Cyberpunk 2077 reviews have started to trickle out—or perhaps its more accurate to say they’ve been unleashed upon us. Sifting through the first wave of critical reactions to CD Projekt Red’s new RPG reveals a bunch of common issues and highlights aspects that’ll be showered in praise once the public goes hands-on come Thursday, and it all borders on the edge of overwhelming.
USgamer’s review of Cyberpunk 2077 will come at a later date, so today we’ll direct you toward the great work produced by reviewers who crammed in as much time with Night City as they could over the past week. Rest assured, we will have more coverage on Cyberpunk 2077 coming to the site before our review and it’ll be discussed on the upcoming episode of Axe of the Blood God (and probably the one after that, and the one after that, and so on).
For the most part, it seems that even today’s lowest-scored reviews point to some admirable and attention-grabbing achievements on CD Projekt Red’s part, but some of the biggest criticisms leveled against Cyberpunk 2077 today line up with what we’ve seen over the course of its tumultuous development. Many are in agreement that 2077’s multiple delays and development crunch ultimately resulted in a bug-riddled release, and some reviewers found little to suggest that the game itself handles issues its marketing courted controversy over with any more grace or nuance. Here’s what you should know ahead of its launch for PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Stadia (plus new consoles in backward compatibility) on Dec. 10:
The Good: Night City
Night City is nearly unparalleled at middle to long distances, joining the best of PC gaming’s open worlds, which include Red Dead Redemption 2’s American west and Grand Theft Auto 5’s Los Santos. Rockstar’s been matched. I’d pay full price just to walk around and take photos forever, my senses perpetually drunk.
Night City is beautiful and ugly in all the ways a megacity should be. Every time you turn a corner, the game reveals another startling angle of the urban landscape. And it makes Night City feel menacing and inescapable. The visual fidelity and art both contribute to this sensation. The streets are packed with people and vehicles. Giant colorful holographic advertisements shoot into the sky. Neon lighting alerts you to restaurants and sex shops.
The Bad: Lackluster Stealth
Here, sneaking your way through gang-infested warehouses or corporate lobbies, you can hack objects to distract enemies or short-circuit their optics to blind them temporarily, but these abilities feel pretty tame compared to the opportunities for zany, emergent hacking mayhem offered in games like Watch Dogs: Legion.
In fact, stealth is the weakest part of Cyberpunk’s action, and doesn’t feel that viable until you purchase a couple of specific and entirely optional upgrades which allow you to throw knives and slow down time when you’re about to be spotted.
The Good: Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand
Cyberpunk’s most objectively great quality is that it contains hours and hours of an extremely committed and multifaceted performance from Keanu Reeves. His starpower and presence is not wasted here.
For the most part, Johnny is a well-written character in that I was always curious to hear what he had to say and how he interpreted the situations we were in—I was never quite sure if his advice was any good or if his opinions had any merit, but I wanted to hear him out every time. It’s Reeves’ delivery of these lines, which often involve Johnny chastising you for something or other, that really sells the “lovable jerk” vibe that I would normally find overplayed.
The Bad: All the Bugs
I’ve had important or emotional conversations undermined by the characters I was talking to glitching between incorrect poses, or the objects they were holding and referencing not load in at all. I’d frequently get phone calls in the middle of other conversations, causing two simultaneous discussions to overlap. I’ve had to sit through drives with my camera distractingly bobbing like I was in a run animation, and seen enemies (or even my own shadow on a wall) stuck in T-poses.
A conversation between two riders on a freeway was interrupted when one of them started spazzing out and rotating in circles at a high-speed rate. A key character would continue to spout their “idle” game chatter during tense life-or-death negotiations. “Pick it up OK?” she’d casually say, as an urgent scene unfolded in front of my eyes. Despite the delays, it’s clear the game needed more time in the oven.
The Good: The Side Quests and Little Details
If you return to the location of a minor quest, V might note what has changed, and an NPC might explain what happened. These minor, self-contained nuggets of storytelling are everywhere.
It’s easy to see CDPR took the adoration of The Witcher 3’s side quests seriously, and there’s loads of easter eggs to hunt down across the gleaming high-rises and dark alleys of Night City.
The Bad: Trans Representation
[The infamous Chromanticore ad] is everywhere. And while the “purpose” of it may be to show what a sex-obsessed, superficial, exploitative place Night City is, there’s nothing in the main story or any of the side quests I did that gives it even that much context—I found just one message on one of the many computers I logged into that commented on how low-brow Night City culture is. The result is that there’s a fetishization of trans people at every turn, in a game with only one very minor trans character (that I found, at least) and no way to play as an authentically trans character yourself.
In my 40-plus hours in Night City, I never met a single character of any significance whom the game made clear was trans, and one of the only queer-coded characters I encountered was an extremely unsavory cybernetic surgeon who does extremely unsavory things.
The Big Takeaways
With a big day one patch planned for this Thursday, it’s possible that some of the technical issues reviewers ran into will be fixed by the time people finish their downloads and boot it up. It’s worth noting that all of these reviews so far have been for the PC version of the game—for the many, many players who plan on picking Cyberpunk 2077 up for consoles, we only have recently released footage from CD Projekt Red to judge at the moment. It’s possible we’ll be looking at an even rougher release there. In his review, James Davenport suggests people wait “a few months” before playing.
As for design and storytelling successes and failures, I recommend you go read the reviews linked above in full. Individual scores and a Metacritic average can only tell you so much, and if there’s one thing all these reviews seem to indicate, it’s that there’s more to talk about with Cyberpunk 2077 than a number alone can convey. Again, we’ll also new coverage here both before and after its release, so now might be a good time to pop a tab open on our complete Cyberpunk 2077 hub.