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It’s here, it’s finally here. After almost a decade of anticipation, waiting, dreaming of travelling to Night City, the gates are open and Cyberpunk 2077 has found its way into the world.
We’ve had some big releases over the last few years; Death Stranding dazzled us, The Last Of Us ripped out our hearts and threw them away, but despite the levels of hype associated with those games, nothing has quite beaten Cyberpunk’s grasp on the gaming world.
Projekt Red, the company responsible for the sprawling, enthralling Witcher 3, has been beavering away, mainly shrouded in secrecy, to get Cyberpunk 2077 out there, and is the hype justified? Well in a nutshell, yes, yes it is.
Using a nutshell to describe the game at this point seems apt as, at the time of publishing this review, we’re around 14 hours in and honestly, we’ve not even scratched the surface. From what we’ve seen and experienced so far, Cyberpunk 2077 is absolutely mammoth. Vast in its make-up, it’s a game that not only allows for meandering off the beaten track, it whole-heartedly encourages it.
Choices define everything you do and how your game plays out. From what side missions you do, to how you communicate with key people in your surroundings, everything means something and every game is different. No playthrough is the same and while the idea of ‘choosing your own path’ isn’t new within open-world RPGs, Cyberpunk’s entire being is based around it.
From the jump, you’re presented with three different choices of character; Nomad, Streetkid and Corpo. We went for Corpo, and were instantly thrust into the dark belly of the beast and wading through corporate sludge – fitting, then, that the first thing V does is vomit into a sink. Dystopian skylines beam through windows and the run of intriguing, intelligent dialogue begins before you’ve even left the building. There are a huge amount of opportunities to chat to strangers that essentially swing your path.
Think of it a bit like Skyrim meets Blade Runner. This is an RPG game, closer to the games of Bethesda rather than Rockstar. It’s an open-world game, but don’t expect to start running around like you’re in Los Santos from the jump, it takes time to learn your characters functions and skills before you can truly let rip. Your mechanical body can be upgraded at every turn, your street-cred is improved by exploring the city and taking on random battles, and your hacking skills grow with every CCTV camera and mainframe that’s tampered with.
Talk of bugs on the PC version have been rife and, to be honest, the PS4 version isn’t out of the water either. Our first spotting of the bugs came during the training sessions where V would occasionally drift forwards and backwards without touching the duelsense controller, nothing to cause too much panic, yet. That was until the game started crashing, the ominous sight of being directed to the home screen is enough to send shivers down any discerning gamer’s back and so far it’s happened a few times. Add some floating bodies into the mix once you’ve taken care of them and that’s as far as our bug experience goes so far, not ideal, but not the end of the world for an early game of this size.
There’s absolutely no denying that the game looks beautiful. City skylines from the windows of high rise apartments are grandiose and spectacular. Having said that, those looking to truly unlock the game’s potential via next gen will have to wait a little longer. As far as we can see, there’s no option to change to performance settings, leaving some scenes and textures a little flat. Despite its release on PS4 and Xbox, it feels like a next-gen title, so some of the definition you’re expecting isn’t quite there yet. Again, the game is beautiful and truly stunning, but after playing Miles Morales and Black Ops, both PS5-optimised games, you can’t help but feel it’s a slight step back from its full potential. Saying that, Night City really comes alive at night, obviously. Lights drench your surroundings against the night sky, the rain melts across your car’s dashboard as you whizz through the dark alleys and expansive freeways, and everything feels like you’re a part of a movie.
Cut scenes are joyous affairs and as cinematic as you can get. One minute you’re watching characters gripped in tense conversation and before you know it you’re part of the scene, fighting your way through hordes of mechanically enhanced enemies.
There’s something to be said for the score in all of this as well. Marcin Przybyłowicz, P.T. Adamczyk and Paul Leonard-Morgan have done a great job setting the scene of Night City as a dystopian playground, with sweeping synths and futuristic musical arrangements. You’d be forgiven for thinking Hans Zimmer had some extra time on his hands during the Blade Runner 2047 composition, that’s not to detract from the work that the composers have done, more a compliment to the fantasy they’ve conjured with their own score. Part of the reason everything feels so cinematic is because of this.
The real joy so far is taking everything in. The hacking and stealth elements are there to be used at your own will and to really get the most out of the game, these should be learned and utilised as part of your arsenal as soon as possible. This is because the use of guns, melee and weapons are well, just ok. They serve a purpose but they feel secondary to what the game’s all about. They are a function, a means of navigating tricky spots, but not as developed as a lot of other titles on the market, especially the ones that offer gun play as a main feature. It’s about breathing in Night City and its wasteland areas, if you wanted to play this as an all-out, guns blazing, spray and pray shooter, you’d be missing the point and it’s not going to be your cup of tea. Save that for Call Of Duty.
At times, the user experience is a bit overwhelming, mainly because there’s just so much to take in. The map is laden with side missions, places to explore, people to speak to, stores to ransack and, in the first few hours, it’s hard not to think you’ll never make a dent. But you do. Once you’ve gotten to grips with levelling up your character with numerous skills and attributes and worked out how best to navigate Night City, that’s when your time with Cyberpunk feels like it truly clicks.
There’s a definite ‘Ahhh’ moment when it all comes together, and before you know it you’re navigating the main storyline while taking breaks to see off a gang causing trouble or working on detective cases for the police.
In terms of the main storyline, of the 14 or so hours we’ve played, it’s a brilliant mix of all the types of gameplay you have in your arsenal, essentially a way to learn everything succinctly so you can take it to the streets during side missions. We’ve heard it takes around 25 hours to finish the main Cyberpunk 2077 storyline but, honestly, we can see that number being tripled if you’re completing side missions alongside, as the game intends.
While we’ve not played through even a quarter of the game yet, our early reactions are more than positive. It’s a truly visual, immersive game and one that demands you soak up as much of the city as possible. Yes there are bugs and yes graphically it could be more polished on a next-gen console, but with the day one patch, hopefully these things are addressed.
Does this game live up to the hype? Pretty much. Are there some flaws? Yes. Does that ultimately detract from how Cyberpunk 2077 feels as an experience? Not at all. This game is yours for the taking, how you play it is up to you.
Jeremy Abbott is Unilad’s Editor, follow him on Twitter here.
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