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Alexander Skogberg

UX, Web & Writing

Promo artwork for Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunked – Thoughts on the future of the hyped CD Projekt Red video game

The long-awaited video game Cyberpunk 2077 has been met with harsh critique prompting an apology from its studio CD Projekt Red. Will this game ever come to deserve its initial hype?

In the early months of 2017 I finally sank my teeth into The Wither 3: Wild Hunt. With over 800 awards to its name this epic action role-playing game based on the work by Polish fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski offered a magical gaming experience.

While not being the first game from CD Projekt Red (CDPR), The Witcher 3 was definitely the title that established the Polish studio as one of the top game development studios in the business.

The Wither 3 protagonist Geralt of Rivia relaxing in a bathtub.
The Wither 3 protagonist Geralt of Rivia relaxing in the game’s opening scene.

When The Witcher 3 was released in 2015 Cyberpunk 2077 had already been announced for three years. In this role-playing shooter based on the tabletop game by Mike Pondsmith we would get to explore the futuristic, ultra-capitalistic and dangerous Night City as V – a character we would get to create ourselves.

One of several trailers for Cyberpunk 2077.

Broken graphics on consoles

Leading up to its release there was no shortage of jaw-dropping videos of Cyberpunk 2077 running on high-end PCs. However, no footage of the game running on PS4 or Xbox One was shown.

Once the game was out on December 10 the Internet was immediately flooded with video revealing the poor state of the game running on last generation consoles. After four days CDPR issued an apology on the game’s official Twitter account.

Some argue poor graphics are to be expected on an old console, but recent games like The Last of Us: Part II and Ghost of Tsushima prove the PS4 still can deliver greats visuals at a solid frame rate.

Apart from this issue, several reviews of the PC version also highlighted the many game-breaking bugs plaguing the user experience.

Video of Cyberpunk 2077 on last generation consoles.
The apology from CDPR.

One can only speculate about the internal politics at CDPR prior to the release of Cyberpunk 2077, but the studio obviously knew what they were doing by only giving reviewers access to the PC version of the game. Interesting though, CDPR joint-CEO Adam Kicinski said the game ran surprisingly well on both PS4 and Xbox One during an investor call last month.

Deep core issues

Looking past the subpar graphics and bugs Cyberpunk 2077 still has deep core issues that must be dealt with, for example its Artificial Intelligence (AI). Compared to other open-world games like Red Dead Redemption 2, the game feels dated concerning its non-player characters (NPCs).

Parking your car in the streets of Night City will stop NPC drivers behind it until you move it. All the cars in the game seem to travel on predetermined paths without any AI for handling unexpected situations like sudden stops, car crashes and shootouts. AI for the game’s police force is just as bad. Commit a crime and police will simply spawn right next to you. Cyberpunk 2077 has nothing similar to the wanted system found in Rockstar titles such as GTA V and Red Dead Redemption 2.

Another core issue is the lack of immersion. While Cyberpunk 2077 gives you a mesmerizing first impression (on high-end PCs), you quickly notice that its world is far from as lively as you would expect from an open-world game in 2020. Night City offers gun shops, street fights, clothing stores and so called ripperdocs (for cyberware implants). But you won’t find any gambling, interactive arcade machines, plastic surgeons, hair dressers or other fun lightweight stuff to waste your time with.

Not being able to alter the looks of your character after creating it is very weird since it was big part of the game’s marketing. Was it cut?

Apart from these issues, I’ve also read about disappointment with the role-playing aspect of the game. Apparently, your choices don’t seem to matter as much as promised. Since I haven’t even finished the prologue I really don’t know, but I sure was let down that my choice of lifepath was so shallow. After only about one hour of gameplay (and a short video montage) it was over and I was suddenly a seasoned criminal in Night City. Missed potential for sure.

What’s next for Cyberpunk 2077?

When The Witcher 3 was released in 2015 it was far from the polished version I finished in 2017. Concerning Cyberpunk 2077 CDPR seem to have a much larger and more difficult task at their hands that also extends beyond the game.

The many game-breaking bugs and broken graphics on last generation consoles will definitely be sorted out early next year. But when that’s done the game still needs significant updates and additions to its core design and content to surpass (or at least match) other open-world games such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Fallout 4 and the seven year old GTA V.

I believe that the developers at CDPR are nowhere to be blamed in all of this. The have been forced to crunch for far too long with three postponements of the game’s initial release date of April 16. With three planned patches until February just for fixing the graphics and performance for the console versions of the game they sure got their work cut out for them. Let’s hope they don’t have to suffer so much more due to the likely management issues at CDPR. At least they’ll get their bonuses regardless of the game’s Metacritic score.

I recently returned my copy of Cyberpunk 2077 for a refund and I think it’s safe to say it’s gonna take much more than a graphics update for me to return to Night City on my Playstation 4.

/Alex

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