Where Cyberpunk 2077 actually failed

Spoiler Warning: Although there are no major plot spoilers for Cyberpunk 2077, minor spoilers may be present for some of the game’s missions.

Thanks to a combination of a sale and a rather generous £10 voucher courtesy of the Epic Games Store, I was able to buy Cyberpunk 2077 for just £15 – that’s about $17 or $18 for my friends in the United States. For that price, it’s actually pretty easy to recommend CD Projekt Red’s role-playing shooter, despite the game’s reputation and its shockingly bad launch two years ago.

By the time I got around to fully playing through Cyberpunk 2077 earlier this year, most of the game’s most egregious bugs, graphical issues, and other glitches had been fixed, at least on PC (which is the platform I played on). So from that point of view, I think I got the best possible Cyberpunk 2077 experience – and certainly a far, far better experience than the poor souls who picked up the game on launch day for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One consoles! Although I did encounter a handful of bugs during my 60-hour playthrough, none were what I’d call game-breaking, and as of late 2022, the PC version of Cyberpunk 2077 is probably comparable with the likes of the launch versions of Skyrim or Fallout 4 in terms of bugs and glitches – a low bar, perhaps, but one the game is finally on the cusp of clearing.

Johnny Silverhand.

As I’ve said before on more than one occasion: Cyberpunk 2077 was released far too early in an unfinished state. It took well over a year of additional development time to knock the game into shape – and that work is still ongoing at time of writing, especially for the console versions. The “release now, fix later” business model that we’ve talked about at length here on the website really screwed Cyberpunk 2077 – and the fact that CD Projekt Red lied about the game’s condition in the weeks leading up to its launch is not something players will ever forget.

But for me, Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t disappoint because of its bugs, glitches, and graphical issues. By the time I got stuck into the campaign, most of those – and certainly the worst and most obvious ones – had been patched. In fact, I’d argue that the bugs and glitches became a distraction that arguably shielded the game from what I consider to be its real flaw: it’s just not that good.

One of the many bugs that plagued Cyberpunk 2077.

I realise that’s a horribly subjective statement, so let me try to qualify. Cyberpunk 2077 has a genuinely interesting and entertaining story. It has fun characters with some great voice acting, a world that feels dense and lived-in, and an interesting visual style that blends a kind of ’80s retrofuturism with East Asian influences and then sets it all against the backdrop of a dark corporate dystopia. As a narrative experience, Cyberpunk 2077 was genuinely enjoyable for me, and I found myself getting stuck into its story.

But in terms of the mechanics of its gameplay, Cyberpunk 2077 is sorely lacking. Far from being the genre-redefining epic that CD Projekt Red’s out-of-control marketing seemed to be promising, the game is comprised entirely of systems and mechanics that have been done before – and in many cases, done far, far better – by other titles.

An atmospheric view.

Compare Cyberpunk 2077 to Fallout 4 and it comes up short. Heck, compare it to Fallout 3 and, at least in terms of quests and characters, it feels much the lesser title. For a game that seemed to be promising the moon, Cyberpunk 2077 didn’t even make it to the launch pad. On a good day, it’s an above-average role-playing shooter… but that’s it. It’s never going to be anything more than that – because it never tried to be.

Let’s start with the game’s mandatory first-person perspective. Many games are first-person only, and it’s a creative choice that I respect. But in practical terms, what that decision has meant is that Cyberpunk 2077′s character creator – which is one of the game’s better elements – is basically useless. It’s only right at the very end of the game, literally in one of the final missions, where it’s even possible to see the player character for any length of time.

This was “my” V. Not that I ever got to see her face…

This feels like such a waste because of how good the in-game character creator actually is. There are so many options to customise every aspect of a character’s appearance – but then Cyberpunk 2077 makes it so that even cut-scenes are from a first-person point-of-view, rendering all of that work essentially pointless for the bulk of the game.

Sticking with the player character’s appearance, we have costumes, outfits, and armour. Once again, the first-person perspective is limiting, meaning that players can only really see their outfit in the pause menu, but that’s not the worst of it in this case. Because Cyberpunk 2077 employs a very outdated sliding scale for its items, including clothing and armour, as the player character levels up, there’s a constant need to change clothing to get better armour stats.

Cyberpunk 2077 has a great character creator; one of the best around.

Failing to improve your armour – which is basically done by throwing together the most random and mismatched outfits – can lead to being instantly killed in some missions or when facing off against particularly difficult enemies. During my entire playthrough I don’t think I stuck with the same outfit for more than a few minutes; I was constantly searching the bodies of defeated enemies and picking up the pieces with the best armour stats and just throwing them on.

This renders the in-game clothing shops pretty impotent, and while it’s possible, I suppose, to keep going back to the same shop and buying better versions of the same pieces of clothing if you were really attached to a specific look, doing so is pretty pointless when you consider that you hardly see the outfit anyway. With outfits and costumes being so random, a pretty big part of the role-playing side of the game felt like it disappeared, at least for me.

An in-game clothes vendor.

I love being able to customise my character and choose how they look, but the way Cyberpunk 2077 handles this feels like it’s straight out of a role-playing game from 2000, not 2020, leading to much less of an immersive experience. Throwing together a random, mismatched outfit just to get the best stats feels very video-gamey and breaks the immersion of the role-playing experience.

Sticking with the theme of outdated game mechanics, Cyberpunk 2077 was a surprisingly linear experience for a game that bills itself as “open-world.” In my 60+ hours with the game, I completed 90% of the available missions and side-quests, as well as the main story – and most of the missions and questlines don’t offer much by way of replayability. There are no factions to join, as there are in other open-world games like Skyrim, for instance, and once the player character is sufficiently leveled up, all the game’s missions are available to play.

