Following the trend of games releasing nearly a decade after their announcement, CD Projekt RED‘s Cyberpunk 2077 is here. The project is a massive undertaking and truly an ambitious role-playing game; I’d say ambitious for a sandbox game if I’m honest. While controversy after controversy runs rampant about the company’s handling of the IP, the game speaks for itself. It is a wonder – A bug-ridden one, but a wonder no less. Let’s talk about the last big game of 2020! Here’s my Cyberpunk 2077 review.
Notes: My review is of the Xbox One version of Cyberpunk 2077 being played on the Xbox Series X through backward compatibility. Also, I’m doing the review entirely from the Nomad perspective. The final review score will reflect the game as it runs on the Xbox Series X.
Cyberpunk 2077 sets you up as V, and it’s up to you to decide how he fits into the world by choosing his life path. The choice is not frivolous, either. Your choice affects the lot in life V comes from, as well as what kind of dialogue you access. This ultimately puts us in control of V’s backstory. So, what are those options?
V’s Life Paths
This is the life path I chose, and the only one that allows you to start outside of Night City. Nomads start in the Badlands, the vast desert plains outside of Night City. Think Mad Max or Borderlands for the aesthetic. Familial bonds contribute to their survival chances in the unforgiving wasteland. They are tight-knit clans, many of which belong to separate “Nations.” What truly separates them from the rest is their preference to defy the structural order set up by corporations and street gangs. Freedom, integrity, and a drive to do good is their style.
This version of V grew up on the streets of Night City; therefore, he knows how it works. With a network of contacts and street smarts, a Street Kid navigates the community as one expects. He works with gangs, opposes Corpos, and puts himself at odds with the police. He knows the people who occupy the streets, has intel about black market dealings, and is no stranger to the Night City gangs.
Here, V is essentially corporate scum! He’s comfy with boardroom executives and the upper echelon. V starts as an Arasaka Corporation employee, and he wants to climb up the corporate ladder. It’s all he knows – Getting ahead at the expense of others. Once his boots are on the ground, he’s clueless as to how the rest of the world works. They may lack street smarts or loyalty, but Corpos know how to spot dialogue trickery. After all, it’s their specialty. Don’t worry, though. The significance of the life path choice only touches the narrative, not the gameplay. Players won’t find themselves locked out of certain abilities or weapons. It’s the spice of life in this dreary, neon-littered future.
But what is Cyberpunk 2077 about?
The prologue of the game has hours of content, and it serves as a great introduction to the type of world we will operate in. No matter your life path, V makes contact with Jackie Wells. Nomad V meets him in the Badlands, all for the sake of getting to Night City to make a name for themselves. After a few missions, you’re treated to a montage of V and Jackie’s early exploits in Night City. It makes me wonder if there was a longer prologue, as we’re not certain of the identities of the characters featured. Yet, they become important.
The direction the story is taking you isn’t clear at first. In fact, Act I of the game doesn’t even begin right away. I was surprised to see a title screen after 5+ hours. Once it does, we finally know what we’re dealing with. CD Projekt RED details it as ‘stealing the implant that grants eternal life.’ Unfortunately for V, this boils down to implanting a biochip in his head, unknowingly infecting himself with the engram of deceased rocker and terrorist Johnny Silverhand. If he cannot find a way to have it removed, it will overwrite his identity with Silverhand’s; something neither can control.
It’s also about the world V lives in. Night City is a ruthless place that requires change, and people who were once reporters and actors are deep in the neon-colored grime. They’ve shifted with the world, and that much I can truly appreciate.
Campaign and Side Missions
I’m used to following one campaign mission chain and running off to distract myself with side missions. Cyberpunk 2077 gives us three main quests and an insurmountable amount of side missions. They follow a repetitive formula, but some side missions lead to entirely different quest chains. In one side-mission, I joined some guy on a lofty revenge mission, thinking it’d be pretty cut and dry. Well, it shifted into a different storyline that left me with new contacts. The appeal here is never knowing which side mission will add more depth to the game.
As for the sizeable map, there’s a fast travel mechanic that makes getting from point a to point be easy. Try not to neglect trekking on foot. Who knows what you will find?
Braindance Missions standout
One type of mission that I thoroughly enjoy is called a Braindance. A Braindance, BD for short, is a neural interface that lets users experience another person’s digitized memories. This paves the way for legitimate business practices and illicit braindance recordings (XBDs). An in-game mission shows that some BD productions are putting actors in staged situations. This gives more credence to false memories, allowing a person to live through a “movie experience.”
