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 worst things about modern video games

The first home console I owned – after saving up my hard-earned pocket money and pestering my parents for ages – was a Super Nintendo. Gaming has changed a lot since then, and while many of those changes have been fantastic and introduced us to new genres, not every change has been for the better! In this list I’m going to cover some of my biggest pet peeves with video games in 2021.

As always, this list is entirely subjective. If I criticise something you like, or exclude something you hate, just keep in mind that this is only one person’s opinion. Gaming is a huge hobby that includes many people with many different perspectives. If yours and mine don’t align, that’s okay!

Number 1: No difficulty options.

Some people play video games because they love the challenge of a punishingly-difficult title, and the reward of finally overcoming an impossible level after hours of perseverance. I am not one of those people! In most cases, I play video games for escapism and entertainment – I want to see a story unfold or just switch off from other aspects of my life for a while. Excessive difficulty is frustrating and offputting for me.

As someone with health issues, I would argue that difficulty settings are a form of accessibility. Some people don’t have the ability to hit keys or buttons in rapid succession, and in some titles the lack of a difficulty setting – particularly if the game is not well-balanced – can mean those games are unavailable to folks with disabilities.

While many games are too difficult, the reverse can also be true. Some titles are just too easy for some people – I’m almost never in that category, but still! Games that have no difficulty settings where the base game is incredibly easy can be unenjoyable for some folks, particularly if the challenge was what got them interested in the first place.

In 2021, most games have difficulty options as a standard feature. Difficulty settings have been part of games going back decades, and in my opinion there’s no technical reason why they shouldn’t be included. There’s also not really a “creative” reason, either. Some developers talk in grandiose terms about their “vision” for a title being the reason why they didn’t implement difficulty options, but as I’ve said before – the inclusion of an easier (or harder) mode does not impact the game at all. It only impacts those who choose to turn it on, and considering how easy it is to implement, I find it incredibly annoying when a game is deliberately shipped without any difficulty options.

Number 2: Excessive difficulty as a game’s only selling point.

While we’re on the subject of difficulty, another pet peeve of mine is games whose entire identity is based on their difficulty (or perceived difficulty). Think about this for a moment: would Dark Souls – an otherwise bland, uninspired hack-and-slash game – still be talked about ten years after its release were it not for its reputation as impossibly difficult? How many late 2000s or early ’10s hack-and-slash games have dropped out of the cultural conversation? The only thing keeping Dark Souls there is its difficulty.

A challenge is all well and good, and I don’t begrudge players who seek that out. But for me, a game has to offer something more than that. If there’s a story worth telling under the difficult gameplay I’m impressed. If the difficult, punishing gameplay is all there is, then that’s boring!

Difficulty can also be used by developers as cover for a short or uninteresting game. Forcing players to replay long sections over and over and over can massively pad out a game’s runtime, and if that’s a concern then cranking the difficulty to ridiculous levels – and offering no way to turn it down – can turn a short game into a long one artificially.

I’m all for games that offer replay value, but being forced to replay the same level or checkpoint – or battle the same boss over and over – purely because of how frustratingly hard the developers chose to make things simply isn’t fun for me.

Number 3: Ridiculous file sizes.

Hey Call of Duty? Your crappy multiplayer mode does not need to be 200 gigabytes. Nor does any game, for that matter. It’s great that modern technology allows developers to create realistic-looking worlds, but some studios are far better than others when it comes to making the best use of space! Some modern games do need to be large to incorporate everything, but even so there’s “large” and then there’s “too large.”

For a lot of folks this is an issue for two main reasons: data caps and download speeds. On my current connection I’m lucky to get a download speed of 7 Mbps, and downloading huge game files can quite literally take several days – days in which doing anything else online would be impossibly slow! But I’m fortunate compared to some people, because I’m not limited in the amount of data I can download by my ISP.

In many parts of the world, and on cheaper broadband connections, data caps are very much still a thing. Large game files can take up an entire months’ worth of data – or even more in some cases – making games with huge files totally inaccessible to a large number of people.

This one doesn’t seem like it’s going away any time soon, though. In fact, we’re likely to see file sizes continue to get larger as games push for higher resolutions, larger environments, and more detail.

Number 4: Empty open worlds.

Let’s call this one “the Fallout 76 problem.” Open worlds became a trend in gaming at some point in the last decade, such that many franchises pursued this style even when it didn’t suit their gameplay. Read the marketing material of many modern titles and you’ll see bragging about the size of the game world: 50km2, 100km2, 1,000km2, and so on. But many of these open worlds are just empty and boring, with much of the map taken up with vast expanses of nothing.

It is simply not much fun to have to travel across a boring environment – or even a decently pretty one – for ages just to get to the next mission or part of the story. Level design used to be concise and clever; modern open worlds, especially those which brag about their size, tend to be too large, with too little going on.

The reason why Fallout 76 just encapsulates this for me is twofold. Firstly, Bethesda droned on and on in the weeks before the game’s release that the world they’d created was the “biggest ever!” And secondly, the game had literally zero non-player characters. That huge open world was populated by a handful of other players, non-sentient monsters, and nothing else. It was one of the worst games of the last few years as a result.

Open worlds can work well in games that are suited for that style of gameplay. But too many studios have been pushed into creating an open world simply to fit in with a current trend, and those open worlds tend to just flat-out suck because of it. Even when developers have tried to throw players a bone by adding in collect-a-thons, those get boring fast.

Number 5: Pixel graphics as a selling point.

There are some great modern games that use a deliberately 8-bit look. But for every modern classic there are fifty shades of shit; games that think pixel graphics and the word “retro” are cover for creating a mediocre or just plain bad title.

It may be hard to remember, but there was a time when the idea of using a deliberately “old-school” aesthetic would have been laughed at. The first few console generations were all about improvements, and I’m old enough to remember when 3D was a huge deal. It seemed like nobody would ever want to go back to playing a SNES game after trying the Nintendo 64, and while there are still plenty of gamers who love the retro feel, I’m generally not one of them.

