Cyberpunk 2077 (2.0): A Worthwhile Comeback After a Rocky Start
It has been almost three years now since CD Projekt Red first released the long-awaited Cyberpunk 2077. Originally slated to be a major contender among RPGs, shooter games, and triple-A titles alike, Cyberpunk faced numerous development setbacks and a rushed delivery that left the game wrought with game-breaking bugs and many fans disappointed.
However, since then, the development team has been hard at work fixing bugs and effectively remaking the game to fill out some of that copious potential it first showed. The game has since seen a couple of resurgences, first when the associated and wildly popular Cyberpunk: Edgerunners anime released and again more recently with the release of 2.0 and the Phantom Liberty DLC.
With the year rolling over again soon, we thought now would be a great time to look at the game’s current state and discuss how Cyberpunk 2077 stacks up as it is today. So, whether you’re a longtime player who suffered through initial bugs and want to know how things have improved, or if you passed on this one initially and want to know if it’s worthy of your time now, we’ll be covering the major aspects of the game for you and offering some of our own opinions on how things have shaped up.
Cyberpunk 2077 takes place in the neon-soaked futuristic dystopia called Night City. This independent city is effectively ruled by the ruthless corporations that make their millions here, as well as the gangs and factions fighting for their own piece of the pie. You are V, an ambitious mercenary who gets stuck with a malignant and mouthy engram of long-dead rockerboy Johnny Silverhand (played by none other than Keanu Reeves) sharing their brain after a major heist goes haywire. Told that this will eventually kill them, the player must search for a way to remove the engram before it completely overtakes them.
The player can choose from three backstories to explain where their character came from, and each adds a unique prologue and some additional dialogue options to roleplay your character. Aside from that, though, backstories do not drastically change the gameplay or the story’s direction.
Night City is filled to the brim with side stories and missions for players to earn money and work their way through the rankings to become the city’s latest and greatest mercenary. These missions are as much about making a name for yourself as they are about getting paid, and the combination of those incentives works quite well to keep players engaged and interested.
Each of these missions, no matter how minor, also has at least one story element tied to it. These can range from multi-mission questlines to smaller conversations, to singular text-logs that explain why a gang murdered someone. Though most of these elements can be ignored, they really help to pad out the world of Night City and draw the player into the lore and events of the wider dystopian Earth beyond.
The main story of Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t quite a masterpiece, but it is well-developed, well-written, and generally a great piece of sci-fi storytelling. The cast of characters is varied, and returning characters have numerous ways to interact with them in and outside of missions and backstories to explore.
Though the story doesn’t drastically shift tone at any point, it maintains an exciting narrative and contains plenty of twists and turns to follow as the player navigates through the dark underbelly and gleaming skylines of Night City. Additionally, this story reacts to certain decisions the player makes, eventually culminating in one of several different endings depending on your choices.
Though initially plagued with numerous graphical glitches, Cyberpunk 2077 is now one of the most visually stunning games on the market. The game’s graphical fidelity on max settings is extremely impressive but may prove to be challenging for less-powerful hardware to keep up with.
During the day, players can see dusty shafts of sunlight filtering through windows and between the shadows of massive skyscrapers. At night, however, the heart of Night City really comes alive. The air buzzes with holographic advertisements, and the world is awash with the bright gleam of plated neon. As dark and mortifying as the underbelly of the city can be, at night, you can truly feel the energy and sense of awe that draws so many to chase the sugar-coated dream of making it big in Night City.
In addition to the bright lights of city central, players can appreciate trash-choked alleyways, dark and dreary service tunnels, gore-soaked scavenger haunts, and the dusty wastes of the badlands beyond the city. Admittedly, these locations aren’t as impressive as the more populated centers and bustling nightclubs of the city, but that’s to be expected. There’s so much we could say about the graphics in general, but if you’ve seen recent screenshots from the game, you know what we’re on about.
Every aspect of the game’s UI is appropriately stylized to reflect the cyberpunk aesthetic, giving the sense that the player is seeing the same displays that their character does on the inside of their cybernetic eyeballs. Overlapping HUD and in-world UI elements is also a nice touch, such as an ammo counter attached to certain scopes and actual speed gauges in cars.
Weapon and character models are smooth and extremely detailed. Blood and gore effects can feel a little mismatched sometimes, but some enemies also lack organic blood altogether, so who’s to say it’s unrealistic. Most of the player’s animations are very well implemented, though there are a few small hitches with some AI movements that make them feel clunky, particularly when making melee attacks. All-in-all, though, there isn’t much to complain about in terms of animations.
The amount of personality packed into the visuals of this game is immense. Though there are certainly reused assets and less-loved corners of the world lacking the personality of the rest, and you don’t have to wander too far off the path to find them, typically, this doesn’t become apparent. Even several clothing articles and weapons have neon strips, signs, and moving lights that make the world seem just that much more complete. Graphically, Cyberpunk 2077 is the whole package.
Sound and Atmosphere
Speaking purely from a musical standpoint, Cyberpunk 2077 has a little bit of everything. Ambient soundtracks are fitting and well-tuned to the player’s experience. That means dynamic changes between adrenaline-fueled combat tracks, tense stealth music, and a few relaxing ambient tracks. Most of these tracks are good, but a few really stick out on their own as top-notch compositions players would listen to outside the game.