V employs it for intel before he throws himself to the wolves. With this practical use, V utilizes analysis mode to get full camera control of the memory. Be that as it may, control still limits what can be learned; If the memory’s subject doesn’t have something in their line of sight, you can’t scan it for clues. There are also three layers you can switch between: Visual, Thermal, and Audio.
Some of the shadier people in Night City use illegal BDs that contain the death of the braindancer. For many, living this content is enough to stop the heart of the viewer.
The combat in Cyberpunk 2077 is satisfactory. When a game like this comes out, I’m cautious about the gunplay; If it isn’t up to par with most games, the title can fall flat. Luckily, this was some of the most accurate, responsive shooting I’ve experienced outside of a dedicated first-person shooter. There’s also a healthy supply of grenades and healing stems to help out.
Cyberpunk’s spin on its firearms is another place it shines. Sure, you have your low caliber weaponry, but each weapon operates under 3 archetypes:
Power: Weapons that fire projectiles capable of ricocheting off walls.
Tech: Weapons that can charge and penetrate hard surfaces, perfect for people behind cover.
Smart: Weapons that have a homing system built into them. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’re in the Wanted movie, these are the way to go.
Even the 7 melee weapons have their own archetypes, though only two: Sharp and Blunt. Melee is covered under its own mechanics that involve dodging, blocking, and countering. That’s certainly more than the typical “Press L3 for a melee attack.” While that’s in the game, the added focus on close-quarters combat is not what I expected.
Hacking contributes to combat
We spend our time infiltrating heavily guarded facilities, breaking into apartments, and generally trying to become the best in Night City. Hacking plays just as strong a hand as the other RPG elements if you want it to. Since this is a game all about choice, you can ignore hacking entirely, although it makes for a tougher time.
Data mining for Eurodollars (Eddies) and components is one piece of the larger picture. At its most useful, hacking can disrupt an opponent’s cyberware, temporarily jam their weapons, among other negative effects. It’s also useful in shutting down surveillance cameras and turrets; Likewise, hacking can turn these into your allies. Last, and certainly not least, is the ability to tamper with devices to distract your enemies.
Stealth could use some fine tuning
There’s nothing bad about how Cyberpunk utilizes stealth. It’s been done before, and there’s nothing revolutionary about how it works here. V’s cybernetics allow him to tag enemies and hackable objects, but that doesn’t change the formula: Sneak behind an enemy to knock them out or kill them and then dump their bodies in a freezer or dumpster. That’s it.
At odds with the Police
The citizens of Night City aren’t the only people knee-deep in the criminal world. V is perfectly capable of drawing the attention of the cops, too. If you stand close to them for too long, they will attack. Commit a crime, and they will come running, trying what they can to take you down. Similar to Grand Theft Auto, your criminal actions earn stars. At 4 stars, they pull out all the stops. So, remember how I said I put down that Ripperdoc? They responded.
As thrilling as that sounds, this function is a little broken.
If you cause a stir, you won’t wonder where the cops are for long; They will begin teleporting to your position, right in front of your eyes. There’s no search, on foot or otherwise, and they don’t care if you’re in the Badlands or a narrow hallway. It’s not being reported as a glitch, so I consider it one of the areas that need improvement.
There are so many elements to this game
It’s almost overwhelming how much goes into V’s progression. From leveling up to gathering new equipment, the RPG elements are vast. It’s daunting at first, hence the hours needed to become familiar with it all. After 30+ hours, though, I can say there are still things I have yet to experience; Not mechanics, but certain cybernetic upgrades. I’ll begin with the basics.
Leveling up and attribute point distribution
There are three main focuses for gaining experience: Your character level, your street cred, and your skill.
As far as character leveling goes, anyone familiar with Skyrim’s leveling system will feel right at home, for the most part. As your level increases, you will gain one attribute point to increase your base stats by nominal margins. These are the foundation of the character’s growth.
Reflexes determine your maneuverability, in addition to increasing your overall movement speed.
Body determines your raw physical power and your HP.
Cool determines your resilience, composure, and effectiveness in operating from stealth.
Intelligence determines your netrunning/hacking proficiency.
Technical Ability represents your technical know-how. It allows you to unlock doors and use Tech weapons. Each increase in level will increase your armor by 5%.