That isn’t to say that realistic graphics should be the only thing a game strives for. And this point works for modern graphics or visual styles in general – bragging about how detailed the graphics are, or how unique a title’s art style is, means nothing if the game itself is shit. But it likewise works for pixel-graphics games – an outdated art style does not compensate for or cover up a fundamentally flawed, unenjoyable experience.

Games with pixel graphics can be good, and many titles have surprised me by how good they are. I’ve written before about how Minecraft surprised me by being so much more than I expected, and that’s one example. But I guess what I’d say is this: if your game looks like it should have been released in 1991, you’ve got more of an uphill battle to win me over – or even convince me to try it in the first place – than you would if your game looked new.

Number 6: Unnecessary remakes.

We called one of the entries above “the Fallout 76 problem,” so let’s call this one “the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition problem.” In short, games from even ten or fifteen years ago still look pretty good and play well. There’s far less of a difference between games from 2011 and 2021 than there was between games from 1991 and 2001 – the pace of technological change, at least in gaming, has slowed.

“Updating” or “remaking” a game from ten years ago serves no real purpose, and in the case of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition I’ve struggled at times to tell which version of the game is the new one when looking at pre-release marketing material. There’s no compelling reason to remake games that aren’t very old. Re-release them or give them a renewed marketing push if you want to drum up sales or draw attention to a series, but don’t bill your minor upgrade as a “remake.”

There are some games that have benefitted hugely from being remade. I’d point to Crash Bandicoot and Resident Evil 2 as two great examples. But those games were both over twenty years old at the time they were remade, and having been released in the PlayStation 1 era, both saw massive upgrades such that they were truly worthy of the “remake” label.

I’ve put together two lists of games that I’d love to see remade, but when I did so I deliberately excluded titles from the last two console generations. Those games, as I said at the time, are too recent to see any substantial benefits from a remake. In another decade or so, assuming sufficient technological progress has been made, we can talk about remaking PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4 games – but not now!

Number 7: Fake “remakes.”

On a related note to the point above, if a title is billed as a “remake,” I expect to see substantial changes and improvements. If all that’s happened is a developer has run an old title through an upscaler and added widescreen support, that’s not a remake!

A lot of titles that acquire the “HD” suffix seem to suffer from this problem. Shenmue I & II on PC contained a number of bugs and glitches – some of which existed in the Dreamcast version! When Sega decided to “remake” these two amazing games, they couldn’t even be bothered to patch out bugs that were over fifteen years old. That has to be some of the sloppiest, laziest work I’ve ever seen.

There are other examples of this, where a project may have started out with good intentions but was scaled back and scaled back some more to the point that it ended up being little more than an upscaled re-release. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning springs to mind as an example from just last year.

Remakes are an opportunity to go back to the drawing board, fix issues, update a title, and bring it into the modern world. Too many “remakes” fail to address issues with the original version of the game. We could even point to Mass Effect: Legendary Edition’s refusal to address criticism of the ending of Mass Effect 3 as yet another example of a missed opportunity.

Number 8: The “release now, fix later” business model.

This isn’t the first time I’ve criticised the “release now, fix later” approach taken by too many modern games – and it likely won’t be the last! Also known as “live services,” games that go down this route almost always underperform and draw criticism, and they absolutely deserve it. The addition of internet connectivity to home consoles has meant that games companies have taken a “good enough” approach to games, releasing them before they’re ready with the intention to patch out bugs, add more content, and so on at a later time.

Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most recent and most egregious examples of this phenomenon, being released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in a state so appallingly bad that many considered it “unplayable.” But there are hundreds of other examples going back to the early part of the last decade. Fortunately, out of all the entries on this list, this is the one that shows at least some signs of going away!

The fundamental flaw in this approach, of course, is that games with potential end up having launches that are mediocre at best, and when they naturally underperform due to bad reviews and word-of-mouth, companies panic! Planned updates are scrapped to avoid pumping more money into a failed product, and a game that could have been decent ends up being forgotten.

For every No Man’s Sky that manages to claw its way to success, there are a dozen Anthems or Mass Effect: Andromedas which fail. Time will tell if Cyberpunk 2077 can rebuild itself and its reputation, but its an uphill struggle – and a totally unnecessary one; a self-inflicted wound. If publishers would just wait and delay clearly-unfinished games instead of forcing them to meet arbitrary deadlines, gaming would be a much more enjoyable hobby. Remember, everyone: NO PRE-ORDERS!

Number 9: Forcing games to be multiplayer and/or scrapping single-player modes.

Some games are built from the ground up with multiplayer in mind – but many others are not, and have multiplayer modes tacked on for no reason. The Last Of Us had an unnecessary multiplayer mode, as did Mass Effect 3. Did you even know that, or notice those modes when you booted up those story-focused games?

Some games and even whole genres are just not well-suited to multiplayer. And others that are still have the potential to see single-player stories too. Many gamers associate the first-person shooter genre with multiplayer, and it’s true that multiplayer games work well in the first-person shooter space. But so do single-player titles, and aside from 2016’s Doom and the newer Wolfenstein titles, I can’t think of many new single-player first-person shooters, or even shooters with single-player modes that felt anything other than tacked-on.

Anthem is one of the biggest failures of the last few years, despite BioWare wanting it to be the video game equivalent of Bob Dylan. But if Anthem hadn’t been multiplayer and had instead maintained BioWare’s usual single-player focus, who knows what it could have been. There was potential in its Iron Man-esque flying suits, but that potential was wasted on a mediocre-at-best multiplayer shooter.

I started playing games before the internet, when “multiplayer” meant buying a second controller and plugging it into the console’s only other available port! So I know I’m biased because of that. But just a few short years ago it felt as though there were many more single-player titles, and fewer games that felt as though multiplayer modes had been artificially forced in. In the wake of huge financial successes such as Grand Theft Auto V, Fortnite, and the like, publishers see multiplayer as a cash cow – but I wish they didn’t!

Number 10: Early access.

How many times have you been excited to see that a game you’ve been waiting for is finally available to buy… only to see the two most awful words in the entire gaming lexicon: “Early Access?” Early access billed itself as a way for indie developers to get feedback on their games before going ahead with a full release, and I want to be clear on this point: I don’t begrudge indie games using it for that purpose. Indies get a pass!

