While the anticipation was high before Cyberpunk 2077, I bounced back playing it shortly after launch. Sure, there were bugs, performance issues, and what generally sounded like a few undercooked ideas to deal with, but something about the story and gameplay didn’t sit well with me either. It never appealed to me and now, with recent updates and current-gen releases on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X | S, I gave it a second chance. After all, many aspects of the game are intriguing and I felt like they should have drawn me in, but I just didn’t want to try the same things again. This time I would do different quests, side activities or just focus on exploring this amazing playground that the developers have built. How could such an awesome environment fool me?
Night City itself is perhaps the game’s greatest achievement. It’s the element that shows that CD Project Red embraced the source material, that they understood the feel and tone their surroundings needed to cyberpunk (the tabletop RPG) to enter a new medium. The structures help present the grit, grime, and plagues concealed by sex and neon, ensuring that each of these aesthetics come together to weave a cruel and romantic dystopian tapestry of capitalism and false progress. The player is a powerful yet tiny species inside a large shell that spreads in all directions, swallowing whatever it can.
There are six main districts, each with their own personality, with notable changes in buildings and people. We even have a history to explain why players don’t see many animals around in the streets. There are many notable civilians and NPCs that help build the town’s past, mystique, and lore, making it feel alive, with random dialogue amid the violence. They fit together well for the most part, with most being a treat to watch, especially at night. It’s an amazing place in so many ways, which makes it even more of a shame how boring it is to get around.
Assuming one wants to enjoy the city and not just get around quickly, there are two main ways to get around: by car or on foot. The first option seems to be a winner with the slickness of some of these rides, but that’s also a scary thought. There are missions where the player is forced to drive which only induces stress. Driving in the game wasn’t just bad at launch, in fact, it was arguably one of the worst parts of the experience, but patch 1.5 was supposed to add weight to cars and make overall better handling. It failed.
Driving a vehicle is still a frustrating task after these tweaks and it feels impossible to drive in lines, not hit objects or casually murder pedestrians and get in trouble with the cops. Stopping and backing up feels like you’re continuously pumping the pedals with nothing happening, as none of the controls inside the automobile feel responsive. In many cases, I had better luck using V’s car as a slingshot and seeing how far I could go before abandoning the machine, because continuing on foot made more sense than the countless setbacks and whiplash cases. There’s also the matter of trying to use what is a pathetic GPS system. It’s the future and I can’t make a line appear in the road or a sexy British voice to call out directions but instead I have to deal with thin yellow lines that don’t always appear and only do on the radar. For some lenses, the line is blue, making it almost impossible to see the bottom. At least one previous patch changed player position on the minimap, so there’s now a bit more chance of making sharp turns, even if it’s like steering a boat trying to get anywhere quickly.
Finding my way around the city was not an easy task, even using the map. It’s hard to guess which route is best, especially in such a vertical location, with sky bridges, secondary roads on the side, and valleys and tunnels under the main highways that often have to be reached. It’s a place that’s pretty easy to get lost in and hard to establish landmarks, not because everything looks the same, but because there’s so much to take in and process everything. trying to get some sense of direction. On one occasion I parked my car on the overpass, got out, jumped below a few levels where my objective was, then called my car back to me; much easier andan attempt to figure out how to get there with the map. Be careful though, because calling the car to certain areas can put it in weird places.
Even walking can be strenuous. The place is crowded, claustrophobic, built on itself to cope with the population, and contains more alleys and basements than most noir novels. The lay of the street makes direct travel difficult, but luckily V doesn’t seem to tire or stop running. I mostly focused on the dense, heavily populated neighborhoods in the area, exploring City Center, Heywood, Santo Domingo, Westbrook, and occasionally Watson, while avoiding Pacifica and The Badlands when I could. There are tons of structures in these areas and many of them can fit into V, whether it’s a dark and seedy club, a gang hideout, or random housing.
Many of the buildings, like where V lives, are a mix of prison architecture and mall culture. They have lots of shops, food places, and random interesting people who can offer various things, but there are also heavy doors, random police raids, and scary dead ends. There are people hanging from broken ledges, swinging their legs to take in the view, though a quick push might stop them there. Little details like that, interesting artwork and graffiti, the desire to see what was happening around every corner, it all made me take random elevators or descend deeper into alleyways to explore , which sometimes paid off with appetizing items or sight.
In the end, however, I was walking out of a building and trying to decide where to go next, only to realize that I had already been there. The main quests weren’t helpful, asking me to collect money to start the next job or waiting for phone calls from characters I didn’t remember. I would like to do a bounty or some other side quest, only to get lost or not sure if I was after the correct marker on the map. I dreaded getting into a car and even the initial excitement I felt of wandering aimlessly on foot faded. I had seen Night City. The game itself didn’t, the city was flawed in some ways, copying the source material too well. I did not uninstall Cyberpunk 2077 again, but I feel like Night City isn’t the place for me and I’m about to bounce the game one more time. It’s a shame, but maybe I’ll try again after a few additional updates.