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Cyberpunk 2077

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Action
Developer: CD Projekt RED Studio
Release Date: Dec. 10, 2020

About Chris Barnes

There's few things I'd sell my soul to the devil for. However, the ability to grow a solid moustache? I'd probably sign that contract ... maybe ... (definitely).


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Xbox One Review - 'Cyberpunk 2077'

by Chris Barnes on Jan. 25, 2021 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Cyberpunk 2077 is a narrative-driven, open world RPG set in the most vibrant and dangerous metropolis of the future — Night City.

Buy Cyberpunk 2077

Other than the Deus Ex series, most cyberpunk titles are created by indie developers that can tackle the seedy characteristics of a cyberpunk world without becoming a self-reflective mockery. Enter Cyberpunk 2077. With an eight-year development cycle, a multi-million dollar development budget, and accolades for the studio's previous open-world efforts, Cyberpunk 2077 is the biggest game set in a cyberpunk world and one of the most highly anticipated titles of the PS4/X1 generation. The game falls short of its runaway hype, but I was ready for that prior to launch. It seemed like an insurmountable task for CD Projekt Red to meet the years of hype surrounding the game. What I wasn't prepared for was an experience that's riddled with bugs, cut content, and lackluster systems that don't meet the expectations for an open-world title released in 2020. Your appreciation for Cyberpunk 2077 in its current state is heavily dependent upon your appreciation of art direction and concept more so than the actual execution.

Cyberpunk 2077 is set in the fictional Night City. You start the game as V, a no-name mercenary within the corporate-run cyberpunk world. Unlike CD Projekt Red's previous Witcher RPGs, you have a lot more freedom in controlling your vision of V. From the get-go, you're welcomed with a character creation screen that lets you manage V's physical attributes and origin story. These decisions can have a number of impacts on the main narrative, including a different prologue for each origin story, various romance options depending on your gender, and different dialogue options depending on the character build. While none of these are revelatory, they're strong aspects of narrative-fluid RPGs (when done right).

Alas, that's not the case here.

The origin story is a brief prologue that serves as a setup to connect you with Jackie, your supposed best friend and partner in crime. At the end of the origin story prologue (less than 10 minutes), you are met with a montage that highlights the various shenanigans and mercenary jobs you and Jackie take on while an enthusiastic radio host screams about the shady Night City. As you progress through the main questline, V spends a lot of time reminiscing about his times with Jackie. The game tries hard to get you to care about your relationship with him, but I have nothing to go off of other than the awkward montage, which robs you of the much-needed relationship-building with Jackie, and it skips over your introductions to the characters who serve up side-quests. Instead, Act 1 drops you in the middle of Night City with little context, and you're immediately bombarded with texts and phone calls from folks you've never met. Even a brief initial in-person encounter with the quest-givers would've drawn you in, but instead, the result is incoherent and lifeless.

This lifelessness rings true throughout Night City. There's clearly a ton of effort put into the art direction, but in a city that has a "Sky-high rate of violence and more people living below the poverty line than anywhere else," I didn't experience anything like that while exploring the open world. The beginning of Act 1 has you leave V's apartment building and walk out to a bustling city corner. There's a vastness to the verticality of Night City that's unparalleled in video games. Buildings loom over you on all sides while flying cars zoom through the sky. While the Xbox One version of the game sorely lacks some of the advanced lighting techniques in the PC version, there are moments of brilliance in the art direction — particularly in the scripted moments that occur across the various questlines.

However, these moments of joy are siloed off to specific areas of an otherwise vacant map. The highways are often empty. Beyond a handful of sections in the city, the sidewalks are rarely populated by more than a few NPCs at a time. In the busier sections of the city, shops and stalls are occupied by NPCs, but the extent of interaction with most vendors is little more than a simple button press to get a passing comment. The moments of stellar art direction serve as beautiful still shots that quickly lose their appeal when in motion.

This becomes more evident when you experience the game's AI. Citizens do little more than cower in fear when bullets start flying in the streets. Cops spawn out of view and stand in place without trying to pursue you, leaving me to question the point of the game's "wanted" system. Cars drive along a linear path and patiently wait in the road if you block their path. During main quests and various side gigs, enemies do little to avenge the death of a nearby comrade, so the broken combat and stealth system can be abused once you get the right skills — even though I played on the Hard difficulty.

The main story line injects some life into the dull dressings of Night City. The early moments of Act 1 show V and Jackie taking on a gig in the hopes of reaching the big leagues of Night City. Tasked with a heist on the megacorp known as Arasaka, things take a turn for the worse. The outcome sends V on a desperate search for the answers and leads to a mysterious shard obtained during the heist.

