We're finally here. After nearly a decade, three postponements; after writing writing hundreds of newspieces and over a dozen articles; after spending about twenty hours with preview versions of the game, we've finally played, and completed, Cyberpunk 2077, and we can finally review it. I've spent over 50 hours in Night City and was enchanted by nearly everything that the incredibly talented team from Warsaw delivered. I found the story to be compelling, combat to be satisfying; I killed, hacked, and romanced all accompanied by abundant glitches, encountered on every step.
Giving this game a score isn't easy. On the one hand, it is definitely a phenomenal video game. On the other, the technical condition of the Cyberpunk we've reviewed was undoubtedly suboptimal to say the least.
It depends. If you've avoided any information about the game what so ever, then yes, there are spoilers ahead. However: we don't reveal anything story-wise, we're not discussing anything the creators themselves haven't already shown. They were very frugal in this respect, yes, but a few details about V, Silverhand and their relationship were described in the 5th episode of NCW.
"Major league, mano"
- A great, addictive cyberpunk story;
- World building with attention to smallest details;
- Extensive character wizard;
- Concise main thread plus a myriad of side activities;
- Memorable characters;
- A flexible class system adapts to your style of play;
- Solid gunplay and varied weapons;
- Great, diverse soundtrack;
- Photo mode
- Jaw-dropping ray tracing;
- Bugs and glitches!
- Redundant, generic fillers littering map with markers;
- Hacking is initially quite boring;
- The police system is sketchy.
You begin Cyberpunk 2077 with an origin story that sets the scene for the character we choose: a corpo, nomad, or punk. The goal is simple: become a character to be reckoned with in Night City, or die trying. The price of becoming someone like this in a city run by wacky, cutting-edge technology, where people don't shy away from any kind of body modifications, and where the police toes the line drawn by megacorporations the price is not counted in eddies.
We quickly get acquainted with Jackie, and there's quite a few ways in which we can meet him. He has as much ambition as V, but at the same time he seems even more naive than the protagonist. He's also talented, faithful and very insolent. The prologue in Cyberpunk differs depending on the chosen path, but ultimately comes down to the same thing we arrive in the city, and can explore a limited part thereof. Only when we complete a mission for Dexter DeShawn a man able to open Night City's door for V the story hits the right track, opening the entire map for us. I found Dex to be hardly amiable, and I guess few people feel different about him after the E3 2019 trailer. However, he's instrumental on our way to meeting Johnny Silverhand.
Right: Silverhand. A rockerboy, legendary frontman of Samurai, and, at the same time the man, who turned the Arasaka Tower into a pile rubble in Mike Pondsmith's original narrative. You will learn his exact story in the course of the game, but it's enough to say that Silverhand is directly related to the chip that we have to steal for Dex. Things obviously go out of hand, and Silverhand's inevitable arrival heralds a complete change of stakes of the story, turns priorities around, and gives us the neigh impossible task of restoring our lives to normal. Becoming a legend of Night City suddenly isn't so important anymore.
The main storyline is a rollercoaster ride of cyberpunk themes. The stories of V and of the entire cast of side-characters give us all shades of the genre, served on one, chrome plate.
The game deals with themes of artificial intelligence, tech slavery, poverty, drugs, cyberpsychosis and suicide. It drags us through the mud of social inequality and lack of respect for basic human values. There's rebellion, solitude, and derangement that can't have a happy ending. Some of these themes are about V, some about random characters you briefly encounter on your way, and some about characters you will grow to call friends. Night City might have that California sunshine, but there's noir lurking around every corner.
Theoretically short story...
My first The Witcher 3 playthrough clocked in a little below 60 hours. I'm not the completionist type, nor do I usually opt for the highest difficulty just for the hell of it. To put it another way: I'm not a huge Dark Souls fan. On top of that, reviewing Cyberpunk happened on a tight deadline, which further compelled me to complete the game in the average way: finish the main thread with some side activities and limited exploration. I prioritized completing the story, and used any time left after that for doing side quests, testing other paths and making different decisions. Still, my heart rate raised every time I remembered the news about CDPR's own tester, who was completing the game on highest difficulty, completing every little thing along the way, and hadn't finished the game after 175 hours. You can imagine how surprised I was to have reached the end credits after... 30 hours. With a rough estimate of everything I managed to complete in that playthrough, I'd wager the main storyline is about 20 hours-long. But let's not get ahead of ourselves! There is a catch. A big one.
