NOTE: Given the major differences in the PC and console builds of Cyberpunk 2077 and the experiences they offer, we thought it would be best to go live with two reviews, one for each version. Each of our reviews is separate, written by different authors, and with a different perspective on the game, so opinions on some things may vary. Click here to read our console review.
Ever since its reveal back in 2012, there was an insurmountable hype preceding Cyberpunk 2077’s release. Hype can be a misleading factor, especially in the case of a game like this one. CD Projekt RED, the developers of this game, are coming off what is likely one of the best games of the last generation, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and it’s easy to give in to the hype and have unrealistic expectations about what they’ve got cooking up next. Fortunately, as with every AAA release, I managed to keep my expectations in check, and in the case of Cyberpunk 2077 it was no different. Once I booted up the game on my PC, it took me a while before I settled into the hustle and bustle of Night City, but when I did, I was taken aback by the game’s world, the in-depth gameplay mechanics, and the engaging story. During the last few days that I have spent with this game, I have been hooked into it and I really couldn’t let go.
CDPR have an impeccable pedigree in sewing rich narratives and I am very glad to report that this is clearly the case in Cyberpunk 2077. Without entering into spoiler territory, the game offers you three Lifepaths to choose from- Corporate, Nomad, and Street Kid. All the lifepaths start off differently, but they all eventually lead to the same critical path- though the ending can, of course, change depending on the choices you make throughout your journey. I selected Nomad, and my V started out his journey on the outskirts of Night City, with dreams of making it big through gigs and engaging in heists. Unfortunately, V’s dreams fall flat and he is stuck in an ugly situation of corporate greed, money, and power, and of course, the immortality chip. CDPR had perfected the choice and consequence gameplay mechanic in The Witcher 3, and Cyberpunk 2077 manages to use those strengths to great effect as well. In several mainline missions, heck, even in some side missions, there can be multiple different outcomes based on what kind of skills you have or what kind of conversations you had with characters, and from there the story can branch out into different possibilities.
"CDPR had perfected the choice and consequence gameplay mechanic in The Witcher 3, and Cyberpunk 2077 manages to use those strengths to great effect as well."
Initially, the plot may be complicated to follow, but it all falls into place as you play more of the game. The world of Night City is not a place for the weak-hearted. Here, no one cares about anything except the amount of cash you have in your pockets. And this theme is prevalent throughout the game, thanks to how the characters are designed and the way they behave. However, as you go deeper into the game’s story, some characters will show their softer side or how broken they are from within, and from there, you begin to develop a sense of care and empathy for them.
It’s moments like these that lift Cyberpunk 2077 from telling a good story to downright enthralling ones. However, I must add that if you are expecting an in-depth tale like in The Witcher 3, you simply won’t find it here. The world of Witcher 3 was already well established thanks to its two predecessors and several books, but Cyberpunk 2077 – in spite of having multiple editions of the pen-and-paper RPG to build off of – doesn’t have quite as much material to draw from. As such, I would recommend slightly lowering your expectations in the story-telling department. Yes, the story of Cyberpunk 2077 is great, but do not expect Witcher levels of depth and exposition.
V’s character is overall pretty interesting. I can’t say much about how V’s characterization changes in other Lifepaths, but in Nomad, I found them to be a rather multi-dimensional protagonist. They have a vast range of emotions, from cracking jokes to going all crazy depending on the situation, and this is all thanks to some solid writing in this game. Keanu Reeves’ performance as Johnny Silverhand deserves a special mention as well. At the beginning I didn’t like the character much. He is rather annoying at first, but as the story progressed, I began to understand his motivations and backstory, and it made me genuinely care about his arc.
