Every year there a game that is the most anticipated of the year, and CD Projekt Red went above and beyond that with one of the most hyped games of all time, Cyberpunk 2077. Over here at KeenGamer, I became the go-to guy for this title by how much I wrote on it and how often I tweet about it. Sure, I had that extreme hype level, and some of that was met, while some of it was not. I have a weird relationship with this open-world RPG. It has high highs, low lows, along with some parts that hit straight in the middle. It’s fun, and it is fine in its current state, but deep inside, there is something good, maybe even brilliant. If we see something incredible out of this neon-colored world, it won’t happen until we get the right content updates and some fixes because, oh boy, we have technical difficulties that will be the one constant throughout this review.
Do note that KeenGamer will have multiple reviews because it is performing so wildly different on various platforms.
Cyberpunk 2077 is out now on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S (through backward compatibility), PC and Stadia. The latest generation of consoles will get a proper port next year. As of tonight (December 17), PlayStation announced it is taking Cyberpunk 2077 off its store, so it is currently not available for that platform.
Story – Inconsistently Brilliant
The adventure that will have its many lows and highs starts with V (voiced by Cherami Leigh or Gavin Drea, depending on if you choose male or female), a merc who wants to make it big in the underworld of Night City. Regardless of your pick on your lifepath – Corpo, Streetkid and Nomad – you will be set on a path with the best character in the game and a fellow merc, Jackie Welles (Jason Hightower). The two of you will go on a heist for a biochip that’s held by one of the most powerful corporations in the world, Arasaka. After things going to hell, you must insert the chip to save it; inadvertently, it starts to kill you by rewiring your brain as it has the personality of dead rocker and terrorist Johnny Silverhand (the breathtaking Keanu Reeves). It is a journey full of conflict between you and your new imaginary friend that misses plenty of beats along the way.
While interesting, the plot does not do anything surprising enough, at least after the first third of the game. It starts to follow traditional storytelling tropes, even with the four core endings you can experience along with one secret conclusion. That said, I still enjoyed what I had, but it was nothing remarkable; instead, it was a fun blockbuster ride that will fade from my memory one day.
The writing feels like it had too many cooks in the kitchen. At times, the humor hits to add some levity to the darkness, while other times, it feels like a teenager wrote this thinking what he/she wrote was either the funniest thing in the world or the most brilliant. When it goes well, it has depth and personality. Plot points, characters and world-building pillars can fall short while other times it can get problematic, like the plethora of racial stereotyping and misguided transgender misrepresentation. I don’t know if it’s ignorance or a misstep at an attempt at social commentary, either way, it is gross and misses the mark, unlike other satirical games like GTA, which knows how to land on its feet when jumping in this territory.
Tonally, I felt Cyberpunk 2077 was going to be sillier based on the marketing. I was relieved that the cringy humor was only dropped in occasionally, often by smaller interactions. It focused more on a serious narrative that was filled with death and betrayal. I was able to get more invested than I would be able to if it went all-in on the trailers’ comedic setup.
What won’t disappear from my memory are the characters, the strongest piece of this complex puzzle. V, who I chose to the female voice with Leigh (Sword Art Online) with the Streetkid background, was someone I was happy to live as during my 51 hours in Night City. While I thought Leigh was a fairly strong lead, the others go above and beyond what I had expected. Jackie brings a level of levity that fits the mold while having nuance to make him feel human, partly thanks to Hightower (Star Wars Resistance). Meanwhile, on my journey, I came across plenty of other captivating personalities that made me care about who they are, especially from the women like Panam (Emily Woo Zeller) and Judy (Carla Tassara) who I had a crush on immediately when I saw them.
We have to talk about Johnny and Reeves’ (John Wick, The Matrix) performance as the secondary protagonist. While not the best actor, his stardom helped elevate this legend within the world that CD Projekt Red crafted. I believed in his legacy and had a blast going back and forth with him. The rockstar is mean and cynical, but it is a ton of fun to choose what kind of relationship I wanted with this difficult personality. Our bond was complicated; we were more frienemies as we did things to help one another while also screwing each other over or fighting over difficult topics.
When the various moving parts flow together, these characters feel like people with their own desires and motives. Whether that’s Jackie wanting to make it big or trying to romance someone. Everyone has their own sexuality, so as a female V, I couldn’t have sex with everyone I wanted, unlike other RPGs that let you have whatever fantasy you wish. Don’t worry, I got laid a few times, even if it was an awkward cutscene that soured the taste in my mouth from all of that work I put into a relationship.
Not all of the performances were stellar. I felt the acting was all over the place, mostly with smaller characters. It is common but stands out with some flat out bad line delivery. For the most part, it was passable to great, and besides, it was less damaging to the immersion than the writing.
