A note before we begin with this review - this review is of the game played on the PS5, with a PS4 version of the game.
The reason we're making this distinction at the top of the review is that the experience of the game varies wildly from each different platform. For example, there's anecdotal evidence of the game being all but unplayable on a standard PS4, mildly better on the PS4 Pro, and somewhat better still on the PS5. Likewise, the same is true on the Xbox One, the Xbox Series S, and the Xbox Series X. At the same time, the PC appears to be the most stable version of the game.
We're now 100 words into this review, and so far, we haven't mentioned a single thing about the game. Why is that? Because so much of 'Cyberpunk 2077' and the discourse around it is swallowed up by the many, many glitches with the game. In our review of this game, we encountered several in the first few hours of the game. It crashed out at least twice. This was when the game was made available to all, not just a select few critics beforehand. In other words, the experience we've had of the game would likely be the same as yours.
When it comes to huge RPGs, players expect a few bugs and glitches. 'Fallout: New Vegas', 'Skyrim', 'Dragon Age' - they all had major issues at the beginning of their lives, but patches, updates, and bug chasing helped to make them far more stable and allow the features and story of the game to come to the surface. When these glitches and issues were swept away, the game that remained was one worth your time and effort. Players can be forgiving if there's a hope that the experience will be worth it. 'No Man's Sky' is often the example of a game redeeming itself in later life.
When that game was first launched, players were - rightfully - disgusted with the gulf between what was promised and what was delivered. Developers frequently overestimate their abilities, and very often can lead players on with unrealistic expectations. Yet, in recent years, there's been an understanding that some games can eventually get better with time, if you stick them out. That's the question that hangs over 'Cyberpunk 2077' at the moment.
Will it get better?
To be clear, 'Cyberpunk 2077' is effectively an unfinished product on consoles as of writing. There are many, many issues with the game and the gap between what is and what might have been becomes clearer the further you go into the game. It's not just in silly things like NPCs failing to sit properly on a chair and bobbing up and down as they do so, nor does it become apparent when you realise how empty some of the streets are, or the underground bars and taverns you frequent.
Instead, it comes through in the so-so gameplay and the weak animations. When you glimpse down at your character's shadow, you can see spindly arms flailing about as they run. When you hop off a motorcycle, the animation jerks its way through to the end of the sequence. The game feels small, but not in an intimate way. Rather, it feels like it's been tightly wrapped and constricted. You can't just drive your car through the streets of Night City, looking for action and whatever steps out in front of you. For one, the handling in the vehicles is ridiculously poor. Not only that, the AI for other NPCs on the road barely registers any kind of reaction.
The character life paths - Corpo, Nomad, and Street Kid - effectively amounts to a few dialogue choices, and a different intro before you reach a montage that appears in all versions of your character. Not only that, the gang system has - in our experience of the game so far - been non-existent. You can just about make out some ideas, but the truth is they're either not fully fleshed out, or they're so insignificant as to be easily dismissed.
The problem with 'Cyberpunk 2077' is that, when you play it, you want it to be so much better than it actually is. You're willing yourself to believe that, with the right combination of patches and upgrades, the game will get better. For those on the PlayStation 4 or 5, that might not be so. Sony took the unprecedented decision today to delist the game from its online store and offer full refunds to anyone who bought it that way. CD Projekt Red have said they intend to continue working on updates and patches for the game, but even then, will it be worth it?
There is a huge, huge amount of side-quests and ways to make the game run on far longer than you'd expect. The main campaign may not quite be as lengthy as we'd hoped, but there's a lot to like about it. For one, it has the best voice acting we've heard in a game in years, surpassing 'Red Dead Redemption II'. Keanu Reeves gives an impassioned, committed performance as Johnny Silverhand, and the concept is an intriguing one.
When the game is working fine and you're in it, it's really quite enjoyable. You'll find yourself grinning as you slink around a warehouse, dropping Maelstrom henchmen with a silenced pistol and hacking into the security cameras to erase your presence. When you're done with all that and looted the cash, your motorcycle is waiting outside for you to spin off into the endless neon landscape for the next job.
That's when 'Cyberpunk 2077' really soars, and gives you the feeling of a dense, layered story. It's too bad that that feeling doesn't come around often enough.
Given all of the very public issues with the game thus far on consoles, no doubt many people reading this are wondering if this review is a recommendation or not. The truth is we can't be sure either. The game itself has been so fundamentally riddled with problems that if there is promise to the game, it's a long way off being realised.