Around a year ago the internet was ablaze with angry gamers furious at the state of Cyberpunk 2077. Everybody seemed desperate to get their spear in and decry the sorry shape of the game.
Now, don't mistakenly believe I’m criticizing the angry masses here, I was very much among the group who felt they’d be misled and missold the game. In fact, at launch, Cyberpunk 2077 ended up being less of a masterpiece and more of a master class in how not to release a product.
Even after pouring several dozen hours into the game, I was so disgusted by developer CD Projekt Red’s flimsy apology statement that I lodged a refund request in protest. Yet, last year during the Black Friday sales I coughed up $25 and bought a second digital copy of the game for PS5.
Granted, the 50% off limited-time deal definitely swayed my purchasing decision, but it’s one that I don’t regret even a several weeks later. And I don’t seem to be alone in my recent re-evaluation of the game. Cyberpunk 2077 is currently enjoying something of a resurgence in popularity and positive attention especially in light of its massive 1.5 patch.
In fact, last month the game’s user score switched to overall “Very Positive” for the first time, and in November 2021 when Steam broke its concurrent player record it was thanks in large part to thousands of users playing Cyberpunk 2077.
Once the butt of endless jokes and memes, Cyberpunk 2077 has suddenly become a game actually worth taking seriously and I’m here for it. If you bought the game originally but returned it, or just skipped out due to the backlash, now might be the ideal time to give it a shot — here’s why
A whole year of fixes
For CDPR, 2021 was the year of fixes. The Polish company appeared to do basically nothing but patch and update Cyberpunk 2077. Some of the patches released at the start of the year actually introduced new game-breaking bugs to the game, but the majority slowly molded the game into an acceptable state.
It should be noted that aside from a summer patch adding some very middling free DLC in the form of a couple of jackets and a car, the 10+ updates that have dropped during 2021 were solely dedicated to squashing bugs and improving overall stability. This approach has slowly but surely transformed the game into something immensely playable (at least on PS4 Pro and Xbox One X).
This just week the game's 1.5 patch has dropped which adds another laundry list of improvements to the game. These range from improving combat AI and crowd behaviour to fixing glitched quests that wouldn't complete for some players. It's a significant update that adds another layer of polish to the game.
That's not all that this hefty update adds, it's also the first free patch to include a significant amount of new content and gameplay tweaks. This update includes new weapons, new apartments to buy throughout Night City, the long-request ability to change your appearance after the intro and entirely re worked perk and loot systems. That's a lot of significant improvements.
Of course, Cyberpunk 2077 should never have needed this much additional post-launch polish. The facts of the matter are that the game was released in an unacceptable state, and fixing its own mess was the least CDPR could do.
Nevertheless, I’m appreciative that anyone jumping into Night City for the first time now won’t have to suffer through the truckload of bugs, glitches and hard crashes that launch day players were forced to endure. It took an entire extra year but Cyberpunk 2077 is finally in an acceptable state!
The reason that Cyberpunk 2077 faltered so spectacularly last winter wasn’t just that it was buggy. The game also failed to meet the lofty expectations that many had placed on it in other areas. These were expectations that CDPR was very comfortable stoking, making claims about the quality of the game that look downright laughable in hindsight.
I myself was certainly guilty of buying into the hype. I class The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt among my favorite games of all time, and I went into Cyberpunk 2077 believing I was about to add another game to those ranks. Having that level of expectation for any piece of media from the outset is just setting yourself up for disappointment — lesson learned.
A year later and Cyberpunk 2077 is being judged for what it actually is, rather than the falsehood the marketing materials sold us. It’s not an expansive open-world game that rivals the likes of GTA V or Red Dead Redemption 2, it’s an extremely sold action game with a deep story and a map that is best treated as set dressing.
For example, during my time with Red Dead Redemption 2, I often found myself wandering the world aimlessly to see what I could discover. I’d invariably come across some strange side pursuit or end up sitting in a local tavern watching the virtual inhabitants of that world going about their day. You can’t really do that in Cyberpunk 2077.
Night City isn’t a living breathing world, it’s a movie set. It’s a backdrop for your high-octane adventures, but nothing more. If you’re not actively completing a mission at all times when playing Cyberpunk 2077 then you’re playing it wrong. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, the same is true of games like Far Cry 6, but it’s an important distinction.
Cyberpunk 2077 is now being judged on what it is, not what we all wanted it to be. If you’re aware of exactly what you’re buying, then I thoroughly recommend the game. It features some incredible stories, both in the main campaign and the numerous sidequests, and some deeply fascinating lore to boot. Even if the gameplay is pretty rote, the writing is almost always excellent.
Just be aware that mechanically, Cyberpunk 2077 is a mindless FPS action game, and should be played like one. It’s not a game for stopping and smelling the roses, it’s a game that demands you move from one objective to the next at a brisk pace. Do that, and you’ll likely always be having some form of fun.
The best time to play
If you're jumping into Cyberpunk 2077 for the first time, you've picked the perfect time to play as the native PS5 and Xbox Series X versions of the game have just dropped this week.
These bespoke versions take full advantage of the power of the new consoles and add exclusive features like ray-tracing support and greater crowd density. Not to mention substantially improved graphical fidelity across the board, as well as a more stable framerate and faster loading times.
Cyberpunk 2077 always felt like a next-gen experience that was essentially downgraded in order to run on the the PS4 and Xbox One, but with these fully fledged next-gen versions the game finally feels uncompromised on console — at least from a technical perspective.
Even better, if you already own the game on last gen consoles, this next gen upgrade is completely free. If you previously purchased Cyberpunk 2077 and have a PS5 or Xbox Series X, then there's no excuse not to visit Night City now. You can even transfer you save between versions, so you won't lose any progression.
No longer a total disaster
What I found most frustrating about Cyberpunk 2077’s launch wasn’t that the game was a total trainwreck, it was that the game had a mostly solid core but accessing it involved fighting through an extremely unpolished outer layer. That's a fight that many players understandably walked away from.
I’m pleased that the good parts of the game are now starting to shine brighter than the technical blemishes. That doesn’t exonerate CDPR for releasing the game much sooner than it should have, and I’m still not pleased about their half-hearted apology, but my anger towards the studio has mellowed with time.
Right now I’m pretty content just enjoying the uncomplicated thrills that Cyberpunk 2077 provides and hoping that in the future we get a sequel that more closely resembles the game we all thought we were buying last December.
I probably still wouldn’t advise a purchase full price, but considering Cyberpunk 2077 has been available for as little as $10 recently, now feels like a perfect time to take a trip to Night City. At least this time you'll know exactly what you're buying.