Skills and Perk Points
Skills are the sub-categories for attributes. V learns by doing. The more you use submachine guns, the more that skill will level up. Every action you take is steadily earning V skill experience. Once those skills level up to a certain point, you’ll earn perk points to unlock passive abilities. The grey ones are above my current attribute level. In this case, my “Cool” attribute is 5, thereby locking me out of perks that require a higher level.
Only perk points can be reset, but it costs a whopping $100,000 eddies. That’s a big ask, considering everything else we’re tempted to buy.
The street cred stat rises based upon the actions you take. Whether you’re taking out gang members or performing odd jobs for Fixers, your street cred will naturally increase. In increasing this, vendors will stock their inventory with new items for purchase.
Adding another component to our customization is Cyberware. By visiting the game’s various Ripperdocs – legal and shady – V can install cybernetic prostheses. At the beginning of the game, this is a system that sees little usage. I did not start to invest in this until later, when attributes, street cred, and Eurodollars were at an acceptable level. These cannot be changed on the fly, only by a Ripperdoc. However, you can install mods to your cyber implants.
The above is legitimately all I have with 32 hours in the game. That’s with a focus mainly on the campaign missions. As you can see, there’s my Kiroshi Optic and a host of effects. Each piece grants effects like this, depending on their color-coded rarity. Looking closer, you’ll see one blue dot and two green ones – Those are mods equipped to the Cyberware.
Cyberware isn’t just for status effects
Most of your Cyberware only grants passive abilities, but some change your playstyle. I’m talking about components like the Mantis Blade. Mantis blades are affixed to your arms, and they’re a brutal sight to behold.
There are a few others like the monowire, a melee weapon with an exceptional range that is more useful for stealth. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination, but there are others to discover. Don’t neglect leg cyberware, either. My slot may be empty, but the moment I get over $45,000, I’m going for a piece of cyberware that gives V the ability to double jump.
Mods on mods on mods
In the world of Cyberpunk, mods make the world go round. Of course, Cyberware can be enhanced with them, but so too can clothing, firearms, and your cyberdeck.
What is the Cyberdeck?
It wouldn’t be a futuristic, cyberpunk setting without the ability to hack. When I think about hacking, it takes me right back to playing the Deus Ex series. In Cyberpunk, your hacking abilities are tied to a piece of equipment called the Cyberdeck. They come with a RAM limit. These units are spent to perform quickhacks. Each cyberdeck comes with several quickhack slots to install hacking chips – These represent your hacking abilities.
The buffer size stat determines how many moves you can make during a Breach Protocol. V links himself to a terminal, a device, or an enemy to start a hacking mini-game. In it, the player decides which hack to complete based on the string of their sequence numbers. When used on an enemy, it allows you to lower the RAM cost of quickhacks against that individual.
The Crafting System
Ah, crafting. When I think about crafting, I picture my weapons’ full customization, down to the barrel, the paint job, etc. The same goes for clothes. In reality, most games settle for a simpler approach like Cyberpunk 2077 does. We’re able to buy crafting specs for our equipment and, after gathering enough resources, we craft the item. Certain perks unlock higher quality crafting abilities and will make crafted equipment stronger.
As a result, crafting doesn’t have much depth. Due to the setting, I imagine being able to piece together incredibly aesthetic weapons and clothing to separate my V from most players. We’re not so lucky, though a straight-forward system is nothing to scoff at. Dismantling items for their components are self-explanatory and the main way to gain crafting materials.
The upgrade function of crafting helps to keep our favorite weapons and clothing up-to-date.
The small details make the game
CD Projekt RED seeks to drop us into a living, breathing world. To a point, they have succeeded. The world around you is alive in the most minute of ways; Ladders creek haphazardly in the wind, AC units blow audibly, and the people are living their best worst lives. I’ve found citizens pulled over by the police, as well as gang members partying out in the Badlands. There are live crimes in progress, vehicles that many of your companions will offer up for sale, and so much more.
Creating all new music for the game’s world lends to its realism. Artists such as Run the Jewels, A$AP Rocky, and Grimes appear in the game. Each artist/band isn’t known by their real-world names, instead portraying new, in-game musicians. Unfortunately, there’s no in-game tool to research the name of the band or song.
