Cyberpunk 2077: An Uninformed Player’s Perspective

For context, I have played Cyberpunk 2077 for countless hours. More hours than I am willing to divulge in this piece. In terms of what I was looking for with the game, I do feel like it met that minimum requirement. A solid single-player experience. In terms of whether it met any of my expectations at all, well, that’s a different story.

As the title suggests, I was not on the Cyberpunk 2077 hype train for some time. I didn’t even really care about the game or know about it for that matter, until just last year. Now, while you can ask what kind of rock I’ve been sleeping under for the last seven years, my lack of any real anticipation for Cyberpunk 2077 at least provides me with a genuine look at the game itself. I had no sky-high expectations for this game due to the media or CDPR themselves.

Once I actually found out about Cyberpunk 2077, I actively ignored any and all promotional material for it. As best as I could, anyway. All I knew is that it was intended to be an open-world-first-person-RPG kind of game in the vein of an immersive sim. That’s all the information I was willing to expose myself to.

Now, after having played Cyberpunk 2077 three and a half times over, I just want to say my piece. I won’t be addressing any of the bugs. This will in no way be a super in-depth review of the game or anything. If I ever do consider fully reviewing this game, it’ll be in retrospect when all the bugs have been squashed, and the game is actually finished. Though, who knows when that’ll be.

The best way I can break this up is by addressing the two major elements that I feel defined my experience with the game. The scripted missions and the open-world elements.

The Missions

Photo Credit: James Robinson

The missions, or “jobs” as they’re called in-game, are essentially the scripted sequences the player will be engaging with to advance the story. I find them to be the best parts of the game when you aren’t breaking the scripting. This is very important because, on my first playthrough, I routinely broke the scripting of almost every campaign job and major side job in some way that made things really awkward and sometimes forced me to reload a save. It’s something that the game struggles with. That is, keeping the player in-line with the scripting, while also providing them the right amount of freedom during it.

Of course, you can avoid most of this by moving at the pace the game wants you to move at whenever a character wants to speak to you, or when organic dialogues between characters start, etc. But this is something you could only really know by having already played the game, thus knowing when these moments will happen. But this pretty much defeats the purpose of them being organically implemented in the first place.

This is admittedly a minor gripe. It still made things really awkward, though. Especially for a player like me who wants to hear what every character has to say. It leads to a lot of moments where they’ll sometimes be casually talking to you while you’re in the middle of a firefight, or several lines of their dialogue will be cut short because you drove into a scripted trigger point where they then must say designated lines before finishing what they were originally saying. Either that or I’ll do something like one-shot headshot an enemy before the scripting acknowledges them as an actual threat. The game will either make that enemy invincible or, if it’s supposed to be a boss fight, immediately kill the enemy as soon as the scripting starts the fight.

Other than that, though, I found the scripted missions to be really enjoyable. Especially on subsequent playthroughs when I was thoroughly familiar with the game’s awkward quirks and was trying out different builds. I’m not saying that having to adjust to the awkward quirks is a good thing. Just that having that knowledge makes the experience a lot smoother. That is, if you’re actually willing to put up with it in the first place. It’s like most 3D Sonic games. Once you know how to avoid or deal with some of the more unpolished and rougher parts of them, they’re much more enjoyable. Not necessarily acceptable, but enjoyable.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

The actual minimum requirement to complete Cyberpunk 2077 won’t take you very long to reach. That is, completing all of the main job sequences. I’m not entirely sure about this, but I think you could honestly count the number of required main jobs in this game on two hands. Most main jobs bleed directly into one another, so you might not even know that you finished one main job and are now starting another in the same sequence before finishing that one as well. It really isn’t that long of a game, or at least it didn’t feel that way. What’s actually going to take up most of your time is the major side jobs that are sprinkled throughout the campaign.

Obviously, being side jobs, they’re all completely optional. I still think they’re worth doing as some of them do affect what options you get towards an ending and lead to romances depending on what type of V you’re playing. With the romances, I especially appreciate that each romance character has their own sexual preference. It makes them feel more like characters instead of just playthings for the player.

All-in-all, I think the jobs are overall well done if a bit too scripted at times for their own good. I also like that you can almost exclusively do the main jobs and major side jobs and still keep up with the game’s level scaling. At least on normal, which is what I played on for my playthroughs. This means that the game doesn’t really require you to do any kind of tedious grinding to engage with its most worthwhile content. You could finish the game with a maxed-out level 50 character just as comfortably as with a level 30-something character, more or less.

