Cyberpunk 2077 – one year later

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

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

How is Cyberpunk 2077 doing one year on?

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-release promotional artwork.

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

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

CD Projekt Red – developer and publisher of Cyberpunk 2077.

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-release concept art.

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

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

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

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

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

Cyberpunk 2077 has experienced quite the fall from grace.

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

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

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

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

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, 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.