When I broke my usual rules of buying a game 1-2 years later (usually at 50-75% off) to pre-order the fresh release of Cyberpunk 2077, I had the distinct feeling that I was going to reprise my launch day, launch price experience with Evolve.
That is to say, paying a premium for the privilege of hurling myself into a den of vitriolic reviews and numerous bugs and jank, in the hopes of grabbing a craved-for experience with both hands before the chance slips away.
Add to that the fact that I am rocking a 6 year old PC with an i5 CPU, a GTX980 and Windows 7… suffice to say that my expectations were not super-high. I was mostly hoping the answer to “Will it run?” was “yes, somehow.”
Reports of the deplorable technical performance of this game were plastering the internet. So you could say my (rock bottom) expectations were met when I first started it up and it crashed about 5 seconds later.
Hoping against hope that I didn’t have to turn around and refund it on Day 1, I hit the update button on my aging Nvidia drivers and tried again.
This time, it did survive the introductory credits sequence, the main menu and about 50% of the tutorial before my incessant addiction to the cyber-Batman style see-all-enemies quick-hack-all-the-things slow-mo vision finally broke the game’s morale and dumped me back to desktop.
Undefeated, I hammered the yellow icon one more time to start all over again.
It’s a relationship I have built with this game over 20 hours of gameplay. Every 30-90 minutes, it decides it’s had enough and chucks me out with a “Cyberpunk has flatlined” error.
I refuse to give in and tell it to try again one more time. Almost inevitably, it manages to get past the point of prior resistance without too much further disagreement, and we move on for a brief spell before it finds something else unconscionable and spits me back out again.
I am married to the quicksave key at this point.
Yet I persist. Because the brief spell is a spell. It is enthralling. It is magical.
I have wanted to feel immersed in a cyberpunk city environment for a very long time now. And what better place than the eponymous Night City of Cyberpunk?
The visual spectacle is glorious and ambitious. Environmental art assets litter each scene, no doubt contributing to the groaning load of computers and consoles failing to handle the task.
A certain complicit suspension of disbelief is required.
Try not to talk to the NPCs who are there as background set dressing. If you trigger them by pressing F, they’ll come out and say something horrifically random and immersion-breaking, usually at the top of their lungs. If you leave them along to follow their scripts, then the environs feel believable, in a ‘there’s all this other stuff also happening around us’ kind of way.
Try not to follow cars for too long – they get held up at traffic lights, end without warning at some points on a freeway, and generally display less AI awareness than say, Sleeping Dogs’ cars.
Ignore the occasional graphical glitches of people models winding up in the standard T pose, guns floating in the air, a motorcycle falling from the sky (or at least ricocheting out of nowhere and landing in front of me – I did ride it, far be it for me to look a gift motorcycle in the eye.)
Mirrors seem to be permanently broken in my game. The original apartment mirror provided a full range of visual bugs, as reported by thousands elsewhere. I very nearly had a progression-breaking event in The Heist chapter, where your character is asked to go into a bathroom and given a choice to wash their face or smash a mirror. Both options led to repeatable crashes – it hated the thought of rendering water AND a mirror. (I finally lucked past that by opting to not walk into the bathroom in the first place and triggering yet another scripted series of events.)
Console folks, as far as reports seem to convey, are mostly screwed over for the time being and should probably hold off for now.
Skills and weapons probably need some kind of balance pass at some point. I picked up a knife-throwing from sneaking skill, only to find out that the knives are not retrievable, which is nonsensical when other guns can output ridiculous amounts of damage for renewable ammo. Then I crafted a tech sniper rifle, which can basically shoot right through walls when charged up – almost hilariously unfair once combined with tagging enemies through hacking cameras.
All that said, I am still eating, drinking, breathing and dreaming Cyberpunk at the moment because of the environments, the story and the lore.
I can run faster than cars and climb and hop from rooftop to rooftop in a neon and chrome, dark and grimy city filled with glorious contrasting excess between the tallest of sleek black corporate highrises and dockside slums built from rusty corrugated metal.
The cops and the corporates are corrupt and bullies. Gangs control each city district. Fixers offer mercs and solos jobs from vigilante justice to smuggling.
“Never Fade Away” is a short story / mini-adventure found in every edition of the tabletop Cyberpunk RPG and suffice to say, it is front and center in this game as well.
There are small visual callbacks to historical Cyberpunk, where hacking was still done with terminals and decks, as opposed to implanted chips.
Much like the world itself, the game is a monument to glorious ambition, hubris and excess. When and where it works, it purrs with cyberpunk detail like a blinged out cyborg mech punching above its weight class. When and where it doesn’t work (and there are lots who fall through the cracks), then it all comes tumbling down.