You live by the hype, you die by the hype. Cyberpunk 2077 will quite possibly go down as the most anticipated, and most disappointing, game in recent memory.
Controversy after controversy seemed to plague the release, with many finding the final product a lot different from what we’d seen in trailers or heard about in interviews.
Today we document every unfulfilled promise of Cyberpunk 2077.
Last-Gen Consoles are the Focus
This was the most obvious one on launch day—that Cyberpunk 2077 performed horrifically on last-gen consoles. Sure enough, PC users had their own issues, but constant bugs, crashes, softlocks, and low-quality textures afflicted the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One release. Adding insult to injury, this was just two weeks after CD Projekt Red had claimed the exact opposite.
When asked about last-gen performance in an investors call, CEO Adam Kacińsk claimed it was looking “surprisingly good, I would say for such a huge world. So, bit lower, but very good.”
This wasn’t the first time such a claim was made. Speaking to Video Games Chronicle in 2019, CDPR spokesperson Alvin Liu remarked, “We’re focusing on delivering a really good experience on current-gen consoles[...]fans should expect a very fair offering with whatever we decided to do.”
While conceding that they couldn’t get high-end-PC quality on console, Liu reassured, “the important thing to us is it will be fluid, it will play on your machine.” Despite this, framerate drops were severe and frequent on console when in areas with many NPCs. And with menus also taking upwards of 10 seconds to load at a time on console, PC players had a huge advantage in combat or when using vehicles. Further still, console players were faced with unique softlocks, due to main characters disappearing from the map.
CDPR appeared to have attempted to hide the poor performance on this generation. Console review copies were only made available during release week, meaning outlets couldn't get their reviews out before fans got their copies. Review aggregation website Open Critic went as far as to directly accuse CDPR of being “deceptive, selfish, and exploitative," referencing how the company allegedly only sent codes to outlet they knew had high-end PCs, and forbade them from showing their own recorded footage.
The E3 2018 Demo
We’ll get into the specific dishonest elements depicted below. But for now, the important thing to note is that, allegedly, the hype-inspiring demo was “almost entirely fake."
Having spoken to several anonymous CDPR staff, and one named ex-member of staff, Schreier wrote: “CD Projekt hadn’t yet finalized and coded the underlying gameplay systems, which is why so many features, such as car ambushes, were missing from the final product. Developers said they felt like the demo was a waste of months that should have gone toward making the game.”
In other words, the groundwork for the game had not been decided at all. The demo does have the mandatory disclaimer, stating that it “does not reflect the final look of the game.” However, so much of what was touted didn’t appear, and at the time of the demo being shown, CDPR were aware that may be the case.
A 'Live City,' NPCs with a Handmade Routine
”We’ve greatly enhanced our crowd and community systems to create the most believable city in any open world to date”, says a narrator, speaking over the E3 2018 trailer. Obviously, this promise went unfulfilled, but where did it go wrong?
No matter what version of the game you had, nothing could change how static Night City feels. Despite a great cast of characters and quests, the open world was found lacking, with little to no incentive to explore the city or the surrounding Badlands, especially since side quests and gigs are sent to you via text. Sure enough, there’s some gorgeous views, but Night City is just there to look pretty, and do nothing.
The now infamous E3 demo takes us through one of the early missions in the game. As V goes to meet Jackie, the narrator describes what we’re seeing: “The city streets are bustling with crowds of people from all facets of life. All living their life within a full day and night cycle.”
Fast forward to 2020, and the difference between day and night is simply aesthetic, with the only people reacting being main characters who need quests completed at a certain time of day. This is a far cry from the promise of thousands of NPCs living their life, changing behavior based on the time. NPCs act exactly the same regardless, and stores are always open. No one is scripted to follow any set routine, just cycle through a selection of animations, such as walking, or checking their phone.
Perhaps most disappointing is how basic the NPCs were. One thing promised in the reveal was a large variety of people in Night City: “from all facets of life.” The showcase proudly presented a variety of characters interacting with the world, such as monks on a street corner, and other city-dwellers stopping to watch their preaching.
On top of that, V’s apartment complex was described as a “microsociety of its own,” with a ton more NPCs, two additional floors, and ads that interact with V specifically. However, V’s apartment actually just holds a store, and has two quests that take place solely within the complex.
It seems like this was meant to be a feature from the game’s inception. CDPR were gifted a grant from the Polish government, totaling $7 million. To get this, they had to draft a proposal (reported by wccftech.com) on how to use the fund, and this is where we see the first mention of the “live city.” CDPR proposed that $2.7 million would go towards “comprehensive technology for the creation of ‘live,’ playable in real-time, cities of great scale based on the principles of artificial intelligence and automation.”
In the developer’s defense, it appears effort did go in to making this feature work, and its absence is due to the game simply not being ready for the December release date (the aforementioned Schreier report claims staff wanted a 2022 release date). Speaking in a paywalled podcast hosted by German news outlet, GameStar, two developers spoke about it, and mentioned “giving more than a thousand NPCs a handmade routine” (translation courtesy of reddit user u/Moraez).
