Cyberpunk 2077 will go down as one of the most anticipated titles of all time. Developed by CD Projekt Red, the masterminds begins the critically acclaimed The Witcher 3 which is considered by many to be a masterpiece, Cyberpunk 2077 was initially announced back in May 2012.
Nearly a decade later, the open world action RPG finally launched on all platforms across the current and previous generation. The decision to do so has controversially led to a myriad of performance issues, primarily on last gen consoles, though playing on anything other than a high end PC has caused issues for various players though surprisingly not all.
My personal experience on the Xbox Series X has seen considerable issues and this review will reflect that. When the Next Gen upgrade releases next year, I will re-review this title accordingly in my Cyberpunk 2077 (Next Gen) Review. For now, here is my launch edition review of Cyberpunk 2077.
The playable protagonist of Cyberpunk 2077 is V. Customisable from the get go, the player is given a decent suite of customisation options to create their V. With a wide variety of hairstyles, facial hair, cyberware, eye style and tattoos to name a few, significant detail can be given to every aspect of V’s facial structure. It really is an impressive level of detail that the player is able to manipulate to create a V that feels truly personal to them.
Interestingly and certainly uniquely, there isn’t a gender option as such. Instead, players are able to select whether or not their V has breasts, a penis or a vagina and even offers a small assortment of pubic hair options. Nudity is an option in the menu that must be toggled off from its default Censor option if players want to customise these body parts. A male or female voice can be selected but the visual identity of V is entirely up to the player. This is a fun suite to mess around with overall with some very cool combinations of characters to be made that are unlike any seen before.
Players are able to choose the background of V, whether they are a Nomad, Streetkid or Corpo. The Nomad life path has V abandon their clan to live life in Night City, Streetkid sees V return home after living their life elsewhere for a number of years and finally Corpo which has V lose their corporate job at Arasaka corporation. These life paths slightly alter the prologue sequence and open some unique dialogue options throughout the game but don’t alter the main storyline, including any of the 6 endings. My V was a heavily tattooed female with dark green hair with a Corpo background. For consistency through this review, I will refer to my V as she/her.
Upon customising V, the player is able to allocate 7 attribute points to either Body, Intelligence, Reflexes, Technical Ability or Cool. Each of these categories specialise in different areas, allowing players to specialise in hacking, combat and conversation manipulation for instance. Within each of these categories are sub-categories that offer perks. Each time the player levels up by gaining experience 1 attribute point and 2 perk points are awarded. The leveling system is rather generous so these are awarded consistently, allowing for diverse builds that favour a players preferred playstyle. Without spoiling anything, I would highly recommend getting Body and Intelligence to level 6 as there are two missions near the end of the story that are gated behind these requirements.
V and the Legend of Johnny Silverhand
The story in Cyberpunk 2077 starts off rather slow and introduces players to the heavy dialogue very early on. Almost every conversation in a story mission is extensive, preferring to deliver longwinded monologues and provide depth that is often unnecessary. The extensive writing serves to provide as much detail as possible into every character, their every motivation and every detail of the task at hand. Despite how this blows out a simple task such as go to a destination, talk to a character and embark on the mission, the depth of the world that CD Projekt Red has endeavoured to establish can’t be faulted.
While some players may prefer a more streamlined narrative, the world building is certainly next level. Most dialogue can be skipped though that is not recommended, I personally opted never to skip dialogue. As this game does not feature cutscenes as such, skipping dialogue would essentially throw out any context of the story. Instead of cutscenes in the traditional sense, the player is able to look around their field of view and will frequently have to select a response to further the conversation. These dialogue options do not shape the direction of the story with the exception of the Point of No Return mission where the choices made can affect the final series of missions.
The introduction of the legendary rocker Johnny Silverhand, portrayed by Keanu Reeves, is where the story gets interesting. After a mission to retrieve a relic goes disastrously wrong, V inserts the damaged relic into her head in order to protect it. One bullet to the skull later, V awakens in a landfill after being left for dead. Greeted by Silverhand, believed to have died in 2023 during an attempted attack on the Arasaka Tower, V’s new ally wastes little time in introducing himself as an incredibly intriguing and entertaining ass…et, and a bit of an asshole.
Johnny’s not shy when it comes to speaking his mind and he’s just as likely to offer V advice as he is to insult her. His unpredictable personality is fun and charming, never failing to turn a conversation down a path that couldn’t be expected. His relationship with V and the motivation for their partnership to succeed is the heart of the narrative in Cyberpunk 2077.
