There is a good game in Cyberpunk 2077. Not perfect, and one that needs polish, but a good time nonetheless.
As I said yesterday, Cyberpunk 2077 released too early. It has issues and works better on PC than it does on console. This review isn’t dealing with any of these issues – that was yesterday’s article.
Today, I just want to focus on the gameplay experience of Cyberpunk 2077. I will mention things that need to be improved because of bugs, but that is as much as I will talk about it. I will also use screenshots between PlayStation 5 and my i9-9900KF with RTX 3080.
It will be easy to spot the difference. If I am using PC screenshots, they are the wide images. The PlayStation images will be ‘normal’ dimensions. I did sneak in two screens from the 1660Ti though. See if you can spot them!
I will also be doing my best to avoid spoilers. Almost all images are from the first act of the game. I have grabbed screens from each of the three life paths.
Any other screens are without context, so the screens won’t spoil anything unless you have already played the game. Then, you will know exactly where you in the game.
OK, so with all that out of the way, time to go on to the review.
What is Cyberpunk 2077?
Cyberpunk 2077 is an action role-playing game based on Cyberpunk pen and paper RPG of the late 80s/early 90s. The world is more familiar to many than they may realise. Similar world settings include Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell and Johnny Mnemonic.
Technology has increased at such a rate that cyber augmentation is commonplace. Giant mega-corporations rule the world and have more power than any form of government. For the privileged elite, life is simple. They get what they want, and rarely suffer repercussions for their actions. For everyone else, the wild west is a better description of their lifestyles, with people often turning to crime to survive.
Meet your character – V
You get to create your own character with a reasonable amount of customisation. I say reasonable in that you can create your character with more flexibility than many games, but not as much as was promised.
This ultimately makes little difference though, as you very rarely see your character in the game. You hear yourself, and you can see your nails if you painted them. Apart from some specific cutscenes and looking in particular mirrors, you see everything in the first person.
You do get to pick your life path – how you got to be where you were. There are three options – Nomad, Street Kid and Corpo. Each has a unique story that is fun to play and will give you dialogue options later in the game.
But you will always meet up with Jackie Welles, have a montage of your time together and then do the first mission where you rescue someone.
Are the life paths important?
Right now, with a playthrough and a half under my belt – I don’t think so? It’s great to get new dialogue options and a different lore perspective. Still, I haven’t noticed any game-changing deviations based on your path.
It’s hard to judge without a lot more research. There have been answers I have given that stop me from doing specific side story paths, but none I have seen that hinge on a life path. Without doing everything up until a set point precisely the same to gauge the impact, you don’t know for sure.
This is really hard to do because there are issues where side missions haven’t started, even doing the same actions from the same savegame. Are there more options that haven’t triggered, or have I done some that aren’t supposed to start? Splitting bugs from random elements is tricky right now.
Either way, even on a light level, the options are interesting to explore. If you aren’t concerned about delving into the lore, pick the picture that looks cool when asked the path you want to follow.
The mission types
There are four overall mission categories in Cyberpunk 2077 – Main Story, Side Jobs, Gigs and NCPD Scanner Hustles. The Main Story is self-explanatory – finish all of these to complete the game.
Side Jobs are technically optional but are usually connected to building personal relationships with NPCs. These can lead to romance options, but you are rewarded with some unique prizes once completed.
These Side Jobs have multiple parts and usually take a while to trigger the next steps. Sometimes just waiting a day in-game will let you power through, but personally, I enjoyed doing Gigs in the meantime.
Gigs are single mission quests that require you to do generally one thing. These can range from killing/capturing characters, theft, rescue attempts – the options are fairly broad. The one thing in common is it usually takes about 5-10 minutes to complete a Gig.
The line blurs a little though, as some Side Jobs require you to complete multiple Gigs. If you go the Completion route, Gigs are the main thing you will be doing to level up your character and get the most equipment in Cyberpunk 2077.
And finally, there are the NCPD Scanner Hustles. These are the missions that have the most issues. Not because of the mission type, but because of AI and gameplay problems.
The idea behind NCPD Scanner Hustles is simple – one-off fights that all follow a basic premise. The NCPD don’t have the manpower or expertise to help everyone, so they call out offering rewards for assistance.
