If you haven’t been on Twitter lately, or you’ve been out of the gaming world, you might not have seen the backlash Cyberpunk 2077 has been getting from the community. Almost every day since release, it has been trending on some platform, with users complaining about graphics, gameplay, bugs of all sizes, and more.
But is Cyberpunk really as bad as everyone makes it out to be? And, if it is… why would CD Projekt Red even publish the game in this state?
Quick catchup: Cyberpunk 2077 most anticipated game release of 2020
There is no doubt in my mind that Cyberpunk 2077 was the most anticipated game release of the year. Arguably, of the past several years. In production since at least 2012, Cyberpunk 2077 was being made by the aforementioned CD Projekt Red, the company that brought us The Witcher 3.
The Witcher series spawned a Netflix series starring Henry Cavill, a real-life card game you can play, and more. It sold over 50 million copies across multiple platforms and is widely considered one of the best RPGs of the generation.
People had big expectations for Cyberpunk. In the US, in fact, more people searched for information on it then they did the global pandemic.
See that blue spike? That’s nuts.
And really, it’s no surprise everyone was hyped. Keanu Reeves, Hollywood’s sweetheart, was slated to be a huge character central to the storyline, Johnny Silverhand. The soundtrack for the game includes some serious heavyweights in the music industry, all carefully cultivated to provide an immersive in-game experience.
CD Projekt Red had everyone prepared and excited for what should have been the absolute biggest release of the year.
What went wrong?
Delays, delays, and oh, delays
Cyberpunk was originally scheduled to come out on April 16, 2020, but as we all know the world was basically closed, and the game got pushed back to September 17. I was excited, as it was like CDPR was basically handing me an early birthday gift. Thanks, guys!
Then, it got delayed… again… to November 19. Rumors around the game and the development team, located in Warsaw, Poland, suggested that despite previously promising no crunch time for their employees, they were, in fact, asking developers to work long days and on weekends to make the self-imposed deadline.
Finally, just weeks before the game was set to be released, it was pushed back yet again, this time to December 10. There’s no real word as to why CDPR felt the need to keep pushing it back little by little, as it would have made more sense – and disappointed fewer fans – if they had originally just given the development team the time they needed.
The team working on Cyberpunk said they needed more time to optimize the game for console players. Remember this statement – it’s very important coming up.
The weird thing was, Cyberpunk apparently went gold in August of this year. If you’re not familiar with the gaming industry, a game ‘going gold’ means that they have the official version that is going to be given out to customers ready and printed. The ‘gold’ copy is what every other game is copied from, and is the ultimate first version.
So, that means everything that they pushed the game back for and worked on was just patches. And yes, there were more than 50gigs of patches on day one. But… still, where is the breakdown of management and structure that you let your game go gold before you’re anywhere close to ready?
The hype was real
To say people were excited about the game is an understatement. So many people took the release date, or even a long weekend, off work or school to really give themselves the full time to play it.
And I get that! Think about what we’ve all been through in the last eight months. Lockdown after lockdown, canceled plans, disappointing holidays, disaster… it’s been difficult, to say the least. Having this game come out for many of us was a shining star, a beacon of hope and escape for those who have struggled a lot in the past months.
And honestly, CDPR hyped it up a lot. All the trailers looked beautiful, the gameplay seemed smooth and gorgeous, and the idea of this giant city teeming with life and new possibilities… it was going to be the game of the year.
This is the entirety of the Cyberpunk 2077 script printed out (in Japanese). That’s huge. The scale this game is on feels overwhelming, even to fans of open-world RPGs like Skyrim, Fallout, and Red Dead Redemption 2.
The game had everything going for it. It was expected to win all of the awards, be the shining star ushering in a new era of games… but with all this pressure, did CDPR collapse?
What they put out
Cyberpunk 2077 should have been the biggest game release in years by a long shot. What they put out, however, was a mess.
The game is full of bugs, graphical glitches, and struggles to run on a high-end, state of the art PC. My PC is better-than-mid-range by far, with an almost-new graphics card and a still-powerful processor… and I still struggle with open spaces that have lots of NPCs, smoke, or other effects.
