Reviewing Cyberpunk 2077 is a special, but difficult occasion.
One one hand, it's not easy to escape the tremendous hype after so many years of teasers and being a huge fan of CD Projekt Red's last masterpiece, The Witcher 3.
On the other, the interminable wait, the successive postponements, and the outrageous marketing strategy full of spoilers have not failed to provoke a sense of fatigue, even a certain fatalism, according to which the game cannot live up to expectations.
That said, we've tried to keep a fresh eye, rating the game on its merits rather than being influenced by external considerations. Read on.
Note: All images will be replaced by English-language versions as soon as possible.
- Genre: Action RPG
- Release Date: December 10, 2020
- Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Google Stadia
- Developer: CD Projekt Red
- Publisher: CD Projekt Red
- Price: $59.99 / £49.99
- Tested on: PC
A taste of 2077 in 2020...
Inspired by the tabletop role-playing game Cyberpunk 2020, which invited the player to take on the role of mercenary in a dystopian future, Cyberpunk 2077 is a sequel of sorts, taking place after the 4th Corporate War.
In a world where corporations have been left free to pollute, exploit and control, violence and misery are the norm for the majority of the population — as are cyberwares. These Deus Ex-style cybernetic implants offer fantastic extensions of capabilities, but far from offering a better world, they have only extended the means by which to propagate violence and exploit one's neighbor.
It's in this future that you embody V. While this pseudonym and the outlines of the character are fixed, you can freely customize everything else. Gender, skills, origins, and even the appearance of certain body parts are left in your hands (ahem).
Their ambition is a constant, however — that of making a name for themself and securing a place in Night City.
The tone is set from the start — Cyberpunk 2077 is a resolutely adult and very trashy game Typical examples of this are ads for sex acts performed by a woman with three mouths, bare breasts stamped "Milfguard" all over the place, or obese and obscene bodies advertising the next soft drink.
The culture of image and consumerism, as well as movements born in response to this desperate world, make sex, vulgarity and self-destructive — even violent — practices completely mundane or even banal.
Get ready for a culture shock, as this futuristic decadence is certainly not for everyone. Did you know that prostitution exists in at least three different forms in Night City?
V for Vaseline...
However, this does not make Cyberpunk 2077 a pornographic game, as it isn't presented as something positive or desirable — rather a possibility, even a warning. It's also, in many cases, a critique of many current practices, such as unbridled capitalism, the cult of image, the manipulation of the masses by the media, and the consequences of the pollution left as a legacy for future generations.
If you enjoyed films such as A Clockwork Orange, this game should certainly speak to you.
Night City, the city in which Cyberpunk takes place, offers a world and a story about a similar concept. There are touching and human moments, but others are deeply unhealthy and disturbing. However, the studio had the good sense to offer us many welcome "exits" during the most creepy missions.
Those who decide to persevere and go all the way should be prepared for what lies ahead. We wouldn't be surprised if there's a fuss made about certain scenes in the days or weeks to come.
Rarely, Cyberpunk 2077 offers three radically different introductions depending on the origin you've given V.
If you've chosen to be a kid born and raised on the streets of Night City, you're a little gangster who already knows the place, and is starting to get into more ambitious moves.
Or, you can start the game out of town as a Nomad, and immigrate illegally to the city with contraband. Once you arrive on the scene — not without a few twists and turns — you don't know anything about it.
Conversely, choosing to be a corpo-rat places you directly within the inner workings of the megacorporations that rule and shape the world — but life isn't necessarily easier when you're surrounded by megalomaniacal sharks ready to stab you in the back if there's something to gain from it.
Each origin has its own little story, its own characters, and the result is some exclusive dialogue to give V some flavor. However, that alone probably won't justify replaying the game. It doesn't close any doors, but it doesn't open any either, which is a bit of a shame.
CyberSchizo or SchizoPunk?
The three paths meet almost immediately, when V decides to become an independent mercenary armed with cybernetic implants — a cyberpunk.
Unless you've managed to isolate yourself from everything related to the game in recent years, this is no spoiler: V ends up with an implant containing a digital copy of one of the most famous people in this universe, the rock star Johnny Silverhand (played by Keanu Reeves). Reported to have been dead since 2023, Silverhand is a kind of rebel or anti-corporate terrorist with a strong character and his own projects.
It's a little stroke of genius from a narrative point of view to have him on hand, given the game is in first-person perspective and V is not a particularly charismatic character — especially when our choice of dialogue isn't particularly rich for an RPG.
