We’re doing something a bit different for What We’re Playing Wednesdays this week. For possibly the first time in the site’s history, two of us have been playing the same game at the same time: CD Projekt RED’s much-maligned but newly updated Cyberpunk 2077.
Do the new patches and net-gen upgrades make up for Cyberpunk’s previous shortcomings? Tom and Joe have taken a trip to Night city to find out…
Tom: Like a lot of people, I witnessed Cyberpunk 2077’s shambles of a release with amazement and disbelief. After years of hype, it seemed like nothing could go right for the game. Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed multiple times, but it was still plagued by technical issues at launch. Worse still, beyond the bugs and glitches, the core game itself received a lot of criticism. The quest design seemed underwhelming, and the city was widely viewed as feeling lifeless.
I knew patches and fixes were being released fairly steadily, and that the game had been reinstated on the PlayStation Store after being yanked off. Still, I made the decision to wait until the next-gen version before even considering playing it. There are just too many great games out there; I didn’t want to waste time on a subpar experience that could be spent experiencing a game that actually works.
Fast-forward to last week, when the native PS5 version arrived alongside a free five hour trial. I began playing the demo and, to my own surprise, I immediately bought the full game upon reaching the end. I didn’t quite expect this but I’ve been having a really good time with Cyberpunk 2077.
It’s beautiful and stylish, and I’m actually really digging the story, the combat, and the exploration. It’s still not perfect, and it might not even be truly great, but there’s a really solid game here. Maybe it was there the whole time.
You’d be better placed than me to judge that, Joe. Unlike me, you did play the game at launch for a decent chunk of time, on both PS4 and PS5.
Q: Now that the native next-gen version has been released, how are you finding it? What has changed, and perhaps more importantly, what hasn’t?
Joe: So I first played on the PS4 pretty much on day of release. Like many others playing on last gen consoles, the experience was really disappointing. I’m not just talking about bugs that seem to be pretty much expected with new releases these days, but it felt like I’d been completely ripped off. The game barely played without a hard crash, looked awful and felt completely devoid of life.
I gave it a pass pretty quickly and it was only when I bought a PS5 in January 2021 that I thought I’d give it another go (with the added advantage of the PS5s game boost). My experience was better than the first time – the frame rate was higher and it looked much better but there were still glaring issues such as dumb AI and a general lack of crowds in what was supposed to be a bustling City. This time though, I got about 10 – 15 hours in before moving on. I largely enjoyed the story and side missions but I lost interest again.
This week, like you, Tom, I picked up the game and created a brand new save for the PS5 native version. Also, like you, I’m really loving it. The biggest changes for me are the fact that the game is pretty damn stable now, and runs fairly smooth. It also looks gorgeous too. I know these things can seem a little superficial – if the gameplay is great it doesn’t matter, right? But for me, these changes helped bring Night City to life for the first time. That, coupled with the sufficient improvement to crowd behaviour and AI in general, made me grin with joy.
Also, the side missions and gig system has been tweaked slightly. Before, you’d get calls all the time from people you’d never met and you’d get a lot of these. Now, you can only access certain side gigs when you’ve improved your standing with certain fixers. This has actively encouraged me to seek out side missions, whereas previously, I’d just been gunning it for the main story. Last night, I stumbled on a fantastic side mission in an underground casino run by the Tyger Claws. It was a simple snatch and grab, but hacking into the server room and commandeering the CCTV to plot my path to victory was a real rush.
There are still things, in my opinion, that are missing. There are parts of Night City that feel like plain old window dressing. Granted, there are a few Ripper Doc clinics, bars and gun stores scattered around, but I want more interactivity in the City itself. I’ve seen fans suggesting barbershops or music stores – just something that deepens the immersion for the player.
Anyway, I’m really pleased you’re enjoying the game and I agree with you, there’s a lot to like about it. You said that you were surprised to find yourself buying the full game immediately after finishing the demo.
Q: What was so surprising about playing Cyberpunk 2077? What tipped the balance for you and made you fork out for the full game?
