As if irony-encoded malware made sentient for the sake of a most hilarious mechanism of fate, there is no better mirror to the dysfunction of escapist addiction within our current dystopia of greed and pestilence than witnessing record-breaking digital sales of a broken video game. Well, there are better mirrors but the resolution on this one is particularly stunning as a willingly broken product is shipped in an egregious, nigh unprecedented display of bad faith. Pulling away from our padded slobber-huts full of pre-packaged garbage food, firing up the ol’ computadora, and sticking it to the man by refunding your unfinished copy of CD Projekt Red‘s latest video game, Cyberpunk 2077, has got to feel like some kind of major liberation from corporate irresponsibility. Of course this is about as hollow of a gesture as the game’s story, which is meant to feel like uh, some kind of major liberation from clutches of multi-national corporate control. Unfortunately that might be what you’ll have to read between the lines since the major beats of V.‘s storyline are meant to speak more to the need to matter within a world that does not matter, writhing within an existence that is equally horrible and futile all while ending up as “somebody” when the dust and sparks are done storming around you. As I felt, ate, fucked, shot, listened, hacked, lied, spied, stole, swerved, modded and raced my way through Night City‘s low-pressure salesman of an open world role-playing experience I couldn’t help but stew within its sheer mediocrity and well, at some point I’d realized it was being the “bored Hell” it’d intended to be: An ironclad cage for those who’re smart (and patient) enough to have seen what limitations are secured by participation in society itself. There is nonetheless mayhemic fun to be had within a mediocre, caged existence.

Before Cyberpunking/After Cyberpunking

I am a man and I have a penis! So, of course I chose the big one and it definitely flopped around on the screen for a few minutes while I managed my usual “terrorist mutant meant to look normal” character creation sequence. I’d settled for a vaguely white guy with short hair and a beard, it barely matters. Sex scenes are from first person perspective and they either cut the penis out of the clips or the nudity just doesn’t render properly. “I made a choice, the game subverted that choice or broke while implementing any notable change” is the gist of what I’m getting at here. You might think you are changing the world around you, becoming notable and accomplishing all manner of gang warfare events and anti-corporate actions but the truth is: Technology has been in the hands of the wealthy much longer than the general public and more often than not they’ve already safeguarded against any intrepid choices you might make to take that wealth or power back. Not only that but, any damage you do to corporations or the government ultimately relays the bill directly to the general public. Ok, so the city is full of sex and drugs but all you’ll get is a censored cock and a blurry screen when drunk… What about the open world violence? Surely they’ve taken a hit of that good Grand Theft Auto V shit and made wanton destruction a lot of fun as a diversion? Actually no, shoot one person in the head on the street and the police teleport behind you and will manage to kill you within a matter of seconds no matter how powerful you become. Run! I spent ~84 hours playing Cyberpunk 2077 and though I could take out countless corporate military tech officers, I could barely kill four cops before being clobbered in 2-3 hits. Why? They’re somehow immune to all cyberware/hacking tech. You won’t have -that- kind of fun playing this game and you cannot make a dent in state/national government beyond a few enjoyable missions for politicians surrounding an assassination and puppet regime campaign.

Ah, just when you might think I’m going to hunch over and take a watery dump all over Cyberpunk 2077 I have to say: I absolutely loved playing this game despite the constant bugged physics, game crashes, and the occasional fall through the game world. So, it isn’t Grand Theft Auto, it certainly isn’t Deus Ex (though the DNA is somewhat there) and there is little here in terms of mutants and humor that might bring to mind the glorious underworlds of Shadowrun lore… Then, what is this game? Cyberpunk 2077 is an open world first-person action RPG experience almost entirely dependent upon your choice of combat methods and skill progression. If you decide to go melee you’ll find yourself rushing through the fineries of any situation for the sake of just bashing and slicing up everything around you, eventually gaining abilities surrounding bursts of speed and high impact weapon (or arm blade) attacks. Body and Reflex stats are most important here. This will ultimately feel like a melee playthrough of an open world Fallout game and I gotta say, the dodging/freeze time mechanics needed a lot of work to make this a fun idea. If you decide to go stealth and relatively pacifist there is a lot of fun to be had fucking with the relatively bland AI and cracking into the “Cool” skill tree with a lot of espionage, poison and the use of the monowire implants. Trouble is that this game is not particularly suited to stealth during most main story missions, which require you to go whole hog with artillery in most cases. This feels the most like a modern Deus Ex playthrough but it will become very tedious during certain encounter heavy moments and ramp the difficulty severely if you’re not industrious. What is left, then? Well, guns obviously and you won’t do well to simply pick POWER weaponry in the long run as most of the legendary/named weapons you get from digging around and doing all manner of side quests and story missions are either TECH weapons or SMART weapons. The shooting in this game benefits from aim assistance quite a bit, and the challenge of accuracy is largely pointless considering the arsenal you’ll be wielding that outclasses stock weaponry. TECH (Charged Shot) weapons require Technical Ability stats to get pumped and Intelligence is required for SMART (Homing Shot) weapons. I ultimately chose to focus on Technical Ability and Intelligence with some Body stats later so I could bust open locked doors and open things, this meant I could use all of the most creative and brutal weaponry in the game while also Hacking, which is essentially psychokinetic magick. In terms of classic role-playing this is my usual Spellblade mindset, wield the most powerful magic and weapons at once but wait for the heavier armor until the late game. If you’d like to have long and short range combat options, access most all areas, and gain money and experience fast these choices made the game relatively easy and far more engaging compared to stealth and melee focused builds otherwise.

