’t remember it are mentioned positively on the news.
Death is thought of casually. It’s not uncommon to hear gunfire and the police barely do anything even when you start shooting. Again, high numbers of deaths are mentioned in conversations and news, without concern.
While nothing new, each area is distinct too. You can drive through a Japan Town, an area with residents originally from Haiti, what feels like the rural US, and more. Even the adverts in the background are different – I recall hearing one in the Japan Town in Japanese that sounded oddly like Lum from Urusei Yatsura.
While I felt the world told the story of Night City well, I did feel it rubbed the sex aspect in the players’ faces too much. Little things do hold it back too, like returning to someone you’ve seen in the story and now they just stand there, unresponsive.
One piece of advice I’d give to players – take it slowly and explore the side missions. Admittedly some of it is fairly standard – chase down missing vehicles, kill a certain list of people, and so on. One even had me driving over lawn flamingos.
Beyond that is where even more of the story lies. You might find yourself attending a touching funeral and finding out their background, helping someone get revenge, or even finding yourself a lover.
On the last one, depending on which type of body you choose, you have two different options: one male and one female. Depending on dialogue choices, it’s possible to miss the chance to unlock these.
The gameplay in Cyberpunk 2077 is fairly standard for an open-world RPG in many ways. You run around, following the story and missions. Dialogue or action choices do mix things up though. One early example of this – you can choose to pay someone with your own money, pay with money from another party (if you do optional sidequest first), or just shoot the guy and take what you want, which then leads to a fight to leave.
As with most games along these lines, you can drive around a rather expansive world. You can either summon your own car with a convenient feature or just steal someone else’s, much like in Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row. There’s also a convenient quick travel feature that works between hubs.
I originally used the quick travel feature often, but I soon discovered that I was missing out. Beyond the sights and sounds of Night City, there are extra quests and items to discover in the wider world.
I didn’t feel that the combat in Cyberpunk 2077 was anything amazing. It’s ambitious, including a ton of different systems and things to do. You can fight with a variety of guns and melee. Sneaking up on people and snapping their necks is a possibility. Hacking both people’s cybernetics and devices is possible. There are skills and feats in the background to support this. Just none of it felt great.
While combat often just comes down to ‘feel’, a more solid example is stealth and skills. In theory, you can sneak up to someone and kill them. On the way, you may disable a camera. It works to that level, but other issues pop up. Shooting them in the back of the head with a silenced pistol only hurts them. Using hacking to make a device distract them barely ever worked. Disabling cameras and turrets was all I usually bothered with. That and pinging locations, so I could see where others were.
Sometimes there was an easier path to enter a building with the right skill – for example, strength to force a door open. But right next to it might be another entrance that you just have to jump over the fence, so it felt useless.
If deciding just to walk in and shoot up the place, this was usually easier. Spamming the health item while firing a rifle rarely caused an issue. Though again sadly some parts were lacking. There are lots of environmental hazards like explosives to use but these never felt useful against enemies.
AI is an issue. Enemies occasionally ignored me, despite standing next to them. Once I had a squad of allies all firing at a single enemy too; They may as well have been Stormtroopers – they didn’t hit the enemy once.
As mentioned, Cyberpunk 2077 was originally said to be buggier than an anthill on launch. Since then, they’ve fixed up quite a lot of issues, with even more being fixed in this 1.5 update.
In terms of performance, it’s absolutely solid – at least on the PlayStation 5 in performance mode. There’s an option for Ray Tracing mode if you don’t mind dropping down to 30 FPS.
That said, it’s certainly still not bug-free. In terms of graphics, there was occasionally oddness around lighting/reflections. I noted someone’s hair disappearing and reappearing depending on my distance to them too, even at close range. Slightly further out, I noted cars and people disappearing as they came closer to me at times too – usually it’s the opposite.
There were also other occasional issues. A twitching parked motorbike. Bodies and guns were stuck in the wall and inaccessible. More enemy-related ones too, like a soldier shouting at me to put my hands in the air, while facing into a corner or shouting that I’d shot him when I hadn’t. I once had to restart due to a gray rectangle being stuck in the middle of the screen and not disappearing.
Overall it was fine aside from the one restart, but encountering these sorts of things did break immersion.
I enjoyed Cyberpunk 2077. The story told and moreover the world it built was truly interesting. I’d certainly recommend playing it, but wish it wasn’t held back by gameplay and technical issues, even if it’s still fun despite these. I’m glad I waited for the 1.5 update, as it does sound that this is a rather better experience than the one on launch.
CYBERPUNK 2077 IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to CD PROJEKT RED who provided a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.