A list of completed missions.

Although there are different basic play styles – utilising stealth, hacking and tech powers, and weapons in different combinations and to different extents – the missions themselves are linear, with one beginning and one end point. The final act of the game offers a branching storyline, leading to four potential final missions and four different epilogues. But again, each of these missions are pretty linear once they get going, and any player who’s paid attention to more than a handful of side-missions will be able to experience all of them; Cyberpunk 2077 even has a mandatory save point before kicking off the final act, making it easy to go back and try out each of the different endings.

Story missions in Cyberpunk 2077 are fun and engrossing, and the characters feel real and well-rounded, with their own lives and motivations. This gives the game a boost, and even while playing through some bog-standard gameplay, the story was decent enough to elevate Cyberpunk 2077 to something a tad more entertaining. But the same can’t be said for all of the side-missions.

Most of the game’s main characters are fantastic.

Practically all of Cyberpunk 2077′s side-quests follow the exact same formula: go to a location marked on the map, defeat either one overpowered enemy or a handful of normal ones, and receive a check mark on the quest list. The stories that set up some of these missions feel like they have the potential to be interesting on the surface, but when the way that’s communicated to the player is through in-game text messages that are easy to skim or just skip altogether, it makes a mission structure that’s already pretty flimsy feel downright disappointing.

These missions are your typical open-world busywork; padding to give Cyberpunk 2077 a boost to what would otherwise be a pretty meagre runtime for a game of this type. There are a few side-missions that, thanks to some creative voice acting or a particularly interesting premise, manage to feel a little more exciting or entertaining, but even these are pretty basic in terms of what there is to do. If the quest isn’t to kill a specific enemy or clear out an area, it’s basically “go to location, press button to interact with an item, the end.”

One of the game’s side-missions.

Because enemies don’t level up with the player character, many of these missions – despite being nominally “available” to play as soon as the prologue is complete – result in immediate death, even on the lowest difficulty setting. It was incredibly frustrating to stumble upon a side-mission – which in-game text seemed to suggest was urgent – only to die over and over again in a single hit.

Cyberpunk 2077′s open world feels lived-in, so the fact that these scripted missions could be ignored for weeks and weeks’ worth of in-game time sticks out like a sore thumb and further damages the sense of immersion. If I’m told that a dangerous killer is on the rampage right now, my first thought shouldn’t be “oh well, I’ll leave them to it for a fortnight while I do other things and level up; they’ll still be here when I get back.” That’s just so… video-gamey.

An example of an impossible side-mission.

One of Cyberpunk 2077′s selling points before its launch was the different “life paths” that players could start from. Three options were available, with players able to choose what amounted to their character’s “origin story.” However, having toyed with all three, the impact they had on the game itself was minimal. A short prologue was different for each life path, but once that was over, the main game played out in identical fashion. There were a handful of different dialogue options, and one unique “mission” – which, as above, was something incredibly basic. But that was it.

In a role-playing game, I can’t excuse that. The point of offering a choice like this is to give players a fundamentally different experience; a reason to return to Cyberpunk 2077 and do things differently next time. But as with other aspects of the game, this was incredibly short and incredibly linear, offering the appearance of a choice while providing what amounts to the bare minimum.

The much-vaunted “life paths” were basically meaningless.

One other point where a false choice was presented really came to bug me. At the start of the game (after the prologue, at least) V has their own apartment. And this apartment had very limited customisation options, but there were a couple of aesthetic choices that players can make to mix it up. But throughout the game’s open world, other apartments are available to purchase, and V can then use them to rest, store weapons and items, and so on.

But there’s no way to make these properties V’s home. None of them can be customised at all, which is bad enough, but at several points in the game, V will be forced to return to their default, beginning-of-the-game apartment in order to do things in the story or side-missions. It’s as if the game is incapable of recognising that players might want V to move to a nicer part of town (or a more central location). There’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be possible to choose which apartment to make V’s primary residence. Again, this just feels like a break in the immersion and a let-down.

One of the apartments that can be purchased.

So to me, that’s where Cyberpunk 2077 falls short. It fails to live up to the hype in a massive way, and players who were initially disappointed by the game’s awful condition at launch have found, when the dust has settled, a game that simply doesn’t do what they had been expecting. The bugs, glitches, and other problems that Cyberpunk 2077 had may have actually covered up some of these problems, drawing flak away from the real disappointment – the gameplay itself.

I’ve played far better open-world games, far better shooters, and far better role-playing games than Cyberpunk 2077. Games from literally twenty years ago, like Morrowind, or almost a decade ago, like Grand Theft Auto V, brought to the table many of the same elements that Cyberpunk 2077 tries to use – and despite being so late to the party and having seen what other titles in the same space can do, Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t improve on them in any meaningful way. In some ways, some of Cyberpunk 2077′s in-game mechanics are actually worse than other titles in these genres.

Shooting and combat in Cyberpunk 2077 are nothing special.

Where Cyberpunk 2077 finds a redeeming feature is its main story. The stories of V, Johnny Silverhand, Jackie, and the intrigue at the Arasaka Corporation are genuinely fantastic, and the scripting and voice acting that brought it all to life were fabulous. But even here, Cyberpunk 2077 falls short – literally, because the main quest itself is a relatively short affair. I reckon the main quest might’ve taken me about 18 hours, all told, spread across a prologue and two main “acts.” Distracting myself with side-missions took up the rest of my time.

The main quest also has a rather abrupt feel at points. Without getting into spoiler territory, there are a couple of points toward the middle and end of the game where it feels as if something has been cut out – or more likely, something should have been added – to give a bit more detail to the events that were unfolding. The story itself was fantastic – but on these occasions, the way in which it unfolded just felt rather brief.