Your Cyberdeck and Cyberware are very important and hardly tutorialized.

By focusing on Technical Ability and Intelligence so much early on Quickhacking and actual Hacking become not only important combat initiators (Cyberware) and money-makers which are key for upgrading your Cyberdeck. The more you use them the more you level that skillset and this means you’ll get bonuses that are vital later on, such as automatically looting enemies of their cash or machines of their valuable data (er, money basically). To use Cyberware (read: Magic) you need RAM capacity (read: Mana Points) which only becomes reasonable as a full-time combat option when you have a Legendary rarity Cyberdeck acquired from one of ~ten Rippers (Medic/Modifier) but you can subvert this need for RAM by putting Talent points (acquired along with Stat points) into abilities that recharge your RAM when doing certain activities such as killing and enemy or successfully hacking a terminal for a distraction or environmental kill. Cyberware is slotted into a certain number of slots on your Cyberdeck, so you can equip up to eight “spells” which are key to both stealth and combat-oriented playstyles. Ping, for example, at its normal rarity pings off of a nearby computer you’ve selected and show all access points (including enemies) within a certain radius. This radius and the length of their illumination extends as you craft better rarity/quality Cyberware and slot it in. So, Legendary Ping shows the whole building’s worth of enemies and computers for something like 300 seconds whereas Common Ping shows the room for about 30 seconds, if that. I love this part of Cyberpunk 2077, filling in the skill tree meant for some hard choices since Talent points come slow to start and you’ll have to focus without necessarily knowing you need Crafting options to be able to craft better things and Cyberware thieving perks to get the shit you need for better spells. This also applies to crafting armor and weapons… and drugs, and grenades, and the various other cybernetic implants on your head, eyes, arms, legs, and torso. These implants have rarity and effects specific to skill sets and can make for powerful builds, plus you can slot modifiers into those implants. For example I chose to skip using grenades altogether and used the Projectile Launch System which fires unlimited rockets from your arm, though they are initially unwieldy you can use certain Talent skills to make yourself immune or you can modify the projectiles to be electric, explosive, a blast of fire etc. So, ultimately what I want to convey here is that you can go DEEP with the customization of skills and really play around with various builds and combinations in Cyberpunk 2077 and that is the major fun that comes from putting the hours into it. The game is bugged, the story is cool until it becomes major cheese, and the combat always restricts you from going full-on chaotic murder every living thing psycho but man is it fun to rig up your character and succeed with a well thought out build.

Hackin’ brains~

I’ll never forget the bank in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Not only do I love most every mission in that series (especially that game and its prequel) but it was that bank where I felt like Deus Ex had let me wander into a very dangerous place, use all of the skills I had spec’d for, and succeed in completely derailing the function of the bank. I’d stolen all of its goods, all of the data, all of the money I could, and after killing every guard and disabling all security; It took me a few hours to figure out how to do it and I was under-leveled but I persevered and won’t ever forget sitting in the CEO’s chair having tackled the whole place to the ground long before the story would take me there, all because I wandered into a grate after jumping up where I shouldn’t have been. This level of satisfaction never truly arrived when playing Cyberpunk 2077 and instead most major story events felt a bit more like a section of Rage where any moment I had an ingenious idea or wanted to explore off the beaten path the game reminded me that this is a story mission and I need to go and hit that button, go down that elevator, and finish my job. Exploration amounts to discovering quests via your smartphone… holophone… whatever, basically you’ll get a call from one of several Fixers in your area who send jobs your way simply because you wandered into their turf. Getting work almost exclusively from special dealers via proximity of their turf was never interesting until I’d eventually visit them, this helps a lot to characterize their sort of PR firm status as work dealers to mercs, well, paid mercs. Thankfully most of the quests have emergent qualities, uniquely framed tasks and occasionally this means there are story beats intertwined which allow interaction with Keanu Reeves. Right, we have to get to the story eventually and this means first acknowledging that your interactions with Mr. Reeves fine performance as Johnny Silverhand (who is a previously satellite entombed psyche plugged in your head, slowly killing your brain by taking it over) a rebellious “rockerboy” and guitarist/vocalist in Samurai, are largely great if not the only reasonably interactive part of the larger main story. His interjections on side-quests are frequent and tend to build a meaningful if not eventually labored repertoire between V. and the man inside his head. This aspect of the game undeniably is the main reason to care about and engage in the cursory side of the story as it begins to feel like these meaningless tasks serve to keep a sort of serial mini-series going between the two characters for the 50-100 hours you’ll be playing it. Yes, like any episodic “bad cop” drama the formula does eventually present itself but you get to decide if V. is a total snappy turd or a real pal to your rock star headtrip and hell yes, I’ve wanted to be Keanu’s buddy since the first Bill and Ted movie… Eh, maybe not under these circumstances. You could conceivably avoid the main story for roughly 30-40 hours before being gated by the need for certain progress but don’t do this because you’ll gain vital levels, reputation, and weapons from certain main story events early on. You need that start-up money to get to the real fun of Cyberpunk 2077. Feel free to get lost after a few hours, the game practically encourages it with it sheer density of tasks and the story is largely inconsequential.

