Cyberpunk 2077 PS5/Xbox Series X Review – Overcoming Circumstance

    Title: Cyberpunk 2077
    Developer: CD Projekt RED
    Release Date:
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: CD Projekt RED
    Genre: Open-World, RPG

I’m the type of writer who often preludes his reviews with background information, but Cyberpunk 2077 is perhaps the most notorious game of the decade. Of course, you probably already know the entire story behind this title, so instead, I’ll offer my reasoning for why I felt that Cyberpunk needed a full re-review.

Despite owning it since launch, I actually waited to play it, knowing that eventually a finished product will be released and optimized for new console hardware. Based on the changelog presented for the accompanying Patch 1.5 (and the mind-boggling fifty-gigabyte size), it’s time to see what CD Projekt Red has in store.

A typical image of Night City in Cyberpunk 2077. Note the lighting improvements.

Improving the driving mechanics, adding additional vehicles and apartments, and reworking the perk system were just a few significant changes that came to Cyberpunk. As a result, I’m engaging with this title for the first time in 2022 and here to document how I feel as if this were a brand-new game.

Unfortunately, the problem with Cyberpunk 2077 is that it really can’t be divorced from what we now know about the way it launched. The truth is that this is the state this game should have initially been released in. Further, it should have only launched on next-generation consoles, to begin with. Instead, Cyberpunk’s developers have spent the last year and a half working on a game that had already been released, rather than one that could still be broken and fixed internally. Much of what the game still is today is indicative of a title that was rushed out long before it was fully formed.

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While Cyberpunk on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S is far more stable and polished than the previous console iterations, it’s still not perfect, and I experienced three complete crashes in my time that required a full system restart. In addition, there are still a lot of texture pop-in issues and strange world behavior that seem to be a result of the engine not being fully equipped to handle a title like this.

But really, it’s not just the bugs. During my time with Cyberpunk, the game that I kept coming back to in my head was Bethesda’s Fallout 3, a title also infamous for both its numerous engine-related bugs and its failure to properly pay off many of its narrative beats. Cyberpunk feels like it was, during development, really shooting for New Vegas but wasn’t allowed to stay in the oven long enough.

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For every moment of genuinely excellent writing I observed in 2077, I found two or three underwhelming, abrupt, or nonsensical scenes that unfortunately took me just as off-guard. Of course, there are plenty of great moments where my character-building choices influenced what I was able to do in missions or conversations, but also plenty of other times where options that I was presented with simply didn’t matter.

One of the most frequent choices you’re given in any combat encounter is that of whether to kill or knock out your target…but the only aspect that this decision ever affects is, occasionally, your reward at the end of a questline. The first choice you’re given – that of V’s personal background – only alters the first half-hour or so of the game, and then afterward, it sometimes gives you additional dialogue options. It all reeks of a game that needed much more time before being pushed out.

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The scope of Cyberpunk seems to have been influenced by this deadline shift putting the game out eighteen months too soon, being pretty significantly cut down from The Witcher 3. Night City doesn’t feel small, but it does feel more limited than you’d expect, and despite an abundance of side content, the main campaign is surprisingly brief. Out of curiosity, I looked up where I was at one point and was shocked to see that I was most of the way through Act 2, and Act 3 is almost entirely the branched ending sequence.

Further, speaking of that side content, there’s much of it that feels surprisingly fleshed out and like it really should have been placed either in more prominent positions or made part of the main story. For example, there are four potential love interests, and you will only meet half of them in the campaign. Moreover, there are several moments with Johnny Silverhand – the second main character of the entire game – that are purely relegated to side quests, so without them, it feels like his relationship with V skips a bunch of steps.

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I’m eight hundred words into this review, and thus far, I’ve been pretty negative about Cyberpunk 2077…yet, right now, as I’m writing, I can’t deny that I want to go back in. I haven’t done nearly everything, and I haven’t explored to my heart’s content yet. A ton about this game compels me when I’m away, and I can’t deny that I’m having a fun time.

After some thought, I’ve realized that Cyberpunk ends up scratching much the same itch as any of the Bethesda Fallout games – being plunked down into a vast world full of possibilities and people and, frankly, stuff to pick up. If you love wandering around a big map and getting distracted by hol-up-a-minutes, there are worse ways to spend your time. I’ve enjoyed them more in this game than many others, and I want to see more of the massive spider-web of extra content offered. I’m not even close to hitting the level cap, and I would be extremely eager to see what kind of expansion content may manifest for Cyberpunk because Night City can always just be crammed with even more to do and even more stories to tell.

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While Cyberpunk 2077 will always be remembered as one of the most famous cases of mismanagement in video game history, it’s also going to carry the scars left by business people who prioritized their greed over necessity. However, I honestly feel that it’s at a point where if one were to somehow go in with full blinders on, they genuinely might not even notice the decent quality.

There are plenty of dropped or underexplored threads and lots of bugs still left to fix, but Cyberpunk is finally approaching what was initially promised to its audience. It’s certainly no Witcher 3. Still, for the first time, it feels like it’s crossed into the territory of a game worth getting lost in, with the potential for more polished additions in the future. In another universe, this was the original launch date for a much more feature-complete version. By contrast, in ours, Cyberpunk 2077 may finally be able to stand on its own feet as a solid gaming experience for those willing to give it a chance.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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