It’s very difficult to review a game which is being updated almost daily, but Cyberpunk 2077 warrants the assessment given the scope, scale, and expectation that the game carried for over 6 years while in development. To say the game has had a shaky launch is an understatement, but with all the controversies and back-and-forth, is the game beneath all the chaos something to consider?
One thing that is Cyberpunk‘s greatest blessing and the curse is its loose affiliation to CD Projekt Red’s most famous creation, The Witcher 3. Since its reveal, Cyberpunk 2077 has been hailed as “the next game from the guys who made The Witcher 3“. Yeah, that’s a lot to live up to, right? This immediately made people think it will be similar to that of The Witcher‘s third instalment. Yes, Cyberpunk 2077 is an open-world action-RPG, but to be fair, it’s nothing like The Witcher 3, and that might be the first step in appreciating it for what it is.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a far more direct and cinematic approach than that of The Witcher 3. The game world is massive, the city is dense and packed full of NPCs, but the game is more of a love-letter to older-generation RPGs, like that of Vampire: The Masquerade and Deus Ex. Of course, it has a new, shiny next-gen coat of paint, with top-notch animations and visuals, with some spectacular set-pieces in tow, but it’s a lot ‘smaller’ of a package in terms of the way missions (and the game in general) plays out.
The missions tend to take you on the scenic route around the spectacularly-detailed city and surrounding dust-filled badlands; and once you’ve reached your target, there’s often a lot of shooting that goes down. The combat itself will feel incredibly familiar to anyone who’s played a first-person shooter, but there is a notable ‘weight’ to the gunplay and movement, which does make it feel a bit more deliberate and tactical, rather than a spray-and-pray type experience. It’s not as snappy as something like Call of Duty, but each weapon packs a hefty punch and the sensation of head-shotting a shotgun-wielding bandit is always satisfying.
Where the combat feels lacklustre, though, is in the melee attacks. While the game was initially associated with cool-looking mantis blades and some futuristic fisticuffs, the truth is that these moments just don’t feel so great. Striking feels off and triggered-animations never seem to line-up correctly; thankfully, you can almost always just rely on your firearms, but it is a sad note to know that the brawling mechanics are not up to scratch.
Like any RPG, there are some perks and a skill-tree to buff up your abilities, and Cyberpunk does offer some variety in this regard, which does well to mix up the gameplay styles. From faster health regeneration and more damage with certain weapons to a slow-mo ability and less fall-damage, there are a lot of ways you can customise your Cyberpunk 2077 experience; and thankfully, they really do change the way you can play, giving you some serious replay value. If you want to go more of a hacking-route ala Watch Dogs, there is the ability to do that, whereas if you want to be a gun-toting killing machine, the game gives you the tools to be that too.
Of course, it’s hard not to talk about the bugs. Throughout my playthrough, I was fortunate enough not to encounter any game crashes and game-breaking bugs, however, there were notable visual and physics-based hiccups: cars falling through the ground, enemies clipping through walls, and the occasional texture just choosing not to load. These things didn’t ruin the experience by any means, but they did stand out like sore thumbs in a game that’s otherwise dripping with production quality. It’s one of those things: the shinier the car, the more the scratches stand out.
In its entirety though, Cyberpunk 2077 is a great game. It may not be like a futuristic Witcher (which may be what most people were expecting, and the cause for confusion), but it’s a dense, story-driven experience that allows you to stumble around a large open-world, indulge in some fun gunplay, and delivers an interesting yet indulgent story that’ll keep you hooked until the end.
Disclaimer: We played most of Cyberpunk 2077 after the 1.06 patch.