Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that will likely forever be tarnished by the infamy of broken promises. It suffered a catastrophic release in which its buggy state left many questioning how it had been allowed to launch. This was in addition to the delays of the game which was initially announced to be in development in 2012. Despite its expected April 2020 release date, it would receive three more delays before releasing in December 2020. The game displayed various signs of cut content, and worse still it could barely run on current-gen hardware. Only the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and some PCs could run the game smoothly. Overall, it was a resounding letdown that resulted in an immense backlash and even legal action.
I personally missed that infamous launch. Having heard whispers about the game’s problems ahead of time, I had decided to hold back on pre-ordering. This choice was also motivated by the lack of review footage permitted ahead of time, implying things were being hidden. There was also the fact that CD Projekt Red’s goals, as outlined at E3 and other events, all seemed overly ambitious.
Even so, I knew I’d want to play it eventually, given it was my type of game. I planned to wait for the next-gen updates, but those too were delayed. As such, my time with the game was on a PS5, operating with the patches, but no next-gen upgrade. From my experience, here is the state of Cyberpunk 2077 one year later.
The story is something I doubted would have received much overhaul since release. It’s one thing to fix gameplay issues, but rewriting the story would be extremely difficult. While I’ve heard that some additional options were implemented, the experience is mostly untouched. As such, one year on I can still experience the same story everyone at launch ran through. This had its good points, but also some negatives that are crucial detriments to the experience.
Overall, I’d say the main story is well put together. The stakes are high, the missions are varied, and the characters are captivating. As a fan of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the quality of writing is still top tier. The story is filled with world-building, character development and unique scenarios. As such, if you are going in simply with the hopes of an engaging story, the game will satisfy that need.
Where it falters is in the opening of the game and the tie-ins of the side content. Firstly, the introduction scenes are way too short and ultimately meaningless. Choosing your lifepath varies from interesting to wildly unsatisfying based on your choice. Either way, the choice ultimately amounts to little.
However, worse still is the pace of the main story. The scenario establishing is a very time-sensitive one that should not allow for much exploration. There is a ticking timebomb involved in the story, but the game doesn’t actually implement this as a feature. This meant every time I engaged with side content it broke my immersion. Cyberpunk 2077 one year later still can’t escape a fundamental flaw at the heart of its story. It’s an interesting tale that is simply incompatible with the gameplay loop.
Night City and the surrounding area is filled with so much to explore. In terms of content on offer, the game will keep you busy for many hours. It’s also incredibly breathtaking just taking in the sights. The first time I drove around the city I was blown away by its design. It’s easy to lose yourself in the city, and even some of the more minor details keep you invested. I fell for the world so hard that I regularly drove back to my apartment just to sleep. I would take in the sights on the way home, park in the garage and walk through my building. It’s those moments of immersion where the exploration truly shines.
However, the world isn’t without its problems. The previously mentioned ambition of the game extended to the world’s design, and I think it got stretched too thin. It’s clear not every area got the same amount of attention. Outside of the occasional issues with low textures breaking immersion, it can also feel empty. The traffic on the roads is practically none existent half of the time. Pedestrians are also nowhere near as numerous as trailers suggested. The city, outside of scripted missions, feels relatively lifeless.
Despite the updates, Cyberpunk 2077 one year later still suffers from evident cut content. When I explored the city, I could not help but notice the number of locked doors. These weren’t like most doors in games that are obviously barriers to signal no content. The locked doors often seemed like they should lead somewhere, and V can even scan them. Yet, disappointingly, much of the city is inaccessible.
Driving around is somewhat tedious after a while. I’m almost grateful that the streets are so empty because the driving is pretty lacklustre. I have heard it’s been improved since launch, but even now the cars feel weightless. They have almost no traction on the roads, making turning a dangerous endeavour. Car lights are also pretty useless, which is fine in the vibrant city, but not elsewhere.
Similarly, the player has no torch option on foot, making dark places impossible to see in. Travelling on foot, in general, is sometimes more satisfying than driving, although the large map doesn’t allow just walking. There is almost a basic parkour system in place. While V can’t climb most objects, they can lift themselves up over a ledge. This means if you plan your course right, you can run across rooftops pretty smoothly. This becomes even more of an option if you purchase the double jump upgrade.
However, outside of jumping above certain structures, the game lacks a lot of vertical exploration. You can occasionally find elevators that grant access to buildings, but much of the game is ground level. While this isn’t unusual in open-world games, it stands out more in a world filled with flying vehicles. Sadly, V does not get access to any flying cars, thus rendering an entire part of the world off-limits. Cyberpunk 2077 one year later, whilst improving the driving marginally, still has a world that’s often tedious to explore.
The side-quests, whilst immersion-breaking due to the time-sensitive story, are very well written. I often found myself wishing I could approach the game like Skyrim, ignoring the story at my will. If I could just experience content whenever I wanted, that would make the side-content in the game an absolute treat. While the general structure of certain gigs are the same, they incorporate unique stories into each. These can also be tackled in numerous ways, often permitting various endings to each quest. You can be diplomatic, stealthy, hack your way through or simply take out anyone in your way.
The issue is that these side quests are paradoxically very intrusive and yet extremely level-gated. Many quests don’t activate at the player’s choosing. Instead, merely approaching the general proximity of the quest will prompt a fixer phone call. I couldn’t ignore these phone calls, and thus my quest log was filled against my will. However, after Act 1, most of the quests I was being sent were beyond my current level. This meant I had to ignore most of my quest log until much later in the game.
