What is the meaning of life?
Chances are many will share the same view as V, the protagonist of Cyberpunk 2077; that it’s to make a name for yourself. Be remembered. Become a living legend. And so that’s why they make their way to Night City and begin working as a merc. But life rarely goes as we imagine it to. After a job goes awry, V’s life is turned upside down. Becoming a legend takes a backburner; at the forefront of their mind now is simply staying alive.
The story at the heart of Cyberpunk 2077, then, despite being set in a futuristic world of advanced tech and warring megacorporations, is surprisingly human. It’s about wanting to be someone. Finding somewhere to call home. Making friends. It’s also about growing as a person. Finding redemption. Despite the marketing making it appear like a futuristic Grand Theft Auto, it actually has a much more grounded, sombre tone.
Without spoiling anything, because the story at the heart of Cyberpunk 2077 really wasn’t something I was expecting, V’s life-threatening predicament is a little out of the ordinary. So, for most of the game’s main story, you’ll be trying to find a way to combat it. Thanks to brilliant writing and characterisation by CD Projekt Red, there’s a real sense of urgency. And that’s perhaps why I initially blazed through one story mission after another. That, and the fact that there’s no gatekeeping; you’ll never find your progress halted because your level isn’t high enough, or because you’ve not got enough street cred.
The result is that if, like me, you head through Cyberpunk 2077‘s story missions one after another, you’ll probably find yourself watching the credits roll in around twenty hours, which will no doubt surprise many. At that point I had two endings available to me, one of which added another hour or two of gameplay. Both endings, however, as poignant as they were, weren’t how I wanted V’s story to end. And so determined to give V the ending I think they deserved, I dove back in. To get the best, most rewarding endings in Cyberpunk 2077, you’re going to need to make friends. And to do that you’re going to have to take on side jobs.
Like in The Witcher 3, many of Cyberpunk 2077‘s optional missions are just as good as those found in the main story. Some are perhaps even better. Making a name for yourself as a merc, those in need will often call upon you to help, while characters you encountered during the main story may also attempt to involve you more in their personal lives. The resulting escapades will keep you on your toes. You might find yourself simply having a raunchy and unexpected encounter, for example, or you might end up stealing a tank that’s being transported. These side jobs enrich the world of Cyberpunk 2077, and you’ll really find yourself growing attached to some of the characters you get to know further because of them.
Of course, there’s plenty of additional content that’s not so focused on world building, too. While some side jobs do pay, often your reward is something you can use, or merely just thanks. Those who want to amass cash, then, will find themselves taking on gigs and hustles. These action-oriented tasks are plentiful, and don’t consume too much of your time. And as an additional bonus, engaging in them will help you develop your character. Not only will you also gain experience and street cred as well as your credit reward, but by using weapons, abilities, etc., you will become more proficient with them. Nearly everything you do in Cyberpunk 2077 betters you in some way.
There’s just so much choice in Cyberpunk 2077 that it’s initially bewildering. Of course, there are a myriad of dialogue options, and their effects are perhaps more impactful than ever; a seemingly innocuous decision can have big repercussions if you’re not careful. But outside of that you have lots of other options to mull over, too. Do you favour stealth, hacking or combat, for example? And if you choose the combat option, do you opt for ranged or melee weapons? Within those, you’ll be forced to further specialise if you want to operate at maximum efficiency. Ultimately, though, you’ll probably play things by ear a lot of the time. Even if you’re combat-focused, you’ll probably try to be stealthy at times, even if just to thin out enemy numbers. And you might give yourself an advantage before entering a fight by using your hacking skills to disable some turrets or cameras in the area. Because you can.
In addition, your equipment can also have a large bearing on your abilities. Guns, armour, implants; pretty much anything you install or equip has its own stats, which you can further tweak with mods. Everything has a rarity level as well, so you’ll be keen to hunt down legendary gear to give your character the edge. Some of that gear, however, will have stat requirements. You’ll gain stat and perk points every time you level up, and how you spend them will largely determine your capabilities. Put points into tech, for example, and you might be able to override locked doors, giving you alternative routes through environments. Those with plenty of points put into body, however, might also be able to simply rip open those very same doors with their brute strength.
Perks, by and large, provide combat bonuses, and their trees are tied to each one of the available stats. Those wanting to effectively use shotguns, for example, will want to put points into body, as that will open up perks that enhance their use. Blade users, on the other hand, will want to put points into reflexes. Over the course of Cyberpunk 2077, you’ll gain enough stat and perk points to create a fairly well-rounded character if you wish though. It purely is up to you; you never feel punished for your decisions. Even the missions that present themselves as requiring stealth will adapt if you get caught or opt to go all-guns-blazing. You might just gain the disdain of a companion or fixer.
