“Transhumanism is about how technology will eventually help us overcome the problems that have, up until now, been endemic to human nature. Cyberpunk is about how technology won’t.”
— Stephen Lea Sheppard of RPG.Net (via TVTropes)
Much like when I walked into a random unguarded corridor and hit a tripwire… I really stepped onto a landmine.
This game was arguably one of the most, if not THE most, anticipated titles of the last (and current) generation, coming with a high amount of hype, and one of the most primo pedigrees a modern AAA title could possibly have…
Actually… No, let me start again:
In Night City, there’s a district called Pacifica. It was supposed to be this high-end beach resort. One with a shopping mall, five star hotels, luxury apartments, fine restaurants… essentially a yuppie’s wet dream. But at some point, the funding dried up. Now Pacifica is a husk of half-finished high rises, abandoned stores, and general urban blight. The most powerful symbol of this state is the huge tower you see in the distance, only half-constructed with the scaffolding still wrapped around the half-finished girders.
That may be too harsh a metaphor for the out-of-the-box state of Cyberpunk 2077, but sadly it isn’t too far off either.
What Is It?
Cyberpunk 2077 is the long-awaited, highly anticipated first-person RPG from CD Projekt Red, a developer who became among the most acclaimed in the industry with their Witcher series. First announced after the release of The Witcher III, it adapted Mike Pondsmith’s legendary Pen N’ Paper RPG Cyberpunk 2020, and brought it to a few decades later in the game’s timeline. Now, many of the figures of the original RPG are legendary figures, and the world has to deal with their actions (for good or ill).
There’s a lot of lore and world-building involved, so I’ll try to keep it brief: Back in the early 90s, things started to go sideways. After a disastrous series of wars in Central America, the United States as we know it completely collapses. Terrorist violence takes the President and Vice President, trust in government evaporates… and then things get worse: bio-plagues, environmental disasters and famine manage to kill 100 million people worldwide. These events completely changes the world stage: The European Union comes into existence earlier than it does, the USSR (now the Union of Sovereign Soviet Republics) is still chugging along, and the rise of megacorps and zaibatus means a corporate-dominated world. The US reforms (kind of), as the New United States of America, and inter-corporate warfare is a not-unusual occurrence. In all of this chaos, a John Galt-ish businessman named Richard Night decides to found his own autonomous city in Northern California (which is itself it’s own state in the NUSA). Much like Galt (or Andrew Ryan), he figures that politics are just like business, so what can go wrong?
Well, by the time of this game, Night City is considered to be the worst place to live in North America. It also just so happens to be the primary setting of the game, where you get involved. Furthermore, even decades later it is still scarred by the event known as the Night City Holocaust, in which a rockerboy terrorist named Johnny Silverhand detonated a nuke in Arasaka Tower.
You are V. You can choose your background as a nomad (a child of the road), a streetkid (a child of the ghetto), or a corpo (a child of the bourgeois). Each ultimately has the same goal: to make a name for themselves in Night City, to earn enough cash…. and ultimately, to leave for greener pastures. Everything else is up to you.
Why Should I Care?
Let’s start with the obvious: It’s a CD Projekt Red game. These guys come with a HUGE pedigree that few other developers can boast, having single-handedly pushed the envelope on gaming narrative and content. They’re also one of the most, if not THE most, respected developers for their ethics (or at least they were…more on that in a little bit).
But as for the actual game: This is a first-person RPG, with mechanics heavily inspired by Deux Ex, combined with the kind of over-world gameplay that made The Witcher III a critical darling. Night City is a large, vertical metropolis loaded with things to see. Each mission and story arc has numerous possibilities, and one can theoretically go through several missions without killing a single person, or you can just straight murder every goon in sight. To do so, you’ll be using various weapons from the standard pistols and long-guns to katanas and ‘mantis blades’ (i.e. little cybernetic arm blades that are stored in the forearm). You’ll also be constantly updating your various cybernetic modifications and upgrades, from optic mods to muscle enhancers, as well as neuro-mods that allow you to hack and control security tech (think security cameras or turrents).
Your ‘hub’, for lack of a better word, is an apartment you rent in the Watson district. It’s tricked out with the usual–a bed and a shower (and a TV with lots of watchable content). But you also get things like your wardrobe (which houses all of your clothing), and your personal armory. There, you can store your excess weapons (because guns flow plentifully in Night City), craft new gear and modify old gear, and even just break down gear for parts.
Much of the game (including the main story arc), revolves around you taking jobs from ‘Fixers.’ Fixers are essentially go-betweens who take jobs from clients, and then refer them to whoever is on their payroll (in this case, you). Those who watched the old gameplay demo will already know about Dexter DeShawn, but he’s far from the only game in town. You’ll be getting to these various jobs via your own automobile, be it a car, truck, motorcycle, or whatever else that has wheels.
There are other things you can do, as well: boxing matches, collecting bounties, getting service from prostitutes–you know, good wholesome family fun.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
…And now comes the hard part.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the absolute travesty that was this game’s release: The PC version is buggy but otherwise fantastic, but the last-gen versions? Boy oh boy, where do I start.
I’ll be absolutely frank: Out of the box, this game is a buggy flustercuck of epic proportions. Textures take too long to load, animations are either delayed or don’t happen (giving NPCs that weird ‘mannequin on wheels’ effect), clipping is epidemic, and worst of all, one or two game-breaking bugs that will prevent you from progressing in the story. Character models will take too long to load, presenting only their blocky alpha forms. Objects will fail to load properly, either leaving you empty-handed. Areas will take too long to finish loading, leaving only a gray void. The most annoying one I’ve encountered? Delayed audio, causing character dialogue to clash into each other.
Recent revelations about the working conditions that devs had to suffer through have thrown away much of the good will that they have spent the better part of a decade slowly building: crunch periods, miscommunications, and a CEO and Board of Directors who refused to acknowledge the issues that the devs were trying to tell them. Somehow, it’s weirdly thematically ironic: a game about the dystopian evils of slash-and-burn capitalism, developed by a team who were themselves the victims of corporate malfeasance.
So as for my final verdict: If you have a souped-up PC, then I highly recommend the PC version. Out of the box, it’s still a little buggy, but easily patched. I’d easily give it a 4.5.
But for the console crowd? I’m not going to say you shouldn’t get it now (because in spite of all of the issues, when this game works correctly it’s damn near transcendent), but if you do make sure you’ve got plenty of space and a good internet connection to download the patches because otherwise this game is unplayable. As it stands right now, I cannot give it anything higher than a 3 (and that’s being generous). Much like the glisten of Pacifica, it promises so much and delivers very little.