Cyberpunk 2077 remains one of the great controversial games of 2020. Also, 2021, and only started to lose that reputation around 2022. It was, to quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, supposed to be the Chosen One and ended up being Darth Vader instead. However, everyone loves a redemption story and if I were to give CD_Projekt Red any props then it will be for the fact that they spent the past couple of years trying to fix the game that shouldn’t have been released in the state that it was.
So how is Cyberpunk 2077 in 2023? I’m going to answer that question with all the latest patches, up-to-date hardware (that was a perfect storm of bad timing since the majority of fans didn’t have access to due to microchip shortages), and an open mind. I’ve also played the game in its original broken state, on last generation hardware, and with all the disappointment that can only come from someone who is a mammoth cyberpunk fan as well as author.
The premise, for newcomers, is that you are V, a street merc in Night City. Night City is the most violent city in a post-apocalypse America where technology is advanced but savagery is the order of the day. Superpowerful corporations rule the city’s skylines and bloodthirsty gangs rule the streets. V’s background is determined by your choices such as being a corpo (corporate), Nomad (wastelander), or Street Kid (what the title says) but all of them more or less end up in the same place.
The majority of the game has your character fused with an AI reconstruction of a tabletop RPG character from the original Cyberpunk 2020 game: Johnny Silverhand. Johnny Silverhand is played by Keanu Reeves, in yet another iconic cyberpunk role, and is a burnt out anarchist terrorist that urges you to take anti-corporate but ultimately futile stances. Oh and your character is dying with only a few weeks left to live.
The updates to the game haven’t really affected the main plot and there’s still plenty of issues to have with that. The game suffers ludo-narrative dissonance with the fact V is dying of an incurable (?) brain disease that implies you should rush through the main plot but Night City is an open world setting that is full of hundreds of adventures to do for in-universe money. This leads to the somewhat weird feeling that V can be as rich and glamorous as Tony Montana but doesn’t have any time to enjoy it. That may be deliberate as a storytelling choice but it’s not as fun as it could be.
The big changes are the fact that the game has about 90% less bugs and broken quests, which still leaves some in the game. Unlike in writing books, however, you’re allowed a few when you’re making video games and there’s a “normal” level of these now. Compared to launch where I had to reload my crashing game near constantly, I had almost no issues whatsoever this time around and I could appreciate the game’s visuals much better. The occasional pop in and glitch seemed a small price to pay.
Another large change is the driving mechanics have received an overhaul. Previously, the game’s cars and motorcycles drove like utter crap, which was a bad thing when much of the city is set up to accommodate cars. The revised system works much better but I still mostly walked around Night City and used its fast travel system. The much despised police system remains unchanged but since they will only go after you if you injure an innocent or approach them the wrong way (like real cops *rimshot*), there’s very little need to interact with PCs. Still no car chases or car customization with only a few racing missions.
Some of the things added to the game really do increase its enjoyment factor, though. A group of additional apartments for V to purchase are excellent for giving you the sense he (or she) is actually moving up the Night City ranks. We also have a transmog system that allows you to dress your V however you want without losing any of the benefits of armor. There’s also additional activities to do at your apartments like drinking coffee and taking showers that provide bonuses. These little things add a lot to the immersion element of Night City that had previously been pretty absent.
For fans of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, there’s also some additional nods toward the anime. There’s not many of them but as a fan of it, I really enjoyed it. However, it underscores the fact that really there needed to be more content for the game. I also appreciated the addition of text messages from your love interests that deepened the somewhat shallow relationships from the original game. Hopefully, we’ll get that when we get the DLC Phantom Liberty but Night City has gone from being “good” to “great” but could have been “greatest of all time.” Still, Night City is a monumental accomplishment and the characters are fantastic.