As one would expect, being shot in the head has left V with undesirable side effects. Frequent blackouts and seizures have left V with a death sentence, having mere weeks to live. V’s long term mission is to remove the chip and survive, something that seems impossible. This is where Johnny steps in, doing everything he can to help V as this is the only way to also help himself, something Johnny does best.
The mission structure of the main quest line is fairly varied. Meeting new characters and helping them infiltrate compounds, defeat their adversaries and secure alliances comprises the core structure though each of these missions throws in curve balls with a variety of hacking objectives and the interesting Braindance concept.
A Braindance is triggered by V connecting to a video feed of a host character. Within the Braindance, V is able to relive a couple of minutes from the host’s perspective. Beyond observing the events in real time, V is able to trigger an edit mode that allows for the scene to be fast forwarded and rewound. There are three tracks that comprise the braindance that contain vital clues as to the location of the scene as well as points of interest that further uncover the events themselves. These are visual, thermal and audio, each represented by a different colour on the track.
When clues are present within the frame, a block appears on the track for the player to explore the area without moving too far from the host. These may be as simple as identifying objects such as a pizza box or accessing a tablet or phone while thermal clues may be vents or audio requiring listening in on a phone call. These sequences are very straight forward and when all useful information has been obtained, the Braindance can be ended. Information revealed in these Braindances push the story forward and only appear in a handful of instances. They aren’t particularly fun but the concept is interesting, it’s a shame they aren’t more engaging or enjoyable.
The dialogue to gameplay ratio is significantly unbalanced with a 30 minute mission easily being comprised of dialogue or walking dialogue consuming two thirds of it. For this reason alone I would recommend mixing side content with the main story. Focusing exclusively on the main story is an experience that has no pacing and any momentum established when the guns come out is instantly diminished by further dialogue.
By progressing the main quest line alone, and ignoring the abundance of optional side missions and activities, it can be completed in as little as 18 hours in my experience though this will result in only one ending. By completing two optional side quest lines, an additional three endings can be accessed and the survival of a particular character and the players relationship with Johnny opens up the last two. Of the six endings, there are combinations of tragic, hopeful, bittersweet and one that’s outright terrible and out of place. At just under the 30 hour mark I was unable to witness all of these endings. The Point of No Return mission as mentioned earlier can be returned to after the credits, awarding the player with some unique rewards for reaching each ending. From this point, the player has pretty much only one option. Explore Night City.
Welcome to Night City
Corruption and violence set the scene for the seedy metropolis known as Night City. This monstrous map is broken into half a dozen districts that are chock full of completely optional side missions, police encounters to assist with, boxing, shooting ranges, races and so much more. The sheer variety of things to do is impressive and every corner of Night City feels as though it has something to offer in terms of a quick mission or something to do.
While there is no shortage of things to do, none of it is particularly meaningful outside of the side mission chains from a pair of characters that open up additional endings as mentioned before. Rogue’s missions shed light on Johnny’s past while Panam’s has more direct implication on V’s future.
Aside from these two that actually have narrative implications, the characters met in the one and done optional missions throughout Night City fail to be memorable and their tasks feel little more than busy work. That’s not to say they aren’t worth doing as completing these awards money, XP to level up and Street Cred, both of the latter are required to be able to make various purchases or equip certain weapons and gear.
My personal Night City
There’s an overwhelming amount of content to keep players busy either alongside or after the story so in the sense of things to do, Night City is incredibly dense of gameplay opportunities. As for the population that inhabit this wild metropolis, in my experience at least, a game world has never been so empty. Around the 4 hour mark of my experience, I returned from a mission to find Night City abandoned.
Not an NPC in sight, with the exception of shop vendors, and not a single car on the roads. During story missions the world would appear as intended but upon completion, emptiness consumed the city. Fast forwarding time via the Skip Time option in the menu, quitting out, reloading saves and even restarting my console, an Xbox Series X, bore no fruit. For over 12 hours of playtime I was alone in Night City. The summon vehicle option was inaccessible, Fast Travel terminals were inaccessible due to thinking I was in combat, despite not a soul in the world for me to have engaged, and no cars to steal. For over 12 hours I had to run across the map to reach my next main story mission. The video below shows 2 minutes of this isolation.
Just as suddenly as I had emerged into the empty world, panning the camera around to show my partner what I was dealing with, the world returned to normal. One 360 degree camera rotation and the streets that were empty mere seconds ago were repopulated. Since then, every single occurrence of the abandoned world has been fixed by closing the game and re-opening it.