Story elements aside, you will be spending a ton of time in engaging with the world’s various side activities, and of course, the main campaign. The world of Night City has a lot of moving parts, but unfortunately, some of them are not as well-oiled as they should have been. First of all, the law enforcement mechanic is just downright broken. The NCPD spawn just randomly out of nowhere if you commit a crime, and then if you try and escape in a vehicle, they won’t even chase you. You just have to get out of their sight and your wanted level will go down automatically. In a world that is as vibrant as Night City is, it’s pretty disappointing that this aspect was extremely undercooked. Another minor con that I have is that some of the side activities can get stale over time. You see, Cyberpunk 2077 has different kinds of side content- side missions that have a certain story angle to them, and the activities that require taking down a mini-boss, stealing an item, or rescuing a hostage, among various other things. The latter can get repetitive, and is something that you will likely begin to ignore as you play more of the game. It’s not a deal-breaker by any means, but some variety would have been definitely appreciated. However, the story-based side missions are absolutely worth your time, with some of them being as long as the main missions, or some shorter ones that can invoke genuine emotions quite effectively.
"Story elements aside, you will be spending a ton of time in engaging with the world’s various side activities, and of course, the main campaign. The world of Night City has a lot of moving parts, but unfortunately, some of them are not as well-oiled as they should have been."
V has five unique skills trees, which have their own sub-trees. These range from having the ability to reducing recoil time with specific weapons to increasing melee damage. My only concern is that these skill trees are just too massive to unlock everything in one proper playthrough. More options are always welcome, but I think CDPR have gone a bit overboard in this department, and a bit of balance would have been nice to have. However, they work as intended and do impact gameplay in significant ways if you are willing to put your time into it.
You can also modify body functions, thanks to cyberware, which you can either purchase from one of several vendors, or find scattered around the city as loot. Ever dreamt of having the ability to punch with electric shocks coming out of your hands? Yes, you can very well do that. I should note that some of the cyberware can be quite expensive, but they are absolutely worth it and are a ton of fun when used in the right situation.
Then there’s the stealth, which I actually found to be rather simplistic. Obviously, there are stealth perks in the game that will give you various specific advantages, such as giving you increased speed while crouching and the like, but overall, my impressions on stealth are rather neutral. It’s just there, and does its job. However, when used in conjunction with hacking to distract your enemies, it becomes a rather interesting proposition. You see, Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t force you to use a specific approach towards completing a mission. If you want, you can go in guns blazing and get the job done, but that won’t give you as many rewards as you would in stealth only run. So using hacking (like switching off cameras or overheating an enemy) whilst using stealth results in a far more varied and satisfying gameplay experience. Heading into combat encounters with a katana or a silenced pistol to dispatch enemies can be quite gratifying.
However, if you wish to not engage in stealth, then Cyberpunk 2077 absolutely excels in its gunplay. There is a large assortment of guns you can use to wreak havoc on enemies, with each of them coming with several different stats, like DPS or elemental damage. Furthermore, you can also upgrade and craft new weapons as you see fit. However, I must say that crafting is a bit inconsistent, and it may or may not give you a more powerful weapon than the one you already have in your inventory. Regardless, the gunplay, backed up by the intense cyberpunk styled music, is an absolute blast. Most guns are balanced impeccably, they handle well, and it’s extremely satisfy to waste all that lead while a crazy soundtrack is being played in the background. The enemies can be bullet sponges, which is kind of a shame, but using the right weapon with the right attributes can make a difference. The only drawback is the amount of loot you get in each encounter, and having to sort through all that and seeing which weapons offers better damage than the last one was a task I wasn’t too thrilled with (although I was able to disassemble unwanted loot, and then use the parts for upgrading my weapons and armor).
"When used in conjunction with hacking to distract your enemies, stealth becomes a rather interesting proposition."
CDPR’s The Witcher 3 was an intricately designed world, and that theme continues in Cyberpunk 2077. Night City is a beautiful place, full of energy and filled with intricate details. The art style of this game is, simply put, incredible. Whenever I drove by a certain violent neighborhood, I could hear the police encountering pesky criminals in the middle of gunfights. Conversely, when I drove through the quiet outskirts of Night City, it was utterly serene. CDPR did a great job in really making you feel like a part of the city. It’s worth mentioning, however, that the NPCs don’t do much. like they do in, say, Red Dead Redemption 2, and majority of them just aimlessly walk around. It didn’t really break my immersion or my experience in Night City in any way, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless.