This is the absolute worst, most uncomfortable shit in the game.

The one part of Cyberpunk 2077 that I didn’t particularly investigate doesn’t seem to matter. The choice between three origin stories (Nomad, Corpo, and Street Kid) decides how your first chapter of the game will be framed and provides a recurring special dialogue option that you can use during key points of main and certain side story quests. You’re ultimately dealing with a story that pits you against a corporation and espionage against it so, knowing this ahead of time I’d felt Corpo made the best sense in the long run. Oddly enough a lot of websites claim this choice is very important but it really isn’t beyond framing the identity of the character and how certain story interactions go. Often I’d be “very Corpo” to a certin Nomad love interest but, I was always able to suggest “Nah, I’m way hard bro-girl, might’ve been Corpo but I’m tuff and anti-Corp now. Wow, also I chose the big penis option eh?” And you might scoff at that but the writing for casual dialogue in Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t much better than that. I’d choose Corpo again on second playthrough solely because I’d spent enough time in the very empty, half-finished Nomad area to not care about that, and at least 20+ hours fighting off gang members on the streets of Night City. Enough to want to avoid any more dialogue/cut-scenes featuring those abominably bad “ethnically stereotypical” characterizations of Asians, Latinos, and African-Americans. When you’ve heard the phrase “Solo Valentino” as a patronizing “Soh-low Vallen-Teeno” shouted a hundred times in a Cheech Marin accent before shooting the guy in the face it all becomes a very shitty cartoon put on by writers with a questionable idea of what the United States cultural reality was and is versus hilarious 80’s/90’s characterizations via gangland films of that era. There is nothing “Cyberpunk” about Don’t Be A Menace, eh? I only wish they took it that far with the dialogue and had as much fun. Anyhow, I know this stuff is meant to be fun and this is a game from folks who basically got on the map for The Witcher, an intermittently self-serious fantasy series with very adult candor, but the overtly horny nonsense that plasters Night City from top to bottom eventually detracts from any sense of world building presented. Sex is such and important part of the plot, such an important part of the world presented, and it all lands as so depraved yet there are only 3-4 “joytoy” sex professionals in the city available. The romantic (read: Emergent sexual intercourse) options in the story are mostly tragic as they play out, including sex in a tank (like, military tank) with a Nomad and getting turned down on a date with one of Mr. Silverhand‘s long distant and very old exes. You can even eventually restart his rock band, do a reunion show, and have sex with his co-guitarist/vocalist on his Yacht at some point but I’d never gotten that far. So, I won’t say that Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t offer the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll lifestyle to some serious degree… Its just that the drugs kind of suck, the sex is mostly foul, and the rock n’ roll doesn’t have the best riffs. At the end of the rockerboy fantasy I’m left feeling like an ex-Corpo dirtbag with an invisible dick. Game of the Year, then?

Well, in terms of what new open world RPG experiences were on offer in 2020 there is no doubt Cyberpunk 2077 is both the best, still pretty average and the most broken. I say this because as I sat there deciding which ending was best I’d kinda just wanted to keep going with the side quests, an uncommon feeling when I’ve spent nearly 90 hours of my life with a broken video game. Why did I persist? Despite the mediocrity that life (er, Cyberpunk 2077) and its busted, fucked up limitations have served me I liked the fucked mess that I’ve built and the memories that come with reminiscing the greater trip of it all. “No ragerts” — Shutting off the game and waiting for it to be fixed, the inevitable free DLC, and all of the great side-quests I missed felt like a death I’d rather put off. This is kinda where the story should end, we’re only gonna die for our own arrogance so, keep shooting, rocking… and fucking ’til death? Sorry, I dunno, the meta-level of takeaway from this game will certainly verge on much more major levels of “stupid” elsewhere but I guarantee you’ll have fun running around in it whether or not it is broken. We’ve all been playing busted, idiotic half-acceptable PC games since the dawn of decently priced graphics cards anyhow, this is a particularly fun one.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
DEVELOPER:CD Projekt Red (Warsaw and Kraków)
DISTRIBUTION:Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE:December 10th, 2020
BUY:Cyberpunk 2077 Website
GENRE(S):First Person Role-Playing Game,
First Person Shooter,
Single-Player Action RPG

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