Emptiness unfortunately was the very least of my troubles in Night City. Sound effects would drop out with alarming regularity, replacing the satisfying sounds of gunfire or roar of a car engine with silence, as well as muted car crashes. Character subtitles even when turned off can appear and not go away unless I quit out and restarted the game with save reloading offering no reprieve.
Story NPC’s would regularly block doorways, requiring checkpoint reloads, regular texture popping, weapon mods and attachments, as well as weapons themselves and clothing would disappear from my inventory for no reason at all. Again, these are issues experienced on Xbox Series X and I will not even go into how it handled on an Xbox One or Xbox One X.
… Back to Night City
Functioning as intended, the population in Night City is quite impressive. Innocent bystanders wander the streets in generous numbers, a decent variety of cars and bikes populate the roads. Vehicle AI however is not impressive. If I crash into another car, traffic will not go around it, instead just queueing up behind it waiting for it to miraculously resolve itself. The same situation occurs by simply exiting a vehicle in the middle of traffic or shooting at cars. They just sit there. They don’t react, they don’t scream, they stay parked in their cars. This makes it very easy to steal the best car from the bunch but certainly destroys the immersion of a world that’s supposed to feel so alive.
The higher end cars of Night City require higher skill levels to steal. This isn’t Grand Theft Auto where any car can be simply stolen. Gating access to certain vehicles behind skill levels isn’t entirely unexpected for an RPG but for a casual player looking to simply take advantage of the open world and cause whatever carnage they please, this may alienate their sense of freedom within Night City by forcing them to allocate points into categories they may not be particularly interested in.
As the game is played in the first person perspective it is a fun option to be able to drive in third person, allowing the player to enjoy their slick ride or outfit if riding a motorbike.
Pimp my V
There are hundreds of cosmetic options to dress V as the player pleases with the option even of running around Night City completely naked. V’s entire outfit can be customised from boots, pants, hats, face wear and tops and jackets, as well as body suits. Until the player is appropriately levelled however, as per typical RPGs, V will often look like an absolute mess cosmetically due to equipping gear that offers the best stats. All gear offers armour bonuses and higher level gear has mod slots which allow the player to equip mods that provide increases to carrying capacity or reduce damage for instance. Once leveled up enough and with the right weapons the player can finally dress V how they please without having to worry about armour increases.
Aside from clothing, which is rarely seen outside of the inventory screen or when riding a motorbike from the third person perspective, V can also have a large number of cyberware enhancements equipped that provide all sorts of benefits. These are pretty expensive and can be purchased from and installed by Ripperdocs. These characters sit V in a chair and surgically equip these enhancements to a number of different body parts. Most of these implants are locked behind various level or skill requirements, often meaning money is the least of the players issues when looking to upgrade. Possibly the most fun enhancements are blades that can be installed to V’s arms, bringing a fun and violent twist to hand to hand combat.
When it comes to gameplay and combat in particular, V is more than a mere meatsuit with an armoury of weapons to unleash hell. Higher level gear and weapons can have mods applied, offering minor and major perks to the players gear and load out. An effective understanding of mods, gear, attribute points and perks allow players to become truly unstoppable.
Upgrading the crafting perks allow for deeper options for high level gear crafting including reducing the amount of materials required. Night City, in and out of missions, is full of things to loot including weapons, gear and crafting materials. As every defeated enemy also drops loot, crafting is very accessible in terms of the materials required as they are simply everywhere.
V for Violence
V has a hell of a lot of work to do to rid Night City of the corruption. Luckily, V also has access to a fun variety of weapons, mods and cybernetic enhancements to do so with melee and ranged combat as well as hacking and stealthy non-lethal takedowns. The approach to combat in Cyberpunk 2077 caters for both the guns blazing crowd and the sneaky silent type. Let’s first talk about the guns.
Pistols, submachine guns, precision, assault and sniper rifles, shotguns, light machine guns and some super heavy duty chainguns are an impressive arsenal to be able to devastate the seedy underworld of Night City as is. Power, Tech and Smart variants of each add a different dynamic to the gunplay in the additional firepower and abilities they provide. Power weapons are the powerhouse variant that favours higher damage output, Tech weapons can be charged to unleash devastating attacks and Smart weapons having homing capabilities that track their targets. Experimenting with each weapon type and sub-type is a lot of fun.
But guns aren’t the only way to inflict pain on those who stand opposite V. A deadly array of melee weapons in the forms of clubs, katanas and machetes to name a few are just as formidable for close encounters. With standard and chargeable heavy attacks to choose from, the combat itself is fairly basic with each attack consuming stamina. In my experience depleting the stamina bar had no affect on my ability to spam the attack button without any downside, whether or not this was just me or is a widespread issue I am uncertain. Both ranged and melee weapons have the ability to severe limbs and it’s pretty satisfying to see heads rolling around or half a skull destroyed from a well aimed strike or shot.
