There are only a few video games in existence that will relay a narrative as well as Cyberpunk 2077. Development studio CD Projekt RED spun a beautiful yarn, but it is a shame it is woven in this unpolished and broken game.
Delivering the narrative is what CD Projekt RED does. It is only natural that Cyberpunk 2077 follows the same story-telling excellence that The Witcher series has and sets it in the dystopian Cyberpunk universe. Firstly, CDPR made sure to work with the original creator Mike Pondsmith to reproduce the Cyberpunk universe.
Cyberpunk 2077's own story is a convoluted web, and the role-playing gameplay is a great vessel to carry the plot. Every choice affects the outcome of the game from start to finish. The player will be able to choose from three backgrounds: nomad, corporate, and a street kid, and each choice has its story path.
I played as a nomad, meaning V, the main protagonist, and is more acquainted with the Badlands, the area outside of Night City. V will have the "Nomad" dialog option during conversations with other characters.
Speaking of conversations, V is not just a piece of cardboard. V's voice acting was well done, and the dialogue is often funny, especially when paired with Johnny Silverhand, the character played by Keanu Reeves. Since CDPR emphasizes the narrative, the player will be conversing much more than one would expect, so there is value in replaying the game with the two other backgrounds.
The talk between characters can get exceptionally immersive with a natural flow. The conversation tree is designed with an illusion of continuation, filling the dead air with probing words from the other person. When the player mulls over a choice in dialogue, the NPC would ask V to talk. Players will also have to engage in texting quest-givers and other side characters. Specific contacts can get angry at V if the player ignores their texts. Small details like these are what make this a role-playing game. Cyberpunk 2077 wants players to participate in a world that has its own rules.
V and Silverhand's personalities merged perfectly during the entire nomad playthrough. Both characters were humorous and believable in their motives. The primary mission is simple. Silverhand becomes a part of the player's psyche and must figure a way to separate as complications ensue all around Night City. Silverhand plays a prominent role in the main story by providing his opinion and influencing V's decision-making.
Side missions are enjoyable and are fun to complete. These missions can be acquired by randomly coming across them or if an NPC specifically gives them to you. Memorable citizens are the attraction like Flaming Crotch Man and one of Delamain's talking cabs. Completing side missions can also be a way to get high-powered gear and forge alliances along the way.
The romance in Cyberpunk 2077 was handled about as well if not better than most RPGs as V's character development coexists with the supporting cast. The player gets to grow alongside these characters, enjoying victories and sharing tragedies. It works well, but CDPR could have gone deeper into the lore like getting more of the companies involved like Militech and even the Trauma Team.
It's not just about diplomacy in Night City. In most cases, chrome and iron do the talking. The ever-reliable skill tree is a staple in every RPG game, and Cyberpunk 2077 is no exception, if not a bit underwhelming. Perks offer passive boosts to weapons, gadgets, and V himself. These upgrades feel strong enough but do not evolve combat and just makes it easier.
Despite the lackluster skill tree, the game more than makes up for it in combat variety. Weapons and cybernetics are available in every corner of this urban metropolis. The guns and blades in Cyberpunk 2077 are based on a rarity system from white, green, blue, purple, to orange.
The store offers feel irrelevant because of the amount of loot that V picks up during missions and encounters. V can choose to craft equipment if the player puts enough points into the crafting sub-tree. Going with this route will also allow the user to upgrade unique firearms and craft ammunition if needed.
The approach to action in Cyberpunk 2077 is a hybrid of Far Cry and Deus Ex. Players can mix and match cybernetics and firearms to clear gang camps and infiltrate corporate offices. I opted for the cybernetic ninja approach, cutting down enemies with a katana and then running away with super jumps.
Graphics & sound
Cyberpunk 2077's graphics are on par with the narrative's quality, if you have the hardware to run it. This game can make first-generation RTX cards struggle on ultra settings, but there is no doubt it is aesthetically impressive when this game is at its peak. Next to the Battlefield series, Cyberpunk 2077 might be the standard when it comes to ray tracing.
When the sun goes down, Night City's neon signs light up the streets, and it becomes the perfect time to bust out the photo mode. Tiny details like the digitized pedestrian lanes make this world a future metropolis.
However, the same cannot be said about some sectors of the map as they imply a poverty-stricken environment. This type of distinction plays into the socioeconomic themes that Cyberpunk 2077 is trying to convey.
Vehicles look as good as they handle. These car designs are reminiscent of manufacturer concepts from racing games that would typically cost a million credits. There is a variety of motorcycles too, with some anime-inspired additions, like the Yaiba motorcycle seen above.
Weapon designs are conventional if not satisfactory. Most of the equipment in Cyberpunk 2077 are modern weapons redesigned with futuristic trimmings. Unique guns and melee will have slight additions like integrated suppressors.
In terms of sound design, Cyberpunk 2077 is excellent when it is stable. Marcin Przybylowicz was the composer and the musical director of the game. Along with the artists featured, Przybylowicz brought the ambiance needed during intense firefights, sad moments, and simply driving from point A to B. Radio stations are a thing in Night City, but CDPR can't compete with Rockstar Games in this department.
CDPR does have it where it counts, and that is getting the smaller ambiance noise correct. Players will notice the zoom of their Kiroshi optic and the low hum of vending machines. These little details make the world more realistic and immersive.
"When it's stable" or "When it works" is what I uttered every time I talk about a pro for Cyberpunk 2077. The game was not ready, and CDPR caved in to the pressure of releasing the game as soon as possible.
This game is demanding and requires at least a first-gen RTX card to run it well. DLSS, Nvidia's resolution-scaling, is necessary to play the game at its best.
The dialogue can go haywire and overlap with each other. Friendly NPCs can get stuck repeating a phrase during a conversation. A T-posing V would sometimes project on top of the vehicle the player is currently driving. Weapon models would disappear from the player's hands. Objects would be duplicated and stay in the air during interactive cutscenes. These graphical glitches are forgivable but at the cost of immersion.
A less forgivable sin, however, is how terrible the A.I. was. Enemies have little awareness of strategy, staying undercover rather than flank. Gang members are so dumb you can walk around them in circles.
What makes you a criminal in Night City? Who knows, because the crime system in the game is inconsistent. The Night City Police can spawn near V if his wanted level is high enough, making escape impossible on high difficulty. The police seem to have a large armada of mechs and flying drones but would never use them on V. The player only faces these mechs a handful of times throughout the campaign unless you pick a fight with one. The Night City Police will also not pursue V in vehicles and merely take pot shots from the curbside.
Cyberpunk 2077 had the potential to be the best game to come out of 2020, but the immersion-breaking bugs and underdeveloped A.I. were disappointing. I was fortunate enough to enjoy the game with minimal crashes and glitches, but this does not excuse CDPR from releasing an unfinished product. The narrative, gameplay, and universe are all excellent but hindered by bugs and glitches. If you have a next-gen console or a banging gaming rig, this game can be worth it for the story. Waiting for a sale could be a better option.