James Davenport of PC Gamer destroyed it in his review. Well, he didn’t completely obliterate the game – he feels very much like I do. The story is beautiful and mesmerizing and nearly ruined by an almost unplayable at parts game.
If the story were the only thing that mattered here if we were just talking about CDPR’s ability to write and produce something interesting and engaging this game would be 10s across the board. The main storyline, when done start to finish, only takes about 25 hours. But there are 100+ hours in the game, full of sidequests, getting to know side characters, and helping make Night City a different place.
Not always a better place, but… a different one.
The ending choices that you get reflect what you’ve done in the story leading up to that point. More options become available to you depending on what bridges you’ve burned in Night City, who you have romance, and what you’ve chosen to accomplish.
This is incredible, and I truly love games where your choices matter. It makes you feel involved as a gamer, like you really are V, deep in Night City just trying to make a buck and survive.
Unfortunately, it is overshadowed by things like this:
How is this okay? Seriously, can someone explain to me how this game made it past any level of QA and onto our consoles?
This is just a small sampling of the disaster that is Cyberpunk right now. The second clip, of the console crashing? That isn’t a one time issue – the game is so poorly optimized for the PS4 and Xbox is runs like a joke.
When Cyberpunk’s developers said “It runs surprisingly well on last generation consoles”, what they really meant to say was, “It runs, surprisingly. Well…”
Just this week, CDPR admitted that they didn’t put enough time looking at the game on consoles, and only spent time with it on the PC. Which doesn’t explain how poorly optimized it runs on a computer, but it does explain a bit about how things like this happened:
That’s not a joke – that’s an actual screenshot from a console version of this brand new game. I bought my husband a PlayStation 2 for Christmas (that he got early, I know) which has better graphics than that.
CDPR offers refunds… kind of
To the company’s credit, CDPR has said they will refund anyone who find the game unplayable or deeply disappointing due to the incredible bugs it has. That’s no surprise – their repution has taken a huge hit, with some outlets suggesting the founders of the company have lost a billion dollars from this fiasco.
In addition, early reports indicate that through preorders alone, the game has made back development costs, despite having AAA star Keanu Reeves and a truly fire soundtrack, as heard above.
But CDPR is also not really able to make that kind of choice. Numerous people have taken to Twitter to complain that while the company might say they get a refund, Sony and Microsoft are not as willing to offer them one.
This is disappointing on a lot of levels, and honestly? It makes CDPR even more unreliable-seeming. You can say you’ll give refunds all you want, but when you can’t follow through, that just makes you look even worse.
The final thoughts on Cyberpunk 2077
Look, I’m enjoying the game. It’s fun! The story is very engaging, I’m deeply involved and invested in V’s life, and I’m even not that annoyed at the incredibly over the top sexualization of characters, which I was concerned about. (I’m not a prude by any means, but they’re going a little far here… this isn’t why I play video games, you know?)
But the game is truly a mess, in every sense of the word. It’s buggy and difficult to play, downright impossible for console users. It’s poorly optimized, and a total system hog. It’s incredibly poorly balanced, and anyone that is half-aware of how the system works will be able to exploit the skill tree within the first 10-12 levels to become so overpowered that you can just blow through the game, and most enemies.
The Spiffing Brit on YouTube created an absurdly powerful gun, and breaks down how you can do it, too, from trash weapons you literally find on the ground. It features some pretty great glitches, too, including Jackie wandering through a set of lockers.
It’s clear to anyone with eyes that the game was pushed forward and through by investors unwilling to sacrifice deadlines, or money, and made by a team that got so focused on how big they could go and how much they could do, they ignored a very real part of the game – how fun is it? How playable is it? Will people even be able to enjoy it?
Can Cyberpunk be fixed? Maybe. My husband’s already said he’s not going to play it for at least six months, or until major patches come out to make it playable without frustration, and I know he’s not alone. If CDPR plays their cards right and works on it, this could be a case of No Man’s Sky, where the first release was incredibly disappointing but now it’s a real game, with a real following.
Or it could be the biggest letdown ever for some gamers, and leave us all a little less hopeful in our world.