As well as the weapons, maneuverability are a key component of the combat with sprinting, jumping, climbing, sliding, crouching and dodging playing an important part in positioning yourself on the battlefield and avoiding damage. Most of these actions consume stamina that again, didn’t seem to have any actual impact on my personal experience despite depleting the bar on countless occasions.
Hacking and stealth are just as viable when it comes to enemy encounters. V can be upgraded to make them just as efficient with hacking as combat, allowing players to shutdown cameras, breach protocols of enemies and trigger distractions so they can sneak by undetected. These are just a few of the hacking options available and there is fun to be had experimenting with combat situations without firing a single shot. Enemies can be grabbed from behind if undetected and used as human shields or executed. Alternatively, they can be taken out with non-lethal takedowns for those wanting to be more of a moral vigilante. Enemy bodies can be hidden in boxes or removed from sight to avoid alarming their peers for those seeking the stealthiest of experiences.
A variety of grenades can also be used that include the likes of toxic variants, EMPs which are extremely useful in a tech driven world, flashbangs and the tried and true classic grenades that simply go bang.
Enemy variety is typically limited to armed goons, either with melee weapons or guns but a number of drones and mech suits keep combat interesting in several instances. The enemy variety isn’t particularly impressive visually but from a threat perspective there is more than enough to encourage vigilance, especially when outnumbered.
Out of touch, out of place
Night City comes across as a hyper sexualised environment for no particular reason. The city and its buildings are plastered with sexually suggestive video and audio, including an alarming amount of dildos and other sex you contraptions that just don’t fit (no pun intended). The inclusion of sex scenes is very weird, the first person perspective coupled with borderline comically stiff animations add nothing to the world.
Injecting sexuality into Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t a bad thing but by implementing it so carelessly it just doesn’t feel right. A ridiculous amount of loot collected is dildos, set up in numerous store windows are giant and kind of scary dildos. Night City isn’t shy with its sexuality and it’s a matter of quality not quantity that could have seen that managed in a less intrusive manner.
The presentation is what it is
It’s a shame that with a near decade worth of hype behind it and the decision to launch the title on every platform, including last gen, that Cyberpunk 2077 is in such an inconsistent state. With issues plaguing not just certain console versions, issues appear to be quite random and unpredictable, with my issues for instance not an issue for many players if at all while others are experiencing things that I’m not. It’s hard to talk about what Cyberpunk 2077 is like compared to what it was supposed to be.
Randomly floating characters and cars are amusing but obviously not meant to be there. Textures disappearing entirely from the world or its inhabitants make for an at times ugly world that is otherwise quite striking and beautiful, especially at night with its neon illumination. Animations are alarmingly off, whether it’s a characters arms not moving at all or weapons not appearing in enemies hands yet they still look like they are holding them.
The sound design is appropriately techy, with satisfying sound effects and futuristic chimes that make the world feel legitimately decades ahead of real time. The score was another regular drop in, drop out feature for me so I can’t offer a genuine opinion of what it added to the experience.
A weekend getaway or a place to call home?
Cyberpunk 2077 is a game worth playing, just maybe not right now. With the weight of almost a decade worth of hype, it was almost impossible for this title to live up to it. Technical issues aside it would not be without its problems, particularly in regards to pacing or meaningful activities outside of the story but the narrative of Cyberpunk 2077 at launch is a broken experience.
The gameplay is fun, the amount of things to do is insane and the sheer scope of Night City and it’s unique districts are genuinely interesting and ambitious. Ambition for now seems to have gotten the better of Cyberpunk 2077 based on the numerous issues I personally experienced in 40 hours experiencing Night City on an Xbox Series X with a handful of hours on a separate playthrough on an Xbox One and Xbox One X.
CD Projekt Red have acknowledged the issues and with a few patches and the next gen upgrade Cyberpunk 2077 will be a great experience. Until then, and again based purely on my own broken experience, I would recommend waiting so that this game can be enjoyed in a more stable build. With immersion so easily dismantled due to technical issues, it’s hard to justify returning to Night City to continue exploring what this weird and wonderful world has to offer
* I would like to reiterate that this Launch Review is based on my personal experience and not at all influenced by a majority or minority of other user experiences.
I will re-review this with my Next Gen Review when that upgrade and other patches have made their way to the game on Xbox Series X. *
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