We’ve seen the Keanu Reeves memes, we’ve waited for eight years, but it’s finally here: CD Projekt Red has finally released the much-fabled Cyberpunk 2077 and there’s so much to talk about here that I’ve had to delay this review into the new year.

Announced initially in 2012, Cyberpunk 2077 is an action-role-playing game from the makers of The Witcher series that was touted to be a generation-defining game (or so was claimed by their marketing department and then broadcasted ad nauseam by fans over the course of almost a decade).

Cyberpunk 2077 over the past year alone had multiple delays, controversies due to allegations of crunch and transphobia, and one of the most turbulent launches in recent memory. But buried under the news, the memes, and the backlash of the launch there is a special game here with one of the most well-realized open-worlds I’ve ever played, and a cast of characters and stories that will keep you engaged through your entire stay in Night City.

Welcome to Night City

Much like the title itself, Cyberpunk 2077 falls into the Cyberpunk genre which is based on Mike Pondsmith’s original pen and paper campaign, Cyberpunk 2020 (which was also inspired by the original Ridley Scott classic, Blade Runner). The Cyberpunk universe is a neon-drenched world filled with glittering futuristic skyscrapers, body modifications, greedy corporations taking over the world, and a whole manner of violence tearing the world apart. We’ve previously seen worlds like this depicted in games like Deus Ex, Cloud Punk, Observer, and many more, but never at the scale of Night City.

A beautiful, hand-crafted city.

Cyberpunk 2077’s is a massive open-world where every street corner, road, and buildings feels handcrafted and impressively realized. The first moments when you walk out of your apartment block and see the bustling city in front of you is something I haven’t experienced since the original Grand Theft Auto III. For the first 20 or so hours of my playthrough, I avoided fast-travel points and made it a point to drive around everywhere. In fact over the course of my 50+ hours, I’ve fast-traveled only a handful of times.

Almost every corner of Night city feels unique, detailed, and bustling with character (just not its citizens).

Night City is a truly beautiful place to be, I just wish it gave us more of a reason to stay beyond the story and side-missions. One thing that is painfully lacking from the city is any sense of dynamic discovery: any interaction that isn’t with a painfully dumb pedestrian A.I., it’s usually marked by an icon on the map (more about this issue later in the review).

For the sake of this interview, it’s also important to mention the platforms that were used to test out the game: I primarily stuck with the PC version armed with an RTX 2060 Super, and one that was surprisingly shocking and changed the way I see consuming games in the future, the Google Stadia version. On PC, Cyberpunk has now made me a believer in ray tracing: Night City looks completely different when it’s enabled.

I’ve tried ray tracing on other games like Miles Morales and Legion, but this game is on another level and a showcase for the technology (if you can run it). While the game is stunning on PC, I have faced my share of strange bugs (T-poses and rendering blob cars), performance drops (60-45), but luckily no crashes or anything game-breaking.

RTX Showcase

From what I’ve researched, the next-gen consoles also handle the game’s demanding visuals well but please, do avoid the last-gen version of the game especially on base consoles. While CD Projekt Red is working on multiple patches for this version, as of right now the last-gen base console version is an unmitigated disaster.

It’s a shame really: marketing for the game showed it running well on consoles but ultimately they avoided giving review codes till the last minute to assess the last-gen consoles which I feel is unfair to both consumers and the developers who worked far too hard on this game (but like before, more on that later).

Two heads are better than none

Cyberpunk 2077’s world is both vast and intricately detailed, but it’s the story and dialogue that bring the world to life. The main story of Cyberpunk 2077 is a short, maybe too short, exploration of greed, death, and fitting into a world that is trying to reject you constantly.

Spoiler Alert

The story of Cyberpunk 2077 follows V, a person who can be tailored to who you want to be, and their dream of becoming a legendary mercenary in the last true megapolis in the world. Long story short, that does not go as planned as you’re left for dead after stealing an experimental biochip with what is essentially the soul of Johnny Silverhand (played by Keanu Reeves), a terrorist who blew up one of the corporation’s headquarters decades ago. It’s Johnny’s biochip in your head that saves you from a bullet to the head: the catch? his soul is now slowly taking over your body and you have to figure out how you can get him out.

Keanu Reeves’ “Johnny Silverhand” has a big mouth, and surprisingly, a big heart.

There’s a lot more to this surprisingly short campaign, but what is very evident is how well the characters are developed throughout the entire game. From the get-go, I did not like the voice-acting or dialogue choices for my version of V: he came off arrogant, annoying, and a typical thug.

As the story developed and your relationship with Johnny evolved, as well as interactions with other characters I could start sensing the change in V and how he started to become less about becoming a legend but more so coming to terms with his fate. V’s characterization was especially evident in a scene where he was conversing with a doll, a sex worker, about his life: this was one of the most memorable scenes I’ve ever played in a role-playing game where I had to choose how the conversation went.

Dialogue is well written and has an impact most of the time.

While the dialogue and characters are strong, there are some weak points: the dialogue does try too hard to be edgy with more F-bombs than actual bombs going off. Keanu Reeve’s character especially comes off as dated at the beginning of the game where some of the dialogue could have definitely used another set of eyes.

Luckily it does get offset by some truly great writing, and even Keanu Reeve’s character grows and even becomes relatable and someone you want to root for. Speaking of Keanu, I was surprised by how involved his character is outside of the main story, popping up in side-missions, gigs, and at random times: he was luckily not just a celebrity stunt, but a character who has a substantial role.