The Open World

That’s just the missions, though. Cyberpunk 2077‘s open-world is where the game really starts to fall apart. Now, I’m not one of those people that’s upset about the dialogue options not giving you very many ways to play the V that you might want to play. I’m not even upset about 80%-85% of the dialogue options being otherwise meaningless. Again, once you adjust to these quirks, you can start playing a V that at least somewhat mirrors the V you want them to be. Though, your V will just about always be pretty inconsistent at several points during a playthrough, which will never fail to take you out of the immersion somewhat. It just really ruins the first playthrough more than anything.

And honestly, Cyberpunk 2077’s saving grace is that it’s so short. It makes coming around for a more efficient second playthrough, actively ignoring the content you don’t want to engage with, less of a daunting task. Plus, there’s probably just enough content that the average player would miss on their first playthrough that makes a second playthrough worth it. It’s just a shame that maybe 95% of the content I didn’t want to engage with on my second and third playthroughs had to do with the open-world gameplay.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

Engaging with Cyberpunk 2077’s open-world elements usually only serves one purpose: to help the player grind out their character. Engaging with these elements was by far the most miserable part of my experience with it because of how much they routinely break the game’s own rules and immersion. Again, I’m not even talking about the bugs.

Let’s start with what I think is probably the worst part of the open world: The fixer contracts. Not only are these things little more than proximity triggers on the map, but they are also legitimately the only reason you’d ever actually want to talk to most fixers. Not to mention that every contract comes with it an unskippable phone call that, for some reason, deprives you of some of your actions like throwing grenades and using the double jump cyberware. Two things that are pretty important when it comes to engaging with the combat half the time. So, you can’t even fully ignore the phone call comfortably by going in guns blazing. The call arbitrarily takes gameplay elements away from you until it’s finished. Whose idea was this?

There’s such a silly amount of player restriction all over the place. You can’t take your weapons out in certain areas, even when the particular area isn’t labeled a safe zone. Safe zones themselves are just silly in their own right because they only become hostile zones when the game says so, and the player has little input over whether not this change will occur. There are also areas where the game will just awkwardly slow your car down and/or completely stop it before tossing you out of it because, apparently, it’s a no-drive-zone or something.

The fixer contracts themselves initially appear as question marks on the map. If you want to know what kind of job the contract is before doing it, you must talk to the fixer that oversees that region of the map either through a phone call or by going to see them in person. At the same time, though, a fixer like Rogue has a couple of contracts around the map herself, but since Rogue is a unique fixer in the game that does not have an open world fixer contact point, calling her still won’t reveal these particular question marks on the map. All this does is just make me question the functional purpose of fixers.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

I know lore-wise they’re supposed to be liaisons between the client and the mercenary. It’s just that they could’ve been functionally implemented into the game much better. A proximity trigger with an unignorable phone call attached to it has got to be the most video game-y thing you could ever come up with in an immersive sim.

The worst part about it is that there’s a simple solution: just let the player call the fixers for work. This would give the player a much better reason to call or visit fixers and you could then get rid of all those dumb yellow question marks on the map. Only when the player accepts a job from a fixer is when the marker should show up on the map. This would allow the player to more comfortably take on fixer contracts at their own pace while simultaneously giving fixers more of a presence in the game.

Either that or fixers should at least have some sort of in-depth questline associated with them. And no, Regina’s wild goose chase for cyberpsychos doesn’t count. The cyberpsychos themselves are lame excuses for boss fights. They’re probably among some of the easiest enemies in the game and the only thing that makes them even remotely interesting is the fact that you fight them in unique combat spaces and scenarios. They’re still little more than shoot at them until they die while avoiding the excessive amount of traps they’ve laid around the area.

And that’s not even the worst part about cyberpsychos. The actual worst part about them is that Regina tells you to try to take them down non-lethally. The reality is that you don’t have to try to do anything. You will always incapacitate a cyberpsycho after you’ve drained their HP to zero, regardless of what methods you used. You will then text Regina that you kept them alive before completing the encounter.

At that point, you can easily just pop a bullet in the psycho’s brain and kill ‘em. As long as you’ve completed the gig, the game doesn’t care what you do afterward, or even before for that matter. So why even make it seem like the player has any real choice in the matter? I suppose you can kill them after they’ve been downed before telling Regina what happened, but what does it matter at that point? All this does is completely defeat the purpose of having non-lethal weapon options.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

The open-world side of Cyberpunk 2077 breaks its own rules like this, routinely. It makes it an absolute slough to engage with. There are too many uninteresting fixer contracts that it makes doing them an absolute chore at some points. Some of them are pretty engaging, but not enough to justify having so many in the game. At some point, you will find yourself doing them just to power level your character more than anything else.

