On the heels of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, CD Projekt Red continues the momentum of support by announcing a new game for the franchise. This follows after the release of Patch 1.6 and the announcement of the expansion, Phantom Liberty. Truly, it is a good time to be a Cyberpunk fan.
Yet, despite all the positive public relation, the game still has players split on opinion. The game sits at a measly 7.0 score on Metacritic yet, enjoys mostly positive reviews on Steam. In its current state, the game has a solid foundation but it is somewhat lacking in quality, interactivity and player expression. These following points are the main issues that hold Cyberpunk 2077 back and they need to be resolved if the game is to elevate past mediocrity.
Game Polish and Functionality:
In contrast to the Day 1 release, Cyberpunk 2077 has made tremendous strides in the game’s stability. Yet, the overall experience is still subject to framerate drops, animation glitches and A.I. inconsistency. The game is playable yes, but it is a far cry from the standards expected from a triple-A studio and will continue to be a subject of ridicule for the franchise.
Furthermore, without the usage of third-party modifications, the game balance and function leaves much to be desired. Car physics feeling like you’re driving on ice and perk trees still mostly being mundane passive improvements are just some of the gameplay aspects which hamper the experience. Meanwhile, the ability to trivialise combat with healing items or even the cheapest Sandevistan, contrasts its unforgiving portrayal in Edgerunners.
Cyberpunk’s polish is the about the same as Elden Ring’s on launch; stable and fun yet flawed gameplay with the occasional visual error. Yet, it must be noted that CDPR had an extra year of post-launch development time and their game operates on a much smaller scale with significantly less complexity. This is their competition when it comes to Sandbox Action-RPGs. Currently, Cyberpunk can be considered a “decent game”, but in the current market that isn’t good enough.
World and Story Interaction
Cyberpunk 2077’s strongest selling point has always been its story and world. It is rich with lore, deeply engaging and is a harrowing depiction of corporate dystopia. The issue is, you can barely interact with any of people living in it. The main problems are that you cannot align yourself with any gangs and most side-quests are superficial, having very little if any effect on the main plot.
Compare this to Fallout: New Vegas where most factions you ally with either give you gameplay benefits or aid you in the game’s final battle, Cyberpunk 2077 feels static. Only specific friendships matter to the story. Meanwhile, most side characters just disappear from the world once their quest ends.
In the story, Maelstrom almost achieves this with with Brick, but it culminates in just changing a minor detail of a mission. The myriad gangs of Night City do nothing more than just act as target practice with different color schemes, its citizens merely just window dressing. Therefore, the next game should add a faction system that provides unique rewards like exclusive weapons, vehicles and armour or access to special areas. This would provide tangible results of the players decisions, giving them more weight, investing the player in the world on a deeper level.
On a side note, the Edgerunners anime had contributed plenty of lore to the world but, CDPR has barely taken advantage of this. There are no new sidejobs that relate to the show. Only easter eggs in the form of weapons and a drink were added to the game; this was a missed opportunity to invest anime fans in the source material’s world.
Player Expression and Gameplay Features
Compared to contemporary Open-world games set in the modern day, Cyberpunk 2077 falls short in gameplay features and customization. To their credit, CDPR had recently added the function to alter the appearance of clothing via a transmog system in Patch 1.6.
However, this really should have been in the game at launch, especially given how gear has randomized stats. Dressing like a clown should be a choice, not a necessity. By its nature, Cyberpunk 2077 directly competes against Grand Theft Auto, a game where I can dress how I want and modify my weapons and vehicles, tailoring them to my taste.
This level of player expression is the bare minimum for this genre and the comparison to the aforementioned game only further exasperates how restrictive this feels. In Cyberpunk, cars still cannot be modified, perk trees are mostly weapon specializations with only a few unique attacks, there is still no vehicle combat and weapons cannot be dual wielded. Notably, the latter features were portrayed by CDPR’s marketing as features present in the game.
Furthermore, the lack of roleplay elements such as eating animations and side-activities, make the world feel more like an oversized combat mission hub, rather than a world that feels lived in. The only way the Night City legend V, can enjoy their newfound riches is to solicit the only 2 prostitutes in all of Night City.
A good place to start adding content is combat, Cyberpunk’s main strength. Persistent underground fight clubs, shooting tournaments and territory gang warfare would be great as proving grounds for player builds. Once driving is less cumbersome, then CDPR could add street races as a way to obtain eddies or exclusive cars and car parts.
To CDPR’s credit, this most recent update added player housing alongside a mini-arcade game you can play. Normally, this would be signs of greater things to come, but the studio’s announcement that Phantom Liberty would be this game’s final DLC could mean that this is the limit of 2077.
There is plenty of mechanical foundation here, but the gameplay isn’t going to engage the player beyond the story unless it is expanded on. The game’s content is limited and cumbersome, with very little avenue for players to create their own fun.
Once the game is over, it is over. Despite how some may claim this is natural, there are still many fans of decade old games like Fallout, Grand Theft Auto, Saint’s Row and Ryu Ga Gotoku (Yakuza). There is no excuse. Cyberpunk can and should, make significant changes if it wishes to be held in a similarly high regard.