Another unfulfilled promise of Night City was how much of it was inaccessible. In an interview with wccftech.com just months before release, Senior Gameplay Designer Pawel Kapala commented that all locked doors would be “contextualized”—they won’t be arbitrarily closed. Of course, that would not be the case in the final game.
A More Customizable V, Purchasing Apartments
At E3 2018, we saw the original character creation screen, and it was a whole lot different. Here you could change your V's personality, through selecting their reason for being in Night City, a key event in their life, and their childhood idol. CD Projekt publicly ditched that in favor of the Lifepaths, but the reasoning was slightly dishonest.
“We felt it’d be really cool for players to be able to not only choose V’s origin, but let them experience its events first-hand,” said quest designer Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz when speaking to VG247. “When players first start the game, they’re presented with a choice of the three life paths[...]Each one starts you off in a completely different place and features an alternative set of prologue quests.” However, lifepaths only contain one origin quest, and are over in about 20 minutes, the rest being told in a montage.
Another way we were told we could customize our V is by boosting our street-cred through clothing, yet in the final game, clothing just affects combat stats.
Finally, the E3 2018 mentioned that we were being shown “V’s current apartment,” implying we would have been able to buy property, which would make sense considering V’s elevated status after the first act.
Missing Combat Features
Some aspects of the E3 demo look like they’re from an entirely different game. Here we saw gameplay mechanics such as wall running and randomly generated car ambushes, based on which faction you’d gotten on the wrong side of.
Wall running was publicly ditched prior to release, but the car ambushes were not. The only ones that happened were scripted as part of quests. In fact, having a bad rep with a gang has no consequences in the game world.
After V and Jackie take a violent route in dealing with the Maelstrom gang, they are chased down by a car full of them during their escape. The narrator says: ”random encounters like these are an example of how your actions directly influence your open-world experience.” Despite this, it never materialized in the final game.
Another thing we saw was using the environment to take down enemies. V performs a unique silent takedown as they sneak around, but the final game has the same two takedowns regardless. Jackie also picks up and throws a car at enemies, as well as steals a gun and starts using it, which players could never do.
Overall, so much of what we saw in 2018 was scripted solely for the trailer. And considering much of the game’s foundation was yet to be built, it was far too early to make combat promises.
I’m sure it won’t come as much of a surprise that the police were not meant to be as oddly designed as they are.
Speaking to wccftech in 2019, Alvin Liu of CDPR spoke about the role of the police:
“I would compare it to The Witcher 3 where if you chopped off the head of a villager in the middle of nowhere, the guards wouldn't show up out of nowhere. But if you're in a big town and someone from the guard sees you and the people nearby run away screaming for help, people will come and try to stop you.”
Despite this, even after multiple patches, police spawn in once a crime is committed. In fact, if you’re angled right, you can see them appear before your very eyes, meaning you cannot strategically commit any crimes—even if no one sees, the police will be there.
Adding to the issues with the open world, Night City had a big feature removed: unique weather effects. We do get the odd rain shower, and a scripted sandstorm during a couple of quests. However, in the same interview, Alvin Liu made yet another poorly aged comparison to The Witcher 3.
When asked about dynamic weather, Liu responded: “Yeah, we've got acid rain as well. Night City is a very polluted city and we're also exploring that kind of stuff, pollution and global warming.” He went as far as to say that NPCs will react by seeking shelter, but this too seems to have been left on the cutting room floor.
So What Do We Make of All This?
If the Bloomberg investigation is to be believed, those on the ground at CD Projekt Red didn’t want this. They claim they “thought the [release] date was a joke” and “expected the game to be ready in 2022.” Taking out content seems to be the only way to make that release date happen.
At the time of writing, Cyberpunk 2077 has received a major patch and multiple smaller hotfixes. These have fixed the most egregious bugs that prevent progress, but it remains unlikely that the content promised will find its way into the game.
In response to the points raised in this article, CD Projekt Red have released the following:
- Claims that the E3 2018 demo was “fake”: In response, CEO Adam Badowski said: “It’s hard for a trade show game demo not to be a test of a vision or vertical slice two years before the game ships, but that doesn’t mean it’s fake.” He also believes that the final game plays better than this demo.
- Missing features: In the same statement, Badowski conceded that “features come and go as we see if they work or not.” He also believes that car chases exist in the game “almost verbatim” to what was shown.
- Staff did not believe it should be released in 2020: Badowski disputes this claim, as it came from 20 out of over 500 members off staff.
- Console release quality: CD Projekt Red co-founder Marcin Iwiński apologized, stating that this release “did not meet the quality standard we wanted it to meet.” He also said, “I and the entire leadership team are deeply sorry for this[...]Please don’t fault any of our teams for what happened.”