Tom: Well, to start with, the story and characters grabbed me far more than I thought they would. I’d read plenty of complaints about awkward dialogue and pacing; those issues are definitely there, but characters like Jackie or Johnny Silverhand were so well-drawn and full of life that I found myself wanting to see more of the journey. There’s definitely an overreliance on long conversations while you sit still or walk and talk, but there are some great voice performances here to cut through the dense exposition.
The story missions themselves are exciting, engaging, and yes, ‘cinematic’. They’re probably a bit more scripted than true RPG enthusiasts would prefer, but to be honest, that’s just fine by me. I feel like the game gives me just enough flexibility to choose a distinct approach. I love blowing enemies away with my increasingly powerful arsenal, but it’s also fun to take enemies down silently or hack machinery around them to my advantage. Side missions are a bit more fillery, but as you say, there are still some gems in there. I’ve particularly been enjoying a series of missions where you track down AI-controlled taxi cabs that have gone rogue, and convince them to return back home.
Initially I found myself quite overwhlemed by the upgrade options; you’ve got characteristics like strength and intelligence to dump points into, as well as ability perks to obtain. I’m often struck with analysis paralysis in games with systems like these, terrified of making the wrong choice. After sinking some more time into the game, though, it has become clear that I needn’t have worried. These options really don’t vastly alter the core gameplay that much, outside of some extra dialogue or hacking options. We could both put our points into completely different categories and I bet our experiences wouldn’t be drastically divergent. Again, that might put RPG die-hards off, but I actually quite like not having to think too much about it.
I do have to say, though, that Night City still isn’t quite as full of life as I might have hoped. I’ve often found myself in the middle of a city street in the middle of the day with zero cars or pedestrians around. You can normally summon a signature vehicle, of course, but that doesn’t do much to help the all-too-common feeling that you’re in a ghost town. It’s a shame, too, that character customisation can only be performed from your own bathroom mirror. Small things like going to a barber to change your haircut or a bodymodder to alter your facial features would go a long way towards making Night City feel like a living, breathing city.
All that said, though, I’m really glad that the game has improved so much from when you first played it. Joe.
Q: But do you think these new updates address enough of your concerns? Is Cyberpunk 2077 the game we all hoped it might be, or is there further room for improvement in the future?
Joe: I think the new update is a big step in the right direction for sure, but there’s definitely more to be done. Had the game just released this week in it’s current state (rather than back in 2020) I think players would be fairly happy. It still wouldn’t live up to the huge hype surrounding it but nevertheless, we’d be praising its ambition, even if it wasn’t quite a 10/10 (interestingly, PushSquare just re-reviewed Cyberpunk 2077 and gave it an 8/10).
I don’t think it will ever be the game we hoped it might be from the numerous E3 trailers (granted, these should be taken with a pinch of salt) but it now has some pretty solid foundations on which CDPR can build.
As you mentioned, Tom, Night City can sometimes feel a little like a ghost town. I like your suggestion of adding barbers and bodymodders. Imagine going to a tattoo parlour and getting a sick cyber tattoo? I’m getting excited just thinking about it (even though I hate needles IRL). Also, how many street food vendors have you walked past whilst out and about? Surely we should be able to interact with them and grab a bite to eat (it bugs me that most drinking/eating isn’t animated too)?
One of my favourite additions from the new patch is the ability to rent different apartments. Having a new space, in a different neighbourhood, with it’s own style and charm is a great way to boost immersion and encourage role-playing. I hope we get more DLC like this and not just a couple of new weapons for sale (yes I know it’s technically DLC but come on!).
TLDR; yes, the new updates address enough of my concerns – Cyberpunk 2077 is now a good, even great, game. CDPR could probably leave it there (save the odd patch to fix bugs) but my feeling is they’ll continue to add meaningful updates for the foreseeable. For now, I’m finally happy spending my time in Night City and I’m cautiously optimistic for the future.
If you’re curious about playing Cyberpunk 2077, but don’t want to fork out for a copy, you can play a free 5-hour trial of the game on Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5.
If you’ve already jumped back into Night City, let us know your thoughts in the comments below!