Cyberpunk 2077 (next-gen) — A second shot at the future
Who brought the electric katana to the thermal shotgun fight?
When Cyberpunk 2077 originally released in 2020, it was a flaming dumpster of disappointment. I can only describe that early gameplay experience as something akin to getting punched in the face repeatedly by a heavyweight champion. Game-breaking bugs, glitches, frame rate issues, stiff controls — the headache was so strong that many (myself included) abandoned the game all together in search of something far less frustrating. And for two years Cyberpunk looked like a lost cause, a game just too big for its own cybernetic britches. But, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Patch 1.5 (released February 2022) arrived with a plan to revitalize and renew the otherwise broken game. I was hesitant to dip my toes back in, but now having played roughly twenty-five hours of the updated game, I am surprised yet delighted to say it is one of the best RPGs I've played in years.
Patch 1.5 (dubbed the "next-gen" update) fixes thousands of bugs and glitches, some big others small, and enhances just about every aspect of the core gameplay and graphical performance. Having started on a PS4 Pro and now playing on an Xbox Series X, Cyberpunk 2077 feels like an entirely new experience. While elements are improved just by simply switching to a more powerful console, a vast majority of the advancements are thanks to the massive (roughly 80gb) Patch 1.5 and its emphasis on next-gen power.
With a new console and the mighty patch downloaded, I restarted my Cyberpunk journey with balanced expectations and was quickly impressed by how much was offered, most of which I missed the first time due to glitches. Character customization is deep (although still lacks a transmog system), the skill trees and perk allocation systems are complex yet also reminiscent of past RPG greats, and the vast open-world of Night City is sprawling with things to do and places to see. This is a world overrun in technology, where there are more screens that plant life, where augmented reality and virtual reality have taken over everyday life and left humans looking like husks of meat. And thanks to biochips connecting everyone together, you as the player have more than enough opportunities to exploit this technological world.
Additionally, it's fascinating how smoothly the game transitions from all-out mayhem with car chases and shootouts to a more composed, contemplative experience akin to slow-burn detective films. Driving in the rain down neon-lit streets is just as rewarding as swinging an electric katana through a mobster's torso, and as you progress, you'll eventually stumble upon unique character interactions and unlock a load of new activities. And with the ability to hack just about everything, the use of traditional violence is usually entirely up to you.
Gameplay-wise, this first-person shooter is undeniably smooth and responsive. Weapons feel weighted, cars are easy to control and ride blissfully compared to my previous experience, and the cybernetics you're able to purchase and install into your character's body always keep the loop of shooting and looting feeling fresh and new.
However, what truly impressed me most was how much of a light the game shines on player downtime. The crime-ridden streets of Night City are rich with things to do that aren't overtly violent but instead investigative and quiet, such as the Braindance mechanic, which allows players to enter the mind of unique NPCs to solve crimes. But even more so, I found myself scanning the environment for lore and valuables, and then hitting up clothing stores and Ripperdocs (cybernetic doctors) to buy and trade my way into living legend status. While it isn't as robust as it maybe could be, the freedom to spend so much time exploring is refreshing, and ultimately makes the game that much more enjoyable.
- Final Thoughts -
Cyberpunk 2077 recovers from its turbulent launch and is now a robust and exciting RPG thanks to the many improvements of Patch 1.5. Smooth and varied gameplay, a vast open-world, and memorable characters all combine to create a truly gripping experience well worth your time — and second chance.
(Cyberpunk 2077 image courtesy of CD Projekt Red)