But recently there’s been a trend for huge game studios to use early access as free labour; a cheap replacement for paying the wages of a quality assurance department. When I worked for a large games company in the past, I knew a number of QA testers, and the job is not an easy one. It certainly isn’t one that studios should be pushing off onto players, yet that’s exactly what a number of them have been doing. Early access, if it exists at all, should be a way for small studios to hone and polish their game, and maybe add fan-requested extras, not for big companies to save money on testers.

Then there are the perpetual early access games. You know the ones: they entered early access in 2015 and are still there today. Platforms like Steam which offer early access need to set time limits, because unfortunately some games are just taking the piss. If your game has been out since 2015, then it’s out. It’s not in early access, you’ve released it.

Unlike most of the entries on this list, early access started out with genuinely good intentions. When used appropriately by indie developers, it’s fine and I don’t have any issue with it. But big companies should know better, and games that enter early access and never leave should be booted out!

Bonus: Online harassment.

Though this problem afflicts the entire internet regardless of where you go, it’s significant in the gaming realm. Developers, publishers, even individual employees of games studios can find themselves subjected to campaigns of online harassment by so-called “fans” who’ve decided to take issue with something in a recent title.

Let’s be clear: there is never any excuse for this. No game, no matter how bad it is, is worth harassing someone over. It’s possible to criticise games and their companies in a constructive way, or at least in a way that doesn’t get personal. There’s never any need to go after a developer personally, and especially not to send someone death threats.

We’ve seen this happen when games are delayed. We’ve seen it happen when games release too early in a broken state. In the case of Cyberpunk 2077, we’ve seen both. Toxic people will always find a reason to be toxic, unfortunately, and in many ways the anonymity of the internet has brought out the worst in human nature.

No developer or anyone who works in the games industry deserves to be threatened or harassed. It’s awful, it needs to stop, and the petty, toxic people who engage in this scummy activity do not deserve to be called “fans.”

So that’s it. Ten of my pet peeves with modern gaming.

This was a rant, but it was just for fun so I hope you don’t mind! There are some truly annoying things – and some truly annoying people – involved in gaming in 2021, and as much fun as playing games can be, it can be a frustrating experience as well. Some of these things are fads – short-term trends that will evaporate as the industry moves on. But others, like the move away from single-player games toward ongoing multiplayer experiences, seem like they’re here to stay.

Gaming has changed an awful lot since I first picked up a control pad. And it will continue to evolve and adapt – the games industry may be unrecognisable in fifteen or twenty years’ time! We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed for positive changes to come.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective developer, publisher, and/or studio. Some stock images courtesy of pixabay. Some screenshots and promotional 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:

Five games that prove “release now, fix later” doesn’t work

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for the titles on this list.

One of the most annoying trends in the games industry over the last few years has been the “release now, fix later” approach taken by companies. I’ve looked at this problem before, but suffice to say that the internet and digital distribution have led publishers and studios to release their games in an unfinished state, with a plan to roll out patches and fixes after release.

A few years ago – even as recently as the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 generation – this wouldn’t have worked. But with so many people buying games digitally nowadays, companies seem to think that they can get away with it. However, there are many examples over the last few years of games that failed to live up to their potential – or failed entirely – because of this attitude.

Yes, we’re going to talk about Cyberpunk 2077 again…

The few days either side of a game’s release are incredibly important. Reviewers get their hands on a copy and play through the game, getting their reviews ready in time for launch. Then players who pre-ordered and those who got the game on day one get to play the game for themselves, and within hours of release a game’s reputation is pretty much set. It takes a lot of hard work to change anyone’s first impression – so if the game was in a bad, unfinished state, that will be the headline. And once that becomes the prevailing opinion, it’s very difficult to change minds and convince people to give it a second look.

As a result, releasing a game too early can kill it – even if subsequent patches and hotfixes bring it up to code.

Let’s look at five games that fell victim to this “release now, fix later” phenomenon.

Number 1:
Destiny (2014)

One of the first big games to suffer because of this was Bungie’s Destiny. After departing the Halo series following 2010’s Halo: Reach, Bungie struck out on their own to make what they promised would be a “ten-year experience” called Destiny. Less than three years after Destiny’s 2014 release, though, Destiny 2 would launch.

There was a lot of interest in Bungie on the back of the success of the Halo series. Halo: Reach had been hailed as the best entry so far, and there was nothing to suggest that Destiny would be anything other than fantastic. In a way we can call this a case of overhyping, but Bungie actually did a reasonable job of setting appropriate expectations for what Destiny would be. The finished game was just not very interesting to many players, and after beating the main campaign, most didn’t stick around.

If Destiny had been released in a complete state instead of promising updates and expansions, perhaps more players would have stuck with it. But this is precisely the problem with games that go down this route – an underwhelming experience puts players off. Why would they bother coming back to Destiny to see the latest update(s) when the game was only okay the first time around? Games need to be good when they release – not average with the promise of becoming good later, and that, in a nutshell, was Destiny’s problem.

Number 2:
No Man’s Sky (2016)

No game is more synonymous with “release now, fix later” than 2016’s No Man’s Sky. I actually felt that, for what it was, the game was decent even at launch, but I hadn’t bought into the hype and went into the game with moderate expectations! There’s no denying that No Man’s Sky was missing many promised features at launch, and while it wasn’t plagued by bugs or glitches in the way some games on this list were, it felt threadbare to many players.

No Man’s Sky is a classic example of overhyping. Studio Hello Games and its head Sean Murray seemed incapable of saying “no,” promising players that No Man’s Sky would be an infinitely pleasurable sandbox in which they could do just about anything they wanted. A key part of marketing in the games industry is reining in hype and knowing when and how to set accurate expectations – something that Hello Games completely messed up.

