Last updated on January 1st, 2021
In this Cyberpunk 2077 Review we’ll be taking a look at the new open world “RPG” from CD Projekt RED, that takes place in an 80’s inspired version of a dystopian future. Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the popular table top game Cyberpunk that was created by Mike Pondsmith in 1988, the newest version of which was released digitally in November of this year, though the physical version has been delayed.
Cyberpunk 2077 Review: The Final Verdict
Release Date: December 10th
Platform: PC (review platform), PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X, Stadia
Developer: CD Projekt Red
Publisher: CD Projekt Red
Story and Setting
Cyberpunk 2077 is set in a fictional California location known as Night City, that will immediately remind players of 80’s retro sci-fi version of Los Angeles or even Las Vegas. Neon signs, flashing lights, strategically placed advertisements at every turn, and rampant crime that corrupts the city as corporations protect their private interests and everyone else is left to fend for themselves.
CD Projeckt RED absolutely nailed the setting here, and Night City is a magnificent realization of the game’s concept. You can spend hours just cruising the streets in your car listening to hundreds of licensed tunes and get the feeling you really are there. When it comes to setting and the overall feel of Night City, I’m not sure CDPR could have done a better job, and it’s absolutely one of the most well-realized locations I’ve seen in gaming.
The Story, on the other hand, has some weaknesses. You play as V, a merc for hire that has a burning ambition to become a legend, not unlike the notorious Johnny Silverhand (played by Keanu Reeves). Need a cache of stolen weapons delivered? V will do it. Need some one killed and a message sent? V can help ya. Nothing is off the table in a future where money is the absolute power, and can buy anything you could ever want.
The game kicks off as V runs into unexpected complications while on a job, and ends up in the dire position of having their consciousness slowly overwritten by a rogue program that is attempting to restore a long-dead terrorist.
The main story of the game focuses around your interactions with the terrorist as you try to find a way to prevent your inevitable demise. There are some exceptional moments to be sure, but the vast majority of V’s tale is not interesting or compelling. This is partly due to the extremely unlikeable and unrelatable nature of V’s character, who can only be described as a “selfish douchebag”. But in addition V‘s sole motivation is self-preservation, and though Cyberpunk 2077 does have an antagonist, he is almost never seen or interacted with by the player.
Adding to this is the fact that you, as the player, know for a fact that V cannot die or the game would end, so you feel no sense of urgency to push through the main quest and find a cure for your ailment. This means you, the player, can go about running over people in the streets or visiting sex shops as if nothing remotely bad was happening to you, and the game is more than happy to let that go on.
The only really meaningful plot progression happens in the last few hours of the game, and you are warned before it begins. Cyberpunk 2077 does feature different endings depending on some decisions that you make, but they are lackluster and predictable choices without any emotional impact. When all was said and done, I found myself rather uninterested in who ended up where or why, and that is a shame for what should have been a narrative-driven game.
The gameplay of Cyberpunk 2077 can be broken down into four parts: Exploration, Combat, Customization and Quests. Let’s begin with Exploration first.
Cyberpunk 2077 is an open world game that allows the player to go where ever the moment takes them, and do any of the activities provided in any order. Whether they want to take on a side job, or just interrupt a gang assaulting the locals, there are lots of things to see and do that don’t take up much time.
The way this aspect is set up sort of reminded me of the recent Assassins’ Creed games, or even Watchdogs. And by that I mean the are several different activities you can do, and you’ll be repeating those over and over again with slight variations in different locations. As they provide you with good loot and experience, there is a reason to do them all.
This particular aspect of the game is handled really well, and if you like this kind of gameplay then you should enjoy exploring Cyberpunk 2077. My only complaint here is that there are more than a few buildings you cannot explore, and you will find that harder you look, that Night City isn’t as big as it would first appear.
The Combat of Cyberpunk 2077 is relatively good for the most part and allows the player multiple approaches to many of the game’s scenarios. You can play ranged or melee, use your Cyberdeck to Hack, or you can focus on stealth if you’d rather do things quietly. How you approach each encounter is up to you, but it will generally be in one of those 4 ways.
