Cyberpunk 2077 has had a…polarizing release, to say the least. We were all pretty much expecting that, given that all the pieces were there for a very tumultuous recipe. Massive overbearing hype, multiple lengthy production delays, a widely-trusted developer hoping to meet lofty expectations, and a suspicious lack of actual gameplay in the trailers. But even I was surprised by the extreme variance in incoming early reviews. Some people (myself included) reported pristine performance, others were experiencing barely-playable messes. Certain aspects of the game were incredible, often genre-forwarding improvements to the formula. Whereas other core fundamentals were lacking or downright antithetical to the gaming experience.
As mentioned above, I played on a high-end PC, so I’m part of the small group that has the best chance of playing Cyberpunk 2077 as it was intended to be experienced. And honestly, I’m in no hurry to finish as I prefer to take my time in Bethesda-style RPGs, so this review will mostly be focused on first impressions. As befitting a game engendering such a mixed bag of reactions, I decided to organize this article into a list of pros and cons. Without further ado:
Pro #1: Artsyle and graphics
The art team did an incredible job breathing life into Night City and its denizens. I appreciated the wide variety in body types on civilians wandering the streets. You’ll encounter plenty of variety in the city districts as you drive around the map. It doesn’t reach Saints Row 2 for map variety (imo the gold standard for this genre) but it beats the average.
Con #1: Vehicles
The vehicles look just as good as everything else, but holy cow are they difficult to control. The steering is very floaty and I often found myself wobbling back and forth down the lane, if not obliterating chevrons and roadside dividers while making the most basic of turns.
Pro #2: Lighting and shading
Lighting is, in many ways, more important than graphics. A kickass lighting system can compensate for deficiencies in pretty much every other element of visual design, and Cyberpunk’s proves to be both dynamic and very adaptable. Shadows realistically react to map objects passing through them (even your first-person gun model). Things like explosions and muzzle flashes light up the world around them in a beautiful way.
Con #2: Gunplay
Of course, while we’re on the topic of guns, I wasn’t super impressed with actually using them. They didn’t feel like they packed very much punch, and I often had trouble hitting my target even at close range when my ADS crosshair was perfectly aligned with some enemy’s head. I’m assuming this becomes less of a problem once you start speccing skill points into dedicated skill trees. But I doubt that can solve the guns not feeling like they have enough weight behind them.
Pro #3: The movement system
I am in love with the Apex Legends/Borderlands 3-style parkour you can pull off in Night City. Vaulting fences, hoisting yourself onto rooftops, sliding via sprint-crouching…it’s all incredibly satisfying, probably my favorite part of the game. On a semi-related note, I’m super happy with the presence of first-person legs. I wish it would become an industry standard already. It’s so much more immersive to have a visible body below the sternum, and ties in very well with the aforementioned parkour system.
Con #3: Backstory integration
I have two complaints about how the backstories were designed. The smaller one is that they don’t matter in the slightest; each funnels you into the exact same actual opening. But that happens in game design, honestly. My bigger complaint is that they also differ drastically in length and variety of content. Nomads will be driving around a huge environment, climbing radio towers, and getting into shootouts. Corpos have none of that. You can at least wander Arasaka Headquarters at the beginning and complete few minor optional quests. Streetkids have even less, just a linear set of dialogues with no opportunity to test out any mechanics.
Pro #4: Great loading times
Considering how data-intensive Night City and all these beautiful graphics must be, I’m blown away by how quickly it loads new areas when traveling throughout the city or entering buildings. And what loading screens it does have are semi-dynamic. Radio broadcasts adding to the lore and detailed shots of V’s apartment with glistening lights and other distractions.
Con #4: Pointless nudity
I do not understand why they bothered to add nudity to this game (and this is me talking here). What is the point of having explicit full-frontal nakedness in the character-creation screen and then supergluing underwear onto the models during any actual gameplay? I have to assume the devs were using it exclusively to get press interest and not for the symbolic transhumanist reasons they’ve claimed in the past.
There are certainly more pros than cons, and overall I’m glad I got to experience Cyberpunk 2077, but I’m not sure I’d recommend anyone buy it in its current state. Two years from now it’ll be cheaper, significantly less buggy, and all these pros will still be waiting for you along with some discounted DLC. At that point it’ll be a truly great game, but right now it’s just not there yet.