Cyberpunk 2077 invites you to explore Night City, a fictional metropolis on America’s west coast that’s jam-packed with crime, opportunity, and anything your black heart desires. Based on Mike Pondsmith’s tabletop RPG, Cyberpunk is a bleak game that sees corporations, both foreign and domestic, keep a stranglehold on military tech, health care, cybernetic advancements, drugs, and virtually anything that the common person could want or need. You play as a mercenary, V, a person caught up in a job that has lasting repercussions throughout the story campaign. As a result, you must shoot, hack, and slice your way out of trouble in this sprawling, open-world action-RPG. This highly anticipated PC game offers thrilling gameplay, atmosphere-oozing sights and sounds, and hours of story-heavy missions, but it feels a bit undercooked due to small and large bugs.
The State of Affairs
2077’s society has spiraled into a state of Weimar-like decadence and debauchery, with advertisements that peddle everything from snacks to sex plastered on nearly every city facet. Humankind has embraced cybernetic modifications, and every dinky neighborhood across town has a cybernetic modder, called a Ripperdoc, eager and ready to slap new and horrifying body enhancements into you—for the right price.
You play as V, a mercenary who takes odd jobs across the Night City’s vast underworld, often for unsavory clients. A the game’s start, you can customize V’s look, background, and stats. The character creator isn’t particularly robust, but there are many interesting options to explore, such as tattoos and cybernetic facial implants. Your starting stats boost specific talent types once you’re in the game proper. For example, I boosted V’s Reflex and Cool stats, so stealth and weapon perks opened up relatively early in my playthrough.
The background you select determines V’s prologue tutorial, and impacts how you tackle mission objectives. Early on, a side quest tasked my Nomad-based character with searching for a cop who rocked the proverbial boat by investigating criminals with more clout than she anticipated. Unfortunately, no one knew the cop’s location, so it was up to me to ask around. An odd hooker recognized her, but demanded cash for the intel. Fortunately, V recognized a kindred Nomad in the neighborhood who offered intel after some chit chat, letting me bypass the sex worker’s extortion. Scenarios like this pop up regularly throughout 2077’s campaign.
The Future You Chose
The game’s classic, future-noir tropes—content familiar to anyone who’s seen the Blade Runner films or played the Deus Ex games—aren’t present in the main storyline. Instead, they’re prominently featured in 2077’s many side missions. The campaign paints a world that has moved beyond the ethical quandaries that trans-humanism raises. Technology and the synthetic are a part of everyday life, and concepts like “organic” barely exist. Everyone is enhanced in some way, and the culture has grown to embrace and even fetishize cybernetic technology.
The campaign doesn’t ask big questions; instead, it sets you on an action-packed journey through the cool, flashy, and bizarre Night City streets. Side quests are where the story’s heart truly lies. Similar to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Cyberpunk 2077’s side quests flesh out the world and its people in a way that the campaign does not. In fact, the backstories add so much to the narrative that they should not be optional. They’re essential playing if you want the full Night City experience.
Hack, Slash, and Blast
There are many ways to build V. You can go all-in on hacking, which gives you a multitude of saboteur abilities that let you hijack cameras, defense systems, and enemies. If you find yourself outgunned, hack the grenades on your assailant’s belt and blow him and nearby compatriots to kingdom come. Or you can use a local network to infect enemies with debilitations that prevent them from moving. The Cool stat umbrella houses all the sneaking and assassination abilities you could want. If poison, silent movement, and bonus damage under cover are more your speed, this is where you should invest your level-up points.
The skill trees are massive, bloated by passive boosts like damage, reload speed, or critical-hit chance. That’s not to say that unique moves and abilities aren’t there; you can build for melee damage, evasion, stealth, gunplay, and other combat styles. Still, the skill tree isn’t nearly as expansive as it initially seems, so you will make many small, incremental improvements to your character rather than larger, more immediately noticeable ones. I would have rather the perks consolidated to have more impact, which would deliver a smaller, but more concise, skill tree system.
Combat is surprisingly satisfying thanks to the game’s weapon variety and play styles. Power Weapons, fancy lingo for ballistics like revolvers, shotguns, and machine guns, shred targets. In fact, you can easily dismember or decapitate an assailant if you pop them in the right place. Tech weapons use railgun-style electromagnets to evaporate anything in front of you; any problem you aim at disappears with a pull of the trigger. Smart weapons target and curve bullets around corners and cover, which reminds me of that silly weapon scene in The Fifth Element.
