Review: Cyberpunk 2077 will be a great video game, someday

Review: Cyberpunk 2077 will be a great video game, someday
Photo credit: CD Projekt Red

That Cyberpunk 2077 hasn't lived up to the insane hype heaped upon it shouldn't surprise anyone, but the sheer extent of its technical issues certainly should.

There's an incredible game buried in this mess yet every time it shoots for the moon, the moon fails to load, leaving players to land among the poorly rendered stars.

Cyberpunk's problems are particularly galling considering the formerly impeccable reputation of its creator, CD Projekt Red, which raked in immense profits and prestige with its universally adored Witcher franchise. 

The studio cultivated a reputation as a consumer friendly upstart in an industry plagued by ugly business practices from money-hungry corporate monoliths. Now it's delivered a game that's barely playable on the consoles it was specifically developed for over nearly a decade, amid accusations of soul-crushing crunch for their workers.

Broken games are nothing new but the gap between what was promised with Cyberpunk and what has been delivered is particularly stark. And it sucks, because when it works, this game really works

So let's look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Cyberpunk 2077.

The Good

Review: Cyberpunk 2077 will be a great video game, someday
Photo credit: CD Projekt Red

Cyberpunk's strengths are its story and its setting. Night City is a neon whirlwind of chrome-plated chaos and the narrative which unfolds there is immersive and unpredictable in a way I've yet to experience anywhere else. 

Imagine what games like Fallout dream of being on their most aspirational days and that's what Cyberpunk delivers; at least when running as it should. Which, as we'll talk about later, isn't often. 

Players take the role of V, a mercenary out to claw their way from the gutters to become a Night City legend at any cost. One of the icons they hope to emulate is Johnny Silverhand, a rockstar/terrorist played with immense swagger and endearingly hammy acting by the internet's boyfriend, Keanu Reeves

Johnny is now a digital ghost living in your head, invisible to every other character but sporadically appearing to offer snide commentary or generally encourage violence as events unfold. 

Your relationship with Johnny is the core of Cyberpunk's story and the game's most interesting mechanic. Without giving away too much, Johnny isn't a welcome guest in your brain, at least initially, and may even seek to seize control if you reject his wishes. 

Your choices will determine whether you become begrudging buddies or descend into Fight Club-esque mayhem with two minds struggling for control of a single body. 

So-called 'branching narratives' are frequently just a gimmick in game stories - either a few options thinly disguised as different but inevitably leading to the same result, or a giant neon sign blaring 'Key decision here! Better save!'.

With Cyberpunk, important choices aren't always apparent. Actually taking time to have seemingly irrelevant conversations could reveal crucial information which totally changes the course of a later mission, but only if you're paying attention.

But, alas, all the while you're enjoying the richness of the story, the game is constantly getting in its own way.

The Bad

I believe this is not what the game is supposed to look like.
I believe this is not what the game is supposed to look like. Photo credit: Youtube/Mike Does Life

As I've already said, and has been thoroughly memed by the internet at large, Cyberpunk is phenomenally buggy.

I was lucky enough to be playing on PlayStation 5, which smoothed some of the roughest edges but I still encountered a shocking number of issues.

Some are merely comical, some are infuriating and all detract from the experience. A sample of those experienced within a single day of play include:

  • I try to farewell a dying friend as he slowly melts through the car seat beneath him

  • I inherit a motorcycle from that friend, drive it out of the garage and promptly fall through the pavement into a screaming void

  • A newly introduced villain ominously butchers an invisible chicken while attempting to be threatening

  • Johnny Silverhand delivers a scorching monologue while multiple cigarettes fall out of his eyes

The bugs go beyond immersion-breaking to play-ending with frustrating regularity. I have not had a single session of Cyberpunk without my game hard crashing on multiple occasions. A forgiving autosave keeps me from losing too much of my progress, but it's infuriating every time. 

Beyond these most glaring faults, a general lack of polish and thin AI make Night City sometimes feel like a beautiful coat of paint thinly stretched over a very creaky foundation. 

A fully optimised, next-gen version of the game will be released sometime next year and my only hope now is that I fall down some stairs, give myself localised amnesia and experience that as my first playthrough instead.

And yes, I hear you, bugs in ambitious open world games are nothing new. Iconic series such as the Elder Scrolls and even The Witcher had their fair share. But Cyberpunk's go well beyond par for the course.

They are even harder to stomach when you consider CD Projekt's messaging in the lead up to launch.  

The Ugly

CD Projekt Red's full statement.
CD Projekt Red's full statement. Photo credit: CD Projekt Red

Here's a press release that hasn't aged well.

"Those of you who are familiar with how we make video games know we will not ship something which is not ready," the studio said back in June after announcing the second of what would become four delays to the game's initial April release date.

It continued: "'Ready when it's done' is not just a phrase we say because it sounds right, it's something we live by even when we know we'll take the heat for it."


To make things worse, the company clearly knew about all the issues I've outlined before launch and only sent out review codes for PC, a platform on which the game is more stable, and did everything it could to hide the game running on consoles.

The studio was in such a rush to get the game out before Christmas, it only added an adequate epilepsy warning after an early sequence caused a reviewer to have an actual seizure.

And look, I have no doubt this game will be well supported into the future, and the most egregious problems will be methodically patched from existence. CD Projekt Red has already held an emergency investors call, with executives reportedly saying money is no object next to 'restoring their reputation'.

However, I'm positive money is precisely the object of restoring their reputation. With a full multiplayer mode already in production, I think the future CD Projekt Red is aiming for is obvious -  to make the world of Cyberpunk into a financial juggernaut like Grand Theft Auto Online

GTA V's multiplayer mode has been absurdly profitable, helping make the product become the most lucrative single piece of media ever produced. Cyberpunk has a long way to go before catching up to its rival, but with over eight million units shipped in pre-sales alone, not having the funds to fix it is clearly no excuse. 

I personally have no doubt Cyberpunk 2077 will be a spectacular video game one day, it's just a shame that eight years after it was announced, we still have a while to wait for that great game even after its release.