The game handles dialogue and our actions very well. Games like Jade Empire and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic made dialogue wheels, and multiple choices welcomed mechanics. Some options may only have slight variances, but they serve to establish whom you want V to be. For example, I talked to a disgusting Ripperdoc, and while you can choose to talk/interrogate him and then leave, I knocked him out. This led to a small consequence for myself and the NPC: I couldn’t purchase his cybernetics, so I killed him, removing him from my V’s playthrough. No, I didn’t restart to undo the decision.
Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand
I assumed Keanu’s role to be a cameo here and there, but he is heavily involved in the narrative. What appears to be an antagonistic relationship between V and Silverhand becomes amicable. It’s an interesting dynamic to watch unfold as both consider the implications of their fate. Are V’s choices his, or are they influenced by Silverhand? On the flip side, expect the occasional ridicule. Johnny Silverhand is no stranger to contempt, and if he doesn’t care for something you’re doing, he’ll tell you. He is angry, he is radicalized, and the game is all the better for it.
Cyberpunk 2077’s romance is not groundbreaking
Many RPG games are including romance options to simulate reality. It’s a huge draw for people, especially when we grow to care for the characters. Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t change much about it. There are a handful of characters to romance, and the game makes it fairly easy to ‘succeed’. I think CDPR took a step back regarding relationships.
Mass Effect’s relationships bled over into the next game, and if Shepard wasn’t faithful, that comes up. As far as I’m aware and have experienced, V can romance anyone. They can romance two men and two women, depending on the voice and body type you choose at the beginning. The characters are so well-written and voiced that I can’t complain too much.
If you don’t want to bother with the limited dating pool, help V get their fix by visiting Jig-Jig Street. There are a few Joytoy’s, Sex Workers who are happy to ask no questions for 100 Eddies. There are many other characters you encounter whom you can sleep with, but no more than that.
Now for the bad
Why do video games always get this wrong? Managing V’s inventory is truly a cumbersome. The first Mass Effect tried to give us too much with a limited system to manage it, and CDPR repeats that here. That’s just the firearms inventory, so expect the rest to get out of hand. To make matters worse, there’s no way to group items for a mass dismantle. Creating a functional, satisfying way to handle our items should be the standard for every company by now.
We’re all aware of the glitches that exist in Cyberpunk 2077, at least on the We’re all aware of the glitches that exist in Cyberpunk 2077, at least on the consoles. I’m not here to review CDPR, though, only the bugs I encountered. On the Xbox Series X, my experience is not an ‘unplayable’ one. In fact, most of the glitches draw a good laugh. Still, this is a massive game, and if I’m going to cover the good, I have to touch on a few gripes.
During one of the missions, I attempted to enter a building through the window, only to be teleported 200km away. It could have been worse, except it reoccurred several times before I was successful. Another example of this came from me trying to climb a building; The game reacted by dropping me in the water for a 600km swim back to the land.
The audio is known not to drop out but to glitch to a point where all music is one messed up tone. It remedies itself fairly quickly, so far. Unfortunately, the dialogue isn’t safe; When talking to one of V’s fixers, none of her lines came through, nor did her subtitles. V continued to speak to her without any trouble, and I was able to continue the mission.
The worst bugs, in my opinion
If I had to choose the most annoying glitch, it would be between these two: The inability to sprint or equip/unequip items without closing, and then re-entering the menu. Although, I did witness one instance where a character did not fully render for a split second. Now I know what Xbox One and PS4 owners are dealing with daily.
I’m not done yet. When stealing someone’s car, please pay attention to whether or not they have a passenger. Sometimes, the passenger runs for cover. Other times, they disappear in an instant. Similarly, I opened the game to witness characters and vehicles despawn, leaving one citizen strolling the street. This man clearly escaped Thanos’ snap.
Cyberpunk 2077 is truly one of the best games I’ve played this year from an entertainment standpoint. There are a lot of systems at work, and they’re bound to conflict with one another at some point. Still, the bugs and glitches on the Xbox Series X are minimum. There’s nothing game-breaking nor rage-inducing enough for me to toss this game out.
Despite it being one of the best games I have played recently, the console versions need polish. Now, I won’t ignore that the game is unplayable on the Xbox One and the PS4. CDPR will release a patch on December 21st that will, hopefully, remedy many frustrations. After all, people want to be able to play this game. It may be the new benchmark for PCs, but when a game is slated to release on a machine, it’s expected to work.
All the controversy aside, this is a game that deserves your time. It’s my sincere hope that CDPR rebuilds trust with the angriest of fans so they can enjoy this title. Now, back to the mean streets of Night City, chooms!