Cyberpunk 2077 Is Good, Actually

Cyberpunk 2077 Is Good, Actually

It’s safe to say I bounced hard off Cyberpunk 2077 when it originally launched. It wasn’t the bugs or crashes that got me — it was the game’s tendency to treat sex as an ‘edgy’ joke and its cringeworthy depictions of women that I disliked. I still think the game could’ve done with a lot more nuance. But I’m willing to admit that underneath all the misguided set dressing and attitude, there’s a really great game.

Now, your personal mileage with Cyberpunk 2077 will differ. I played on a PS5 at launch and suffered numerous, frequent crashes. Fortunately, the game’s quick save system was so hearty I never lost huge chunks of progress. I also didn’t suffer any major game-breaking bugs or glitches that made the game unsalvageable. I never even saw a T-pose.

I know I got lucky. But it also meant I could see past the game’s flaws.

Six months on, players are still making jokes out of Cyberpunk 2077. CD Projekt Red’s issues with crunch, delays and announcements about the ‘readiness’ of the game haven’t helped. But the whole conversation detracts from a game that is genuinely well-written, fun to play, and contains one of the most emotional narratives I’ve played in the last few years.

Once I got past those cheap butt-bouncing posters and the constant innuendo that decorates the world of Cyberpunk 2077, I found a game I absolutely fell in love with.

And I genuinely believe the naysayers will eventually love it, too.

Beware minor and major spoilers below.

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cyberpunk 2077
Cyberpunk 2077 (Screenshot: Nathan Platt)

The narrative hook of Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t obvious from the jump.

Even going into the game, it feels like a generic dystopian future simulator complete with metallic limbs, weird technologies and concepts like digital mind-reading.

But once you cross that 2 hour mark, you discover the game’s true story. Player character V gets melded with the brain chip of rocker Johnny Silverhand (Keanu Reeves), and now they’re both dying to find a cure. Literally dying. It’s a story riddled with tropes, but one that manages to lend the game a sense of adventure and urgency as V goes off on a desperate mission to save their life.

The action is guided by Silverhand, who acts as an arsehole-ish alter to V’s more tactical, reserved personality. It means two hours in, Cyberpunk 2077 instantly becomes a body horror-style buddy cop comedy where Silverhand and V constantly butt heads. Like Lethal Weapon in a single body.

Honestly? It’s so much fun.

There’s a reason the classic formula is so popular.

While the focus on Silverhand arguably detracts away from the dense world-building of the game, he pushes the action along in a way that makes every location a joy to explore. Make a wrong move? Silverhand will lecture you about it. Looking a bit peaky? Silverhand’s there to rub it in.

The dynamic is ace, and it brightens up the dark, moody streets of the game with witty banter.

From early trailer footage, fans and websites have speculated Silverhand’s role in the game was expanded post-Keanu coming on board — but regardless of whether it was planned from the beginning, it’s an excellent choice for the game’s main story.

We all know Keanu Reeves isn’t the world’s best actor. But he’s incredibly likeable and even when Silverhand’s being a total dick, he’s charming. He rocks a charisma in Cyberpunk 2077 that completely justifies his spot in the game.

Spend long enough chatting to him, and you’ll even unlock the heart of gold behind all the rudeness and sniping.

cyberpunk 2077 johnny silverhand
Image: Cyberpunk 2077

And while Silverhand’s presence means the game tells a more insular, siloed story than most RPGs, it makes the entire experience more intimate. He also helps flesh out V’s character, and gives them a drive to fight that wouldn’t otherwise have existed.

Open world games tend to suffer from a lack of purpose — but the unique circumstances V and Johnny Silverhand find themselves in means there’s a reason for every mission in the game. There’s no ‘wander here and gather some items’. There’s no ‘ride your horse into the sunset for hours’. It’s ‘you’re dying and you need a cure. Find it.’ Simple, but very effective.

Every side quest and mission lends itself to the overall story. It’s also big enough to feel well-realised, but not too big that it’s overwhelming — and that’s a rare feat for any game.

It also means the game’s final endings (all 6 of them) feel earned by the time V’s journey comes to a close. While there’s an argument to be made that the game’s main narrative is too short, you’ll still spend a hearty 20 hours navigating the mean streets of Night City. That’s plenty of time to dive in with the story, get to know V and Silverhand, and to grow an attachment to the game’s cast of characters.

It’s also long enough to feel absolutely devastated when you do get to the game’s final chapter. While there are multiple paths, each ending is incredibly cathartic.

cyberpunk 2077 johnny silverhand endings
Image: Cyberpunk 2077

Whether your V ended up killing themselves, being lost in the digital realm, dying with Panam in the desert or being tested in space, every ending is a beautiful, heart-breaking finale.

Sure, it’s a shame you can’t really cure V — but even this narrative is pleasantly unexpected. It makes every moment you spend in Cyberpunk 2077 feel more valuable. It makes you care.

Video games are designed to make you feel a certain way. Whether you’re looking to them for escapism, fantasy or just a little break from your day-to-day, they should make you feel. Cyberpunk gives you a reason to root for V and the characters drawn into their orbit. It’s still plagued by bugs, but those shouldn’t overshadow the power of the stories within Night City.

Cyberpunk 2077 deserves more credit than it gets. Despite the millions who bought in, many have missed out on an adventure in Night City because of the game’s rollout. But if you can fight through the memes, the bugs, glitches and sexist dressing, there’s a wonderful, emotional rollercoaster well worth playing.

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