The radio music heard around the city (and now playable from anywhere) is nothing to scoff at. These various radio stations include tons of unique tracks with an impressive variety of genres. Of course, there is synth-wave, lo-fi, future pop, and a wide array of heavy metal. But there are also stations for foreign indie, industrial, and even smooth jazz if that’s your jam. Many of these stations also have their own world-building “ads” and announcers that keep up with the news. It’s certainly worth your time to stop and just listen to the radio while you explore or drive around once in a while.
The game includes a day-night cycle and a dynamic weather system, which drastically change the colors, lighting, and general feel of the world around you. These systems don’t affect gameplay, but for selling the mood, they serve their purpose quite well. It’s refreshing to see a game where we prefer the slower route of driving or walking between locations rather than fast traveling, but with CP2077’s graphics and atmosphere, we often find ourselves doing just that.
The voice acting in this title is all top-shelf stuff. Of course, they utilized the talents of some high-profile actors for big characters, but even the lesser-known voice actors involved in this one did a pretty stellar job. The voice actors for both versions of the player’s character, in particular, really dug into their roles with this one.
We can talk until we are blue in the face about how pretty the world of Night City is, but what are we actually doing there? The moment-to-moment gameplay of this title is a mix of RPG, Stealth, and FPS elements. The combination of these elements has been where Cyberpunk has changed the most over the years and will likely be the most divisive of the game’s features.
Players will often take on jobs, missions, and side gigs to collect money, make their name, and earn experience. These jobs are all a bit different but typically boil down to entering a location and bypassing the goons inside in some fashion. These missions can vary in their goals, locations, and execution but can become highly repetitive.
Combat is a fairly common component of in-game encounters and requires players to manage their health, stamina, and other resources while utilizing cover and the environment to gain the upper hand. How players approach these encounters is where the character customization really shines.
Strong or swift players might prefer to face encounters head-on, blasting enemies apart with shotguns or tearing through with a katana. Techy characters are better suited for manipulating enemies from afar and turning the environment, enemy weapons, and even enemies’ own implants against them. Stealthy characters might avoid conflict altogether, eliminating threats from the shadows before slinking back into cover.
The player can spend stat and perk points in the level-up menu to increase one of five primary stats and to collect different perks associated with them. Each stat has perks that provide new moves and bonuses to specific tactics and weapons but can be combined with others to create your own unique playstyle. Most of these perks are rewarding to earn, offering new maneuvers or skills rather than small stat increases, though some certainly offer those bonuses as well.
Combining those abilities with cybernetic implants and special weapons is the real fun. Cybernetics are a major part of character development, and the player can equip implants to various slots on their bodies to provide passive bonuses, armor, and abilities or even to add a cannon or wicked set of mantis blades to their forearms. Weapon modification is a fairly simple system, allowing slots for scopes, muzzle attachments, and generic “mods” that provide small bonuses but can also more directly alter how a gun functions, such as making it non-lethal.
Different gun types offer further customization options, allowing players to ricochet bullets with power guns, lock onto enemies with smart guns, or pierce through cover with tech weapons. Melee weapons offer much less variety, but there are still a few interesting items to try out, such as a cattle prod or chainsaw sword.
The game also includes a crafting system, which can be used to produce new weapons or upgrade existing ones using parts from scavenged gear. This allows players to keep iconic weapons useful throughout the game regardless of their level, provided they take the time to gather the materials for upgrades.
Admittedly, some of these systems can feel pretty boxy and slow down the gameplay, especially if you are the type of player who likes to micro-manage inventory and stats. Fortunately, none of this micro-management is particularly vital unless you are playing on higher difficulties, and can be ignored to a certain extent, provided you keep picking up better gear.
All-in-all, combat feels pretty good. It’s not uncommon to feel a little overwhelmed by everything happening at once or to see some clunky gunplay here and there, but the adrenaline-fueled action and over-the-top style make up for it, in our opinion. The game also sports numerous cars to buy, find, and collect. Driving portions in missions are a bit rare, and driving mechanics can be fun but…testy. If you’re playing on a controller, vehicles will likely control much more fluidly than on a keyboard.
Cyberpunk 2077 has an impressive replay value overall. Not only are players likely to return to this title to re-experience the story and world, but they will also want to come back to see the story from a different angle, making different choices and shooting for a different ending. Completionists may be interested in collecting unique weapons and vehicles and hunting all of those sweet, sweet achievements.
However, the real returning draw for us was the opportunity to play the game in an entirely different way. Specifically, we wanted a chance to try out all the different cyberware, weapons, and skills that come with different stats and playstyles.
Final thoughts on Cyberpunk 2077
When Cyberpunk 2077 was first released, many players were upset for several very valid reasons. The overwhelming feeling for those who played through the game, however, seemed to be a sense of disappointment in the lost potential the game showed. Now that the game has had the time to grow and change, it seems like the team of developers has managed to put in the extra work and dedication it needed to really make this game shine.
Cyberpunk 2077 won’t be for everyone, and some felt so burned by the initial release that they may never give this title another chance. We intimately understand those feelings, but as longtime fans of sci-fi, RPGs, and the cyberpunk genre as a whole, we think 2077 has finally become the kind of game it was meant to be all along.