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Now is the best time to play Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 screenshot
(Image credit: CD Projekt RED)

Welcome! This column is part of a regular series in which we share what members of the Tom's Guide staff are playing and enjoying right now, with an eye toward helping you find great games that you may have missed. Be sure to check out our previous entry, where we talk about Final Fantasy IV.

Discussing Cyberpunk 2077 purely on its merits is difficult given all the controversy surrounding CD Projekt RED’s title. And truthfully, I can’t blame people. After numerous delays, the game was released in a nearly unplayable state on PS4 and Xbox One.

A slew of updates fixed the most glaring technical issues, but despite that and the recently announced Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty expansion, it’s still difficult for this game to shake its rocky launch. Cyberpunk 2077 is likely beyond saving at this point.

With that said, I still believe there is a legitimately good game here underneath the bugs and sometimes questionable mechanics.

Thanks to the Phantom Liberty announcement and the current lack of blockbuster games for PS5 and Xbox Series X, I’ve decided to replay Cyberpunk 2077. I’m doing so on PS5 since I already finished it on PC. I’m also making a Netrunner build and going for the Platinum trophy to give me goals to work toward.

After over ten hours, I’m having an absolute blast with Cyberpunk 2077. It’s perhaps the definition of a flawed masterpiece. Not only am I enjoying it, but I think now is the best time for people to either play it for the first time or start a new playthrough.

A beautifully dystopian world

I played Cyberpunk 2077 for nearly 100 hours on PC because it offered me something no other game could: An authentic cyberpunk world to inhabit. Yes, the game’s spotty AI kills some of the immersion, but when I’m playing, I feel as if I’ve been transported to Akira’s Neo Tokyo, Robocop’s Detroit or Blade Runner’s Los Angeles.

There are plenty of games that evoke the genre’s spirit and visuals, but none do so on the scale of Cyberpunk 2077. Not only is the world directly around you highly detailed, but so is everything above you. Yes, the enormous skyscrapers and lofty railways are little more than window dressing you can’t interact with, but they serve to make you feel as if you’re in the middle of a living (and dangerous) city. I can, and have, spent hours simply driving around Night City taking in the beautiful dystopian nightmare around me.

cyberpunk 2077

I can't name a game that captures the spirit of the genre as effectively as Cyberpunk 2077. (Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

The cyberpunk genre emerged in the 1980s and that decade’s unique aesthetic and audio qualities permeate Cyberpunk 2077. As a child of the '80s, playing the game gives me a nice shot of nostalgia – even if it’s a bleak, distorted version of reality. The blaring sounds of electronica and heavy metal combined with the litter-covered neon-drenched streets never fail to draw me in. The presentation is utterly captivating.

Leaving my RPG safe zone 

Like I said up top, I’m doing a Netrunner build during this playthrough. Instead of completing missions with brute force using powerful firearms, I'm playing as a hacker who can disrupt computer systems, disable cameras and even hack enemies’ cybernetics to neutralize them. If this were a medieval-inspired RPG like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you could say I’m playing as a Mage.

Cyberpunk 2077 review

Playing as Netrunner is a lot of fun in Cyberpunk 2077. (Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

I’m only a few hours in and have yet to fully reap the benefits of my Netrunner build. But even at this early stage, I see its destructive potential. Hacking security cameras to locate enemies and hack into their cybernetics from afar is more satisfying than I imagined. I’ve looked up Netrunner build guides and am working toward unlocking upgrades that let me see and shoot through walls. An ability that spreads computer viruses from one foe to another is another thing I’m aiming to unlock and utilize.

Trying this build is also forcing me to carefully consider which perks and attributes to upgrade. Before, I dumped all my points into whatever would help me survive prolonged gun fights or which made me more effective at using weapons. Now, I have to think two or three steps ahead before committing to an upgrade tree. This is very different than my usual blunt approach to video games, but it’s fun regardless.

Now is the best time to play Cyberpunk 2077 

Even in its current state, Cyberpunk 2077 has issues. As I said before, the game’s AI is effectively brain-dead. For example, you can still cause traffic jams by leaving your car in the middle of the road. Seriously, even Saints Row 2 from 2008 had AI that would drive around your car (and potentially shoot you for being a jerk). And don't get me started about how you need to watch the mini-map to navigate instead of keeping your eyes on the road. Why aren’t there holographic overlays on the road to guide you? The entire world is filled with holograms! The fact you get holographic overlays during street races makes this even more infuriating.

But despite its lingering problems, Cyberpunk 2077 is still one of the most enthralling video games I’ve played in recent years. I’m going to continue playing until I’ve obtained the Platinum trophy on PS5. And I’ll surely return to play the Phantom Liberty expansion whenever that releases in 2023. Who knows, maybe I’ll start another playthrough on PC to try an entirely different build. A hacker ninja who uses katanas could be fun. There’s still a lot I can wring from this title.