The problem is, sometimes you are seen as beating up innocents rather than fighting crime. This leads to you becoming Wanted by the same people you are helping.
Wanted wise, this isn’t really the end of the world – run a block, and the police give up. Well, that is a problem, but you get what I mean. The more significant issue is on top of that the rewards don’t always trigger, so short of looting the bodies and combat experience you get nothing.
What is missing – where is dice/boxing/Gwent?
This is such a first-world problem, but the one thing I truly missed was a consistent in-world mini-game. It can be argued there is more than enough to do in Night City, and that is very true. I still miss a CD Projekt Red staple.
Many people have seen the Gwent memes. Why save the world, when you need to find that last card to complete your deck? Even the first Witcher game had you challenging people to roll dice in a bowl.
This later got upgraded to Boxing. You travelled the land searching for opponents, and searching for opponents was a mini-scavenger hunt at times. They were fun diversions that could be as quick or time-consuming as you wanted.
Technically, there is a boxing quest in Cyberpunk 2077. There are technically five opponents, but I was crowned champ after four. This wasn’t a bug – I just took some story actions that lead to this outcome.
The boxing quest was kind of fun. Some control binding quirks and varying combat patterns/abilities made the challenges harder, but not impossible.
My biggest gripe is why only 4-5 opponents? I miss the Gwent type mini-game that you can lose yourself in for hours on end.
But how do you play Cyberpunk 2077?
It’s cliche, but pretty much however you want. I have seen people complain that they don’t like first-person shooters. Hell, I am one of those people. But shooting enemies isn’t the only way to complete your goals.
Play style-wise, I would describe Cyberpunk 2077 as a forgiving Hitman style game. Maybe even closer to Deus Ex, but with some things implemented better (and worse).
Gunplay is pretty necessary, but it’s not the only way to play. You also don’t need to be good with every weapon. I started playing almost exclusively with pistols, as they felt better for me to shoot with. I skipped SMGs and shotguns and stuck with Assault and Sniper Rifles for distance work.
Between the different gun types, there are also different types of weapons. Power weapons let you bounce rounds around obstacles. Tech weapons allow you to charge shots to go through obstacles. And Smart weapons automatically guide bullets to their targets, even around obstacles.
So if you aren’t a great shot, Smart weapons help a lot. If you want to show off your skill, bounce those bullets off a wall or two rather than blasting through obstacles. It’s your call.
That’s a lot of gun talk for ‘however you want’.
Things will go wrong, and you will need to shoot your way out. Some scripted story missions require shooting. But you can also use stealth or melee fighting as well.
Personally, I am a stealth fan. Scanning areas to find opponents and their patterns, incapacitating them and hiding bodies. Sure, if I made a mistake (almost every time), I then had to shoot my way out. Or if there weren’t too many opponents, I could use melee.
Using your fists, swords, knives, or other melee combat forms could be just as effective as stealth or pure gunplay. I wasn’t much of a melee player though. Not because it wasn’t fun, but because I was often quickly overwhelmed by numbers. You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight after all. And a lot of people in Night City own guns.
There is also hacking, commonly ‘quick hacks’ in the game. The easiest way I can describe this is like Lockpicking in Skyrim or Fallout. If you have it, you can open more doors to loot and different areas than if you didn’t. Once you get better, you can access remote networks to scout enemy locations with their own security cameras.
Get really creative, and you can even hack enemies and/or their equipment. If you want to take on a squad of people with assault rifles with a katana, well that usually isn’t a good idea. But what if you know that all their weapons are jammed, and they don’t?
One fun thing I explored right near the end of one playthrough was getting people to shoot themselves – very handy to take out snipers while running through a mob of confused grunts.
Then there are your stats and perks.
The way you choose how to play and make your life easier playing that way is with your stats and perks. This is the most character customisation you have in Cyberpunk 2077. Think of it as how you do your character ‘build’.
I am going to gloss over the stats themselves. They are pretty standard stuff, and if you have played any other RPG, you know the drill. If you have a high enough intelligence, hacking is easier. Put points in your body (strength), you can carry more and punch harder.
What is more interesting for me is the perk system. These look complicated but are generally pretty easy to understand. Perks unlock bonuses for the play style you choose and reward you for doing those actions, allowing you to buy more perks.