Silverhand is visible to the player alone, and he doesn't fail to comment or even openly criticize your actions and those of others. This allows for a lot of dialogue during the game's solo passages, but also to define yourself in relation to him. Your relationship can be relatively friendly or even almost antagonistic.
Like many things in this universe, it's not all black-and-white. This setting also allows you to tackle several popular science-fiction themes in passing, namely the definition of consciousness and identity. V's unconsciousness and investigations based on braindancing also contributes to investing us more personally in the story.
From there, you can follow the main storyline or take multiple detours through missions for the different factions and individuals in Night City. There's something for everyone, and it your decisions won't be without repercussions.
Depending on your choices and actions the consequences can vary, as can the attitude of other characters. This extends also to Silverhand, who despite being a nice guy in the trailers, is a big old bastard who can end up treating you as if you'd just killed his dog.
It's easy to find a lot of the charm of The Witcher 3 here, and even though V doesn't have Geralt's charm and the context is wildly different, we still became attached to the characters around him. Completing missions and optional contracts really give body to the story and the universe of Cyberpunk.
There are always new things to discover or try, whether those are commercials that are as funny as they are outrageous, memorable characters, or missions that go completely off the rails (literally). Just completing the main story would mean you miss out on a vast amount of what makes Cyberpunk 2077 unique.
This might become a cliché during this review, but you really shouldn't compare Cyberpunk 2077 to The Witcher 3 — they are different in almost every way. The atmosphere, the narration, the exploration, and the gameplay are all different.
Where they come together is in the way they ask us to choose the lesser evil, although in this case, the complexity of the universe and the ramifications between factions — and even within factions — mean that it's not always possible to even fully measure what the consequences of our choices will be.
Helping prostitutes of a megabuilding gain independence from a gang that exploits them might seem like a good deed on the surface, but what will happen if the gang takes revenge — or a worse gang takes over the terriroty? These subplots are integrated very well into this universe, even if it sometimes takes some digging to understand the logic, ins and outs.
In terms of atmosphere, art direction, philosophy, and structure, we find ourselves in a mix of two cult sci-fi films — Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner — the second in particular. You can add a touch of Warhammer 40,000: Necromunda for the gang aspect, too.
The Big Mechanical Apple
Night City is a huge city with a variety of neighborhoods and environments, from the skyscrapers of the city center, to the deserts of the Badlands, to ghettos littered with garbage bags full of corpses. Here, we are reminded of Grand Theft Auto.
After the intro, you're free to explore all this, either with your car or someone else's. If you take your eyes off the road, you quickly approach sensory overload, as the streets are crowded compared to other games of the genre.
It's possible to see hundreds of passers-by and dozens of vehicles at once, advertisements are posted everywhere, and that's before we get to the many vehicles and drones that roam the skies. The hubbub of conversation mingles with the din of the traffic, ads and gunfire.
We're still far from realism, but we're getting closer, especially if you have a rig powerful enough to manage maxed-out settings (something we were unable to do).
It's a pity that Cyberpunk 2077 doesn't allow us to leave ground level outside a few scripted scenes, but a great effort was nevertheless made to bring all this to life. The appearance of passers-by is incredibly varied, and many singular scenes can be observed. These citizens can easily become unintended victims in a shootout with local big shots, or a mismanaged high-speed turn in a vehicle — something which will surely unleash the fearsome police.
Nevertheless, the fuzz are not overzealous, given the omnipresence of violence in the city. Driving away is a little too easy, at least for those who can drive well. It's not for nothing that the story usually puts us in the passenger seat in car chases — not a catastrophe, but sometimes a little frustrating.
The police rely on you to keep order, and the main secondary activity in Night City is mainly to eliminate criminal elements on the streets. It's a very profitable business, but not particularly varied. It's also a shame that gambling doesn't offer more, unless you like to partake in the prostitutes of each neighbourhood or collect vehicles.
There are dozens of different contracts and side jobs on the map, each with its own circumstances and little story. However, there are no social activities as usually seen in games of this size, such as pool, darts or even a new minigame such as Gwent. Racing cars is almost non-existent, except for a small series of missions.
Once out of the story, you feel like you're just killing people all the time.
Cyberwares and Cyberwars
As already mentioned, CD Projekt Red's daring and sometimes unpopular choice for a role-playing game is to only allow you to play in first-person perspective, at least when you are on foot. It's certainly a great way to really immerse ourselves in Night City and be V rather than just playing them.
It works, too — both in battle and in intimate moments — so seeing the expressions of these tattooed, cyberware-enhanced and weaponized characters up close makes a little bit of an impact. If this gives a more personal side to the dialogue and fights, then it must be admitted that they sin in more than one way.
