Cyberpunk 2077 is a good game. Under all of the bugs, glitches, marketing, controversy and countless other obstacles CD Projekt Red has inflicted upon itself sits a compelling RPG with a creative vision I can't help but respect. It remains a flawed and cowardly exploration of cyberpunk fiction, but I can't deny that I wasn't afraid to lose myself in Night City time and time again to uncover what stories were hidden across its dystopian streets and vast, futuristic terrain. Just a shame about, well, everything else.
This potential was squandered by hubris, a desire from CD Projekt Red to emphasise marketing and star power over actually ensuring its game was in a playable state. While it shines and arguably breaks new ground on a powerful PC, it remains a troubled, broken affair on consoles that I've come to realise that future patches will never fix. The world feels empty and performance is choppy on the platforms this game was primarily advertised for. That misstep is unforgivable, regardless of how many sudden updates and free DLC the developer is wishing to dish out to make amends. The damage is done, and now a full year has passed since the game's initial release, I'm unsure a trajectory towards eventual success is even possible. We'll find out for sure next year.
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After several delays, CDPR has confirmed that next-gen versions of Cyberpunk 2077 will be coming our way in Q2 2022 – and I'm fairly confident the company will treat this as a fully-fledged relaunch. It won't be a mere patch for existing owners (although free upgrades are confirmed) but a landmark event accompanied by additional marketing, a physical release, and the press cycle you'd expect from an entirely new project. 2077 is such a poisoned well at this point that any other direction would likely prove insufficient. Its second coming needs to be accompanied by a profound level of honesty and an admittance to past mistakes because, as I mentioned before, Cyberpunk 2077 1.0 took consumers for a ride like few games have ever done before.
It was unplayable on certain pieces of hardware and delisted from stores in a manner that remains unprecedented. Things were so fucked that Sony and Microsoft actively encouraged users to avoid playing the game, eliminating the fuss of providing refunds by just removing the ability to buy it altogether. They had something to lose so I can't blame them, but this step should never have been resorted to in the first place. It's gross and deceptive, a rare case where the hyperbolic online discourse actually had a basis in reality. CD Projekt Red apologised and told the public that it was convinced 2077 was in a playable state and it failed to recognise the scale of its problems, but having been a part of the review process this feels demonstrably false.
A date was provided to us for console review code, but the embargo went by as we toiled away on the PC version and there was no sign of it until days before release. At this point reviews were published and the praise was significant, meaning the general public had absolutely no idea how dire the situation truly was. Information was withheld from journalists to protect the game's image, an intention that only morphed into further humiliation as the morbid truth came to light. We were swindled, as were millions of others who pre-ordered the game and expecting something to surpass The Witcher 3. It made us look like liars.
Part of me prefers large parts of Cyberpunk 2077 to Geralt's swansong, but I'd be a fool to describe the former as being of higher quality. It isn't, it’s a symbol for hubris, dishonesty, and inexperience in a genre that CD Projekt Red assumed it had already mastered, when it turned out it had only scratched the surface. So will a fancy next-gen upgrade be enough to turn the tide, to change a perception of a game which has already become dominated by memes, discourse, and discussions around how busted it all really is. Regardless of the brilliance that awaits within certain storylines and characters, none of it matters when the first impression formed by many is one of rampant ridicule and overwhelming apathy.
CD Projekt Red could pull this off and turn Cyberpunk 2077 into a modern classic, or it will release an excellent version of a flawed game, gain back some ground, before finally admitting its losses and moving onto the next big thing. We know that downloadable content and major expansions are in the works, and I respect the studio for being honest with the public for once and saying it will take as long as is needed to make this version of the game the best it can possibly be. It went from the medium’s golden child to a laughing stock in a matter of weeks, something I’ve never seen happen so quickly before, and that is arguably an achievement in itself. It can turn things around, but whether it does and makes it stick remains to be seen. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, because as I said before, it’s a great game doomed by a marketing cycle and mountains of hype it could never live up to.
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