The Arasaka Corporation was a big part of the game’s main story.

As I said before Cyberpunk 2077 was even launched: this was a game that was massively and catastrophically over-hyped. By promising what seemed to be a once-in-a-lifetime, genre-busting experience, CD Projekt Red spectacularly – and stupidly – overplayed their hand. Had expectations been reined in and kept in check through 2018, 2019, and into 2020, players would have had a more reasonable and realistic picture in their minds of what to expect from the game. The bugs at launch, the overall appalling state that the game was in, and CD Projekt Red’s outright lies would still have harmed the game immeasurably – but at least when the dust had settled, players would have known what they were getting into.

There are some games I’m happy to go back and replay over and over, and some open-world games from years past that are so overstuffed with content, missions, and characters, that even years after their release I still haven’t been able to see and do everything. Cyberpunk 2077 is in neither category. I’m glad to have played it, and in terms of story it’s certainly one of the better games I’ve played in recent years. But its story is a one-and-done, surprisingly linear affair – and when the side-missions that comprise the rest of the game are so incredibly basic, going back and replaying them all feels more like a chore than anything I would actually enjoy.

Promotional art for Cyberpunk 2077.

We’re into December at time of writing, and Cyberpunk 2077 may well go on sale at a pretty steep discount in the days or weeks ahead. If you can pick it up at a low price, as I did, it’s definitely worth playing now that CD Projekt Red has actually had more time to finish developing it and bashing it into a playable state. For full price though, I think it’s a much harder sell – but if you buy a physical copy, I suppose it’s possible to trade it in or sell it on once you’ve beaten it, so that option could be a good one.

Despite the controversy that will forever define Cyberpunk 2077, I didn’t hate it. There was some great storytelling, some wonderfully realistic characters, one of the best character creators in any modern game, and an immersive world that could be fun to just drive around in, soaking up some of the scenery and checking out this dystopian vision of the future. But considering the way the game actually plays, Cyberpunk 2077 was pretty average.

And for a game that had promised so much and been hyped to oblivion for close to a decade, “average” isn’t good enough.

Cyberpunk 2077 is out now for PC, Playstation 4 & 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. Cyberpunk 2077 is the copyright of CD Project Red. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Cyberpunk 2077 – one year later

It’s been exactly a year since Cyberpunk 2077 launched to critical derision, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a look at the game’s progress, lack of progress, and future prospects. On the 10th of December 2020, after several delays, Cyberpunk 2077 was released by CD Projekt Red – but that really isn’t the beginning of the story, and we should briefly step back and consider the absolutely ridiculous hype bubble that had grown around the game.

Here’s my two cents: no matter what state Cyberpunk 2077 had been in a year ago today, an awful lot of players would still have found it to be a disappointing experience. CD Projekt Red’s marketing team didn’t just passively sit by and allow the game’s hype to get out of control in the weeks and months before its launch, but they actively contributed to the problem.

How is Cyberpunk 2077 doing one year on?

For a bit of background, I worked for a time in the video games industry, specifically on the marketing side of things. While it’s natural for a publisher to want to see excitement around a title, care must be taken at an early stage not to allow the hype to get out of control. In the case of Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red’s marketing team seemed incapable of saying “no” – they weren’t doing a good job of managing players’ expectations, and the result was that many players built up a vision in their minds of a once-in-a-lifetime experience; a “perfect” video game. Cyberpunk 2077 was never going to live up to the hype that had been built up, no matter how good it might’ve been. At the end of the day, it’s just another video game.

I could see this hype bubble inflating, growing ever larger and slipping far out of CD Projekt Red’s control. In October 2020, a couple of months before the game’s launch, I wrote an article here on the website titled Cyberpunk 2077 and the dangers of hype in which I expressed exactly this opinion. No matter how good the game might ultimately be, I argued, CD Projekt Red had allowed the game’s hype bubble to get far too big. By allowing prospective players to set incredibly high expectations and refusing to lift a finger to rein in those expectations, the game’s publisher was setting up players for disappointment – as well as setting up the game for negative reviews.

I wrote this article back in October 2020 – before the game’s disastrous launch.

I couldn’t have known then, of course, how bad Cyberpunk 2077 was lining up to be. A last-second delay from November to December should’ve rung alarm bells, but with the pandemic causing all kinds of disruptions last year it wasn’t a huge shock. CD Projekt Red had a great reputation as being a player-friendly company, so if they said they needed a few extra weeks to give the game a final spit and polish, most players were willing to believe that that’s all it was.

Despite my scepticism of Cyberpunk 2077 being everything it was hyped up to be, I was still expecting to see a decent game in December 2020. When the dust settled, I felt sure there’d be a rock-solid role-playing first-person shooter under the hood, even if the game’s loftier promises of redefining what a single-player game could look like didn’t come to pass. To say that I was stunned by the state of the game at launch, and the reaction to it from players, would be an understatement!

Pre-release promotional artwork.

In early December 2020, CD Projekt Red could do no wrong in the eyes of players. The Polish studio’s previous title had been the critically-acclaimed The Witcher 3 in 2015, a game widely hailed as one of the best titles of the generation. With policies and practices that many folks felt were player-friendly, and a good social media team to boot, the company had one of the best reputations in the industry. That evaporated overnight, and a year later the company’s reputation remains in the toilet.

Players will put up with a lot of things – many scandals in the games industry, even very serious ones, usually end up disappearing without a trace by the time a publisher has the next AAA title ready to go. But one thing players can’t abide is being lied to – and CD Projekt Red lied about Cyberpunk 2077.

CD Projekt Red – developer and publisher of Cyberpunk 2077.

