Cyberpunk 2077 Is Good, Actually

Cyberpunk 2077 Is Good, Actually
Image: Cyberpunk 2077

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.

kotaku spoiler warning
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.

Comments

  • Played it on pc and barely experienced any issues. It could’ve been narratively longer, sure, but I found it to be a bloody good game either way.

  • Glad you perservered and enjoyed it. Its definitely one of my favourite games, and while my graphics card could brute past a lot, there were definitely some placed I needed a beefier CPU to play smoothly. Mainly the ghetto style shack area in the Chinatown side of the map would make my frames drop like no one’s business.

    Keanu was perfect as Johnny, and having him play such an unmitigated asshole was so incredibly refreshing compared to his usual roles.

  • I really enjoyed what I played but it is undeniably rough around the edges, even just the water seems very dated looking. In the end the constant crashing got the best of me and haven’t picked it up again since launch. Was considering playing it again after the last few patches but might just wait till the next-gen upgrade comes (on a PS5) though by then it will probably be contending with a few big games and just get forgotten.

    Anybody play it with the recent patches on PS5, heard it looks a bit worse since its running off the PS4 code (post patches) but is it at least stable?

  • I really enjoyed the setting. The story while short was good. The world itself as it exists in the game feels really dead. The world doesn’t feel interactive or alive. GTA San Andreas feels more alive than CP2077

    I really hope we get more story DLC because overall i really enjoyed the game.

  • It was always obvious to anyone with an IQ above 80 that it’s a great game. Even when all I had seen were glitch videos etc in Highlight Reel it was clear that under the technical issues was an incredible and ambitious game I couldn’t wait to play once it was polished up. Should they just have skipped the last gen hardware? Probably. Didn’t affect me though as a PC gamer.

  • There’s a good reason I persisted with the game for close to 200hrs even when the PS5 was crashing every 30-60 minutes at best, every 5-10 at worst.

    It’s just a really fucking good game.

    The real tragedy is that it could’ve been the best game. The demos we saw that showed off 3rd-person cinematic sequences with a more dynamic and expressive V, the care and attention to detail that goes into your first Kyoshi implant that is never ever repeated, the wasted talent of Jackie with his potent, contradictory mix of naivety and nearly-zen wisdom…

    All of it just evaporates, leaving only traces of what could’ve been. Great traces, gladly savoured, but just traces. The real, hearty meat? It went somewhere else. And for all their vague promises of ‘not just bugfix’ improvements, I don’t think they’re going to be able to retrofit the game to squeeze that back in.

  • i put about 20 hours in back in december. mostly side questing as i tend to do. so i never got too far into the story and decided at that point, although on PC i never encountered crashes or any real game breaking bugs (a t-pose here and there just adds some comedy) that i would shelve it and revisit once it had been patched to a respectable state.
    not sure if we are there yet. the past 6 months have (apart from quest fixes) mostly been focussed on fixing problems with last gen consoles. whilst the pc version never had massive issues, it was never… performant.
    im happy to sit on this game for another while yet, until they either stop trying to bring stone age hardware into a playable state, or if it goes on long enough, i eventually upgrade and let well overspecced hardware brute force its way into a better experience.

  • Played through it on launch on PS4 Pro, it was fine – buggy and a little rough, but the story still shone through. The only issue I had was with the fine timing required for melee combat (counters etc) – the low frame rate made that difficult. But the rest of the gameplay was great.

    Then I played through it again recently on a new PC with a lot of the bells and whistles turned on, did things differently and with consistently 75+ FPS was able to do the counters no problems, and ended up with a fairly melee-focused build. Good game overall.

    If I read ONE MORE TIME about how it’s wanted system isn’t as good as GTA I swear I’m going to go mental. The game never pretended to be Sci-Fi GTA in the first place, it’s not meant to be a ‘go on a random rampage’ sort of game, it’s meant to be played in character.

  • Played it on Ps5 other than being disappointed with how it looked, the only reason I didnt 100% it was because I didnt want to waste the experience until we got the new gen versions of it. Sure I could complain about X or Y, but it was seriously hitting all the right notes for me. Its upgrade is at the top of my my most wanted for the year

    I didnt be bothered in getting wrapped up in all the outrage, its launched perfectly summed up 2020. And if it was for that pesky Captain Trips, I bet its launched wouldnt have been be as terrible.

  • If it was truly bad, I’d have never finished it, so it has that going for it.

    Once I did finish it, though, I never felt any desire to go back. The vapid, surface-level approach to cyberpunk was really disappointing, like you were in a cyberpunk theme park rather than a real world where the creators had considered the implications of the setting.

    At least it had the Akira bike, though. That was cool (and my main ride for most of the game).

  • I played it on PC and had enough hardware to brute force it with raytracing. The game was so graphically broken that glitched assets kept strobing me meant I didn’t get beyond the prologue. “We’ll fix the braindance” meant absolutely nothing when the entire game kept flashing me. From the little I played and from what I read/looked at after refund, it was an uninspired, incomplete lazy mess in all development departments (from an underpaid and inexperienced development team and that’s on management) and Deus Ex has been a far better experience so far.

    • That’s actually on me. There was originally two separate spoiler warnings in the post and I cut the second, but should have amended the wording slightly to make it more obvious. Sorry!

  • No, it is a dreadful game. I played it at launch on PS5 and it was plain shit. A hollow shell of a game that needed to be fleshed out to make the world ‘living’. I persevered but I could never shake that feeling that everything was so fake and poorly executed. Honestly felt like playing a open world game from 10 years ago that happened to look pretty from time to time.

    Cyberpunk would suffice as a cheap B grade game. But in no way, shape or form does it hold a candle to actual good games that deserve credit.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!