For example, if you want to get extra money when hacking computers, you can get 50% bonus credits with a perk. Keep hacking, and you will earn another perk point to boost this to 100% bonus credit.
In a lot of ways, this is where the customisation of your character really comes into its own. Cyberpunk 2077 is also somewhat unique in that you can apply stat and perk points almost whenever you want. Wish you had one more point in cool to see what that dialogue option unlocks? As long as you have a free point, you can just apply it mid-conversation and continue the way you want to play.
As cool as it is, the perks can sometimes feel a little off. It might just be me.
One big downside to the perks system is you are kind of pointed at it then left alone. The details of what perks do or how it works are something you need to explore yourself. There are short descriptions of how things work, but trial and error is the only real way to see what you want to do.
This felt a bit off for me because some perks just didn’t seem to do what they said they did. It’s hard to tell if this is because of a bug, because I misused it or combined all of the above.
I am only mentioning this now because the system has many possibilities, and I genuinely had a lot of fun experimenting. But when you grind for a couple of hours for perk points, and you can’t see any difference, it can be frustrating.
The story is reasonably open and lets players make choices, but it comes down to your definition of ‘open’.
I am going back and playing the first two Witcher games because the choices you made had broad gameplay consequences that carried between games. The easiest example of this is The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings. To this day, many players don’t realise that depending on a single choice, half the game world was cut off to them.
I bring this up the Witcher because my impression so far is this is missing in Cyberpunk 2077. You pick a starting choice mission, which guides you into a common starting point. You then choose how much of the game you want to play, but you will always be pushed to a single ‘this is the end’ moment.
Now, the endings can change. But how this plays isn’t super dependent on how you played the main game. It doesn’t mean that your choices don’t matter, just it’s clear where your choices impact the storyline and where they didn’t.
The Witcher was a world of grey choices. There was rarely a ‘right’ answer. Compromises and consequences were often clouded until you had to deal with them.
In Cyberpunk 2077, this story style is still present, it’s just not as well woven into the gameplay. This doesn’t mean that Cyberpunk 2077’s story is terrible by any means – it’s different. Without significant changes to the game as a whole, I don’t see how this can be improved. This is ‘fix in the sequel’ territory.
All of that said, you will have very different experiences depending on how you play. Suppose you just concentrate on the main story quests. In that case, your experience will be very different from trying to finish every mission in the game.
And the game doesn’t force you to play one way or another. Want to knock the story over in 15 hours? You can do that. Want to explore every nook and cranny of Night City? You are covered as well.
The players’ choices in what missions they take create the game’s open story style, rather than the decision based narrative choice path. This is something very different from what I have come to expect from CD Projekt Red. Not worse, just different.
So should I play Cyberpunk 2077?
Short version – Yes. Maybe not now, though.
If you can play it on PC, you will have the best experience. Even on my laptop with a 1660Ti, it ran well. Yes, I had to knock down the visual effects, but the game still looked beautiful.
If you want to play on a console and/or willing wait for the best experience, hold off for at least 6 months. The lauded Witcher 3 had even worse issues when it was first released. Still, CD Projekt Red has a history of fixing their games to become gems in the end.
Personally, I might jump back in to continue from my post-game save point after the upcoming January and February patches. But in say July depending on development progress, I will play again on my PlayStation 5 and most likely aim for the Platinum trophy. I still haven’t looked at what is required for that yet.
Cyberpunk 2077 launched with a lot of issues – no one is denying this. But this isn’t unusual for the company, and their track record of repairing their games is solid so far. Even the relatively minor updates in the last four weeks have had an enormous impact on the game.
If I had to make a comparison, Cyberpunk 2077 is like the original Witcher game for me. It’s good, but it’s not as good as the other games. Night City feels fantastic and huge, but the story and some gameplay elements don’t match the previous Witcher series standards.
When the planned major patches have come out, I can’t wait to play through the entire game again. I will probably go for the Platinum trophy and switch from my PC, so a completely new run.
When all is said and done, I don’t think there is a better way to judge a games worth than that.
- Night City feels huge and multiple ways to explore
- Stays faithful to Cyberpunk RPG roots
- Lots of facets to explore, such as perks and crafting
- Graphically impressive
- Lots of issues on release, especially console
- Branching narrative not as deep as previous CD Projekt Red games
- Melee and Driving controls feel awkward
Until next time,