I highly recommend spacing them out as much as you possibly can among all the major side jobs and campaign missions for maximum headache avoidance if you really plan on doing them all. It’s a shame that there’s only, at best, a handful of unique random encounters that attempt to make the game’s world feel more alive. I haven’t even mentioned the NCPD scanner hustles, which are basically just extra looting options to grind out. Some of them give unique rewards. Most of them don’t.

The pedestrian AI is pretty much non-existent. Driving NPCs have no idea what the phrase “go around” means. NPCs walking around the streets run a set distance away when shots are fired, and sometimes even when they aren’t fired, just to cower in fear for all eternity, oftentimes in the middle of the street ready to be run over by the player so the game has an excuse to sic the undercooked cop system on them.

I find it hard to believe that the NCPD is having such a rough time controlling the streets of Night City when they have access to teleportation technology. They literally just spawn right on top of the player and start shooting them. They don’t even roll up in cruisers for a car chase or even tell the player to drop their weapon to be arrested. Then again, the NCPD does have a tendency to forget that the player even exists once you run about a block or two away from them, so maybe it is believable to an extent.

Photo Credit: James Robinson

Speaking of undercooked systems, I think the most disappointing one when it comes to simply engaging with the open world is the romance/companion system. After you’ve completed a companion’s side jobs, their involvement with the player’s activities ceases. You get access to their safehouses on the map, and that’s about it. The only purpose those safehouses serve is to stash stuff away. That should honestly be the last reason any player should be visiting a major character’s safehouse in a game like this.

You can visit a character’s safehouse to talk with them. This would be nice if they weren’t the same conversations you could have over the phone with them. Why can’t you do things/interact with them in their safehouses? Kerry has a freaking pool table and a swimming pool at his mansion. Would it be so hard to play a game of billiards or go swimming with him? Judy has dirty dishes in her safehouse that seemingly never get done. Would it be so hard to do those dishes with her? Or visit her when she’s working at Lizzie’s bar? A place that she’s suddenly never at anymore even though she has a workspace there. Why can’t you take characters like Panam or River on fixer contracts with you? Better yet, why can’t you take any of these romance-able characters on dates?

There are several bars sprinkled around the map in Cyberpunk 2077. Just about all of them serve as little more than backdrops to missions. Most of them would be fine date spots for any of the characters in the game. The cute little texts you get from characters after finishing their storylines are nice, but it’s not enough.

I could care less about whether or not Cyberpunk 2077 is a competent RPG. For the most part, the mechanics are only skin deep. That wouldn’t be an issue, though, if the game actually had more meaningful distractions for the player to engage with and get lost in its world. A game doesn’t have to be an RPG to be an immersive sim. It’s just that Cyberpunk 2077 lacks a lot of the finer details to even come close to one.

The saddest part about it is that with all the bugs, who knows if any of those finer details will be added. CDPR will be working for months to fix all of the game’s technical problems across multiple platforms while also attempting to roll out major DLC updates. I’m sure those DLC updates will add more story expansions and so forth. It still won’t fix the stuff that it should’ve had at launch, though. There’s little reason to believe that it will ever have any of these features in the future because these details are small, but they add up in a game like this. Too many people will be clamoring for major content to be added that there’s a good chance CDPR won’t care about these minor, immersion-enhancing details in their immersive sim.

Conclusion

Photo Credit: James Robinson

Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that for every one good thing it does, you can think of two things that would make it even better. From what I’ve seen, that seems to be the general consensus about the game right now, and that’s a real shame. I really do hope this game comes out on top in the end, but first impressions in this industry have never been more important than they probably are now. If players aren’t already, they will be thoroughly tired of getting burned by the companies they put their faith into. It’s no exaggeration that CDPR was probably most players’ final bastions when it comes to trusting this industry and with this launch, it’s probably safe to say that that bridge has been burned.

CDPR now probably has to work harder than they ever have before to earn that trust back. With all of the problems that have come crashing down on them with the release of this game, who knows if they’ll even be able to. It’s already starting to look bleak with the damage control post they just put on the Cyberpunk website. The vague-as-all-hell “road map” says it all. I’m sure this release has been an absolute nightmare for CDPR, and it’s only going to get harder for them. This is only going to end in two ways. CDPR either rises to the challenge and actually gives people the Cyberpunk 2077 game that it was intended to be when considering all of the wasted potential in it. Or they half-ass everything while slowly dropping support for the game after the first year or so. We’ll have to wait and see.

What did you think of Cyberpunk 2077? Leave your comments below! And while you’re at it, check out my last review on Godfall.

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