If you’ve never played Cyberpunk 2077 or are considering revisiting it, now is the time to jump back in. It’s still rough around the edges, but you won’t find another game quite like it.

Next: Sony says PSVR 2 will not play original PSVR games. Here's why we think The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom deserves a more powerful console. And checkout our lowdown on Overwatch 2's battle pass — here's what you need to know.

And speaking of timing, here's why Rory Mellon would cancel Netflix until 2023.

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.


  • Lockraven666
    This game became the #1 single player game on Steam as of Thursday or Friday. I think your comment saying the game is "likely beyond saving" was uninformed and quite obviously untrue at this point. While I usually find your opinions on games to be fairly accurate I think you might have jumped the gun on this one.
    Reply
  • JustAGamer2022
    admin said:
    Cyberpunk 2077 has a checkered past, but it's now arguably in the most presentable state yet. This is the best time to dive back into Night City.

    Now is the best time to play Cyberpunk 2077 : Read more

    I'm not sure how could thr author get far different experience playing this game. It is simply unconvincing..

    The issue with Cyberpunk beside the bug is the content. Nightcity feels dead and empty and small.

    I'm amazed when the author express that he feel he could drove for hours in nightcity and life the experience of cyberpunk (Not literally what the author said, but more or less).

    Nope definitely something I can't agree and unconvincing.

    Sure, many bugs are squashed, but,
    Cyberpunk2077 will remain bad experience unless they flesh out genuine contents to make up for the original game + expansion.

    When the animation is better than the game, it tells how people can have many ideas but the fails in executing it.
    Reply
  • GraniteStateColin
    @JustAGamer2022, I mostly disagree with your assessment. I would acknowledge that there is a LOT of Night City that is just scenery and that you can't access or use. This is especially true for buildings. Clearly, that's not a positive, but to use that to conclude the game is empty is wildly unfair and bizarre to me. There is more interactive content in Cyberpunk 2077's than in The Witcher 3's world. The reason I think no one complained about this in The Witcher 3 is because no one expects to be able to climb every tree in the forest, but people do have some expectation to be able to enter any building. But Cyberpunk 2077 is dense with things to do. If you put all of the quests and interactive points of Cyberpunk on the map, it is filled with things to do. And then there are all the people standing around with whom you can pick fights in addition to the hundreds of quest points.

    For the millions of players who liked The Witcher 3, Cyberpunk 2077 is basically the same game mechanic, moved to a first person view, set in a dystopian future, and with MORE game play options, RPG elements, and mechanics than were available in The Witcher 3 and much better graphics too. The Witcher 3 does benefit from Gwent and having more small quests with interesting dialog. On the other hand, there are more really rich characters to really care about on the level of the Bloody Baron in CyberPunk 2077 (several in fact). Further, the harshest critiques of Cyberpunk could all also be applied to Novigrad and all the other cities in The Witcher 3 -- most of the people and buildings are just scenery -- but contrary to what you may have read, they are actually MORE interactive in Cyberpunk. The police in Cyberpunk 2077, while not perfect, are better than the guards in The Witcher. Driving is good, especially on a motorcycle (much tougher to control the cars), which is way more fun than riding Roach. Guns are infinitely better than Geralt's crossbow. There's true stealth gameplay where cybertech gives access to new stealth features not seen in most other stealth games. Hacking (effectively magic casting) has far more options than Geralts 4 signs. Implants give you access to radically different forms of gameplay, where in the Witcher it was pretty much just swords or signs. And so on with every area that the complainers hit.

    Yeah, a lot of the people wandering around Night City are just scenery, not fully flushed out NPC's, but you can at least talk with them to get more random responses than the much more static bodies in The Witcher 3. You can click on doors, they're just mostly locked. At least Cyberpunk has tagged its scenery, even if it's still mostly non-interactive. I don't recall reading anyone criticizing The Witcher 3 for these issues, and rightly so, because it was a GREAT game that deserved its many Game of the Year awards. Cyberpunk 2077 (after the fixes for the terrible state at launch) is an improvement on The Witcher 3 in many ways.
    Reply
  • GraniteStateColin
    If I were to pick my biggest complaint about Cyberpunk 2077, it's that the main story line (which is excellent) effectively discourages you from doing all the side quests. It gives you a sense of urgency to go out and save yourself from certain doom and death, but to get the most out of the game, you should ignore that initially and deal with every side quest you can find before proceeding with the main quest. A simple solution to this would have been to require reaching certain levels in Street Cred to gain access to various people you need to advance the main quest, which would then have provided both relevant and more RPG-ish reasons to explore Night City and deal with all the side quests before focusing on the main storyline, which again is just brilliant. It's not just a good story for a game, it's a great story period, filled with fascinating characters, surprising plot twists, emotion, loss, and inspiring victories, many with a cost.
    Reply