Hello Games put in a lot of hard work to bring promised features to No Man’s Sky in the years after its release, and in 2021 the game actually does meet many of those lofty expectations. But even so, many players who were burned in 2016 have not returned, and the game’s reputation is still in the gutter in many people’s minds. There’s even a sense that Hello Games should not be “rewarded” for fixing the game after its release, and I know folks who refuse to buy it on principle.

Number 3:
Fallout 76 (2018)

Fallout 76 may be the worst game on this list. It was certainly the most disappointing to me personally. Not only did it launch in a crappy, broken state riddled with bugs, but it was also threadbare. A double-whammy, if you will.

The heart of any role-playing game comes from great, memorable characters. And the Fallout series has always provided plenty of interesting people to engage with, triggering quests and storylines that are easy to get invested in. Fallout 76 had precisely zero non-player characters at launch, making its world feel empty and its quests uninspired and meaningless. Aside from wandering around, looking at the pretty (if decidedly last-gen) environment and battling a few buggy monsters, there was literally nothing to do in the game.

There were other problems which don’t stem from the game being forced out the door too soon, such as Bethesda’s reliance on a massively out-of-date game engine and a crappy shooting mechanic that single-player Fallout games had managed to cover up with the VATs system. But the core of Fallout 76′s problems came from being released in an unfinished state. The game’s reputation tanked and has not recovered, and Bethesda, which had already been on a downward trajectory, is now held in especially low regard.

Number 4:
Anthem (2019)

BioWare released two games in a row in the mid/late 2010s which both suffered this exact issue. After Mass Effect: Andromeda was ridiculed on release for being a buggy mess, Anthem likewise had issues at launch. Though there were fewer bugs than in Andromeda – or at least, fewer egregious ones – Anthem was nevertheless unfinished.

For a live service title, Anthem was missing a lot. There were few customisation options, not enough interesting loot, and the final act of the game, which is the most important part as it’s where players will spend most of their time, was described as being just plain boring. In addition, the enemies were repetitive, the story – something BioWare is usually good at – was lacklustre and uninspired, and the game was just mediocre.

Mediocrity is not good enough when there are so many other competing titles to play, and Anthem soon lost the small number of players it initially picked up, dropping more than 90% of its playerbase within a few weeks of launch. What happened next is typical of underperforming live services: its “roadmap” of planned updates was cancelled. Though Anthem technically limps on and its servers are still active, in reality everyone knows it’s dead.

Number 5:
Cyberpunk 2077 (2020)

Cyberpunk 2077 is unusual in the sense that, unlike the other entries on this list, it’s a single-player game. It isn’t the only single-player game to ever release too soon, but it’s certainly the most significant one in recent years. CD Projket Red appear to have been desperate to release the game before the end of 2020, and whatever the reason for that may be, the end result was a game so riddled with bugs and glitches that many described it as “unplayable.”

Sony took the unprecedented step of withdrawing Cyberpunk 2077 from sale on the PlayStation Store – a move which has not yet been undone. CD Projekt Red, which had been one of the most popular games companies in the view of the general public, saw its reputation collapse – and its share price took a nosedive too.

Even now, almost three months on from release, Cyberpunk 2077 is still in a bad state, especially on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game is simply not optimised to run well on those consoles, and it will take many more months of work to get it anywhere close to playable. However, in some ways the bugs and glitches have covered up what may come to be seen as Cyberpunk 2077′s worst failing: the game underneath the bugs certainly does not live up to the pre-release hype. Far from being a genre-busting once-in-a-lifetime experience, what players who stuck with the game through its issues have found is an okay first-person-shooter/role-playing game, and little else.

So that’s it. Five games which prove unequivocally that the “release now, fix later” concept simply does not work. The sooner games companies come to realise that a delay is better than a bad launch the better. There is a much-overused quotation from Nintendo legend and Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto: “a delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.” Despite all of the games above promising fixes, they remain, in the eyes of most gamers, bad.

Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto has a thing or two to say about this!
Picture Credit: Vincent Diamante from Los Angeles, CA, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

That’s the fundamental problem with this approach. It’s very difficult to overcome first impressions, and if a game launches to mediocre reviews and online criticism, that will be the only thing most people remember. No Man’s Sky has worked incredibly hard to overcome its launch issues, and the game is in a state today that genuinely lives up to the expectations players had and the pre-release hype. Yet the game will always come with an asterisk, and when people remember No Man’s Sky in ten or twenty years’ time, the fact that it was a colossal disappointment will be first and foremost in people’s minds.

As more and more games release in an unfinished state and go on to underperform – if not fail hard – I hope that games companies and publishers will come to see the folly in this approach. Maybe the 2020s will see more delays and better games as a result. We can only hope, right?

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Another surprising twist in the Cyberpunk 2077 saga

Having said all I wanted to about Cyberpunk 2077 both before and after its release, I was content to sit back, wait for the patches and updates to be rolled out, and not discuss the game again until I’d played it for myself – something I still hope to do some time next year. But out of nowhere came a truly shocking piece of news and I just had to add my two cents to the conversation. If you somehow missed it, here’s the lowdown: Sony has removed Cyberpunk 2077 from sale on the PlayStation Store and is offering a refund to every single PlayStation player who picked up the game.

People throw around words very easily these days, so forgive me for emphasising this point: this action is unprecedented. Sure, some games do get removed from sale from time to time, sometimes for rights or licensing reasons, sometimes for copyright, sometimes because they were literally cobbled together from pre-bought assets and barely function. And of course Nintendo has its “forced scarcity” business model that we’re seeing with Super Mario 3D All-Stars, which will be pulled from sale in March.

Cyberpunk 2077 is being removed from the PlayStation Store.

But in all the years I’ve been involved with the games industry, I have never seen such a major release as Cyberpunk 2077 being removed from sale. Never. Nintendo and their anti-consumer practices aside, the only games that tend to get pulled from shelves are the non-functional pre-bought asset “games” that have been put together by amateurs. A major release on this scale has, as far as I know, never been unceremoniously de-listed in this way. It is wholly without precedent.