The game was not fit for purpose on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – and even today, a full year later, it still performs far worse on those machines than it does on high-end PCs and the newer generation of consoles. CD Projekt Red knew this – because at some point during Cyberpunk 2077′s development, a decision was clearly made to prioritise next-gen consoles over what were then the current-generation machines.

CD Projekt Red had a choice during development: scrap the current-gen version and go all-in on next-gen and PC, or scale the game back so that performance on older hardware would improve. They chose to do neither, doggedly (and stupidly) pushing ahead with a plan to release the game on hardware that, even under the best possible conditions, can’t really handle it. This problem has been lessened by the extra year of development time since release, but it hasn’t gone away. Bugs and glitches remain on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and actions taken to mitigate the game’s performance issues have meant that players see things like fewer pedestrians, less traffic, and get shorter draw distances. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 players have ended up with a worse version of the game no matter how you look at things.

Cyberpunk 2077 was almost unplayable on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One when it was released.

I don’t believe for a second that CD Projekt Red’s management was blissfully unaware of the game’s impending problems this time last year. Their excuse that most developers were working on PCs so no one knew about the bugs and performance issues on home consoles is ludicrous in the extreme – and if anyone out there believes it, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. No, they knew full well that the game was not in a fit state for launch, but they went ahead and launched it anyway. And then, when things understandably went sideways, instead of coming clean and admitting they made a mistake, CD Projekt Red lied about it.

Cyberpunk 2077 is barely ready for release today, let alone a year ago. It needed many more months of development time to even get to this point, and I would argue that if it had been released today it would still have received criticism for its bugs, glitches, and other issues – especially on those older consoles. Not to mention that the overinflated hype bubble we discussed would have burst as players came to find a game that has some decidedly mediocre gameplay elements; things that other titles did better years ago.

Pre-release concept art.

To me, that’s Cyberpunk 2077′s most egregious fault. Sure, the lies on the corporate side of things are pretty crappy. It was definitely an overhyped game, too. And the bugs and glitches will forever define Cyberpunk 2077 for a great many people. But for me, I see so many gameplay elements and features underneath the bugs, performance issues, and scandals surrounding the game that just aren’t that good, or aren’t handled well within the game world. Despite its ambitions, Cyberpunk 2077 is, even on its very best day, an okay video game.

An engrossing, exciting story holds players’ interest, and I fully agree that a good story can redeem even the most mediocre of titles. But underneath that story is a game that just isn’t all that good. Its first-person shooting is okay… but hardly spectacular. I can point to many modern titles that do shooting better and in more fun ways than Cyberpunk 2077: Doom Eternal and Halo: The Master Chief Collection are two just within the single-player realm.

Shooting is a big part of Cyberpunk 2077 – and it’s an aspect of gameplay that many other titles do better.

Open-world gameplay is likewise something other titles do better. Grand Theft Auto V is still the definitive city-based open world game, and it gets so many things right that Cyberpunk 2077 gets wrong: driving, traffic, pedestrian/civilian NPC behaviour, traffic AI, mini-map/radar, police… the list goes on. Some of Cyberpunk 2077′s open-world elements feel so incredibly outdated when compared even to lesser games in a similar space – police AI and police spawning, for example, work far better and feel more intuitive in games like Saints Row 2, which came out in 2008.

I’d argue that the bugs, glitches, and performance issues actually ended up shielding Cyberpunk 2077 from some serious gripes about the way the game really works. The overnight bursting of the hype bubble surrounding the game a year ago mostly came about as a result of the bugs and the lies – players wanted to play the game they’d built up in their heads, and were angry with CD Projekt Red for releasing it before it was ready. It’s only as the game’s development continued that we’ve come to see how Cyberpunk 2077 might’ve looked had it been launched in a better state – and for a lot of folks, these gameplay elements just aren’t particularly well-made or fun. They’re certainly not innovative, meaning that despite bold claims in the run-up to the game’s release, Cyberpunk 2077 was never going to be the once-in-a-lifetime experience that many players had hoped for.

Cyberpunk 2077 has experienced quite the fall from grace.

Now that we’ve had a year to see the game in all its glory, it’s my firm belief that Cyberpunk 2077′s problems don’t begin and end with its incredibly bad launch. That launch will, justifiably, go on to define the game for the rest of its days. Very few titles before or since have seen such a spectacular implosion, and CD Projekt Red will be scrambling for years to recover from this self-inflicted wound. But as the dust settled and as the game’s development has continued, with bug fixes and patches having been rolled out over the course of this first year, we’ve seen what Cyberpunk 2077 could have been – or at least we’ve seen glimpses of that.

A strong, engaging story with some well-written dialogue and clever world-building keeps Cyberpunk 2077 interesting. Had it not been for the bugs and glitches, that might’ve been good enough to see it pick up better-than-average reviews: seven or seven-and-a-half out of ten, that kind of thing. But underneath that story, gameplay remains shallow. The game is comprised entirely of systems that other titles have done before – and in many cases have done far better. There was never anything new or innovative about Cyberpunk 2077, and the things that could’ve made it seem better than it was – such as its densely-packed open world or sense of scale – were completely ruined by the bugs and launch issues.

It’s possible that 2022 will see more updates for Cyberpunk 2077 that start to change the narrative. A next-gen console version is already on the cards for the first half of next year, for example, and there are more free updates to come in the months ahead. But as things stand, I can’t see a way to turn Cyberpunk 2077 into the game that CD Projekt Red spent eight years hyping to oblivion. It has the potential, once all the bugs are fixed, to be a decent game. But it will never be a great one.

Cyberpunk 2077 is out now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. Cyberpunk 2077 is the copyright of CD Projekt Red. Some promotional artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Cyberpunk 2077 returns to the PlayStation Store!