The gunplay feels tight and responsive, and melee is better than I expected for a first person game. Hacking, though badly explained is simple and effective once you get the hang of it, and stealth is extremely satisfying. I think most games would love to have combat that is at least as good as Cyberpunk 2077, but there is one part that bothers me. The combat never changes.
With many RPGs you will find that as you progress the game you unlock more and more abilities so that you get stronger and stronger, and combat inevitably evolves. Maybe you could only do basic attacks at the beginning, but by the end you were doing advanced combos. There is usually meaningful advancement in the combat of RPGs, usually, but in Cyberpunk 2077 what you see is what you get. The one exception is Quickhacking, which gets way more interesting further into the game.
As you complete quests and defeat enemies, you will gain experience that allows you to place more Attribute and Perk Points into your character, improving their performance in the area of your choosing. Additionally, as you use certain Skills like Stealth, you will gain XP in that specific Skill, providing you with added benefits or more Perk Points.
At first glance, this seems like a fantastic system, as it gives you meaningful control over your character, and I absolutely love that. Want to be better at melee? Go punch some stuff and you will be. There is a downside, however, and it is that nearly all progression is by way of passive benefits: improved damage, or Armor, etc. This is directly tied to my issue with the combat, because you don’t unlock new “active” abilities, you just get more passive benefits that don’t really change the way you were playing to begin with, so all that happens is you are doing the same thing just slightly better.
Beyond that, you will gain new Weapons and Armor, as well as Cyberware enhancements nearly every where you go, in just about every activity. These all have a rarity system found in most looter shooters, with Legendary being the best quality, followed by Epic, Rare, Uncommon and Common. They can also be upgraded using crafting materials, as well enhanced with modifications as well. Think The Division 2, and you’d be in the ballpark.
I really enjoy the loot system in Cyberpunk 2077, as you are gaining constant upgrades, and Cyberware adds something you won’t find in other games. It actually provides more progression for your character than anything else, so if you are looking to see some change in gameplay then look for new Cyberware and it will help keep things interesting.
There are different types of Quests in Cyberpunk 2077, some with a larger impact on the game’s story and some that are just there to give you something to do. There is a considerable amount of quests even though, as I mentioned before, many are repeats of the same type of activity with some flavor twists. You don’t have to do these to complete the game, but they are there if you want them.
The Main Questline is not overly long, and it took me about just over 20 hours to finish on the hardest difficulty of the game. There are a lot of Side Quests though, and you could easily spend over 100 hours if you take the time to see and do everything and listen to every dialogue.
In several cases, I found the Side Quests were actually more interesting than the main plot, which is sadly something that has become more common in games of as of late. Still, I think players will generally enjoy these Side Quests, as most of them are fairly good.
All that said, in the end, I was disappointed in the overall quests as they are almost all entirely linear, following more of a Red Dead Redemption 2 format where you either succeed or fail, rather than having branching paths. I was expecting more of a Fallout/Witcher 3 experience where your decisions heavily impacted and changed outcomes and results. This is not true in the vast majority of cases in Cyberpunk 2077, and I believe it is one of the main reasons why many players are thoroughly disappointed in this game. If all the dialogue choices ultimately result in the same outcome then why provide me with dialogue choices at all?
Audio, Visual & Design
Previously I stated that visually Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t look as good as what we’d seen in previous presentations over the past couple years, and I still stand by that statement. However, when it comes to the character models, Cyberpunk 2077 has some of the most impressive graphics I’ve ever seen in a game. Some of them are just absolutely mind blowingly good, and the overall feel of Night City is so well realized because the individual parts look outstanding as well… when they aren’t missing textures which happens often when driving around. Beyond that, your enjoyment of the graphical prowess of the game will be severely impacted by the hardware you have and your own personal aesthetics preference, so it becomes really subjective.
I was holding steady somewhere around 60 FPS on my 2080 ti while streaming with everything maxed out at 1080p, and Ray Tracing on. I had only a few instances of frame drops that were noticeable during this time, so I essentially had no severe performance issues. I have heard complaints from others about the game’s performance, but as I had none myself, I cannot comment on them beyond that.