On the one hand, I actually sympathise with CD Projekt Red (the developers behind Cyberpunk 2077). There is a process involved in getting a game onto the PlayStation Store in the first place – as indeed there is for any digital shop. Part of the process requires approval from Sony, who will have been given pre-release access to the game to test for themselves. So from CD Projekt Red’s perspective, they may feel that Sony acted unfairly, and that if they didn’t want to sell the game they could have denied it access to their platform weeks ago.

Cyberpunk 2077 was developed by CD Projekt Red.

However, as with everything to do with major corporations, it’s more complicated than that! In a competitive market, with Sony up against Microsoft both with the Xbox One/Xbox Series X and PC gaming, they could hardly be the only place Cyberpunk 2077 wasn’t available. In short, if there was going to be a prohibition of the game’s sale due to bugs and glitches, if Xbox didn’t follow suit it would hugely disadvantage Sony in the short-term. Secondly, I have no doubt that CD Projekt Red wooed Sony with promises of day-one updates and patches to some of the major issues that they surely uncovered during their own tests.

But most importantly there’s a legal component to what’s happened. CD Projekt Red initially offered refunds to anyone disappointed with Cyberpunk 2077 on their platform of choice. Sony, by some accounts, had difficulty processing those refunds when players requested them. In order to avoid legal action from players who had been promised a refund, or from players who may claim the game was not as advertised, Sony have stepped in and used the proverbial “nuclear option” as a last resort.

Cyberpunk 2077 launched in a broken state.

When I first saw this news break I thought the individual writing about it must have got confused or been exaggerating for clicks. It simply did not seem possible that a major game from a huge company would be pulled from sale entirely on the PlayStation. After all, Cyberpunk 2077 has hardly been abandoned; patches, hot-fixes, and updates have already been rolled out and more are already scheduled. Even if the game is buggy at launch, improvements are on the horizon. I was stunned to learn it was true, and it’s even been covered by mainstream news outlets here in the UK.

It’s hardly the first time a major game has arrived with bugs and glitches. Fallout 76 a couple of years ago was truly awful on that front (in addition to being just an awful game all around) yet it remained on sale. As did the likes of Skyrim, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and Assassin’s Creed Unity. Despite having incredibly buggy launches, none were pulled from sale in the way Cyberpunk 2077 has been. And this must surely irk CD Projekt Red.

The notoriously buggy Assassin’s Creed Unity is still for sale on the PlayStation Store.

Despite what I said a moment ago about feeling a pang of sympathy, let’s not overdo it. This is entirely CD Projekt Red’s own fault. Despite having been willing to delay the game twice, they ultimately decided to force a release before the title was ready – if indeed it ever can be ready on current-gen consoles given its obvious PC and next-gen focus. There are two reasons I can see why they chose not to delay the game into 2021 – a desire to get the game out in time for the Christmas season (also known as the E.T. problem) and perhaps because the board game upon which Cyberpunk 2077 is based is called Cyberpunk 2020, and there was a clear desire to release the game in this calendar year.

When I wrote about Cyberpunk 2077′s first delay all the way back in January, I said that “the response from the [gaming] community when any game is delayed is almost always overwhelmingly positive.” That is a universal truth. There are a handful of troublemakers and brain-dead idiots who get upset and say stupid things – such as making death threats – when a title is delayed, but everyone else understands. We would rather play a good game in six months than a broken one now.

We’ve been talking about this game for a while!

In the case of Cyberpunk 2077, the hype bubble got out of control. Partly what’s happened is a result of CD Projekt Red trading on past success and their good reputation; they hadn’t released a new game since 2015, and it’s easy to seem like a good, pro-consumer company when you aren’t in the trenches. Perhaps the insane hype that grew around the game is why the company chose not to shift their focus entirely to next-gen hardware and higher-end PCs. That would be a difficult pill for many players to swallow, but had such a decision been made a year or more ago, by the time the game finally made it to its launch date practically all of that would have abated.

So the question now is: what happens next? CD Projekt Red have completely botched this launch. Many players found the game so bad it was unplayable, and by now the plot and even the side-missions have all been spoiled for a lot of people. The excitement of playing the game for the first time has gone, and for players who had a disappointing experience, even if it’s patched and fixed over the next few months, they can never get that back.

Cyberpunk 2077 will not be available on PlayStation 4 for the foreseeable future.

Given that the PC version is generally more stable, I can’t imagine the big PC gaming shops like Steam and Epic Games will be willing to follow suit and refund everyone who bought it. Microsoft might, though, and it’s possible in the coming days (or even hours) we’ll see Xbox make a similar announcement.

I’m still shocked. Even though I could tell the hype bubble around Cyberpunk 2077 was completely out of control, and I expected at least some players to find the game underwhelming, I had no idea what was coming. CD Projekt Red have gone from one of the best-loved games companies to one of the most criticised in a matter of days, and it’s not unfair to say that the hype bubble has completely burst. Cyberpunk 2077 is not the amazing, barrier-breaking, genre-redefining interactive experience that fans hoped for. As I predicted, it’s just a game. A bug-riddled game that’s so “unplayable” for many that Sony had to step in, refund everyone who bought it, and pull it from sale. Absolutely extraordinary.

Cyberpunk 2077 is out now for PC and Xbox One. The Xbox One version is compatible with the Xbox Series X. Cyberpunk 2077 is the copyright of CD Projekt Red. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

So Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t work…

Oh dear. The launch of Cyberpunk 2077 has not gone well for a lot of players. The lucky few who managed to acquire a next-gen PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X seem to be managing to have a decent enough time, as do PC players with an above-average machine. But anyone who picked up the game on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One has encountered a bug-riddled mess that many have described as “unplayable.”

CD Projekt Red is now receiving a lot of criticism, not only for releasing the game in a broken state, but for trying to cover that up. Reviewers who received copies of the game prior to release were only given access to the PC version – the version of the game which seems to run best – and were prohibited from using in-game footage they took themselves; launch day reviews were only allowed to use footage of the game provided by the developers. These things add up to a company trying to shield their game from well-earned criticism – and, as usual, the gaming press fell for it.

Welcome to Cyberpunk 2077!

