It’s not an overstatement to say that Cyberpunk 2077 had one of the worst launches a game of its stature could have had, despite its gargantuan success in the sales department. That’s a weird contrast for sure, but such is the nature of what Cyberpunk 2077 was promised to be, and what it turned out to be. With the game now having crossed more than six months since its release, has the situation changed? Is Cyberpunk 2077 worth spending its asking price, especially if you’re playing on consoles?
Well, the simple answer is – not exactly. Cyberpunk 2077 is still the same game it was when it was released, only with improved performance and slightly more stability. None of the free DLC and expansions that were promised before launch have been released, as most of the focus from developer CD Projekt Red (CDPR) seems to have gone towards fixing the base game.
A Brief Recap of CD Projekt Red’s Brilliant Marketing
The first in-game footage of Cyberpunk 2077 was revealed at Microsoft’s E3 2018 showcase, with actual gameplay being released a few months later. That first showcase consisted of nearly an hour-long demo which explained the game’s variety of systems and showed off its unique open world. For almost a year afterwards, not much was shown until the next E3, which ended in the now infamous reveal of Keanu Reeves’ involvement as a main co-protagonist in the game. It’s at this point that hype for the game broke through the roof across its fandom, and given CDPR’s previous game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s smash success, nothing could go wrong, right?
Well, a lot of things went wrong. Among them were broken promises, horrible in-game performance and a general feeling that the game was released before it was ready.
Cyberpunk 2077 launched in December 2020, after more than 4 delays, and the launch week itself was a mix of excitement and concern. Reviews of the game were prohibited to talk about the PC version only, with CDPR mandating that only B-roll provided by the company be used in the first wave of reviews. This meant that most outlets which got early access to the game couldn’t actually show any problems that the game had, and no one knew the state of console performance until the game hit store shelves.
Launch Status Report – A Beautiful Mess
By now, we all know that the game’s performance on its target consoles, the PS4 and Xbox One, was abysmal. The game targeted 30fps at 1080p, but would drop hard on both fronts on all systems. When the game wasn’t running poorly, it was constantly bugging out in multiple quests that prevented players from progressing forward.
The situation got so bad that Sony had to remove the game from its PlayStation store, something that we haven’t seen happen to any big AAA game in a long time. The game only recently made its way back to the storefront, but with a cautionary warning to players on base PS4 systems. As of right now, the game can be played on the new PS5 and Xbox Series X|S consoles via backwards compatibility, as a native current-gen version is still in the works. However, the game does run much better on the newer systems, targeting 60fps and maintaining close to it. Of course, much of the improvements on the new systems can be attributed to the improved hardware of the new consoles, and aren’t a result of the game’s optimisation (or lack thereof).
Of course, that shouldn’t be used as an excuse for its poor performance, especially when so many of the game’s mechanics look like they’re almost a decade old any way. The systems it tries to innovate upon seem to be stuck in the past, and offer no more enjoyment or value than what older games have done. Want to develop unique relationships with NPCs? Mass Effect did it better. Want to wreak havoc and challenge the police? GTA did it better more than a decade ago. What about a vast and varied world worth exploring every corner and crevice over? The Witcher 3, CDPR’s previous game, did it better. As stated in my original review, Cyberpunk 2077 looks like a next-gen title with the skeleton of last-gen gameplay.
Cyberpunk 2077 PC Performance – Has It Improved?
I played the game at launch on my PC, which has an AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT CPU, Nvidia Geforce RTX 2060 Super GPU paired with 32 GB of DDR4 RAM. Suffice to say, my PC was well above what CDPR recommends PC players to have, but the game’s performance seemed to say otherwise. Be it the game’s extremely high technical ambitions, or its lack of optimisation, the game didn’t, and still doesn’t run as well as it probably should. At launch, I played the game with Digital Foundry’s optimised settings for PC, and averaged around 50-60fps.