Gameplay – From Night City to Glitch City
Before all of the craziness begins with personalities trying to destroy my brain, I had to create my character. CDPR maybe described this as more in-depth as it was, but I could still create someone I was pretty happy with despite some limiting factors. Some areas have a lot of choices, like the 30 plus hairstyles with some good color options. Other areas, like the much talked about genitals and pubic hair, were more limited than I expected. I am not mad, though; I got to make a tatted up Streetkid who was ready to dive into the city.
While I did not play through each lifepath introduction, I did see them because of the wonderous use of YouTube. Each has a distinctive start that makes each version of V feel pretty different. Deeper in, it starts to blend together more. The dialogue options make it work to solidify the idea that I am different from Corpo or Nomad V. Dealing with members of Arasaka vs. the dangerous Maelstrom gang had to be taken in an alternative route as both operate in ways that needed me to adapt.
This is an RPG first, an FPS second, a common misconception of Cyberpunk 2077. That means I should have choices, but in reality, I did not, at least for most of the game. The most meaningful decisions were for the endgame; other than that, it was too linear for an open-world role-playing experience. Rather than V be who I wanted her, I was following her on her own path that I got to occasionally steer around a corner or two.
Side quests can be found randomly through the world or from Fixers, people who hire mercs like V to do their dirty work. Some can be drawn into whole arcs with wacky turns as I deal with eccentric clients, while Gigs are quick stops to steal or kill someone; those are rather generic ways to get cash or items quickly. The lengthy optional activities are usually interesting and fun, with a few that are too short of embracing fully. Others are dull, like races that are too easy to win or the required braindances featured throughout the main narrative, which are interactive videos that had me investigate a scene for clues, but I felt less like a brilliant detective or more of an annoyed gamer who was forced to play through a boring mechanic. On the bright side of the bland racing, I got to meet the lovely Panam.
One thing that RPG fans like myself love is gear. I go by the best stats, which means I had a hard time making myself look cool. Sure, it is a first-person game, but I still want to look stylish. Thankfully I can upgrade pieces of clothing I liked to stack up against rarer armor that looked uglier. That said, I don’t look the way I want, which is why after this review, I am going to play more as I am addicted to finding new weapons or apparel, whether it’s by quests or looking around random areas around the map.
Outside of boosting equipment with components you find or scrap together, you can craft items too. I found this, personally, not useful. While it was a simple system that can help build up those skills, it was not for my playstyle, so I will not fault the game for this mechanic. It works perfectly fine, but when I have so many other paths to take for a new smart assault rifle that fires bullets that go around cover to hit its target, it is hard to find the motivation to make it myself.
There are five skill trees with unique attributes and offerings for abilities that have a substantial weight to my chosen playstyle: Body (strength, health and stamina), Reflexes (movement speed and weapons), Technical Ability (technical knowledge, crafting and engineering), Intelligence (hacking) and Cool (stealth and critical damage). I touched on all of these, but my main focus was Technical Ability and Intelligence. I wanted to be a hacker with some sneak capabilities, but I am a big shooter fan, so not everything was done like Solid Snake going around in a box. Each tree having subcategories and enhancements that slowly make me stronger is a powerful feeling that I was addicted to every time I got a chance to upgrade myself.
This is Cyberpunk, after all, so we have cybernetic implants. This world is full of people addicted to tattoos and these robotic additions to their bodies. As someone who is addicted to tattoos, I fell in love with this idea. Not only that but getting different parts like explosives I can shoot out of my arms or an eyeball that can scan enemies from a distance was the coolest thing I have had in a video game. Please, give me in real life, so if you are a scientist reading, please start working on this technology because I would sign up immediately.
Hacking was simple, mostly quickhacking, which is a button press, but breaching software from enemies or objects was a fun numbers game that took me a while to get used to as I am a complete moron. Don’t be scared as this idiot reviewer was able to navigate finding the right combinations to get a boost what I was doing to people, like increasing damage to my hacks on a specific foe.
On the flip side of roaming Night City and combating baddies, it is a first-person shooter. They don’t shoot as well as they look (trust me, some guns look spectacular), but I felt satisfied with the gunplay. The developers are not on the same level as the team behind my favorite shooters like Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege or id Software’s Doom, but it works well enough for me to have fun. On the other hand, fighting with melee weapons is atrociously clunky and ungratifying. I avoided it like the plague as it sucked out any fun I had when dealing with gangsters or the police.
