Time played: 45 hours
Hotly anticipated for the best part of a decade, Cyberpunk 2077 is finally here, and it’s as rambunctiously detailed and gorgeous as the trailers suggest.
CD Projekt Red has added another inimitable RPG to its library, one that you could easily sink tens of hours into over the course of many months, eking out every hair-splitting detail.
It’s easy to recommend if you need a big game to tide you through the holiday season, especially if you can look past the present mechanical hiccups and a somewhat compromised narrative.
Cyberpunk 2077 price and release date
- What is it? CD Projekt Red’s punk-ish FPS RPG opus
- Release date? December 10 2020
- What can I play it on? PS4/PC/Xbox One/Stadia (coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X|S in 2021)
- Price? Standard edition is £49.99
- Incredible scale made palatable by best-in-class quest design
- Adaptable and supremely satisfying immersive simulator gameplay
- Rewarding exploration and excellent replayability
In Cyberpunk 2077, you play as V, a mouthy merc who will do whatever it takes to become a living legend in Night City. Unfortunately, that also means harboring the long-dead spirit of Keanu Ree-, sorry, Johnny Silverhand, a washed-up rockstar terrorist who is slowly taking over their mind. Hi-jinks ensue!
When you get your hands on the game, the scale of Cyberpunk 2077 will no doubt make you anxious. We’ve spent 45 hours poring over the majority of its content and experiencing three of its endings, and our map screen is still nowhere near clear. But this is no cause for concern — because when it comes to RPG quest design, CD Projekt Red is the best in the business.
Even the most inoffensive of enemy encounters has a story behind it in Cyberpunk 2077, which makes exploration fundamentally awesome. Thanks to the scope of the setting, you never really know who or what you’re going to stumble into next. A burger date with a criminal messiah or a black market braindance exorcism? Even the rowdy racing missions are good fun. Curious delights await the most inquisitive players, and you’ve always got options in how you want to approach them.
It’s very easy to spend 30+ satisfying minutes quick saving and quick loading your way through one combat segment to get the right sequence of events you had mapped out in your head. You’ll sear your synapses over a dubious dialogue choice in an otherwise unimportant side mission just because the framing is so interesting that you care about the outcome.
It’s that Witcher witchcraft that the Polish developer is famous for that makes what is banal in other open-world games exhilarating here. We kept saying we’d crack on with the main missions in the interest of completing the game quicker, but every time we finished one, we’d get dragged away into a four-hour desert stupor of superb side quest after superb side quest.
- A remarkably deep character customization and roleplaying system
- The most fun hacking mechanics on the market
- Fascinating Braindance investigations break up the combat
Roleplay certainly played a part in how this game took our brain hostage. We played as a Nomad hacker with a teal undercut and custom heart-shaped pubes. Our V is a smooth-talking technical mastermind who can breach their opponent’s defenses from afar and contaminate them with code, causing contagion and cyber psychosis, forcing their manipulated subjects into forced suicide.
This game’s hacking mechanics put Watch Dogs to shame, letting you control almost every aspect of an environment in a fashion only rivaled by classic immersive simulators like Deus Ex. If things went awry, we’d rely on our cybernetic augmentations to do the talking, like our dermal engravings that let you wield Smart weapons with homing bullets and the Mantis Blades, razor-sharp forearm protrusions that let us mop up any mushy-brained stragglers.
And even when missions pump the brakes, Cyberpunk 2077 keeps things interesting by turning you into a Batman Arkham-esque investigator. Braindance puzzles divulge plot details by letting you play through and inspect others’ recorded memories committed to digital wax. You’ll then be able to spot-check suspicious NPCs with stat-based dialogue checks that hark back to the halcyon days of Fallout 3.
If you think about it, there aren’t many single-player FPS RPGs of this nature on the market, so returning to this style felt novel, especially with the next-gen nuance implemented by CD Projekt Red. But that’s not to say there aren’t some redundant systems in play here.
