Cyberpunk 2077 (2020)

Cyberpunk 2077 (2020), based on Cyberpunk designed by Mike Pondsmith, developed and published by CD Projekt Red

I'm so very, very happy.  I'm happy, that I didn't purchase Cyberpunk 2077 when it originally launched in 2020. I did, back then, just as CD Projekt Red suggested, and waited till launch. And after it had launched, I decided to wait some more and now, after I did buy it a couple of years later, I can honestly say, Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the best gaming experiences I've had in years. I mean, technically, it still has some issues, but all said and done, it is an awesome experience with a world, that just sucks you in.

I'm not gonna go over the whole kerfuffle that happened during the launch. If you've kept even the smallest tabs on gaming news, you might be aware, that Cyberpunk 2077 was a game loaded with tremendous expectations and almost unparalleled hype. When it finally launched, it soon became evident, that it had been released woefully broken and unoptimized, which lead to Sony pulling it from the Playstation store. 

It was an ugly launch, consoles, or better yet last generation consoles, suffering the worst of it. The consensus was, that while there were a lot of things to like in the game, it had been let out the gate in a state, it should not have been let out. Two years of polish later the game is finally in a place where it can shine, not minding some small visual glitches or bugs here and there.

You are a mercenary known as V. You do have a full name, but the people you meet call you mostly only V, because they aren't your friends and because that probably made the voice acting simpler, as the game doesn't refer to your name that often. I recall it being uttered only once during my whole playthrough. 

Before getting to the meat of the game, there's a small prologue based on the character backgrounds, lifepaths if you will, of your choosing. You can be a Nomad, Streetkid or Corpo. This has the most effect on the beginning of the game and in some conversation options later on but is overall mostly flavouring. This is more or less the tutorial phase of the game, trying to show you all the ropes.

Whichever path you choose, at some point you end up running mercenary work with your chum Jackie. How old of a chum he is depends really on the lifepath you choose. Anyhow, the two of you are hired to steal a Relic from Yorinobu Arasaka, leader of the Arasaka Corporation. The job goes sideways and V ends up injecting the Relic into their own brains for safekeeping.

When V comes upto, they find out, that the Relic houses the engram of Johnny Silverhand, a rockstar terrorist, who decades ago deployed a nuclear bomb into Arasaka headquarters. As he now resides in V's brain, the engram is slowly taking over. While there are bigger things going on in the world, for V, the story has more personal stakes in trying to find a way to prevent Silverhand from taking over.

Silverhand appears throughout the game to give his input on the matters, trying to guide V in a direction he prefers. V can be either antagonist towards him or not. The relationship you have with Johnny has some relevance to what endings there will be available for the story.

What really makes Cyberpunk 2077 shine is the setting itself and the story. I'd go as far as to claim it one of the best-written games out there. While not everything in the writing is superb, it is a massive game after all counting in all the optional side missions, a lot of it is way above your standard sci-fi and fantasy tropes. And what's more, the writing often feels like it is actually utilizing the fantastically horrendous world in the multiple stories are set in. 

Sure, just like with every AAA open-world game, the world has issues. Like 99% of people in it exist solely as extras who wander around the streets of Night City or act as cannon fodder. There's very little reason to visit any of the many shops beyond decking your V with nice little improved body parts. Buying clothes or weapons is basically a pointless exercise, as you never really have any problems finding them just laying around or by looting fallen enemies. 

Crafting, of course, there's crafting, is mostly just as pointless, unless you happen to fall in love with some specific piece of clothing you want to soup up as high as possible. Crafting weapons, never saw the need for that just like there never really was a need to craft any consumables or grenades. if the crafting would be removed from the game, nothing of value would be lost. By this point in time, I'd announce crafting as the most pointless feature modern games have.

V can have multiple homes all around the city, but beyond a couple of mission rewards, there's really nothing to lure you back to them. Sure, your weapons stash is there, but it's in the trunk of every car you own as well. V doesn't have to sleep either, so in the end, it's all just additional fluff.

On the technical side, driving requires a special mention. For a game that relies so much on driving around, the driving system is almost hilariously horrible. Now, generally, driving is rarely well done in any of these types of games. The GTA series fares pretty poorly there as well, despite GTA 5 is a huge improvement there. In Cyberpunk, the cars seem to exist in an entirely different realm of physics from the rest of the game. This goes to how they handle how they behave and move. It's telling, that while the game is 1st person, you can switch to a 3rd person mode while you drive. That's how little the devs trusted in their driving model. And even in the 3rd person mode, driving around is a hassle when the cars suddenly seem to lose all their weight.

Speaking of cars, and motorbikes, there are quite a few of them. From time to time, the mission fixers inform you of calls for sale, which is a way of getting specific cars to your personal garage. You get vehicles as mission rewards as well, so it's not necessary to buy them if you don't want to. V does have their own starting car as well and that serves you to the end just as well as any other vehicle.

Unlike CD Projekts The Witcher games, Cyberpunk 2077 is a 1st person game. Only driving around has the optional 3rd person mode, which is probably more because of how janky the driving mode actually is. As a 1st person shooter, Cyberpunk isn't reinventing the wheel and it does feel competent enough. The quickhack skills can be used in and out of combat, so it's possible to incapacitate silently when you aren't actively fighting. This is especially helpful when you are in places you shouldn't be and don't want to kill anyone and don't want to come out from hiding.

Quickhacking is perhaps the most fun system of the game. the grimmest skills make it possible to force the target to kill themselves or others, the non-lethal ones help you to make people go blind for a moment, lose the use of their cyber implants or just lose consciousness. It's also possible to disable or takeover turrets and cameras and cause environmental electronics to glitch, distracting enemies.

Sneaking around in the enemy compounds is actually a pretty fun exercise. I do reckon it's possible to play the game without firing a single shot if you so choose. Though there might be a handful of situations, where shooting is more or less mandatory. The skill trees allow you to spend points on technical, stealth or attack skills, so can build V that suits your game style the best. 

Depending on how you tackle the missions, you can concentrate on side missions before taking on the main questlines, it's possible to build V, who is pretty overpowered in the end. If you follow mostly the main storyline, the ending will provide some additional challenge, but if you are on level 50 (which is the maximum) or so, the ending, which is touted as this almost unsurpassable mission, is something of an easy task. Even the main boss's fight against Adam Smasher, a hulking man who is more of a machine than a human, is a cakewalk.  

As in most modern AAA RPGs, you can also try and romance some of the characters you meet. And it's not only you who can do romancing, Johnny Silverhand can ask to borrow your body a couple of times in order to do some romancing of his own. And speaking of Silverhand, there are a couple of segments in the game, in which you can play as him or play as him controlling V's body. These segments bring more flesh to his backstory and offer a nice change in pace. 

Overall, Cyberpunk is a reasonably easy game, definitely easier than any of the Witcher games CDPR is also known for. But that's fine. The way I see it, Cyberpunk 2077 is a good starting point for a new game series. And it is a fun game as well, despite some of the technical issues and poor design choices aside.  

If you're interested, Cyberpunk 2077 is sold in most digital storefronts for multiple platforms. Here are GOG and Steam links. If you aren't willing to shell out the full price, it's in a 50% sale pretty often.