There is once again a disconnect between reviews from professional games journalists and reviews from the general public. On Metacritic – which is usually a decent aggregator of both professional and amateur opinion – Cyberpunk 2077 is sitting at a 90 from professionals, but even on PC it’s only getting a 6.6 from regular players. On consoles the average score dips massively – 3.2 on Xbox One and 2.6 on PlayStation 4 respectively.* There’s a degree of review-bombing, with many players giving the game 0/10. And if the experience is so bad it’s “unplayable,” I can quite understand why.

On a normal Xbox One or PlayStation 4 – i.e. not an Xbox One X or PlayStation 4 Pro – frame-rates for the game routinely dip below 20fps, textures are massively downgraded, there are fewer cars on the road, fewer NPCs on the street, and the game suffers from a strange haze effect that makes it look blurry. And that’s before we get into a single bug – such as hard crashes, broken missions, and so many different graphical issues that it makes Mass Effect: Andromeda look good by comparison.

Keanu Reeves stars as Johnny Silverhand in Cyberpunk 2077.

The overwhelming consensus is that the game should not have been released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. At some point during the development of Cyberpunk 2077 – which began in earnest in 2015 having been in pre-production since 2012 – the decision was made to prioritise higher-end PCs and next-gen consoles over current-gen machines. However, the game remained in development for older hardware and has clearly been unable to adapt. It’s possible that patches may be rolled out in the coming weeks that blunt the edge of some of these issues, but if the game is fundamentally built with better hardware in mind, it’s hard to see how that’s something that can be patched out.

Even if patches are coming, though, many players are asking themselves a perfectly reasonable question: why wasn’t the game delayed? Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed twice: from its initial April release to November, and again from November to December. With the game clearly in such a state, how on earth did CD Projekt Red decide to go ahead with the release? Surely they anticipated this reaction – otherwise they’d have allowed reviewers access to the console version of the game. Knowingly launching a broken game is something we’ve seen become all too common in the last few years, and as I’ve said before: it almost never works.

Driving is one aspect of Cyberpunk 2077.

Players have trusted CD Projekt Red as one of the few “good” games companies out there. Compared with the likes of Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, CD Projekt Red have a good reputation, largely because they’re considered pro-consumer. That reputation is in tatters right now, and the trust they’ve broken with millions of players will be very difficult to rebuild.

We’ve seen games launch in a bad state many times, and often it’s a killer blow. A few titles like No Man’s Sky manage to partially rehabilitate their reputation over time, but I know people today who still refuse to play that game because of the “lies” and broken promises at launch. And of course there are many games that simply fail because of the reputational damage suffered by a buggy, broken launch. Mass Effect: Andromeda is a good example; its planned expansions were cancelled and the entire franchise put on hiatus after its disastrous release.

Cyberpunk 2077′s poor console performance is doing serious harm to the reputation of CD Projekt Red.

Even if Cyberpunk 2077 can be reworked on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to be basically playable, the damage to the game’s reputation has been done. As many commenters have said: it doesn’t matter how good the game might be if it doesn’t work on the console they have. Pretending Cyberpunk 2077 is a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One game was a mistake. CD Projekt Red have clearly known for some time that current-gen consoles are not capable of running the game in any meaningful way, and a decision should have been taken a long time ago to either make significant changes and scale back some of the next-gen elements, or to make it a next-gen exclusive.

Had such a decision been taken a year or more ago, Cyberpunk 2077 would be in a better place today. It could have been one of the launch titles for the new generation of consoles, hailed as a great advertisement for what players can expect in the years ahead. Instead it’s being attacked and ridiculed for being such a mess.

Cyberpunk 2077 is broken on PlayStation 4 (pictured) and Xbox One.

We haven’t even touched on an issue I brought up last time I wrote about Cyberpunk 2077 – the insane level of hype that has surrounded the project. I said then that many players, having built up in their heads an idea of what the perfect game could be, will come crashing down to earth when they realise it’s just a game. A good game, perhaps, but just a game. I didn’t anticipate this, though. For players who’ve been eagerly awaiting this game for eight years, this must feel absolutely awful.

Far from being the spectacle they wanted, the game doesn’t even work. Anecdotally I’ve heard from players who literally can’t get past the main menu, hard crashes that make any meaningful progress impossible, and the framerate being so low that at key points the game cannot be played. Players have crashed their cars or been unable to survive a firefight because the framerate tanked at the wrong moment. The sheer frustration that must lead to is unparalleled.

Promo art for Cyberpunk 2077.

The most important lesson we’ve learned here is this: DO NOT PRE-ORDER GAMES! Don’t even buy them on launch day! Wait! Slow down, jump off the hype train, and be patient. Wait for the game to be properly looked-over by professional and amateur critics before making a decision, no matter how much you think the game looks amazing or that the developer can be trusted.

On the developers’ side, the lesson they need to learn is that exaggeration and false advertising always comes back to bite you. The marketing team at CD Projekt Red allowed the hype for Cyberpunk 2077 to get wildly out of control, and now that players have their hands on the buggy, barely-functional game, all of that criticism is their fault. They took the No Man’s Sky approach of failing to rein in the hype when they had the chance, of over-promising, exaggerating what the game would be like on current-gen hardware, and all the problems and low scores are their own fault. I have very little sympathy for the marketers, and as someone who worked for several years in video game marketing, I understand fully the environment they’re in.

It’s possible that Cyberpunk 2077 will eventually be made to run better on current-gen machines, but I wouldn’t bet on it looking anywhere near as good as advertised prior to launch. If you were planning on picking it up, wait. Either wait till you have a next-gen console or a PC, or keep checking to see if the issues have been fixed. For such a highly-anticipated game, I get that it won’t be easy to do so, and I sympathise. But paying £50/$60 for it today will only lead to disappointment.

Shameless plug time: I wrote a list of ten games you could play instead, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

*All review scores were correct at time of publication.

Cyberpunk 2077 is out now for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions may be used on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X respectively. Cyberpunk 2077 is the copyright of CD Projekt Red. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten games to play instead of Cyberpunk 2077

Highly-anticipated (and almost certainly over-hyped) role-playing game Cyberpunk 2077 releases today. If, like me, you don’t really have £50/$60 to spend on a single game this close to Christmas – or you don’t have a PC or console capable of playing it – I thought it could be fun to go through a few alternatives.