- The combat is varied and fun but not as fresh as you might expect
- Some systems feel half-baked, like melee combat and consumables
- Glitches can spoil special moments
It's a lot more dynamic in practice, but Cyberpunk 2077’s nearest neighbor combat wise is Fallout 4. It’s not doing anything too exciting in that department beyond the quirky cyberware, but it still provides a good enough gameplay loop. However, melee combat, especially with blunt weapons, feels particularly floaty and disappointing, so it’s a shame that there’s an entire branch of missions based around it.
And over nearly 50 hours, we’ve never even considered the need for consumable food or drink items, despite the fact that they so easily clog your inventory. The ‘Wanted’ system is also a dead weight that serves no purpose other than to annoy you when you run over a civilian by mistake — easy to do, given the tight streets and erratic steering of vehicles as you travel between icons.
And yes, unfortunately, there are plenty of glitches to contend with. From quests we can’t complete to overlays not going away, there's a lot going on. We’ve had memorable moments scuppered by unruly animations and missing dialogue and textures. Par for the course, you might say, and fair enough — it hasn’t stopped us from mainlining the damn thing long after completing it. A Day One patch is coming which should iron out some of the creases, but given there are hundreds of clothing items and specific animations for pulling a laptop out from under a bed, keep your expectations tempered.
The main questline acts as the reliable spine of Cyberpunk 2077, introducing cool characters and providing structure to the open world, coaxing exploration in the same inoffensive way that Skyrim does. Given that you’re playing as a blank slate, it falls short of being as rich and novelesque as The Witcher 3 if that is what you’re expecting. Still, it’s an enjoyable blockbuster with some neat twists and killer set pieces, as you take out snipers at a busy corporate parade and infiltrate a digital brothel.
- Johnny Silverhand is well-played but ultimately unconvincing
- The game’s themes feel conflicted and confusing
- It runs well and looks great on PC, with stellar sound work to boot
The supporting cast is fronted by Johnny Silverhand, V’s obnoxious sidekick whose in-game model looks like Keanu Reeves after a bad night’s sleep. He goes on like one of those people still in denial about the death of rock music and exists to torment the player with eclectic dialogue that sticks out amid an unconvincing redemption arc. Reeves’ performance is great fun to watch, but the writing that surrounds it undermines it. It’s a shame, but there are plenty of other interesting side characters with better arcs that you’ll get to know throughout the game.
In the themes and subtext department, the game is often at odds with itself. It’s an anti-capitalist satire that has ironically positioned itself to be the ultimate hot commodity in 2020, one that has been made under allegedly questionable conditions. What we’re left with is a very corporate take on cyberpunk that leans on vogue 80s aesthetics, hypersexualization, and random spats of out-of-place philosophy. It’s surprising how much it felt chained to the plot points and characters of its tabletop inspiration, too, despite being set half a century after it.
The way the game treats its female characters is disappointing, and its politics are all over the place. It digs into some sensitive themes that are well above its pay grade, and the conclusions often ring hollow thanks to the game’s inherent edginess. A lot of the imagery seems designed to shock the player without ever actually making them think, usually at the expense of the oppressed. Frankly, it’s hard to be enthused about the crystal ball punk manifesto of a game that brandishes influencers on its billboards...
We’ve no idea how it plays on consoles just yet, but we played on PC with an RTX 2080 powering its stunning rain-slicked ray-traced streets. Even on max settings, it ran peachy, with some natural frame rate dips in busy areas. It sounds fantastic too. The sound designers and composers need a lot of credit for their thumping techno beats and Nine Inch Nail facsimiles that echo through grime-infested abandoned buildings and atmospheric bars. The guns are similarly crunchy and punchy, just how we like them.
We’re going to be playing a lot more of Cyberpunk 2077, even though we’ve already seen it through and sunk nearly 50 thoroughly enjoyable hours into it over the course of a week. The fun factor, replayability, and value for money on offer is undeniable, and the limited market of FPS RPGs with immersive sim gameplay systems makes Cyberpunk 2077 an easy sell for those who love games like Fallout and Deus Ex — it’s an amalgamation of many of the genre’s best features.
There are half-baked mechanics, glitches, and narrative missteps to contend with that you may or may not struggle to ignore. Still, the overall package is well worth a look, especially if you want to leverage the game’s remarkable fidelity to take advantage of your next-gen console or graphics card.