With The Matrix: Resurrections coming out in just two weeks, let’s revisit last year’s Keanu Reeves Cyberpunk project. Cyberpunk 2077 is a video game from the team behind The Witcher game series. Set in a fictional city called Night City, in a divergent timeline where corporations wield more power than governments and even go to war with each other.
Welcome to Night City
In Cyberpunk 2077, you play as V, an ascending Edgerunner. A kind of freelance mercenary in the shadow wars between crime syndicates and megacorporations. Set in the backdrop of the fictional California city of Night City, Cyberpunk 2077 has you dealing fallout of Johnny Silverhand’s explosive attack on a corporate office 50 years before the game’s start. The events leading up to the game have a legacy well over 30 years, based on the original Cyberpunk tabletop RPG released in 1988 from R. Talsorian Games.
All that said, the game was highly anticipated, even with the controversy surrounding its development process. Then the game’s release came, and all that goodwill crumbled. Overnight, CD Projekt Red went from one of the most beloved game developers in the industry to a pariah, constantly battling negative press. All the goodwill they accumulated with one game, evaporated with another.
A Glitch In The System
Cyberpunk 2077 was full of bugs at launch, and in some cases didn’t even run. Quests didn’t work, or sometimes graphics just were off. The depth of these issues was so bad, the game was removed from the PlayStation store. In many situations, refunds were offered as the game was deemed unplayable. It was so bad, the glitches would ingrain themselves far before they made themselves known. Meaning you could load an older save, but without knowing when a glitch was set in motion, you couldn’t fix the problem. People would have a save file 20 hours into the game and would have to start over from scratch. Updates wouldn’t fix these glitches in existing saves either, so many players just lost interest in the game.
If you were on a console, it was even worse. The game was simply too much for the average PS4 or Xbox One. The game was designed with the newer generation of consoles in mind, but they released it on the current-gen before it was even ready. While some of that has been fixed in patches, the base problem still persists. For the most part, the ideal platform to play the game currently is on PC. The deeper problem here though is just part of the whole issue of the game’s development. Considering the game wasn’t fully ready for release, and the under-prepared console version was rushed out to make up for it not being ready yet. We’ve reached a year since the game’s release and the new-gen versions have still not been released. They’re slated for early next year, but they were supposed to be out by now.
The buzz around this game didn’t help either. The Witcher III was so popular and hailed as an example of what a truly great game can be. When CDPR announced Cyberpunk 2077, people expected Witcher III levels of masterful design. Every developer interview was scrutinized for any crumb of information. This led to even more fervor surrounding the release of the game, amplifying any issues that would have been there regardless. Issues that may have been overlooked in other games were made so much worse when coupled with the bad issues, and the more abundant eyes focusing on the game. This is not to say the journalism outlets covering Cyberpunk are to blame, they merely gave readers what they wanted: more information about a popular upcoming game.
Since its release, there has been no shortage of articles talking about the much-derided game. These range from the relatively benign interview, to the scathing indictment of how they’ve handled the launch. The past year has shown us that even when the game itself has been largely forgotten, the news surrounding its failure won’t go away any time soon.
Since its release, CDPR has gone out of its way to both aggressively fix the game, while simultaneously bombing their response to criticisms. Since its release, Cyberpunk has had more than 10 patches. These patches have run the gamut from fixing stability issues, repairing bugged quests, and dealing with graphical concerns. While they’ve come a long way in fixing the problems since release, but these patches seem too little, too late.
CDPR had big plans for Cyberpunk 2077, big expansions with more stories and quests, much like Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine for Witcher III. These issues derailed all of that, shifting focus on repair both in marketing and the dev team. Reports of programmers being ignored, leading to dev crunch closer to release, and general ambivalence of the game’s issues led to a backlash that has put CDPR on the defensive for months. It’s been an uphill battle for the developer, with attacks coming at all angles. The company was even hacked in June and a ransomware attack in February.
What Does It All Mean
Not since No Man’s Sky has a game that faced such a rough release. Time will tell if Cyberpunk can come back like No Man’s Sky did. Since mid-2021, CD Projekt Red has taken some pretty positive steps to fix their embattled game. Some of these steps should have other developers take note, including hiring modders to help fix bugs. I mean, Bethesda already does that for free.
At its core, Cyberpunk 2077 is a good game, but probably not the game everyone wanted. It claimed it was going to be a revolutionary narrative-driven game, changing how we approach the genre. Instead, it was an Icarian cautionary tale 8 years in the making. Surely, this has damaged the long-term prospects for the game as well. Witcher III was released in 2015 and is still one of the most beloved games not only from the developer but also in the pantheon of legendary games. In the past year, many have simply forgotten Cyberpunk, preferring to just move on.
The fascinating element is how these are perceived differently. Cyberpunk isn’t the only game that has experienced the strange phenomenon of being attacked for elements otherwise ignored in other, more beloved games. Bethesda Softworks is notorious for releasing games full of bugs, Fallout 3 was a beloved game that wouldn’t run at all for a week after launch on pc. Even to this day, the average release of a Bethesda game has issues often fixed by outside modders. Most people that talk about these games often say “The game is fantastic with these mods installed.”
Grass Through The Cracks
The game suffers from controversy and problems, to be sure. However, Cyberpunk 2077 is a fantastic game at its core. I don’t find it as memorable or replayable as many in the same genre, but it is an exciting ride with lots of options available in it. There’s a lot of room in Night City to just hop in a car and explore, go vigilante on the local gangs, or even tackle side-quests. Exploring the crafting system is even a fun way to burn a ton of time. The ability to constantly upgrade your favorite gear is a great way to keep your equipment relevant and use that cool sword or jacket throughout the game.
There are lots to explore and collect, and the story has a lot of great, heartfelt moments. The character customization is pretty great, both on the design and gameplay sides. If I had a request, it’s that I wish there was a third-person camera option.
Ultimately, I enjoyed Cyberpunk, but I understand why others have issues. It’s a fun mess, and I can see the potential. The problems this game has are indicative of the gaming industry as a whole. Bad crunch to release unfinished games, all to appease investors and the company that owns the brand.