Cyberpunk 2077 Review

12/18/2020 - 11:00 | By: Andrew Otton
Developer
CD Projekt Red
Publisher
CD Projekt Red
Release Date
December 10, 2020
Genre
RPG
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Not Quite Breathtaking

Cyberpunk 2077 has a lot to say about humanity and the world we live in, often in very unsubtle ways. With more than a few controversies about the game’s development, you won’t be able to stop yourself making comparisons to some actions and words spoken in the game. Corporations are evil, selfish, and deceitful, but 2077 also asks: are the people on the street any better? So should you get in line like the good consumer you are, ready to fork out your hard-earned cash for another product from those sociopathic corpos at CD Projekt Red? 

While we usually just mention the platform of review in a disclaimer at the end, the vast disparity between the different versions of Cyberpunk 2077 make the question of which platform more relevant. This review was conducted on a high end PC. You’ll find more information on the PC specs in the comments below.

If you do decide to bow down to the corpos and buy the game, you’ll take on the role of V, a mercenary (merc) who hopes to go down as a legend of Night City in one way or another. At one point, V ends up with a chip in their brain that contains the psyche of a Night City legend of old, Johnny Silverhand. A rocker/corpoterrorist, Johnny’s relationship with V, as well as the mystery of why this chip was created and what it’s doing to V, is the main story driver of Cyberpunk 2077.

Immersion You Could Drown In

Based on Mike Pondsmith’s pen and paper RPG, Cyberpunk, CDPR has crafted a world and atmosphere with so much detail and meticulous design that it’s easily the game’s biggest triumph. The setting of Night City is the core of the game, elevating every element from the writing, to questing, to combat, and more. 

 
 

Cyberpunk 2077 does what all great sci-fi does: integrate its setting, world, and rules of that world into the writing and plot. Take away the crafted setting, and there would be no way to tell the same stories. The technology of the world, its politics, and the people living in it directly inform the writing to great effect.

Whether it's from the various gangs in the city or the everyday folk on the street, Cyberpunk 2077 immerses you in its setting at every opportunity. Jarring slang will become the norm, the odd everyday life with incredible technology becomes mundane, and the people with metal arms, faces, and a whole lot more are just another person walking down the street.

night city street
Every street envelops you in the world. There's detail on ever surface that sells the setting that much more.

Nothing is more immersive or impressive than Night City itself, though. Night City is by far and away the most remarkable thing Cyberpunk 2077 has to offer. It is the crowning achievement of the game, and easily the most well-realized city in a game to date. There's no doubt it marks a massive leap forward in design, scale, and detail in world design.

From the moment you step into Night City, it overwhelms your senses. Traffic is loud, the people around even louder, music and advertisements are blaring everywhere, massive buildings tower over you—and a whole lot more. The amount of moving pieces on the screen is astound as well, with loads of people roaming the streets and cars going everywhere. Night City at once feels incredibly vast and claustrophobic at the same time, with so much to explore combined with the press of people everywhere.

It feels exactly like being in the bustling part of a major city. As someone who has not lived in a large city for much of my life, it evoked very familiar feelings of finding yourself downtown or in some popular neighborhood. Hell, there are even plenty of places you can be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.

Corpos and Street Scum Both Agree: It's all About the Biz

Night City isn’t exactly a pleasant place, however. As stated often throughout the game, Night City chews up and spits out people at an alarming rate. People either get run out of town or killed one way or another, whether they put themselves in harm’s way or not. Whether they know how to biz with one another or not.

 

One of the most interesting things about Night City’s citizenry is that they all seem to share the same ruthless selfishness—an “it’s just business” mentality. As much as it would anger people like V, they share an awful lot with the corpos they seem to hate so much. The only differences are the resources at their fingertips and the scale at which they can screw people over.

For V, and many of the people that surround them, getting what’s mine, or not, by any means necessary from anyone is the name of the game. V may have a loyal core they would never betray, but everyone else is fair game.

cyberpunk 2077 placide
I'm sure Placide here has work with no strings attached.

The corpos are the exact same. They are just playing a game with much higher stakes. Why V and most people in Night City seem to have an extreme hatred for them is that they’ve likely been burned by some corpo at one point or another—directly or indirectly.

They would never admit to sharing any quality  with the corpos, but just like the corpos themselves are all about business, so too are V and those he deals with. Everyone’s focused on biz and whether you can offer something to them. An exchange of words is a transaction to be paid out later.

 

Apart from the main story, there are plenty of side jobs around Cyberpunk 2077 to engage in. Just as in Witcher 3, they are the real star of the show. The main story with Johnny is certainly compelling, but these side stories are full of memorable moments driven by character. They are likely what you’re going to remember after all is said and done in the game. And yes, you’ll have plenty of choices to make while doing them.

The map is also full of gigs, small points of interest that can be resolved immediately. Quick jobs offered to V by various fixers that won't take much time. They range from killing targets, to rescuing hostages or property, stealing things, and more. Each one has a little story attached, and some are definitely noteworthy. By and large, however, they are forgettable. They are a great excuse to engage with the combat and stealth systems in Cyberpunk 2077, though.

Combat Is Competent, Yet Unremarkable

Also like Witcher 3, combat is the least interesting part of the game. The gunplay in Cyberpunk 2077 is definitely good and you’ll no doubt find some guns you enjoy using. The freedom of movement—not strictly sticking to a wall like a cover-based shooter—makes things interesting, as you can quickly go back and forth from melee to shooting in the blink of an eye.