In general, the gameplay is similar to Deus Ex, and most situations can be solved using brute force, hacking, infiltration, or a combination of all three. In this case, however, a greater emphasis is given to making the powder talk. For us, Deus Ex handles cybernetic implants much better.
Depending on how you build V, they can take on a specialized role, or act as a hybrid. After all, you're playing solo here, unlike the tabletop RPG that involved a team — although that's a shame.
The skill system allows you to do a little bit of everything, but certainly not everything. The six main characteristics have an influence on your character's statistics, but they also determine the limit of progress in different areas.
For example, a big bully who likes to fight with a shotgun can unlock a few levels in stealth and hacking, but unless he increases his intelligence and composure, he'll never be able to access the advanced skills in those respective talent trees.
The progression itself is similar to that of The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim — by performing the actions related to a skill, it will naturally increase, which in turn unlocks points to be placed in the talent trees.
At the same time, there is a conventional experience and level system that allows you to increase characteristics and talents. It does not, however, encourage the use of diplomacy and finesse, and instead encourages killing (or stunning, for pacifists) everyone.
These skills are also often used outside combat to defuse certain situations, to enter establishments without paying through intimidating the bouncer, or to unlock closed doors.
In addition, there is a third progression system — reputation — even if it is in practice redundant and exists only to give the player the impression of climbing the social ladder within Night City. The higher your reputation, the more opportunities there will be for contracts or buying vehicles and rare materials in stores.
This is not very well exploited, however. It feels more like an artificial progression blocker usually found in MMORPGs, or a means of distributing new quests in dribs and drabs rather than being recognized as important by a weapon seller who would then pull out his "special merchandise".
This is one of the many elements that ironically give us the impression that Cyberpunk 2077 was released too early, or at least before it was ready, despite its years of development.
The system of cybernetic implants — cyberwares — is sadly under-exploited. The game only imposes on us the hacking mini-implant, the two elements that integrate the heads-up display with the ammunition and aim.
The rest is optional, and in truth completely dispensable. The price is often far too high, with a notable lack of variety for many locations.
We had to visit half of the ripperdocs in the city before we found one that offered an immune system implant, and we never came across one that offered anything other than the two basic leg upgrades — each sold for €$45,000, a sum you might not be able to raise if you only focus on the main story.
Even worse, these implants are usually not even visible on your character, and you can change them almost like you change a shirt at the ripperdoc. You might have thought that having your arms and legs replaced was a little more permanent, but sadly is isn't. The arm and hand implants are the only ones visible to you, which is not a surprising choice in a game that is almost always first-person.
However, it's still a bit disappointing. While it's fun to turn your fists into lethal weapons or to deploy mantis blades from your forearms, it's very expensive — and unless you specifically decide to make them your main weapon, their use is ultimately very ad hoc since they pale in comparison to conventional weapons found or made yourself.
With a talent tree, a menu entirely dedicated to manufacturing equipment, and gigatons of items found on enemies, it would be a shame not to use them too.
At least the weapons are varied, and allow many forms of gameplay. A silent sniper rifle, a chatty pistol with headseeker ammunition, an 8-barrel shotgun, thermal katana — options are not lacking here, especially when you add a scope and mods.
Nevertheless, the developers haven't learned their lesson, as managing inventory space and weight is almost as much a pain as in The Witcher 3. The arbitrary progression in levels, DPS, and equipment armor, however, fits very poorly with the universe, both in theme and progression.
It reminds us once again of a basic MMORPG, whose progression and equipment are based on World of Warcraft.
The logic here is so ridiculous that you can end up with a rotten gun ripped from the dead fingers of a random bum, and which proves to be far superior to a "legendary" high-tech weapon found in the hands of a billionaire earlier in the game.
Another thing, too — a 100% artificial cotton T-shirts sold on the street on the sly provide better protection than Arasaka Corporation military armor, purely by virtue of having been found at a lower level.
Having to sort through your inventory, recycle and sell everything regularly just so you can keep running isn't much fun either, in addition to picking up all the junk you come across, but it does improve your skills. Compulsive looters are going to have a hard time, but if you play a techie you can have fun designing the equipment of your dreams.
It's one of the areas that can tyou to replay the game, as it's impossible to do everything in one playthrough.
Playing a silent assassin who sneaks up on their enemies, blinding them and hacking into their implants; or a lightning-fast cyber ninja who cuts their enemies down with a katana; or a fat stallion with a berserk implant who kills their enemies with their bare hands — these are obviously nothing to do with gameplay itself, instead being just a few examples of what you can be among dozens of alternatives.