I don’t hate Cyberpunk 2077. It’ll most likely be a decent game, and I’m sure I will eventually give it a shot. But there are many fun titles out there that offer comparable experiences – and most don’t cost as much! Here’s ten options for those of us who aren’t indulging in Cyberpunk 2077 on day one.

Number 1: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic & Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords (2003; 2004)

Coming after The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones had left the franchise in a pretty disappointing place, Bioware’s Star Wars epic and its Obsidian-produced sequel were outstanding. At a time when I wasn’t enjoying Star Wars’ cinematic output, these games came along and did a lot to save its reputation. For around £15 (on Steam) you’ll be able to pick up both titles and enjoy two of the best stories in the entire franchise. The two games are significantly better than several of the Star Wars films, so if you’re even slightly interested in a galaxy far, far away but haven’t given either title a try yet, it could be a great time to do so.

Number 2: Deus Ex: Human Revolution & Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (2011; 2016)

When I think about many of the components of Cyberpunk 2077 that people are most excited about – such as the ability to augment your human character, first-person gunplay, and different ways to reach objectives and complete missions – I’m reminded a lot of the Deus Ex series, especially its most recent offerings. Though a far more linear experience, for a lot less money you could play through a couple of solid stealth/action games that offer at least some of the same features as Cyberpunk 2077. It’s even set in a dystopian future where corporations are in charge!

Number 3: The Witcher 3 (2015)

The Witcher 3 was CD Projekt Red’s last game before Cyberpunk 2077, and it’s widely hailed as a masterpiece. Though the two games are certainly different in terms of setting, point-of-view, and the like, if you’re like me and haven’t yet got around to playing one of the generation’s best role-playing games, this could be a great opportunity to do so. The Witcher 3′s huge success and positive reception is a big part of why Cyberpunk 2077 has seen such a massive hype bubble.

Number 4: Shenmue I & II (1999; 2001; re-released 2018)

Though its story disappointingly remains incomplete, if you’re looking for a game with a truly engrossing narrative Shenmue could be just what you need. These two ambitious titles were originally released for the Dreamcast, sadly sharing the fate of that console and being underappreciated. Both were re-released for PC in 2018 as a single bundle, and if you missed them when they were new it could be a great time to jump in. Shenmue pioneered the idea of an open world before anyone even knew what that meant, and was the first game I ever played that felt genuinely cinematic. I think I’ll be recommending these games to people for as long as I live!

Number 5: Doom & Doom Eternal (2016; 2020)

If Cyberpunk 2077′s big draw was its first-person shooting, Doom and Doom Eternal could be great substitutes. If you want to feel like a total badass, kicking butt and taking no prisoners (literally) then there’s no better choice. The rebooted Doom series ditched the horror vibe of Doom 3 and went back to its roots – shooting demons in the face by the absolute boatload. The two games both have fantastic soundtracks that perfectly suit the fast-paced, explosive gameplay. And Doom Eternal introduces a grappling hook. Need I say more?

Number 6: Grand Theft Auto V (2013)

Because of the ridiculous hype bubble that’s grown around Cyberpunk 2077, a lot of players are going to be disappointed when they realise it isn’t “Grand Theft Auto in the future.” So why not play the most recent entry in Rockstar’s crime saga instead? It’s a huge open world, there’s plenty to do, and if you want the experience of running amok causing havoc in a densely-packed city, this is about as close as you can get right now. There’s even a first-person mode (except on the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3.)

Number 7: Titanfall 2 (2018)

A fun, futuristic shooter with mechs. That’s what Titanfall 2 is, and this underappreciated gem was sadly released at a very competitive moment in the first-person shooter genre. That led to underwhelming sales, but if you’re willing to give it a shot you’ll find a truly exciting, action-packed experience. Part of the appeal of Cyberpunk 2077 is its first-person perspective, and while you won’t find as many customisation options or a branching story, what you’ll get with Titanfall 2 is some of the best gunplay ever put into a game with weapons that have a realistic kick.

Number 8: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002)

One of the best role-playing games every made, and the high-water mark of the Elder Scrolls series in my opinion, Morrowind is packed full of fun and interesting quests, random NPC encounters, and a diverse set of locations and environments across its open world. Eighteen years after it was released there are quests I’ve never completed and whole storylines I haven’t seen; it’s just too big to fit everything into a single playthrough. Despite being released a decade earlier, Morrowind has much more going on than Skyrim – more weapon types, more factions to join, and even more NPCs to interact with. You just have to look past its text-based interface, which can admittedly feel dated in 2020.

Number 9: Pillars of Eternity & Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire (2015; 2018)

Both Pillars of Eternity and its sequel have a decidedly old-school feel, thanks in part to their visual style and use of an isometric perspective. Each game takes 40+ hours to beat – longer if you play more side missions and take your time – so there’s a lot of role-playing to get stuck into. It’s hard to say much more without spoiling the experience, but if you’re looking for an in-depth role-playing experience with fun customisation and where your in-game choices truly impact the story, look no further.

Number 10: Halo: The Master Chief Collection (2014; 2019)

When I think about “futuristic first-person shooters,” one series springs to mind ahead of all the others: Halo. The Master Chief Collection brings together the first six titles in the series (or every game except Halo 5) for hours and hours of single-player or co-op gameplay. Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t offer co-op! The exciting tale of humanity’s war against an alien alliance known as the Covenant is detailed in these games, and although the quality of the series has waned somewhat in recent years, even Halo at its worst is still light-years ahead of many other games.

So that’s it. Ten games you could play instead of Cyberpunk 2077 while you wait for the day-one bugs to be patched out and for the game to drop in price! Or because you aren’t interested in one of the biggest releases of the year.

If nothing else, this was an opportunity to talk about some fun games and highlight them in the run-up to Christmas. Remember that the Steam holiday sale is likely coming up in a matter of days; it could be worth waiting to see if any of your favourites will be on sale. I highly doubt Cyberpunk 2077 will see even a 5% discount so soon after its release, but you never know!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and 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 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.