Just because the game allows us to reach the end so quickly doesn't mean we have to do it. Interestingly, the number of available endings doesnt solely depend on the main storyline alone if we don't complete any side activities, we'll only get one possible outcome. Side content also has a hierarchy of significance, so among additional tasks, we will find some quests ordered by returning characters. These quests are actually smaller storylines of NPCs, which open up additional paths and permutations before the final showdown, which is quite impressive.
So, after completing the game the first time, I returned to learn the smaller threads of Johnny, Judy, Panam or River, among others. Some of them yielded achievements, others influenced the possible endings, and some were just great stories that you don't want to miss. And after experiencing these for over a dozen hours more, I returned once again to the mission that the game clearly indicated as a point of no return, similar to the Isle of Mists moment in The Witcher 3. Eventually, I played the ending in 3 different ways, using the possibilities that opened up for me after completing the side content. I saw three, completely different finales, and I was able to make two different decisions that influenced the ending I still haven't tested the third decision. I am convinced that this is not all that the creators have to offer and I will continue to explore the various possibilities that the game has.
Talking to the developers before the premiere, we have already heard that after analyzing how players spent their time in The Witcher 3, they concluded that the main theme was too long; Cyberpunk isn't smaller, but it changes the proportions and balance of the content offered. And that's it. I didn't expect to be able to finish the story in just over 20 hours, but this doesn't seem a bad idea. There's plenty of players who will certainly appreciate that. Some will prefer to complete the main thread, play around with the sandbox, and put it on the shelf and they get a game for 20-30 hours. There are also players who want to complete the major threads, preparing as well as they can for the finale, opening as many possibilities as they can they get a game for 50 hours +. And there are also the completionists, who will be exploring Night City for years to come.
...and yet, hands full of work
What can we do in 2077? CD Projekt Red is still the studio that gave us The Wild Hunt, so the types of tasks offered to us will be familiar in a way. Of course, we have a division into main and side quests. Witcher contracts were replaced by fixer contracts smaller story quests with decisions to make. There are also activities like car racing (also with their own stories, so much more compelling than the bland horse racing of The Witcher 3), and fist fighting (also more interesting than in The Wild Hunt less mechanical and requiring more thinking). In addition, we'll be scanning graffiti, stopping dangerous people with cyberpsychosis episodes, or buying expensive cars. Performing all activities also increases our reputation (the street cred), which provides access to new orders or better equipment. The machine drives itself.
Besides all this, we will also come across randomly generated activities that usually boil down to stopping crimes, or hacking terminals. And this is an element that might as well not exist. These activities are mere fillers, and the entire map is littered with all kinds of markers. The thought that occurred to me once I zoomed in on the map wasn't "Wow! There's so much to do!" but rather "Couldn't you make it any clearer?" I eventually ended up quite terrified with the map finding anything out there was quite a challenge. In a way, it encouraged me more to explore and find various things by chance, but I am convinced that this was not the goal of the people designing the city map.
Filling the game with role-playing content shows how titanic work was done by the team responsible for quests. I don't want to mention specific examples here, because I promised no spoilers at the beginning, but I have to admit that the way the player is encouraged to get involved in, theoretically simple, tasks is even more intensified. By the way, the world is filled with a mass of "splinters" (information chips), so the exploration of all places will reward us with small stories or easter eggs. Such as a splinter with a fragment of Labyrinth a poem by a Polish Nobelist.
The whole Cyberpunk is one great proof of how talented the team behind the creation of the world is. Everything here is compatible with everything else within the game, and it plays well with the original creation of Mike Pondsmith. Do you remember all these materials about fashion styles? Or the official gameplays from 2018 and 2019 with Borys Muraszkiewicz' narrative, which emphasized such details as glitches in V's vision when Placide is trying to plug into their personal net? All these things may seem unimportant to you as individual elements, but in the end, when the whole thing interacts, it creates an authentic world governed by its own rules which we learn sometimes directly, sometimes subconsciously. We know how to talk to a gang once we know their values. We know what's important for nomads, and how not to behave around corpos. Night City is a city I definitely don't want to live in, but I appreciate the work that has been done to make it credible this greatly enriches the game.