While I appreciate that the levelling system worked for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, it did not work here. Cyberpunk 2077 one year later suffers from being too open and thus punishing early exploration. A level sync mechanic would have been more ideal since the story has you driving up and down the city regularly. It’s not like you gain access to new areas at the appropriate time. Instead, you often find yourself unable to engage with the content around you due to a restrictive levelling system.
Combat was something I found to be serviceable, although it’s admittedly the type of combat I personally dislike. This is an entirely subjective issue as I don’t like first-person shooters that operate on RPG numbers. It severely breaks my immersion when multiple headshots don’t take down a target. It also renders many targets as damage sponges. Some people will like this, however, as it encourages strategic character building.
The problem I personally have with this style is amplified by the gameplay of Cyberpunk 2077. The issue is that the enemy AI has remarkable aim, which normally I’d praise. However, your damage output, compared to the enemy’s, is often severely lacking. Simply leaning out of cover for a second or two to land a shot results in more incoming damage than outgoing. This turns the game into an endurance match. It’s simply a matter of out healing the enemy. Essentially, you don’t damage the enemy quite as much as they hurt you, so you compensate with healing. The game requires you to hoard healing items just to get through a basic encounter. It’s very unfun to spend most of the game spamming healing items.
This is alleviated somewhat once you purchase some upgrades. I personally found it easier just to invest in cybernetic arms that allowed me to punch my way through fights. They allowed me to quickly defeat enemies, and since I was going to get shot regardless, I opted for that. There simply seems to be a balancing issue, where even weapons like shotguns seemed drastically underpowered. Hacks can help deal some extra damage, but it requires a dedicated build to be useful. Cyberpunk 2077 one year later still has chaotic combat that isn’t particularly fun.
The Levelling System
Levelling up in Cyberpunk 2077 is another aspect of the game that seems needlessly overcomplicated. Essentially, there are too many attributes to keep track of when building your character. This is particularly annoying when a decent build is essential for surviving the world. It’s made even worse by the level-gating making the game a grind. The game also has attribute-based interactions with the environment, such as hacking or brute force. While it was a nice addition, it also punishes you for not focusing on singular skills.
The game makes you keep track of your character level, street cred, individual attributes, perks, cybernetic upgrades and gear. That is simply too many systems you have to remain on top of. The perks in particular were frustrating because there were so many of them that it was hard to choose. Even after I did, I often found the benefits of acquired perks to be mostly unnoticeable. This is also made slightly more confusing by the annoying cursor interface used in the menus. I genuinely didn’t realize there were multiple pages to each attribute skill tree earlier in the game. This was because you have to swap them using the cursor in a menu that is hard to read.
I found the cybernetic upgrades to be more useful than the perks. However, they were very expensive, and it was easy to forget they existed when not visiting a store. Pair this with your gear constantly becoming useless every few levels and suddenly looting becomes a necessity. I was constantly replacing gear since upgrading was expensive and usually underwhelming. This also resulted in a mix-match of gear that looked comical when worn by V. Cyberpunk 2077 one year later still lacks an essential transmog system.
This is perhaps the part many people are the most concerned about. Cyberpunk 2077 became synonymous with the term buggy game. Even now, after the game has been brought back to the PlayStation Store, many still assume the game is broken. However, the game has received various patches and hotfixes to address the most glaring issues since its launch. So, how does the game actually run?
To my complete surprise, the game mostly ran completely smoothly. It’s important to remember that I played it on a PlayStation 5, and thus I can’t comment on older consoles. It’s also not impossible that I just got extremely lucky, which does occasionally happen for some players. However, in my experience, I did not encounter a single game-breaking bug. I was able to progress through each and every mission without any unforeseen obstacles. Everything, in so far as missions went, seemed to function as intended.
However, it wouldn’t be accurate to call the game bug free. It’s simply the case that most of the bugs I encountered were exceedingly minor. The most common one was NPCs walking and clipping through vehicles. This, while silly looking, only interfered with gameplay once when it launched my car into the air. Otherwise, there are only a few pop-in texture issues. There is also an issue with pop-ins for vehicles and pedestrians only occurring at short range.
On the other hand, it’s important to acknowledge Cyberpunk 2077 one year later still crashes constantly. Thankfully the autosave feature is pretty reliable, but even so, be warned that the game crashes regularly.
Should You Give It A Chance?
I can confidently say that I have no personal regrets over playing the game, except perhaps the timing. My original intention had been to play the game once the next-gen upgrades were released. I bought the game on sale pre-emptively, then waited months for the upgrades that were unfortunately delayed. I gave in to my impatience and boredom and gave the game a chance. While I enjoyed it, I could still see the remnants of its notorious launch. From the bad textures to the bugs and more, it still hasn’t fully recovered.
Whether you choose to pick it up will be a matter of your personal preferences. For fans of narrative-driven games and open-world RPGs, it’s still a must-play. However, the evident cut content and the various issues outlined above still hold the game back. It’s a story that’s worth experiencing at least once, but I fear for its replayability. As such, I can only advise purchasing it if you can catch it on sale. Cyberpunk 2077 one year later still has too many frustrations holding it back to warrant the full price. Additionally, if you can be more patient than I was, I would advise waiting for the next-gen upgrades and DLC.