Here lies the great strength of Cyberpunk's combat system, as it allows great freedom and lets you play the way you want. However, this naturally comes at a price — in this case, the enemy lacking any kind of substantial response.
Although visually your opponents are often loaded with cybernetic implants, apart from a few particular bosses it really feels like it's only cosmetic — even for supposed cyberware fanatics. One cannot fail to feel they are playing an overpowered cyberpunk who simply beats up normal people.
While you can remotely detect enemies from a distance, short-circuit them, or even get them to prime their own grenades to blow themselves up, you'll never encounter enemies capable of detecting you in advance or hacking you effectively outside the handful of times this event is scripted.
The enemy netrunners you will encounter will simply loop a nearly-impotent overheating technique instead of immobilizing you, depriving you of your vision, or disabling your weapon as they theoretically should be able to do.
More conventional enemies are simply content to take cover and shoot (or charge at you for those with melee weapons). They're not incompetent, but it's a generic approach to combat that's not at all specific to the universe.
The same goes for drones, robots, and even large combat mechs that put up very little resistance. They even seem to be made of wet toilet paper compared to normal humans, perhaps in order not to block players who have chosen a fighting style that ignores hacking (which is quite possible).
The result is a bit disappointing, since it gives more of an impression that the gameplay has been designed for all styles, rather than pushing the player to make use of the very many tools at their disposal, at least on Normal difficulty. It's far from solving the problem entirely, but playing in Very Difficult mitigates this a bit.
Another oversight on the part of the developers is the fact that you can use medikits at will when you have several hundred in your inventory, and you can literally make hundreds more instantly through the menu.
If you're in agony, just hide behind a pillar for a second, take what looks like a great big asthma spray, and you're off for another ride.
Luckily, the game also includes a small handful of cyberpsychos who act as optional bosses and fight the way we'd hoped, but they're rare and it's possible to miss them, or meet them only once and when you're at a much higher level than they are.
It's a pity that the game doesn't offer an option for enemy strength to scale up, as in Assassin's Creed Odyssey or The Witcher 3, for example, so that the content is never too easy.
The absence of a New Game Plus mode at the moment is painfully felt, as it becomes as difficult as it is useless to continue developing your character, even though there are plenty of options.
When you can finally create the best legendary weapons in the game, there's no one left to use them on.
While this may seem highly critical from our point of view, the gameplay is functional, and it should be more than enough to satisfy casual players or those who prefer to focus on the story and the atmosphere — both of which are fantastic.
It's fairly intuitive and easy to pick up, while generally letting the player decide how to play. This can have sometimes unintended consequences one way or the other — it's possible to miss a series of quests if your actions result in the death of a certain character or the alienation a faction.
The developers haven't lied when they said it is possible to finish the story without killing anyone, at least directly. All this gives good reason to replay the game, to make other choices in addition to testing other ways to play. The gender chosen for V also influences some of the dialogue and romance.
The main story is of a good length, around 20-30 hours on average if you decide to follow the tracks and not make the slightest detour. That may seem short, but then you'd really be missing out on all the charm of the game.
However, if you want to complete all the side jobs and contracts, then you can expect to put in 60-80 hours, or even more. This also opens up more branches for the final section of the story, which makes the detour all the more worthwhile. This is only an estimate, but 100% should be achieveable in around 80-100 hours.
In order to avoid any confusion, let's specify that the game is exclusively single-player at this moment in time, and that the planned multiplayer mode hasn't yet been released. This should come independently next year, or perhaps even later.
However, free DLC with content still to be defined is planned for 2021.
Without necessarily being the long-awaited messiah of gaming, Cyberpunk 2077 is a great work of science-fiction that is not afraid to shock or disturb. Its universe, atmosphere and story are all rich and fascinating. A great freedom of choice is offered, both in the scenario and in the way to approach combat. Night City is also a place like no other.
It's a pity, then, that after all these years of development, many elements still lack finishing touches and the gameplay is not as satisfying as one might have hoped.
CD Projekt Red promised in that original teaser trailer back in 2013 that it was coming "when it's ready" — well, we couldn't help but be left with the unpleasant impression that the game was released before it really was.
Less than a week before Cyberpunk's release, we take stock of everything you need to know to be ready for release day, December 10, including preload and release times.
Here's a last overview of the things to remember before Cyberpunk 2077 releases, from the gameplay basics to the practical information.
Translated from the French by David W. Duffy.