Now, when it comes to crashes I had more than a few. Besides the initial pre-launch crash loop that myself and several other streamers found ourselves struggling with, the game only crashed on me a handful of times while I was actually playing. It does seem to have troubles when you are alt tabbed, as it crashed on me at least a dozen times while I was writing guides etc, and this was quite frustrating. The good news is that this won’t likely happen to most players.
In the bugs department I’ve seen more than my share, and Cyberpunk 2077 is arguably one of the buggiest games I’ve ever played at launch. However, nearly every bug I had was either comical or graphical, and nothing was really broken in a way that I couldn’t complete a quest. Those are the worst types of bugs, and I had zero of those, but for a game that has so much potential immersion, you may find it ruined in its current state.
The voice acting of Cyberpunk 2077 is very good, though not the best I’ve seen this year. Keanu Reeves does an outstanding job, and if you’re a Keanu fan then he is sure to be a real treat for you. Beyond that, I don’t expect too many people to complain about the other characters VOs, though I’m not sure V’s was the most fitting.
The music and sound effects are some of the best you will find, if not the best in gaming today. I don’t know how much it cost CD Projekt RED to have that many different songs of that caliber in their game, but it must have cost a fortune. It’s up there with Death Stranding, Last of Us Part II, and Red Dead Redemption 2, just for different reasons. It’s a shame they had issues with copyright after launch, and hopefully that gets sorted out soon.
Replayability & Pricepoint
Cyberpunk 2077 is a game I don’t see many players playing more than once. Most will probably 100% the game, and then reload a save near the end to see the different endings, or just watch them on YouTube. There simply isn’t enough meaningful choice or variable outcomes, aside from the Endings, that will compel most players to give it another go. Build variety could be a reason, but I’m not sure it’s strong enough.
This is a rather disappointing outcome for me personally, as I was expecting an RPG experience and we are fresh from Baldur’s Gate 3 early access, which I could replay for weeks and still be surprised at new outcomes and ways to approach quests. There is a promise of online and multiplayer happening, which would obviously impact this score, however since it is not live at the time of publishing we must focus on what is available and, as it stands now, the replayability of the game is low, and the incentive to 100% it is not significant.
That said, I think Cyberpunk 2077 is priced about right for the triple A quality it delivers, and hours of content you can get out of it. And that’s if you don’t spend hours just running people over, or experimenting for science like me. The most compelling argument against it at the moment is the bugs, and those you either live with or wait to buy the game, likely at the same price in several months once they’ve been patched out.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a game I’ve been following for a long long time. I’ve been to nearly every presentation CDPR has given in the past 3 years about the game, and I was one of the people who thought it would be a masterpiece. So much so that I even posted a video asking if it wouldn’t be the best game in the last 10 years not too long ago, but unfortunately I was wrong. Not only is Cyberpunk 2077 not the best game of the last 10 years, it’s not even the best game this year. That is extremely hard to say out loud, but even more difficult to swallow.
Many players, myself included, had extremely high expectations and hopes after The Witcher 3, a game that many people think IS the best RPG of the past 10 years. Imagine the shock when it was the lack of meaningful choices that let down Cybperpunk 2077, after CDPR created a game where literally every decision was meaningful in The Witcher 3. It’s like missing a wide open lay up after you’ve just hit a shot from half court.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a good open world first person action game, with some interesting plot lines and characters, but ultimately it is not a very good RPG. The fast and furious gun play, combined with some hollywood caliber acting, and an over sexualized world, cannot cover up the glaring lack of player freedom and choice. In some ways it’s almost poetic, if not ironic, considering THAT could well be the dystopian future we now find ourselves headed towards in real life.
Stay tuned for more of Cyberpunk 2077 Build Guides, and be sure to drop by the Cyberpunk 2077 wiki for all your Night City needs. Or you can drop by our Twitch Channel and say hi as we stream the game over the next couple of weeks! And make sure to check out our Early Impressions and Character Creation!