Merc Life

You’re V, a mercenary for hire who can choose how they want to get the job done. Are you someone who can talk their way out of situations and stealth? You can do that. Guns and swords? For sure. A fully modified human being that can obliterate any enemy in your path? If you have the eddies for it, and by that, I mean future money, then you can. Cyberpunk 2077 has a rich skill-tree that can be tailored to play your way. While I don’t personally know the viability of all of them, I do know that my playstyle has proven very effective.

My character half-way through my first run.

I’ve poured most of my points into net running which is the hacking of this universe, stealth, and engineering which allows me to move through most encounters without being seen, heard, or trifled with. This level of choice reminds me of an immersive sim like Deus Ex or Dishonoured where my playstyle allows me unique ways of approaching a scenario. Cyberpunk however does not have the same world-impacting as a typical immersive would have: it’s somewhere in the middle of a standard open-world game and the immersive sim genre in terms of how you interact with the world.

If you want to be an email reading, netrunner, pour your points into Intelligence.

This is especially exemplified by the overall poor A.I. in the game: enemies aren’t much of a threat when you get to a certain point and typically are not very complex, something that I feel has been an issue in most open-world games since the genre was conceived. While the enemy A.I. is serviceable, it’s the pedestrian and cop A.I. that feels painfully archaic.

To use Grand Theft Auto as an example again, world A.I. like someone walking on the street would typically have a range of reactions to how you interact with them: running away, fighting back, driving away. In Cyberpunk, unfortunately, the only reaction pedestrians have to literally anything you do is cowering in fear, and running away.

A bustling city full of idiotic A.I.’s.

I guess in the future the police have the ability to magically teleport right behind you as soon as you do anything illegal. More accurately, the police A.I. in the game is horrible broken making encounters with them a chore than something exciting like being on the run in past Grand Theft Auto games. While open-world A.I. hasn’t made much progress in the past decade, it’s even more disappointing to see Cyberpunk’s A.I. be this poor which breaks the immersion of an otherwise impressively simulated world.

Cyberpunk’s strength then is not in its artificial intelligence, but it’s organic relationship building through some truly excellent side-missions and characterization. Throughout your time in Night City, you will meet a host of interesting characters each with a unique story or chain of stories that you can take a part in. One of my favorites (and I’m pretty sure the internet) is Panam Palmer, a romanceable character who actually feels relatable and human.

From interacting with the character directly, through texts and just how her story unfolds, it reminds me of what CD Projekt Red’s does best: make us want to get to know these characters through their stories. On top of great characters, side-missions are unique and actually worth doing. Except for maybe Fallout and Skyrim, I haven’t played any other game where I actually wanted to do a side-mission for the story and not some arbitrary reward or grind requirement.

Panam Palker. Romanceable character/badass.

Goro Takemura. Badass, not romanceable (yes I’ve seen the tweets).

One of the most disturbing thought-provoking side-quests.

But if you do want to make money, get some shiny new guns, and grind to level up, the game also features gigs which are dumb, mindless missions where you’re rewarded for carrying out a rescue, robbery, or hit thanks to the many fixers that can hire you.

A Dark Future, with some hope

Cyberpunk 2077 is many things: it may not be the generation-defining game we’ve imagined in our heads, nor does it do anything new but it does do a lot of things in a way I wish more games did. I wish I cared more about characters in other open-world games the way I did in Night City.

I wish more cities felt like they were worth exploring every nook and cranny that was available to me. Most modern cities in gaming have always felt a little hollow until I ventured into Night City, but when I look closer, I’m also saddened by what it could have been with a bit more time and a lot less crunch by CD Projekt Red’s management and investors.

Plenty more places to see, things to do.

This game was clearly rushed out the gate when it wasn’t ready: it still putting on its shoes when it was told to run a marathon. When the game was delayed, fans were angered sending death threats to the developers, now that it launched prematurely, the same fans ask what happened. Cyberpunk 2077 is not a testament to what we perceive as a perfect game, but a reminder of the dangers of crunch that creatives face, unrealistic expectations by some gamers that value pixels over people, and a developer that promised too much, far too early.

Despite the controversy, the backlash, and turbulent launch, Cyberpunk 2077 is an excellent game where the first trip to Night City is more than worth it, and hopefully, the second trip months from now after many updates and patches, will be even better, but I think I’ll stick around just a bit longer.

Cyberpunk 2077 Review (PC/Stadia)
The Good
  • Incredible handcrafted world teeming with detail
  • Characters, dialogue and quests are excellent
  • Combat is fun, varied with ample choice
The Negative
  • Glitches, bugs, performance issues (no crashes)
  • Pedestrian, police A.I. is nearly non-existant
  • Some aspects of the game feel rushed.
9Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)
7.8

About The Author

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Sr. Staff Writer

Robin Ghosh (a.k.a. SpectreRobin) is a Sr. Staff Writer at GAW. He is a published writer, photographer, videographer and budding filmmaker and is currently the content director of TABOOZAPP. Having recently finished his masters in media production at Ryerson University, he is gearing up to take his career to the next level (ha, gaming pun). Robin is in love with role-playing games, sim-shooters like Deus Ex and Prey and has a soft spot for survival games like DayZ. He will play anything with a good story and a compelling world to explore. That being said no matter what year it is, he will probably at some point have a craving to play Skyrim again for the 3rd time..4th? Who knows, he really....really likes Skyrim.