The genre of open-world games struggles with good driving. While I had friends bashing it, I did not hate it. Like the weapons, the cars look better than they drive. My main gripes are the weight does not feel heavy enough and the speed not feeling as fast as the speedometer is telling me as it might say I am going 180 mph, but it feels like I am going half the speed. It passes to graduate and move on like a kid who slept through two out of five days of math class. It is mostly due to the variety and details that make me, not a big car guy, fall in love with what I have at my disposal, whether I bought it or unlocked it from a quest.
Using a keyboard and mouse when playing an FPS is often perfect. The movement usually feels right, but the one minor issue is the dodge mechanic. Tapping any key that I use to move (WASD) to make a small couple of steps will have me jump forward to dash in that direction. I had jumped off buildings when I wanted to get closer to the edge without falling. This would be easy to fix if I could adjust this keybind, but not for this ability, unlike all of the other options I have.
Night City has a tremendous design to it that feels alive. I can roam around for hours, getting lost in its six individualized districts plus the outside area known as the Badlands that separates itself from the rest. I don’t feel places are copied and pasted; instead, it offers various flavors to make it feel alive. Like anything, some seams can be seen when sitting still and looking too closely at it, so it’s not completely immersive, but I still love exploring every corner of this vastly dense metropolis.
Exploring around, I can find collectibles all over the place. Most of it involves files that give me a taste of the lore or random stories from characters. It injects additional personality to a world full of colorful characters that populate its streets.
Navigating all of these moving parts like my inventory, quest log and collectibles was not a good time at all. The UI is a little messy. The biggest issue comes from missions as it does not tell me what rewards I can get or offers me a good sense of what level I should be. Instead of saying X level for this objective, it says the danger is high or low, which is too subjective for me to tell if I am prepared or not. I can only imagine how console players feel as it is clearly designed for PC, despite not being that good.
What makes it all fall apart comes from the glitches. Most are not game-breaking from my experience; I am fortunate to have a sweet PC, but it still hindered my experiences before writing my Cyberpunk 2077 review, and it will continue as I dive back into the city after working on this piece.
A few of the minor bugs that I came across consist of floating objects or weird animations. Early in the story, when you meet Jackie, he was eating lunch. The chopsticks he was using multiplied and floated around when he left his meal. I would see characters have guns floating as they shoot and other visual aspects like that, but these are not too serious.
The AI have something wrong as when they act right; then they can be worth adversaries or allies. I would have enemies standstill constantly, letting me shoot and quickhack them to death. This often happened for harder opponents, especially bosses who would almost always break.
For other severe glitches, I had times where I randomly died; usually, when climbing over a rock or something, I don’t normally do to get from point A to point B. One time, I went across the map for an objective, but then I got transported back to the previous objective. If it weren’t for fast travel, then I would have lost my mind.
Thankfully, crashes were sparingly for me. I had a few because of a hotfix that caused that issue, but I figured out a way to resolve that. Other than that situation, I had a couple of other times but nothing drastic that dampened the experience.
The heart of the problem behind the technical issues was its consistency. I had nonstop issues every few minutes, often so small I could go past it, but it was always on my mind. It gets to a point where it blurs together. At times, I could not tell you if what was happening was a fault of the design or something was glitching out.
Graphics and Audio – Neon Colored Bugs
CD Projekt Red that a visually beautiful game can balance both excellent art direction and high graphical fidelity. Playing on my PC with a 2070 Super graphics card, an Intel i7 9700k, 32 GBs RAM and a sweet 144 HZ monitor makes for a wonderful experience. Turning on DLSS to be the cherry on top granted me to be mesmerized by what I was playing, even though I wish I had a better graphics card to enjoy raytracing. Still, I was able to take plenty of pictures in the game’s in-depth photo mode to show off the beauty of Night City to all of my friends who aren’t playing.
On top of that, I had a smooth experience. While I had some frame drops here and there, it did not make it stutter. I averaged a ballpark of 80-100 FPS, but when it dropped to the 50s, it still kept moving forward for a fairly buttery time.
I saved some talk on bugs for this section as it would be more appropriate. I had a plethora of animation mishaps, but as I said, it got to a point where I did not know if it was a mistake. Plenty of animations looked flat out goofy, but in a way that was designed that way rather than Panam using the force to shoot her weapon.
The sound designed suffered too. Instead of meaty explosions or beefy car engines, it sounded too soft and gentle. I could not tell if this was human error or my game having a tough time. When it worked, it was fine, but nothing to write home about.
The music is something I was torn about. The instrumental tracks with electronic orchestras or heavy riffs would make me want to jam out. Most of the time, it was annoying and overly repetitive. It all fit the world, but situationally on what I was doing, it would miss the beat. I would turn off the radio as I could not stand any of the various genres created for the soundscape of Night City.
This review of Cyberpunk 2077 was played on PC.