And there’s even more choice; in most cases you don’t actually need to kill, for example. You can equip implants that make your weapons non-lethal, and most “bosses” will be left in a dazed state after defeating them, allowing you to choose their fate. There’s also a crafting and upgrade system for those who want more control over their equipment, and a body modification system allows players to become almost godlike if they have the cash and track down the best Ripperdocs spread across the city. Honestly, one body mod even allows players to perform a hero landing when falling from great height. But you don’t need any body modifications to make it through Cyberpunk 2077.
I’d actually go as far to say that, playing on normal difficulty, it’s very easy to become overpowered in Cyberpunk 2077. Combat is a hell of a lot of fun, especially the gunplay, but it lacks challenge for the most part. Many players are going to want to up the difficulty to make seeking out the best equipment and upgrades feel worthwhile. Though it’s important to note that this is an RPG; getting a headshot isn’t an instant enemy kill (well, unless your pistol has an obscene headshot damage bonus multiplier). Turn the difficulty up without decent gear and perks to match and you might find enemies simply becoming bullet sponges, which is unfortunate.
Alongside V, there are two other stars in Cyberpunk 2077: Johnny Silverhand, who is masterfully brought to life by Keanu Reeves, and Night City itself. A sprawling metropolis, Night City has more atmosphere than any game world I’ve visited before. Perhaps it’s because, playing on PC, its streets are more densely populated with NPCs than any other game I’ve experienced, truly making it feel alive. The roads are packed, too. Not being a fan of crowds and general busyness, I’d partly attribute myself prioritising the game’s story to the high level of hustle and bustle that goes on around you. It’s actually quite overwhelming at first.
A wasteland area just outside of the vast Night City can be visited if you want to get away for a while though, and like the city itself, it’s wonderfully realised. Cyberpunk 2077 is easily one of the prettiest games I’ve ever laid my eyes on. With all settings at max it’s an absolute treat; you’ll love visiting each distinct district, taking in their ambience, and you’ll revel in the detail poured into each character you meet. It performs well, too; dead set on a steady 60fps experience with an Nvidia 3070 paired with a Ryzen 3600, I settled on Ultra settings at 4K with DLSS set to Performance. There are some dips, sure – mainly when driving at speed or when there are mirrors on screen. The latter of which is set to be improved by a further patch. Ray tracing is also an option, of course, but to me it didn’t offer enough of a visual upgrade to warrant the performance cost.
I’ve been playing Cyberpunk 2077 for nearly a week at this point, and have put around 50 hours into the game. I’ve seen four of its however many endings. I can safely say that it’s an outstanding experience. But there are some things that let it down. The first are bugs. The majority of them were quashed by a patch released shortly after I began playing it, but more persist. Things like characters’ lips sometimes not moving when they speak, and visual inconsistencies; nothing game breaking, but irritating nonetheless. I also don’t like how you’ve got no idea how far away a mission is until you’ve opted to track it in your journal, then return to the game. And when presented with a dialogue choice, characters sometimes complain that you’re taking too long to reply just after you’ve selected an option, leading to cross chatter. They’re all things that can be sorted though.
The more you put into Cyberpunk 2077, the more you get out of it. Race through it and you’re likely to miss many of its finer points, and be presented with an ending that is fitting but unfulfilling. But it’s nice that you can do that – that it doesn’t put barriers in your way. It exemplifies that choice is high on the agenda, with more ways to end V’s story opening up as you build or destroy relationships in their life. And as you go about completing the missions required to do so, the gameplay always remains engaging and enjoyable. Being an RPG, you’re not going to find the best gunplay or stealth here, but it gets the job done. There’s nothing to really complain about.
Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t perfect, but it is ambitious. It marries a gripping story with a huge open world absolutely dripping with atmosphere; one in which, after fifty hours of gameplay, I still feel like I’ve only scratched its surface. Even now I’m itching to jump back in and complete yet more side jobs, not only because they’re enjoyable, but also just in case they offer V more options when it comes to ending their story. I’m even contemplating starting over anew to change the outcome of some events with the benefit of hindsight. If you were expecting a light-hearted affair full of futuristic hijinks then you might not find what you want here – though it does let its hair down every once in a while. Instead, what Cyberpunk 2077 delivers is a surprisingly serious story that’s genuinely touching at times, with gameplay that lets you be in charge of your destiny. If you want your experience in Night City to be as polished as possible, perhaps hold back until a patch or two has landed to iron out some kinks, but you’ll definitely want to visit soon. Phenomenal, that’s what Cyberpunk 2077 is.