More than six months after a cataclysmic, bug-riddled launch saw Cyberpunk 2077 quite deservingly removed from sale by Sony, the game is finally back on the PlayStation Store. But is this the triumph it appears to be?

It’s been a while since we last took a look at the disastrous Cyberpunk 2077, and this seems like a good opportunity to consider the game’s progress – and how far it still has to go. On the surface, Cyberpunk 2077′s return to the PlayStation Store seems like a win for beleaguered developer CD Projekt Red. They’ll want to spin it as testament to the work put into the game since launch, and that it must be representative of a significant improvement for the game… even though its PlayStation Store listing comes with a major caveat that warns players of “performance issues” and that buying the game for PlayStation 4 is “not recommended!”

Cyberpunk 2077 is finally back on the PlayStation Store.

Let’s not forget, before we go any further, that Sony doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to gatekeeping on the PlayStation Store. Some truly awful games have been released there and allowed to remain on sale even after being shown to be buggy, unplayable messes. That’s one reason why the decision to pull Cyberpunk 2077 was so shocking! Sony allowing the game back means it’s finally at the same level as PlayStation classics like Life of Black Tiger and Sword of Fortress the Onomuzim.

The general consensus, even from Cyberpunk 2077′s remaining supporters, is that the game still has a long way to go. There are still a lot of glitches and issues to correct, but most significantly there are underlying gameplay problems, more of which become apparent with every bug fixed. Cyberpunk 2077 was rushed out the door to meet an arbitrary deadline, and the result of that isn’t just the bugs and glitches. Many aspects of the underlying gameplay just aren’t all that good.

Many elements of Cyberpunk 2077 – including driving – have been heavily criticised.

Non-player characters don’t react naturally to situations that transpire around them. There are many video clips you can find on YouTube of half a dozen characters performing an identical animation when the player takes out a gun or fires a shot. Night City’s police don’t exist dynamically in the world in the same way they do in games like Grand Theft Auto V – or Grand Theft Auto III, come to that. Instead, they spawn in when the player commits a crime – often within a metre or two of the player.

If the version of Cyberpunk 2077 that launched in December felt like an early alpha version, six months later what we have at best is the equivalent of a closed beta. It’s ready for play-testing by a large professional QA team who would report all of these bugs and glitches to the developers so they could be fixed before launch. In a game of this size, this phase of development could easily take six months or more. Being as generous as we can, Cyberpunk 2077 is still in dire need of months of development time to get to a state that’s anywhere close to acceptable.

Cyberpunk 2077 launched in an appalling state… and despite some improvements, is still nowhere close to acceptable.

And that’s before we get into new problems. CD Projekt Red and the development team are still reeling from a major hack that exposed the private data of many individuals who work for the company. That will undoubtedly have damaged morale. But to my great surprise, in recent interviews CD Projekt Red has already begun discussing its next game – which is assumed to be The Witcher 4.

They quite literally and demonstrably have not finished working on Cyberpunk 2077 and they’re already talking about moving on to new projects? Ouch. I think we can kiss goodbye to any Cyberpunk 2077 expansion packs or DLC! CD Projekt Red has also announced sales figures for the first quarter of 2021, and as you might expect given the state of the game, those numbers are catastrophically bad – Cyberpunk 2077 sold somewhere in the region of 800,000 copies. That’s less than 6% of the 13.7 million copies of the game that were sold in December 2020.

As you might expect, sales tanked following the game’s disastrous launch.

Then there are refunds to take into consideration. Many players chose to get refunds directly from Xbox, Steam, and other outlets where they’d purchased the game. This is a big part of the reason why Sony took the game down – there were so many refunds being requested, and Sony was concerned about their ability to handle all of them. CD Projekt Red directly refunded only around 30,000 players – but that doesn’t account for the vast majority who got their refunds from the shop they purchased the game from. The total number of refunds as of June – according to unofficial reports – may be in excess of two million.

Even if that number is inflated, a huge number of refunds have been paid out, and that’s had a massive impact on CD Projekt Red’s bottom line. The company has seen more than 50% wiped off the value of its share price in the last six months, and a recent investor presentation saw further falls as investors were disappointed at the lack of clarity about the company’s future – and Cyberpunk 2077 in particular.

CD Projekt Red’s stock price from June 2020 to June 2021.
Image Credit: Google Finance

I’ve spoken at length about how Cyberpunk 2077 has become the latest in a long line of “release now, fix later” failures, but the point needs to be re-emphasised: this is not how you make a video game. Players have a right to expect basic functionality and playability at the bare minimum, and even as Cyberpunk 2077 returns to the PlayStation Store, those basic expectations are still not being met. The game remains in a poor state, unworthy of being called a finished product.

As the old joke goes: if you can’t be a success in life, maybe you can still serve as a bad example. And that’s what Cyberpunk 2077 is right now: a warning to any other publisher that thinks they can get away with releasing a broken, bug-riddled, unplayable mess and promise to fix it later.

Cyberpunk 2077 will be studied in the years ahead.

I had been hopeful that Cyberpunk 2077′s updates over the last few months would kick off a No Man’s Sky-style revival, with the game crawling its way slowly toward commercial success and critical acclaim. That’s still possible – though if CD Projekt Red are already considering their next game, I’m not encouraged by that. But as things stand, the updates and patches released so far haven’t succeeded at getting the game to anywhere near its promised condition.

Some of the bugs are gone. But each bug removed seems to uncover something else about Cyberpunk 2077 that’s disappointing – in a way, the game’s reputation for being unplayable due to bugs concealed what may come to be seen as its true failing: Cyberpunk 2077 is just not that fun to play. There may be a decent story, but in terms of gameplay, what’s there is a roleplaying-shooter that’s mediocre at best, with gameplay systems that other titles did better years earlier.