Given the circumstances surrounding Cyberpunk 2077’s launch, it’s also important to talk about how the game performs on PC. It’s a well-known fact that Cyberpunk 2077 on last gen consoles is a complete mess, and although CD Projekt RED are working hard to fix those issues, there is no guarantee that all of them will be fixed in the near future. The PC version, however, is a completely different experience in this regard altogether. There is no doubt in my mind that Cyberpunk 2077 was meant to be played on PC- well, at least at launch, anyway. For those who have reasonably good PC builds even with hardware and components as old as four years old, this is a remarkably smooth experience.
The PC version of Cyberpunk 2077 comes packed with a range of visual parameters that you can play around with. These include but are not limited to Field of View, Contact Shadows, Cascaded Shadows Resolution, Volumetric Fog Resolution, and Volumetric Cloud, along with full support for Dynamic Fidelity FX CAS and Static Fidelity FX CAS. There is also a Pyscho setting for Screen Space Reflections Quality, which makes look reflections even better. And, of course, there is support for DLSS and Ray Tracing, provided you have Nvidia RTX GPUs.
Graphical settings aside, how does the game perform? For testing purposes, we ran Cyberpunk 2077 – installed on an SSD – on two different sets of hardware. One test set included a GTX 1080Ti, 16GB of memory, and a Ryzen 7 1700. Running the game at Ultra at 1080p gave us a pretty decent performance, with the frame rate hovering from 35 to close to 60. We are sure that you may get a locked 60 frames per second if you lower the settings, such as the Screen Space Reflections Quality. Our other test build includes an RTX 2080 Super, Ryzen 2700x, and 32GB of memory. We were able to run everything at DLSS plus Ultra settings with full ray tracing effects at 4K and at almost locked 60 frames per second. Given that the game runs reasonably well on an almost four year old hardware, it’s fair to assume that it will likely scale across a reasonable number of different hardware configurations.
"Given the circumstances surrounding Cyberpunk 2077’s launch, it’s also important to talk about how the game performs on PC. It’s a well-known fact that Cyberpunk 2077 on last gen consoles is a complete mess, and although CD Projekt RED are working hard to fix those issues, there is no guarantee that all of them will be fixed in the near future. The PC version, however, is a completely different experience in this regard altogether."
Cyberpunk 2077 also has a number of bugs and glitches on consoles which can really hurt the game’s immersion factor. However, in our time with the game on PC, we didn’t came across any crashes or game-breaking issues. A few bugs are present here and there, but nothing that will break your game. We also wanted to note that the PC version also provides better crowd and vehicle density as compared to the console versions, which is a major boost compared to the sometimes deserted look and feel on consoles.
In conclusion, Cyberpunk 2077 has some visible flaws. Its poor implementation of law enforcement, inconsistent quality of side missions, and a somewhat weird crafting system are definite flaws. However, those flaws feel obscure and very minor in the grand scheme of things. An excellent and well-designed world, superb storytelling, great soundtrack, plenty of options to approach a mission, excellent graphics, and some of the best combat mechanics of the year make Cyberpunk 2077 a must play for every open world fan. This game is no Witcher 3- but it doesn’t need to be, because most of the things it tries to do, it does them with great aplomb. Cyberpunk 2077 on the PC is an experience that is, simply put, unmissable.
This game was reviewed on PC.
*Additional reporting on PC performance by GamingBolt’s Rashid Sayed.
Excellent world design; Great graphics on PC; Intriguing story and strong writing; Solid choice and consequence mechanics; Story-based side missions are excellent; Unique and varied weapons; Excellent combat; Hacking and stealth together are a lot of fun; An in-depth progression system; Soundtrack is outstanding; Runs smoothly even on relatively older PC hardware.
Law enforcement mechanics are disappointing; Open world side activities can get stale over time; Crafting mechanics are inconsistent; Enemies are bullet sponges.