Cyberpunk 2077 and the pros and cons of delayed releases

Cyberpunk 2077 is going to be the latest release from popular games developer CD Projekt Red. The studio is famous for The Witcher games series – The Witcher 3 in particular was one of the most highly-rated single-player games of the last decade. And I still haven’t got around to playing it, but that’s another story!

For a number of reasons, Cyberpunk 2077 has been on my radar as a game I’m looking forward to, and one of several recent and upcoming titles for which I’m currently in the process of upgrading/rebuilding my PC. It had been due for release in April, but that has now been pushed back to mid-September – a delay of around five months.

This got me thinking about what some of the pros and cons are when delaying a game.

Promo artwork for the delayed Cyberpunk 2077.

The biggest drawback should be obvious, and is especially relevant for a studio which only releases a small number of titles. It is of course money – is there enough in the coffers to keep the lights on and work continuing until the game can be released? Will additional sources of finance be required? Etc. For a large company with a turnover in the hundreds of millions or more, a delay can usually be absorbed – even if it’s done so grudgingly. But for a small company that may only put out one game at a time, several years apart, there’s a legitimate question of how sustainable delays can be, especially long delays of six months, a year, or longer.

For some companies, this can mean there’s an absolute limit. If funding dries up on a particular date, their title absolutely has to be on shelves on or before that date otherwise they may well go out of business. And that means that even with the best intentions, if a project suffers complications there can be a stark choice between releasing it in the state it’s in or not releasing it at all.

For a small company, or even a large company that’s been struggling, this might be understandable. But what we’ve seen happen on too many occasions recently is big companies forcing games out to meet arbitrary deadlines – like the end of the financial year – when there was no real need to do so. And the end result in many cases has been a seriously underwhelming title that never got off the ground because of its state at launch. The few days before and after a game’s release date are crucial – this is when reviewers get their hands on copies and the first player feedback comes in.

Mass Effect: Andromeda launched to mass ridicule for its graphical glitches in particular.

Two of BioWare’s recent titles spring to mind as examples – Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem. Both were pushed out too early, unfinished, unpolished, and suffering from too many bugs and glitches, and as a result, both titles failed to achieve either review score targets or sales targets. Mass Effect: Andromeda saw all its post-launch DLC – which would have added to its story – cancelled, and the entire franchise was put on hiatus. Anthem, planned as a “ten year” live service, saw its roadmap scrapped. While Anthem is limping on, it doesn’t seem long for this world and I doubt any major updates are coming as its remaining players jump ship to other, newer titles.

And there are plenty of other examples of games being forced out the door too soon by greedy publishers. The Assassin’s Creed series almost fell apart after attempts to launch more than one title per year in the mid-2010s led to several of them being essentially unplayable on launch due to the severity of bugs and graphical glitches. And Fallout 76 – which made my list of the most disappointing titles of the last decade – was also inexplicably launched before the game was in a basically playable state. The 2013 Star Trek video game was so buggy when it was released – timed to tie in with Star Trek Into Darkness – that JJ Abrams went on record saying that it hurt that film’s reception. And having played that game for myself, I can attest to how bad of an experience it was.

Spock on a promo screenshot for 2013’s Star Trek.

This problem even goes all the way back to the early days of video gaming. 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was so bad it was one of the causes of the 1983 video game “crash” in North America, and hundreds of thousands of unsold copies ended up being famously buried in a New Mexico landfill. That game was put together in a mere five weeks in order to cash in on the film’s popularity as the Christmas season approached.

In all of the above cases – and countless more – extra development time would have resulted in an improved game at the very least. Maybe some of these failures could have even become good games, the kind people are excited to go back and play even years later. But because decisions were taken by business executives who needed to tick boxes and conform to arbitrary deadlines, the end result was failure.

Screenshot of the infamous 1982 game E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

There’s a famous quotation from Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto – “a delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.” And that couldn’t be more true. If a project needs more time, then I’m firmly in the camp that says give it the time it needs. Unless it’s completely impossible, it’s always going to be better to be late than bad.

A bad game – which reviewers and early adopters will pick up on immediately – is going to get bad reviews and bad feedback. In the days of YouTube, Twitch, and other social media, gamers will know right away – and even on launch day people could be put off picking up a copy if reviews are bad. A game plagued by glitches, bugs, and other issues is always going to sell fewer copies than a game that works as intended if for no other reason than review scores and word-of-mouth.

Some particularly bad games can even lead to studio closures or franchises being shut down.

There’s always a butting of heads when the artistic side of game development meets the business reality. And in every case, there’s a point at which development becomes too costly to ever realistically hope to make its money back. We could do a whole article on how Star Citizen has blitzed through more than $100m in crowdfunding money and is still nowhere near release, even after close to a decade in development. So there does come a point, somewhere, at which a decision has to be made about release, and from a business point of view it’s possible to understand why – at least in some cases.

So where does this leave CD Projekt Red, whose delay prompted this article? They’re going to be fine, of course, and the extra development time should mean Cyberpunk 2077 ends up being a better and more polished game at the end of the day.

Most players recognise that simple fact, and the response from the community when any game is delayed is almost always overwhelmingly positive. Gamers have been here too many times before, and practically everyone who’s been playing for a while will have been burned at least once by a disappointing title that was forced to release too early. The vast majority of gamers, while they may be disappointed on a personal level, understand the logic and reasoning behind delays. It’s better for a studio to take its time and launch a good game, after all.

2015’s The Witcher 3 was delayed, only to receive universal acclaim when it finally released.

Some titles end up being delayed for years, only to release to critical acclaim. And at the end of the day, that’s far better than hitting some arbitrary launch date, receiving justifiably bad reviews, and being a failure. CD Projekt Red’s last title, The Witcher 3, was delayed, and many people regard that game as one of the finest of the last decade.

I’m happy to wait longer for any game I’m looking forward to if it means the experience will be better for it.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studios, developers, and/or publishers. Screenshots and artwork are all taken from IGDB press kits. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.