The reputation of CD Projekt Red has been badly damaged by the Cyberpunk 2077 fiasco and will take a long time to recover.

Considering the financial impact on CD Projekt Red, in a way I could quite understand the desire to move on. Cutting your losses and racing ahead to a new project makes business sense in some circumstances, and may even be helpful in the medium-to-long term for team morale. I wouldn’t be shocked to hear in the next few months that there won’t be any more Cyberpunk 2077 updates; that this is as good as the game will ever get.

BioWare did this twice in recent years – with Mass Effect: Andromeda and with Anthem. So before you dismiss the notion out of hand, keep in mind that it’s happened before. Games companies are notorious for cutting their losses and abandoning underperforming projects. And if we’ve learned one thing from the Cyberpunk 2077 clusterfuck it’s that CD Projekt Red, despite their earlier glowing reputation with players, behave just like every other major games company on the planet.

If you’re still playing Cyberpunk 2077 – or holding out hope for its future success – I’m with you. I don’t want this game to be forever bad; it had so much potential and I’d like nothing more than to see it succeed. I’m just not holding my breath any more. There have been too many underwhelming updates and too many strange noises coming from CD Projekt Red.

Cyberpunk 2077 is out now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. Cyberpunk 2077 is the copyright of CD Projekt Red. Some promotional artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Cyberpunk 2077: Version 1.2 might be a step in the right direction, but it’s still got a long way to go

If Cyberpunk 2077 had been released today, with all of the improvements version 1.2 brings – and all of the other hotfixes and patches rolled out since its abysmal release in December – it would have received the exact same negative response from players and critics. This is a game that, for all of the minor improvements made, still has a long way to go to get to a decent state. At least, that seems to be the consensus now that the latest version of the game is live.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that, quite frankly, is still in development. But CD Projekt Red opted to release it to the public before development was finished. The game will go down in gaming history as one of the worst and most egregious examples of the horrible “release now, fix later” business model that has plagued the industry for the better part of a decade. Whatever improvements may come in future as development on the game continues, its reputation has been defined by its catastrophic launch. Don’t believe me? Just look at No Man’s Sky, another game that took years to get to where it should have been at launch. No matter what happens now with No Man’s Sky, it will forever be known as the game that was overhyped, lied about, and that players hated upon release. Cyberpunk 2077 is in the same boat.

Cyberpunk 2077 is the new No Man’s Sky.

Even the game’s biggest fans and supporters seem practically united in their unwillingness to recommend Cyberpunk 2077 in its current form, even after the updates and fixes brought by version 1.2. “If you’ve held off this long, you can wait a little longer,” suggested one Cyberpunk 2077 fan on YouTube. If that isn’t damning, I don’t know what is.

The problem with Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t just that it was full of bugs, glitches, crashes, frame-rate problems, and graphical errors. Ironically, those issues concealed what may come to be seen as the game’s worst traits – awful enemy and non-player character AI and scripting, unrealistic physics, and a game with what is considered to be an engrossing story held back by first-person shooter gameplay that’s average at best.

Fixing those things, if it’s even possible, will take a long time.

An NPC clipping through a vehicle.
Picture Credit: Gameranx via YouTube.

Taking on an ambitious project should be commended, and CD Projekt Red were certainly ambitious with Cyberpunk 2077. As with No Man’s Sky, though, the ambition was clearly not backed up with sufficient skill, knowledge, and management. CD Projekt Red stepped away from the style of their previous title – the critically-acclaimed Witcher 3 – to tackle a wholly new genre. There’s clearly a big difference between a third-person action-roleplaying game and a first-person shooter roleplaying game, and for CD Projekt Red, the transition from working on one style of game to the other did not go smoothly – to say the least.

Perhaps one day we’ll learn more from those involved about how Cyberpunk 2077 went so far off the rails, and that will be an interesting story. However, even without knowing the details, we’ve been in this position so many times over the years with so many different games that we can make some reasonable assumptions. Developers were pushed into working on a totally different style of game without sufficient backup or training. Management kept changing their minds about the direction of aspects of the project. Despite being announced way back in 2012, development didn’t begin in earnest until 2016, meaning the game was developed in a scant four years, not eight. An absolute rock-solid deadline of the end of 2020 was in place and immovable, despite the game not being ready. And so on.

Driving in Cyberpunk 2077 is one aspect that has been improved – but still isn’t right.

Many of those points about poor project management, a lack of necessary skill and training on wholly new systems and engines, and rushing to meet deadlines applied to games like Fallout 76, Anthem, Mass Effect: Andromeda, and many others. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn something similar happened to Cyberpunk 2077.

It’s clear, though, that CD Projekt Red lack the development skill to match other open world games, even those from years ago. Grand Theft Auto V, while not directly comparable as it isn’t a roleplaying game, uses a densely-packed city as the main part of its open world, with systems like driving and evading the police that are present in Cyberpunk 2077. Yet that game manages to do every aspect better. Police in Cyberpunk 2077 randomly appear out of nowhere, spawned into the game within feet of the player. Even older Grand Theft Auto titles didn’t do that. Heck, even a game like Saint’s Row 2 from 2008 handles driving, pedestrians, and police way better than Cyberpunk 2077 version 1.2, and that game was released twelve years earlier and cost an awful lot less to develop!

Saint’s Row 2 managed to do better than Cyberpunk 2077 at several key aspects of gameplay.

For me, this is the real problem with Cyberpunk 2077, and it’s one that is not easily sorted out. The bugs and glitches at launch took attention and focus away from the fact that some pretty major gameplay elements are sub-par, and now that some of the glitches are finally going away (though by no means are all the problems fixed, especially on consoles) people are beginning to come around to the simple fact that the game itself is suffering from some significant issues.