Throughout the story, you engage with Johnny Silverhand. Voiced by Keanu Reeves, he is a washed-up Night City punk rock celebrity by night and an anti-megacorp terrorist by day. His hatred toward Arasaka also makes him a valuable source of information as you unravel the mysteries of the shard in your head. To the game's detriment, the voice acting by Keanu is in line with the lifelessness of the open world. His exasperated delivery of the word "air" and "cock" had me laughing out loud during what should've been tense and dramatic moments. He is prevalent throughout the game, making this cringe-inducing performance a dominating force. He even leaks his way out of the main quest lines and into the open world. Walking past an NPC who's playing the guitar along an alleyway results in Silverhand popping into the scene to express his thoughts on an NPC you would've otherwise walked past. Fortunately, other characters feature top-notch performances to help you get through Reeves's monotonous delivery.

Beyond the main quests, there's a ton of side content in Cyberpunk 2077 that ranges in scope and impact. Some side-quests are short storylines broken up into a few different quests with narrative threads that slowly intertwine with the main story and finale. There are also plenty of gigs and activities scattered through Night City, most of which are a means of grinding for experience, income, and street cred — all of which are necessary to purchase additional armor, guns, perks, and skills. It was in these moments that I enjoyed Cyberpunk the most. There's a monotonous lull as you drive from each side gig, but once you're out of your car and engage with the combat and stealth systems, it's a much better time.

As mentioned earlier, the stealth and character trees can easily be abused to take advantage of the mediocre enemy AI, but there's also a guilty pleasure in that. It doesn't get old to hack into a building's camera systems and install a virus in an enemy that quickly spreads to the surrounding cronies and drops them all dead in mere seconds. You can hack the local network through a satisfying minigame that lets you temporarily improve your quick hack abilities and debuff enemies in combat.

Generally speaking, Cyberpunk 2077 is fairly stable even during the most heated moments in combat. Other than the painfully empty streets of Night City, I rarely found myself wishing I was playing the PC version of the game. The Xbox One version desperately craves the subtle, crucial lighting elements in the PC iteration, but it wasn't bad enough to detract from the experience. There were moments of bewilderment at the subtle facial details during a dialogue sequence in the main quest. Gun models are intricately designed and incredibly detailed, and they bring you into the action.

All of this comes with one massive caveat, though. While I was technically playing the Xbox One version of Cyberpunk 2077, I was fortunate enough to experience it on the Xbox Series S and X. They not only have enough graphical horsepower to run the game at either 60fps or higher resolutions to avoid blurriness, but they also have SSDs that are fast enough to stream the various assets that are flying in and out of view in the open world. I've seen screenshots of the Xbox One version floating around online that show objects that have more in common with a potato than a cyberpunk vehicle. I didn't experience any of that here. While some models in the distance can occasionally appear flat, the details quickly come into view as they draw near.

Even if the Xbox Series consoles do enough to overcome the technical mishaps that have plagued the Cyberpunk 2077 release, they can't do anything to overcome the most glaringly obvious issue: bugs. While I didn't experience anything game-breaking, you'll encounter numerous scripting issues that require you to reload an earlier save within a mission to get an action to trigger. Other times, scenes that try to pack an emotional punch fall short when an object clips through a character's head while they're talking. Cyberpunk 2077 is easily one of the buggiest games I've played in recent memory.

All of this adds up to levels of self-conflict that I've never experienced in all my years of gaming. The empty streets of Night City could easily lull you to sleep while you drive from one side-quest icon to another, but the amazing attention to detail on the car model interiors and surrounding buildings is awesome enough to keep me going. The AI is laughable at best and seemingly absent at times, but that leads to moments of giddiness when I decimate the foes through a single quick hack. The bugs, while nearly omnipresent, didn't do enough to drive me away. Despite all of these critiques, I kept returning to the game for another dose of Cyberpunk because there's nothing else quite like it. You can play Deus Ex if you want a better cyberpunk narrative, and you can play GTA V or Red Dead Redemption 2 if you want better open-world experiences, but there's nothing that's attempted to marry all of these elements into a game this vast in scope. I enjoyed Cyberpunk 2077 despite its warts. Underneath all of the bugs, broken AI, and questionable Reeves voice acting is a gem of a game that would greatly benefit from additional polish. Considering the developer's track record, I fully expect CD Projekt Red to release voluminous updates to address the title's many issues, but until the inevitable "Game of the Year" edition, prepare yourself for a fun cyberpunk playground that's currently marred with a litany of issues.

Score: 6.0/10

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