I love Shadowrun, and even though that’s not what we’re here to talk about, it is why I wanted to try Cyberpunk 2077. The Cyberpunk tabletop RPG is like Shadowrun, but only half as cool since it doesn’t have elves or dragons. That I know of, anyway. Still, it has cybernetics, penises, and cybernetic penises, so it isn’t without merit.
When Cyberpunk 2077 finally launched in 2020, it had a major impact. And by that, I mean a lot of people were tremendously disappointed with it. I got the PS4 version, which means I was screwed. Sort of. I don’t remember why I stopped playing it, but I don’t think it was because I hated it. In any case, that was a graphics card and a lot of updates ago, so I finally got around to trying again. And this time I finished it. And now it’s time to scrub it from my hard drive because it’s tremendous.
MATCHING THE CYBER-CARPETS TO THE CYBER-DRAPES
Cyberpunk 2077 is the story of V. Her life isn’t great when you get there, but it’s just downhill afterward. She loses her chummer – er, choom – and has Keanu Reeves implanted in her brain. Also, she’s dying. She doesn’t really want to, so you, V, and Keanu Reeves have to figure out a way to help her not die.
It’s a half-crappy story for a few reasons. The good part of it is that the whole fight for survival while Keanu Reeves mocks you is pretty good. The bad part is that a race-against-time narrative doesn’t work in a sandbox game like this. The first thing I did after finding out I was dying was driving around, sponging up side-quests. I felt so little urgency, but every time V talked to someone, she’d cough out a lung and talk about how scary it was to look death in the face. Then we’d go off and race or something. I guess my brain can wait to melt.
It’s also not that great, because it doesn’t explore its themes really well. There are a lot of themes that get touched on, but most of them get drowned out by the overly-extravagant, hedocentric future where everyone swaps out their parts for the latest models. It explores transhumanism but never says anything interesting besides that maybe when gender is more easily adjustable, we might just start fucking more. I could have told you that.
Then it touches on some more personal things, and they’re so detached from the world. What I find most disappointing is that there is very little focus on corporate overreach. It’s there, but it feels more like set dressing. There’s so much separation, so they aren’t omnipresent threats. They aren’t the hand that feeds; you can’t bite them and they can’t bite back.
SHOOT FIRST, QUESTIONS LATER
One of the major complaints I heard echoed about Cyberpunk 2077 is that its combat is bland. I don’t necessarily buy that. It’s not fancy like Doom Eternal, but in comparison to a Farcry title or, goodness help us, Call of Duty, I feel like it’s a bit more interesting. Between your cybernetics, hacking, and good old-fashioned ballistics, there are a lot of options. Maybe too many, since I didn’t find combat all that challenge, but I guess I could have maybe cranked the difficulty.
I sort of preferred to be overpowered, though. The game clicked with me more when I dropped any pretense of subtlety. Sure, my fixer might tell me to go in quietly, and I might be blowing a bonus by causing a ruckus, but money is so insignificant in Cyberpunk 2077. I just had more fun blowing heads off at a range and skewering dudes with my mantis blades. I stopped asking questions, too. If my objective were to off somebody, I’d walk into the room and feed them a ballistic breakfast. Can’t hurt my reputation, can it? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
IF YOU WANT “QUIET,” HIRE SOMEONE ELSE
It may sound like I’m down on Cyberpunk 2077, but I actually enjoyed it for the most part. It’s an open-world game with a cyberpunk flavour. The end. It’s visually interesting, though it definitely fits in this gross kind of in-between state of games. The graphics have a lot of detail put into them, but there’s also an off quality to the lighting. You might say uncanny valley, but I’d just say that it’s cutting-edge technology bumping against the limitations of human development. The characters look great, but by the end of Cyberpunk 2077’s runtime, you’ll see the oddities and repetitions of their animations.
The physics and AI also lead to a lot of havoc and glitches. This is true for any open-world game, but I think Cyberpunk 2077’s problem is that it walks like a fashion model that doesn’t notice it has cake on its face. It’s really assured in itself, but its fly is down, so it’s extremely easy to mock. I’d say that none of the glitches really affected the flow of gameplay, but that’s not exactly true. I’ll say that it was a minimal obstacle, and I didn’t see anything that was completely out of the ordinary for a game like this.
I think one of the biggest disappointments for me was the customization. Let me be clear; there’s a lot of customization. However, the amount of time I spent looking at my pubic hair was a tiny fraction compared to how long I was looking at my hands. But I couldn’t change the look of my cybernetics? Come on. You also can’t customize the skin on your weapons, nor can you change the look of your cars. So close, yet so far.
CYBER-HEAD UP CYBER-ASS
But you don’t exactly exist in Cyberpunk 2077’s world, you just tear through it. It’s the sort of game that feels like you’re on safari at the zoo. Maybe you’re doing all the same activities as you would in less vapid games, but you can feel the artificiality here.
Again, I think its biggest issue is it has this air about it. It’s like Cyberpunk 2077 thinks it’s bigger and better than all the open-world games that Bethesda, Ubisoft, and Rockstar can pump out, and it really isn’t. If it positioned itself more as Farcry but with robot arms, I’d probably still be interested, but I wouldn’t be as discerning toward it. I’d say, “finally, an open-world gun that caters to my very specific tastes: prosthetics and pubic hair customization.” Instead, it’s so far up its own ass all I can say is, “Check out this game with its head up its ass. That’s pretty impressive, right?”
So, I guess what I’m saying is keep your expectations in check and you might have a good time.
This review was conducted on a digital PC version of the game. It was paid for by the author.