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.