When I picked up the game again for testing this month, I was a little disappointed with performance as it hasn’t improved too much. For testing, I drove from the starting apartment to Little China and then strolled around the market. The location was chosen as it includes a high number of NPCs and particle effects all around the market, and challenges the game’s asset streaming as you move towards it from a relatively open area outside it.
Check out the performance charts for the latest version of the game (taken with CapFrameX):
More than six months later, after multiple patches which supposedly improve performance, I haven’t seen too much improvement. In fact, I’ve seen some visual aspects of the game become worse than it was before, particularly pop-in. This is an issue that has been persistent on the last-gen console versions of the game, due to them using spinning hard drives. It feels like CDPR took the optimisations that were made for the last-gen consoles and then ported them over to the PC version, which wasn’t really required as an SSD is recommended regardless. The result looks like something you’d expect to find with the game’s “Slow HDD mode” turned on, although turning it on doesn’t seem to affect performance much when the game’s already installed on an SSD.
Cyberpunk 2077 was built as a high-end experience on PC, and then scaled down for the last-gen consoles, which is why some of its visual ambitions do not fit the scope of 2013-era hardware.
Issues Aside, Cyberpunk 2077’s Narrative and World-Building Are Excellent
Despite all of its issues, I still maintain that CD Projekt Red’s lore-building, characters and narrative are great. If you are lucky enough to play the game on a high-end PC, with an experience devoid of any bugs or glitches, then you’re most likely going to enjoy what the game has to offer. The cast of characters in Cyberpunk 2077 is slightly smaller than that found in The Witcher 3, but it’s just as effective. The parasitic relationship between V and Johnny Silverhand is fun to watch, with the supporting characters in Judy, Panam, Jackie, Misty, Kerry, Rogue and Alt Cunningham all coming to life through fantastic and dedicated performances.
Although the story is quite short, especially compared to CDPR’s previous games, its multiple endings are all fun to explore. Of course, a lot more was asked of this game, and a lot more should have been present at launch. The character creator and RPG mechanics are mostly superficial, and the life path that you choose has barely any effect on the actual game outside of the different opening scenarios. Night City itself is a beautifully realized city, but only when cracks in gameplay don’t show up in the form of bugged NPCs or visuals. It also helps that the game has a really, really good soundtrack, which helps sell the illusion even more.
Going into this game with the mindset of it being a slightly open, but linear action-adventure game will suit everyone well, as its RPG mechanics aren’t as deep or engaging as CDPR may have claimed them to be.
DLCs, Expansions, Fixes and More – What to Expect?
Just like The Witcher 3 before it, CD Projekt Red promised a lot of post-launch support for Cyberpunk 2077. However, the game’s variety of issues pushed all those plans ahead, and we are only left with a vague roadmap for its promised free DLC. This also includes a proper new-gen version of the game, complete with ray tracing and other advanced features currently absent from the game’s console version.
A recent data leak points to many of the foundations of the upcoming DLCs and expansions already set in stone. Of course, CDPR hasn’t officially announced when we can expect them to drop, or how much the expansions will cost. As we enter the second half of the year, it looks like the first DLC should drop by the end of the year with the new-gen console version of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if the expansions are delayed even further, but there is a slim chance of them being released by the end of the year.
Should You Play Cyberpunk 2077 Now?
The honest answer to the question is – it depends. If you want to experience a well-realized world with unique characters and a decent story, and have a powerful PC to play on, then go for it. For everyone else, I can’t recommend the game. The game’s console performance is still not great, but if you have a PS5 or Xbox Series X|S console, then sure, take it for a spin. While CDPR keeps promising that fixes for the game are coming, I can only judge the game as it plays right now, which is just fine. For those of you who haven’t played the game and are interested in it, I would recommend picking it up during a good sale if you really want to try it. For everyone else, waiting a few months more to pick up the “complete edition” or its equivalent when the game is finally fixed is the more reasonable option.