There’s a problem of sameyness when it comes to combat, however. There are several classes of guns that are definitely different from one another—Smart, Power, Tech—but if nobody ever told me, I doubt I’d have noticed. Anyone that has played shooters for a while will find the familiar: shotguns feel like shotguns, revolvers have the right recoil, and so on down the line. Again, everything works great but it doesn’t really stand out.

cyberpunk 2077 combat mantis blades
For as cool as they are conceptually, mantis blades feel like any other bladed weapon.

As for the melee combat… well, not so great. It’s basically the same as it works in The Elder Scrolls games like Skyrim. It’s wild swinging as you pummel or slice your way through your enemies, lacking any nuance. There’s also a series of side jobs about fist fights that are just rough. Enemies will wind up to swing and hit you from 15 feet away. The word janky is the best way to describe those fist fights. Easily the least enjoyable part of the game.

Stealth, however, can be very fun. The many different ways you can hack the different things in the environment and even the enemies themselves can be very satisfying. All the fun tools at your disposal is great, however, enemy AI is disappointing. They don’t react as you would think to some actions and have an inability to notice you unless staring directly at you for a couple of seconds. 

There are skill trees to build a character as you want, but for the most part it’s pretty standard fare. Yes, I suppose you could build a character that is better at doing one thing than another, but it’s pretty much all passive percentage buffs that aren’t all that interesting.

If Roguelite Exists, This is RPG-lite

You can say the same thing when it comes to RPG mechanics. They are just extremely light here. If you went out of your way to make as many unique choices as possible to create some sort  of quirky character, it would still be very similar to anyone else. Yours just may be a more effective shooter with pistols than mine.

The only personal character customizability comes in the character creator. There are no places in-game to do something like change a haircut or anything like that. When Cyberpunk 2077 features such a vast array of NPCs all across Night City, with wildly different looks and designs, it’s a real shame there is no way to get anywhere close to a unique look that even compares to just some random person walking down the street.

It is a real missed opportunity, especially with the cyberware that’s part of the gear you equip. Cyberware is the tech you can put in your body, whether that’s replacing your eyes with a suped up tech version or titanium bones, there’s a lot you can add to your character. Most cyberware goes the way of everything else: percentage buffs to one thing or another, so they're not that interesting. Some will give you unique abilities or skills, but those are few and far between.

cyberpunk 2077 cyberware
For as cool as this screen looks, what it actually offers players should be way more exciting.

With cyberware in the game and specific NPC vendors who install it in your character, having very little visual representation of those modifications is a wasted opportunity. People are walking around with metal arms, legs, faces replaced with metal, and almost everything else you can think of, yet the most you’ll get it is circuitry-like lines of metal on your skin.

There’s plenty of clothing to collect with some fun designs, yet more often than not you’re going to look like some insane weirdo wearing gear that has good stats on them. Good luck finding a consistent look that is also viable for combat.

The stats on gear and weapons fall into that trap that a lot of looter games have, in that I never really looked at any of them much because I didn’t need to. The big DPS number at the top was bigger on this gun, so I went with it.  It’s percentage and number fatigue that’s not enjoyable to engage with.

The lack of depth across various mechanics is the most disappointing thing about Cyberpunk 2077. What makes it even worse is that these same complaints were leveled at Witcher 3, but CDPR didn’t really do much to improve it. There’s even the problem that you’ll have an inventory full of random stuff you’ll probably never use and just causes clutter.

All of that was pretty harsh, but none of those systems or mechanics are bad necessarily. They are just bog standard mechanics executed very well, but nothing more. You’re still going to have fun shooting enemies and chopping off limbs, it’s just that Cyberpunk 2077 didn’t do much with the tried and true mechanics we’re all familiar with to make it their own.

Cyberpunk 2077 | Final Thoughts

It wouldn’t be a Cyberpunk 2077 review without a quick mention of bugs. I definitely experienced a lot of them frequently, but they were minor. Weird visual things, some sounds not playing or playing in the wrong places—stuff like that. Nothing that crashed my system on PC and nothing that spoiled any of the game’s big moments. Your personal experience may be different, however.

Outside of the world design and the graphical candy on display, nothing in Cyberpunk 2077 is innovative. The questing is familiar and works as it always has, the open world is a formula we’ve been used to for a couple of console generations now, and gameplay mechanics are not nearly as engaging as they could be. However, all elements—aside from the bugs obviously—are crafted with a high level of competency. Much of it is obviously done well but not going to wow you, apart from Night City.

Cyberpunk 2077 is still a very enjoyable game that is a ton of fun to play. You’ll find a new favorite character, laugh at a great line of dialogue, and you’ll find yourself fully immersed in the year 2077. Just don’t go in expecting a deep RPG experience, as you will certainly be disappointed.


TechRaptor reviewed Cyberpunk 2077 on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X, with versions optimized for next-gen coming next year.

Review Summary

8.5
Cyberpunk 2077 is an enjoyable experience, with incredible immersion and bar-raising world design. However, its light RPG mechanics and standard fare gameplay systems hold it back.

Pros

  • Next Level World Design
  • An Incredibly Immersive Atmosphere
  • Top Shelf Writing
  • Many Memorable Characters
  • A Technical Spectacle in Graphics

Cons

  • Frequent Minor Bugs
  • Light RPG Mechanics
  • Melee Combat Is Janky

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Andrew Otton
Editor in Chief

Editor in Chief at TechRaptor. Has long believed Dynasty Warriors 4 to be the pinnacle of gaming.