Far from being a quick patch job, with the game being fixed and playable by the summer or even the end of 2021, Cyberpunk 2077 is in the early stages of a complete root-and-branch overhaul. The version that launched should have been a beta. Heck, it should have been an alpha. The game is still in development, but it’s already been released. This has to be one of the single worst examples of the “release now, fix later” business model that plagues the modern video games industry.

Cyberpunk 2077 promised a lot, and failed to deliver on much of it for many players.

Individual developers are not to blame, and they never are in cases like this. That’s why I was so upset when some “fans” seemed to be celebrating the company being hacked a few weeks ago. This is a failure of management. Management failed to understand the complexities of the project they were taking on. They were overambitious. They failed to ensure the development team had adequate resources to do their jobs. And when it came to marketing Cyberpunk 2077, they allowed a ridiculous hype bubble to get completely out of hand.

Version 1.2 may be the biggest step so far toward getting Cyberpunk 2077 into a more enjoyable – or even just basically playable – state. But the task facing CD Projekt Red, at a time when harsh but deserved criticism has surely lowered staff morale, is a truly daunting one. I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes!

Cyberpunk 2077 is out now for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Cyberpunk 2077 is the copyright of CD Projekt Red. Some screenshots and promo artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

The CD Projekt Red hack is nothing to celebrate

Despite the slow pace of updates meaning that Cyberpunk 2077 is still a hot mess more than two months on from its release, I had hoped that the controversy was dying down, giving the game and its developer, CD Projekt Red, time to fix things. We’ve recently discussed why the “release now, fix later” approach is a bad idea, and Cyberpunk 2077 is a case in point. But there’s a line between criticising a company for its bad, anti-consumer decisions and breaking the law to attack them and their employees. CD Projekt Red has recently fallen victim to what they’re calling a “targeted cyber attack,” one which has not only compromised their recent game, but has also supposedly granted the hackers access to private employee data.

This is not something to cheer, no matter how disappointed one may be in the Cyberpunk 2077 fiasco. CD Projekt Red made many mistakes and acted in an unfair, aggressively anti-consumer manner. But the company and its employees do not deserve to have their work – and especially not their personal data – stolen for ransom.

A hacker has attacked Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt Red.

There are many cases of hackers doing good things, attacking truly evil entities and bringing to light incredibly important information. It’s thanks to hacking that we know, for example, the extent of cyber surveillance by governments. Hackers routinely take on dictatorships, corrupt governments and organisations, and have even helped bring to justice sexual predators and abusers. But unlike in any of these cases, video games are not a matter of life or death. No one has been helped by this situation, and it may very well make things worse.

Some industry watchers and analysts are saying we need to brace for “shocking” revelations which may come from the stolen data. While no one is yet saying precisely what the hackers may have unearthed, it’s not hyperbolic to say that cyber attacks of this nature have literally shut down companies in some cases. If there’s something big hiding in the CD Projekt Red data, it could spell disaster for the company.

We don’t yet know what – if anything – is hiding in the stolen data.

Nobody wants that. Most folks I’ve spoken to who were disappointed in CD Projekt Red and Cyberpunk 2077 want the company to keep working on the game, fix the issues, and apologise for the misleading way they handled the marketing and launch. Nobody serious is advocating for the company to suffer or be closed down; that would be counterproductive to what all of us want: for Cyberpunk 2077 to get to a decent, playable state.

Of course it’s most likely that nothing in this hack will lead to CD Projekt Red being shut down. But the mess that results from this kind of event will harm morale within the company – especially among ordinary employees who are now finding out that their personal data has been stolen. It will slow progress on fixing the game, and despite what we might say about how it should have never been released in this state, that’s already happened and won’t be undone by a hack like this. The game needs to be fixed as soon as possible, and this will slow down that work.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a broken bug-riddled mess that needs to be fixed.

I’m not someone who goes to shill for corporations, nor someone who would ordinarily stand up for a wealthy company – especially one that has behaved in such a scummy way. But this hack helps nobody, harms the company right at the moment when it needs to be focusing on fixing the game, and only benefits cyber criminals – criminals who probably don’t even care about Cyberpunk 2077. This may simply be a convenient excuse to attack a company and demand money.

Speaking of demanding money, if this were simply an irate gamer trying to “get back” at CD Projekt Red, why threaten the company and ask for a “ransom?” There’s nothing altruistic about this; it isn’t even like the recent “Reddit vs. Wall Street” battle over GameStop shares. This is cyber crime, plain and simple, and I find it very disheartening to see how many people are actively supporting it and cheering for it.

Cyberpunk 2077 launched to well-deserved bad reviews in December.

It’s funny, in a way, and I get that we all like to make jokes and memes about these situations. I saw someone making the joke that hacking into CD Projekt Red was comparable to a hacking minigame in Cyberpunk 2077 – and I admit that one made me chuckle! There can be no denying that the company massively screwed up the launch of its latest game, and they have seen their share price take a hit, their reputation and goodwill utterly collapse, and they’re undoubtedly losing money as a result. Cyberpunk 2077 has been pulled from the PlayStation Store, seen huge numbers of refunds issued, and the mess will take a long time for CD Projekt Red to clean up.

All of that is good. And I support companies like Sony taking legitimate action to hold CD Projekt Red accountable. That absolutely needs to happen. And it has happened already – by lawful means. The game’s review scores have been mediocre, with many players giving the game 0/10 for its bugs and glitches. And all of the aforementioned criticism has eroded the reputation of CD Projekt Red. But this hack is a step too far and cannot be condoned. Criticise CD Projekt Red. I know I have. Call them out for their lies and their nonsense. Don’t buy the game or insist on a refund. Support companies like Sony in pulling the game from sale. But breaking the law and attacking the company helps no one, and is ultimately going to make the wait for the game to be fixed even longer.

