After spending some quality time with Firewatch and Unpacking, my gaming game plan look some like this: try out revamped GTA V on the PS5 (check – it is prettier, and that’s about all), head back into Fallout 76 to obtain a few more Tadpole/Possum badges for my raider Darlene (check), play and record Ori and the Will of the Wisps for our YouTube channel (Coming soon!), and then dip into either/both Deathloop and Marvels’ Guardians of the Galaxy.
Instead, I started playing Cyberpunk 2077.
Eh, so much for a plan.
We picked up the game on release for the PS4, and my husband tackled it first. I watched several hours of his gameplay before leaving him to his own devices. Though I had been interested in the game, following its utter dramas and whatnot, he was absolutely chomping at the bit for it. While he completed it, I pretty much forgot about it with plenty else to play. News of the game’s “next-gen” update earlier this year is what brought the game back to my attention. I went ahead and installed the game and the upgrade on our PS5, and there it sat for a while longer before threw my plans out the window and opted to give it a try.
Though the game had continued to populate the headlines, and I had seen some of its gameplay, I had largely forgotten about what the game was all about. I forgot that I had to pick a life path (I went with corpo), and I forgot that the game had wildly intricate character customization systems. I did remember that it’s all first-person, but still, I won’t lie and say that I didn’t spend a ton of time making my V, because I did. With the corpo aspect in mind, I opted to go with a simple and streamlined look for her.
And off I then went into Night City. As of writing, I’ve completed the game’s first act and have started making progress in the second, so let’s start with…
Or rather, the best, which is female V’s voice actor. Because the game’s in first-person, I expected to feel detached from my main character, much like I did in The Outer Worlds, though that game’s main character didn’t speak. The woman voicing V in Cyberpunk 2077 has become my most favorite person ever. She offers an incredible performance. Even when V’s lines don’t quite seem to gel with the situation, I still believe what’s she’s saying because it’s said so well, always with feeling and conviction. It’s like I can hear V’s smiles, frown, smirks, grimaces, and everything in between. I simply adore her because of that voice. She’s warm, passionate, attentive, inventive, wry, and has a good sense of humor. The excellent voice acting brings life to V, and I can’t overstate just how important (and how much of a juxtaposition) it is in a game where so much of what surrounds V feels…well…lifeless. (More on that later.)
Before I get ahead of myself, I do like some aspects of Night City, especially its verticality. I like the same in GTA V, climbing, or flying up to Los Santos’s many skyscrapers and cranes is pretty nifty. Maybe it’s just because I don’t go scaling the same in my own city every day that I find the process enjoyable, but I’m all for it in a game. In diverting from the game’s many missions to just explore, I’ve found some interesting areas, nooks and crannies that are…well…okay, mostly filled with garbage, but I still like the strange attention detail that was paid in creating the city itself. It’s not perfect, but it’s intriguing nonetheless.
And speaking in intriguing, it took me quite some time to warm up to Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Silverhand, but I think we’re coming to terms. I have no issue with Reeves in general, but I’m also no super-fan. I found him stilted and off-putting at first, but as he and V have spent more time together, I rather like having him in, um…my head. He can actually be quite funny, when he’s not being a total jerk, which is, admittedly, how he is most of the time. (He and V’s latent corpo sentiments don’t get along, to say the least.) In side questing, it’s interesting having him along for the ride. He often pops up to offer his opinion, welcome or not, but he also occasionally points to clues or paths I failed to notice, which is helpful. I think I like him, but there’s still plenty of story to get through.
So, let’s talk about that story. Or not. Because it’s boring. Maybe that’s not fair to say considering that I’m only about halfway through, but when I become more interested in doing fetch quests for minor side characters over playing the main story, what other conclusion can I draw? I’ll say that the game’s first act, which involved a heist, was pretty decent. I liked the characters I met, especially Jackie, who was decidedly awesome, and the heist itself was okay. With the second act in full swing, I continue to enjoy the company of side characters – Panam and Claire are great, even if I end up making Claire forever angry at me – over whatever the game really wants me do, which is solve the Silverhand problem. Thing is, since I like having Johnny around, I feel no compulsion to solve anything about him. I’d much rather roam around freely with him in my head looking for other things to do.
Of course, in order to roam, one must have a way to do it and a way to figure out where to go. This brings into question all forms of motorized transport and the game’s actual layout. To the latter first, as much I like exploring Night City proper and its outskirts, the Badlands, the general street layout is horrendous. Even with wayfinding, the city is laid out in a supremely unfriendly manner. I’m sure the map maze is supposed to be a reflection Night City itself, but instills very little gameplay confidence. Driving within the maze is markedly terrible, too. I’m fine with driving in most games, but the streets throughout this game, from paved to dirt, are slick and icy. The smallest bump against another car or barrier is enough to send my vehicle flying. And I cannot stand that stopping vehicles is just so weird. Sometime they brake like normal, sometimes they drift until they feel like stopping, and sometimes they spin out in a wildly silly manner. Its motorcycles are a sight better than cars/trucks, but not by much.
The combat. My goodness, the combat! Never have I had such a love/hate relationship with combat in a game before. Not knowing much about the game’s combat systems outside of the few hours of gameplay I watched, I didn’t have any sort of specific build in mind. I only knew that I wanted to try to incorporate stealth as best I could. I’ve since stuck mostly with stealth and going to no-kill route whenever I can, but that route has been generously peppered with all-out ranged/melee combat because sometime stealth just doesn’t work, which is my fault, I get that. Though the moments are rare, I love it when I can take out enemy groups fully using stealth, because it is extremely satisfying. I hate it when I have to do just about anything else, because then things turn into a complete mess. I know I’m not the best FPS player in the world, but between terrible aiming and terrible enemy AI – sometimes those suckers just come out of nowhere, no blips on the map or anything! — combat scenarios can go down the tubes quickly. I have been getting along okay with melee combat, but even that stinks at time. I shouldn’t complain knowing that any progression is progression, but the inconsistency in combat can really destroy the mood quickly.
All in all, my time with Cyberpunk 2077 has been firmly mixed. To a degree, the game does feel unfinished. A few main story threads have been left dangling, there’s a lot of lifeless open spaces, and Night City as a character is pretty but vacant. The level of polish in the game leaves something to be desired. It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out as I get further on. That fact that I’ve see more glitches in my last few sessions than in the many previous hours I spent playing isn’t heartening. Granted, the glitches have been minor, Bethesda-like ones – characters melding with the scenery, assets popping in and out – but it doesn’t take much to ruin the experience. I’m keeping my fingers crossed things remain on the up and up, but there’s still yet a ways to go.
All images, including lede, were captured by author during PS5 gameplay of Cyberpunk 2077 (© CD Projekt RED).