Melee is nothing to sneeze at, either. Bare knuckles do surprisingly well in a scrap, but you can also arm yourself with limb-hacking swords, grappling mantis claws, a good old bludgeon, or any number of other body modifications that enhance your brutish, physical prowess. Enemies are resilient, but not spongey like in other shooter-RPGs. Foes take a beating, but they stick around just long enough for you to get creative with how you kill them. I never felt cheated or overwhelmed by what the game threw my way. I would run low on ammunition fairly regularly, but because I went half-and -half on melee, running out of ammo just meant more melee was in order.
Kinks to Iron
Cyberpunk 2077 contains a fascinating world and great gameplay systems, but the game is unfortunately packed with bugs. I experienced my fair share of immersion-breaking silliness, which is anathema to a game that focuses so heavily on atmosphere. Sometimes elevators don’t load correctly or simply do not work. Enemies occasionally bug out and mindlessly stand around waiting for you to shoot them. Characters sometime teleport into scenes, if they didn’t load correctly. Occasionally, NPCs drive through scenery as they speed off into the sunset. Once, a side quest didn’t properly complete, so I was forced to restart the game from a previous checkpoint.
None of these issues are game-breaking problems, but they are surprisingly frequent. If you buy the game at launch, you should expect to see bugs during your playthrough. Developer CD Projekt Red has patches on the way that will hopefully alleviate these issues.
Can Your PC Run Cyberpunk 2077?
Visually, Cyberpunk 2077 is a cut above most open-world games. The grimy aesthetic is off-putting, especially when compared to Deus Ex: Mankind Divided‘s bright and clean environments. That said, Night City is a larger, more interconnected world that’s fallen on extremely hard times.
Night City is packed with visual delights. Car interiors drip with detail, as do the streets with their densely packed ads and cyber-enhanced NPCs. It’s a pleasure to simply drive around town and take in the environments. Sitting in shadowy rooms and conversing with clients, gangsters, and kingpins looks cool and stylish.
My favorite game elements aren’t the pulse-pounding action sequences or riveting side stories. It’s simply being driven around town during certain missions and enjoying Night City’s sights and sounds. CD Projekt Red has crafted an amazingly realized world. Once you find the visual settings that suit your PC, the game offers amazing atmosphere.
Cyberpunk 2077 is the first game that makes my Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics card feel dated. The game defaulted to Medium settings on my gaming desktop, a rig that contains the aforementioned GTX 970 GPU, an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU, and 16GB of RAM. Still, the setting delivered decent visuals that moved at a solid 30 frames per second. Dropping the visuals to Low saw the frame rate dance between 40fps and 50fps, but the gameplay smoothness wasn’t worth the visual hit. Playing on High or Ultra dropped the frame rate to the low 20s, which also wasn’t worth the trouble.
To play Cyberpunk 2077, you need a PC that contains at least the Windows 7 operating system, an Intel i5-3570k or AMD FX 8310 CPU, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 or AMD Radeon RX 470 GPU, 8GB of RAM, and 70GB or available space. The recommended system settings demand an Intel i7-4790 or AMD Ryzen 3 3200 CPU, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 590 GPU, and 12GB of RAM.
You can purchase Cyberpunk 2077 for $59.99 from many video game stores, including GOG and Steam. On Steam, the game supports many Steam features, including Steam Achievements, Steam Cloud, and Steam Trading Cards. It has full game controller support, too. That’s the preferred way to play, at least at the moment. There’s no way to make your character stroll when playing using a mouse and keyboard; it’s sprint or bust.
An Unpolished Gem
I wasn’t initially impressed with Cyberpunk 2077. The distinct west coast grime turned me off, as did several perks that didn’t appeal to my play style. However, the more I played the game, the more its tremendous gameplay variety, narrative, crass humor, filthy cityscape, and blatant sexuality grew on me. I fell in love with Night City, warts and all. If its many bugs can get ironed out, Cyberpunk 2077 is a potential Game of the Year candidate. Here’s hoping that CD Projekt Red can quickly push out fixes.
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