Cyberpunk 2077 is the copyright of CD Projekt Red. Some stock photos courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.


CD Projekt’s full statement on the hack can be found below:

Cyberpunk 2077 and the dangers of hype

With CD Projekt Red’s new game Cyberpunk 2077 now only a few weeks away from release, the already-excessive hype surrounding the game has reached fever pitch. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen such an over-hyped title. Excitement for a game is good, and from the point of view of the game’s developers, it’s good news that there’s an engaged and excited audience waiting for the title to be released. But there is such a thing as too much hype, and we’ve seen countless times how that can ultimately lead to disappointment – even if a game is pretty good.

For the record, because I know an article like this is ripe for misinterpretation: I am categorically not saying that Cyberpunk 2077 looks like it’s shaping up to be a disappointment or a bad game. Instead what I’m saying is that too much hype can be a bad thing, and even if a game is decent, can lead to players feeling underwhelmed.

In the absence of independent reviews, what we have right now is marketing material released by the game’s developer. And that marketing material is scripted and edited in such a way as to show the game in the best and most exciting light; that’s what the objective of marketing is, after all. Many of these trailers and small recorded clips of gameplay look thrilling and very exciting, but anyone with a computer can cut together a trailer that looks decent. Any game, even notoriously bad ones like Marvel’s Avengers or Contra: Rogue Corps, can be made to look good in their own marketing.

Is Cyberpunk 2077 over-hyped?

Right now, the hype surrounding Cyberpunk 2077 is allowing players to do the one thing any developer needs to be very wary of: build up a personal expectation of what the game could be. All the talk of customisation and unique quests is setting up an expectation that the game can literally be anything players can imagine, and the absence of reviews or any real gameplay amplifies that. How many games have we seen seemingly promise the moon only to fail to live up to expectations?

No Man’s Sky is a recent example of a game that generated similar levels of hype leading up to its release. In that case, players accused studio Hello Games of false advertising, as they were left disappointed when promised features were not what they expected. Hello Games certainly over-hyped No Man’s Sky, but it was players themselves who took that hype and built it up to impossible heights. I can’t be the only one feeling at least a slight sense of déjà vu, can I?

I want Cyberpunk 2077 to be a phenomenal game and to sell well. I want it to demonstrate unequivocally that there is still plenty of life left in the single-player game space, given how many big publishers have abandoned it in the push to always-online multiplayer titles. But I’m nervous. A lot of players seem to be building up Cyberpunk 2077 in their minds to an impossible standard, one that no game could ever live up to. And all the while, CD Projekt Red seem content to let them do so.

Are players setting themselves up for an underwhelming experience?

In all the discussion surrounding the game, never once have I seen CD Projekt Red say “no.” They have never said “no, that feature isn’t part of the game,” “no, you can’t do that,” “no, you can’t go in every building, fly every aircraft, romance every NPC,” and so on. Because their marketing team has been quite happy to show off a range of things players can do, both in written and video form, I feel there’s a real danger that expectations are being created for many players that can simply never be met.

It’s far too late now to change course. Any damping down of expectations needed to happen months ago if players were to get into the right mindset in time for the game’s release. Cyberpunk 2077 should be judged on its own merits, not pre-judged by players with self-created notions of what the game could have been, yet that’s what happens time and again when a game sees this level of fanatical over-hyping. Cyberpunk 2077 may very well turn out to be a good game – but like every game, it will have its limitations. There will be things players can’t do, limits to customisation, and perhaps even the odd bug or glitch that snuck through testing or couldn’t be patched before launch. None of these things are uncommon in games, and in most cases would be happily overlooked. But in a title that has received such inflated hype, the crashing back to earth as players realise that it’s just a game, not an infinitely spectacular sandbox, can be devastating.

Can Cyberpunk 2077 possibly live up to the lofty expectations players have?

No Man’s Sky was good, even at launch. The only reason that’s an unpopular opinion is because the game had been hyped to oblivion and back for months, and when players quickly realised that there was little more going on than flying a spaceship, mining minerals, and exploring, they were devastated. The dream of living a second life in whatever galaxy they’d imagined in their heads was dashed – and thus the game was considered crap. A lot of the fault lies in the way No Man’s Sky was marketed… just like a lot of the fault for Cyberpunk 2077′s massive hype bubble lies with CD Projekt Red.

Maybe they’ll pull off the impossible, and release a game so spectacularly amazing that it will truly let players do everything they can imagine. And if that’s the case then sign me up, because I’d want to play a game like that! But as things sit right now, I’m getting that sense of déjà vu that I mentioned. Are we going to see a game on par with the best titles of the generation? Are we about to see a game that breaks the mould and redefines what a game can even be? Or are players going to hit the wall when they realise that Cyberpunk 2077 is just a game?

Even if it turns out to be a great game, too much hype could damn it. We all need to be careful when it comes to pre-release marketing and trailers, even for projects we’re excited about. Until the game is ready and is in the hands of reviewers and the general public, the possibility for deception or misunderstanding exists. And even in cases where games haven’t been deliberately dishonest, excessive hype can lead to the sense that a title is underwhelming and disappointing when it doesn’t do everything players hoped for.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Cyberpunk 2077 being a lot of fun. But I’m also trying to avoid boarding the hype train.

Cyberpunk 2077 will be released on the 19th of November 2020 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. Cyberpunk 2077 is the copyright of CD Projekt Red. Screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of the Cyberpunk 2077 press kit on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.