Cyberpunk 2077 has had quite the journey. When developer CD Projekt Red announced it back in 2013, it was a cool concept from the makers of The Witcher franchise. By the time Cyberpunk 2077 got a full trailer for E3 2018, CD Projekt Red’s reputation was sky-high following the 2015 release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which won game of the year awards and has sold 30 million copies.
A new IP from the studio behind The Witcher had fans excited, especially after those fancy trailers. What seemed like a sure thing has become an infamous story in video games. Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed three times in 2020 before finally releasing in a messy state. Its technical performance could be described as buggy, at best, and failed to live up to lofty expectations. It struggled to run on base PlayStation 4s and Xbox Ones despite the new generations of those consoles being extremely hard to find and only on the market for a month when Cyberpunk launched in December of 2020.
CD Projekt Red released next-gen versions of Cyberpunk 2077 for the PlayStation 5 and XBox Series S and X on Feb. 15, more than 14 months after its initial release. I played it on a PlayStation 5, having never played the game before. This is not a comprehensive review of a game that includes dozens of hours of content, but it is clear that Cyberpunk 2077 can capably run on a PlayStation 5. While there still are some bugs, the overall experience of the game does not suffer because of them. Night City, the host city to this first-person open-world action game, is beautiful, dense, detailed and a ton of fun to explore, even if the gameplay rarely goes beyond ordinary.
It’s funny playing and reviewing a game with such a backstory 14 months after launch. I was almost expecting it to blow up and be a buggy mess, waiting for a crash around every corner. But that’s why I waited and why reviewing the next-gen patch and its upgrades is relevant. For those of us without high-end PCs that apparently had fewer issues at launch, this signifies the launch of Cyberpunk 2077.
The first thing you do when starting up the game is create your character. There’s a detailed suite of options to make your version of V, the main character. The cyberpunk style combining punk rock with technology merging human and machine heavily influences the choices. You can even choose genitals, in full view in the character creator. There is some flexibility with genders as well. You can mix and match male or female voice, genitals and facial hair, for example, however you want.
Once getting through the opening missions, Cyberpunk 2077 takes you through a slew of tutorials. During the combat tutorial, a button prompt required to progress was non-responsive and I had to restart the game. At the time, I laughed. “Here we go,” I thought. However, that did not happen again.
Performance wise, that tutorial misstep was not a sign of things to come. Cyberpunk runs smoothly in terms of frame rate, at least to my eye, and while there are some weird bugs and glitches, they didn’t rise above what you would expect from a dense, detailed open-world game.
The thing is, the gameplay is nothing special. The shooting is ordinary. It reminded me of the Watch Dogs games, which also have hacking as a way to gain an upper hand in an encounter using the environment around you. Watch Dogs probably did the hacking side better, but in both games, shooting is the filler to get to everything else.
The depth in Night City is incredible though. There’s so much stuff everywhere. Night City is the star of the show and it is a heck of a star.
In the first few hours, I needed to go to a nightclub, but had to wait for it to open at 6 p.m. In the game. I could have skipped ahead time, but instead decided to just roam around the neighborhood to take in Night City. This is where Cyberpunk 2077 is at its best.
The city being a character is a common marketing trope for video games, but in this case, I could believe it. There are so many unique stores and people and just wandering down a street is fun. I loved seeing the design of how the walkways connect and how the futuristic tech influenced the overall look and layout of the city. Digital projections and neon colors are everywhere. Night City is a more colorful version of Blade Runner.
Aimlessly walking around Night City reminded me of times I have spent walking down The Strip in Las Vegas without a destination. Just taking in the glowing neon lights with activity around every corner. The density of people isn’t quite to that realistic level, even with the next-gen update. It felt like a weekday afternoon in Chicago all the time. Night City was always active, but rarely truly bustling. Still, the detail is incredibly impressive and awe-inspiring. Who needs the game when I can just be in this city and see what’s out there?
After a while I started to drive more as missions required me to go a few kilometers from where I was, but walking remained my preferred way to go for medium distance trips. The driving doesn’t feel great and I didn’t like any of the three cameras (which offered a first-person driver’s view and two chase cameras which I thought were too low).
Going through Night City you will hear ambient conversations that sometimes are amusing. Even if you don’t stop to listen, they add flavor and immersion. The immersion doesn’t go all the way though. The more I played, the more weird things I noticed. Night City is an incredibly impressive playground for a video game, but it is still a video game with familiar quirks. These obviously don’t rise to the level of important critiques, but do provide a sense of the depth that is there while still facing the limitations of a video game.
For example, the crosswalks are labeled digitally on the ground with green walk lights or red don’t walk lights. They don’t always sync up with the traffic lights or what the pedestrians do. Also, when another character is driving you somewhere, they will ignore every red light to get to the destination. Waiting in traffic isn’t exactly amusing in video games, and the rides can be entirely skipped when there isn’t a conversation, it is another reminder that this is a video game.
Similar to the gameplay, the story is a mostly generic version of something out of a Grand Theft Auto game. V is a mercenary and has to work with various allies to achieve goals of the story, while trying not to get double-crossed by the largely untrustworthy supporting cast. Some of the characters are believable and I wanted to see what was going to happen next in their story. It’s cool to have Keanu Reeves play an important role as Johnny Silverhands. Others were less original caricatures of a drug dealer, mercenary or mafia member.
Overall, Cyberpunk 2077 is a good game now. It is the first game that has caused the fan on my PS5 to run loud enough that I noticed it, so it is stressing the hardware to some extent, but it runs well. After where Cyberpunk was when it launched, that’s meaningful. The gameplay and story won’t live up to the hype it had built up before release, but if you like dense, open-world games and were intrigued by the cyberpunk style, this is an easy recommendation. However, it’s not quite a must-play.
A PlayStation 5 review key was provided for this review.