The last big hooray of the year.
Not as big and doesn't shine as bright as we hoped. But my gripes with the game are not the same as the majority's. Let's get one things straight: I give zero fucks how badly the game runs on last gen consoles, or on any console for that matter. This was supposed to be a PC only title, at least for a while. So everything I talk hereof is regarding the PC version only.
Did CDPR make a mistake by not delaying the release further? Most will say yes, but my answer to that question is:
It was already far overdue. If I had to choose between playing the game now in the state it is now, vs having to wait another 4-6 months to get it relatively bug free. I'd absolutely say now without hesitation.
I'll talk about the bugs later, but know this: they didn't detract from my experience. Most of the bugs in the game I encountered in other big open world titles, just much less frequently.
I'll forego the introduction of the game, if you don't already know what CP2077 is, then you either lived under a rock for the past 8 years or weren't interested in it at all, but then WTF are you doing reading about it?
So, I dive right in:
The game begins with creating your character, V. The character creator is underwhelming to say the least. After all the hype about how extensive the customization options will be, what we get is a joke. If they hadn't advertised it as so great I might have given them a pass on it. But they were literally asking for this. Some of the options are weirdly limited, for example skin tones, makeup and hair colors. And you can't even change the basic head shape, you can choose from a few presets, and then only able to change the nose / ears / mouth / eye / jaw shape, but not with sliders or any serious customization, as there are only specific presets for each.
But my biggest let-down is that the body type is completely fixed, apart from male / female there is nothing you can change, not even height. Damned shame. I expected to spend an hour in the character creator, instead I was done in 2 minutes, because there is not much you can do with the given toolset. I really hope it gets an upgrade later on. That said despite the lack of customization I was able to create a character that was passable. Which is a good segue into my other issue with the game.
First person view, why I hate it
The forced first person view, I still think is a mistake and to me it has taken away more from the experience than all the bugs combined. 99% of cutscenes are in first person view, so you barely see your character outside of dedicated mirrors. And in photo mode, that currently doesn't even work during cutscenes. I'm a vain mofo, I want to see my character. I never play games as if I'm the character, I'm just the invisible guiding hand. I want to be in awe of my character's awesomeness.
Choose your origins
Second thing on the agenda is choosing your background: Nomad / Streetkid or Corpo? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, it matters fuck all. As the three paths converge not 10 minutes after starting the game. I'm serious. Don't expect any Dragon Age Origins type separate prologue here. After that 10 minutes? There is virtually no difference, apart from getting a few optional dialogue options during the whole game based on your choice, that's it. It will never bear any significance whatsoever. You choose the first mission, that's the gist of it.
Conversations / Player choice
And there is one more thing that has no real significance: conversations. Most of them are just single choice, with additional optional dialogues, the few that has multiple options will give the same result using different words. The two conversations in the game that actually give you a meaningful choice, are who to fuck, and which ending you choose at the end. That's about it.
I've had a constant feeling of powerlessness through the entire game, you don't control the narrative, of course you don't in other games either, but here I didn't even have the illusion. There are so many forced failures and situations where the game just prevents you from doing anything. Case in point when you go to important meetings, your car will refuse to drive closer than a certain point. You'll have to assume neutral locked in positions and you can't move until the involved NPCs are gone. So nothing like DeusEx where you can confront the same character at a number of different times, or even ignore them completely.
Now that I've brought up DeusEx the game has some similarities to it, but it's not as well designed. Most locations you have to infiltrate will have multiple entry points based on your skills, but the locations somehow all feel like empty boxes, with very few rooms. Not the interconnected mazes I so loved in DeusEx.
The worst example of this was when I had to get into a big corporate warehouse. And I went through one door and I was already in the room I needed to be in. Not very exciting.
The city itself however is very atmospheric there are tons of awesome locations, and views that often brought up memories of some iconic movie in me. The indoor locations are forgettable unfortunately.
It's hard to talk about the story without spoilers, so I avoid those here. I will write another article discussing specifics later. It's enough to say that it is well written, but the endings are not my cup of tea, some didn't even make sense to me. There are 6 endings in the game (that I know of) and I didn't fancy any of them. They are all bad just different levels of bad.
The gameplay is pretty solid, even the shooting, which I feared would be an issue. The enemies do get bullet spongy on harder difficulty, which I hate. So I kept the setting down, unfortunately that means you become a tank, which is sad. I'd have preferred DeusEx style realistic setting, where a headshot will take down people, but you also die from it. Another thing for CDPR to work on.
Stealth is very overpowered in the game, even without spending much on tech and hacking you can make fools out of most guards and walk past them or take them down stealthily.
The graphics are great, the city looks awesome, and most indoor locations as well. The game begs to be played in HDR with RT on. Which means a 30xx is basically a requirement for 4K. I chugged away with a 2080Ti on 3840x1600, but remember that's 25% less resolution than full 4K. I got 35-45 FPS with DLSS set to Quality. Unfortunately the Balanced setting already looks awful. It's a real downgrade, I can't imagine what "Ultra performance" looks like.
The only thing that stands out graphically are the character models, sometimes they look a bit plastic, and the models aren't as detailed as I'd like.
So about these. There is no denying it, the game is bugs galore. By far the most common bug is disappearing clothing from your character. You look down and you see what you are not supposed to see. But it's not limited to clothing either. Your hair might disappear just as easily. Or sometimes you'll see two clothing items of the same category equipped at the same time. You can even multiply items this way.
The most annoying bug is getting stuck in crouch during conversations and feeling like a toddler.
Or the screen getting stuck in 16:9 letterbox mode on an ultrawide monitor. Or subtitles / item stat boxes getting stuck on screen indefinitely.
Objective markers pointing to the wrong location, or not appearing at all.
Key NPCs playing sudden death failing the mission.
Items detaching from NPCs like mobile phones, cigarettes and floating mid air.
Fortunately for me I did not encounter game breaking bugs during my begining to end play-through, but I did get quest glitches later, so they do exist. Thankfully the game is overly generous with autosaves so it is unlikely to get stuck in a hopeless situation.
Crafting, skills, cyberware
You can craft weapons relatively easily in the game, and it's worth it even if you don't intend to use them, as you can sell them, which is a good income of money.
I didn't fancy most of the skills available to unlock, so I was often struggling what to spend my hard earned points on. The available choices just didn't fit with my play style or preferred weapons. I started hoarding upgrades and spent them when I encountered something needing a specific tech / strength / etc level.
Cyberware is so expensive in the game that I don't think I've bought any at all, only used the ones that were freely given to me. But I did manage to pay back Vik (it didn't make a difference)
There are tons of side activities in the game, unfortunately most of them are basic MMO style stuff, but the few proper side missions are great. I mean I enjoyed some of them more than the main story, and not because the main story was bad.
Only thing left is the laundry list:
- The design and graphics of Night City
- Attention to detail, the city does feel alive
- Graphics with RT on and HDR
- Well written
- The story sucks you in, you will care about the characters
- Driving feels pretty good, the physics is on the realistic side
- Lots of annoying bugs
- Needs the power of a thousand suns to run well
- NPCs look a bit plastic and lack detail
- Pretty basic enemy AI
- Design of indoors levels are lacking
- Forced failures in the story
- Only 30 hours to finish the main story with all major side gigs included at a leisurely pace
Settle the score:
Overall impression: 7/10
Recommendation: If you are interested in the game and have a powerful PC don't wait, get it now. If you have doubts wait a few months, if you are on a console: buy a PC.