Beautiful Disaster: The Insane Launch of the Hotly Anticipated Game ‘Cyberpunk 2077’

Cyberpunk 2077
AFP

Polish game developer CD Projekt Red has faced harsh criticism and potential shareholder lawsuits following the launch of its hotly anticipated game Cyberpunk 2077, considered by many gamers and industry experts as the most hyped video game in the last decade. Breitbart Tech went hands on with the game to find out just how bad the bugs are, and if the game is worth playing today.

On December 10, one of the most highly anticipated games of the past few years was finally released following multiple delays. Cyberpunk 2077 was expected to be one of the most immersive gaming experiences of all time, but instead, players received a broken, buggy mess that many who purchased it were unable to play whatsoever.

Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the popular tabletop role-playing game of the same name from 1988. The video game was developed by the Polish gaming studio CD Projekt Red (CDPR) which garnered a strong reputation amongst gamers due to the studio’s development of the extremely popular Witcher games, with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt receiving the Game of the Year award upon its release and widely being considered one of the best video games ever made.

Due to CDPR’s stellar reputation and the stunning visual designs that the company displayed when announcing the development of Cyberpunk 2077, gamers began to prepare for an unparalleled digital experience. The announcement that Hollywood actor Keanu Reeves, famous for starring in the Matrix franchise and John Wick series, would be playing the character of Johnny Silverhand in the game only added to the hype surrounding Cyberpunk 2077.

In 2018 CDPR released an official trailer for the game at the E3 gaming convention, the trailer showed a futuristic dystopian society in which corporations controlled the world, America had suffered a great collapse, and the majority of people were forced to live in huge cities surrounded by a sprawling desert landscape. Many humans modified their bodies with various cybernetic enhancements and turned to crime to survive in the sprawling Night City where the game takes place.

Gamers were promised a number of exciting new experiences with developers claiming that Night City would be a truly “living, breathing world,” where non-player characters would have their own set routines and lives, that players could choose their own lifepath and backstory that would affect the outcome of the game. “The only limit to what you can do is what you’re willing to become,” Keanu Reeves said in a trailer for the game released in October.

Initially slated to release on April 16, 2020, Cyberpunk 2077 faced three delays. The first delay stated that the game would be released on September 17 with CDPR developers stating:

We are currently at a state where the game is complete and playable, but there’s still work to be done. Night City is massive–full of stories, content, and places to visit, but due to the sheer scale and complexity of it all, we need more time to finish playtesting, fixing, and polishing. We want Cyberpunk 2077 to be our crowning achievement for this generation and postponing launch will give the precious months we need to make the game perfect.

Over the summer, CDPR announced yet another delay until November 19th, telling gamers: “A huge world means a huge number of things to iron out.” The developer cited game balance and bug fixes requiring extra time to be polished as the main source of the delay. In October 2020, it was announced that the game had “gone gold”  meaning that it was finalized and ready to go into the certification process for consoles which also begins the process of printing discs to be sent to retail stores.

Finally, CDPR announced yet another delay, this time promising fans that the game would be released on December 10, 2020, and the company simply needed extra time to finalize a day zero patch that would fix some issues with the game. December 10 arrived and Cyberpunk 2077 was finally released, and many gamers have been extremely unhappy with the game on launch.

It became almost immediately apparent that many users were unable to run the game whatsoever, especially those using base level PS4 and Xbox One X consoles. Many reported huge graphical bugs and constant crashes, some were unable to play the game at all.

Console users appeared to be affected particularly badly, and many reviewers criticized CDPR for refusing to allow them to review the game on consoles ahead of time, appearing to attempt to hide the poor performance of the game.

The outcry was immediate with the game trending across Twitter — for all the wrong reasons. It was apparent that the game had been released in a largely unfinished state, even when the game wasn’t crashing there was no vehicle AI meaning that cars in the street drove on a set path. If the player parked their vehicle in front of a moving car they could come back twenty minutes later to find a line of vehicles waiting patiently for them to move.

Non-player characters would react in unison, all playing the same animation of crouching and waving their hands over their head if the player caused a disturbance in public. Police characters would spawn right beside the player if the player committed an in-game crime but would immediately forget the player existed once they ran about 100 meters away.

The lifepath system that the developers boasted would have a major effect on the story essentially gave players a twenty-minute interactive introduction before displaying a montage showing the players actions over the next  6 months in-game and starting all players off at the same spot, in a small apartment in the middle of the city. Players were unable to customize their characters past the initial character creation screen, only being allowed to swap out clothing items which many players complained were poorly designed.

The public outcry was so immediate that CDPR realized that something had to be done and issued a statement promising a number of bug fixes and patches to the game, stating that if players were not satisfied they could request a full refund of the game.

However, it appeared that CDPR had not contacted Sony or Microsoft about their decision to offer refunds, resulting in multiple users being denied by the console giants.

Shortly after receiving a mass number of refund requests, Sony decided to take things a step further. Not only would they now be honoring refunds to users that purchased the game, but they would be removing the game from the Playstation Store for the foreseeable future. In a refund-related page on PlayStation.com, Sony stated:

SIE strives to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction, therefore we will begin to offer a full refund for all gamers who have purchased Cyberpunk 2077 via PlayStation Store. SIE will also be removing Cyberpunk 2077 from PlayStation Store until further notice.

Once we have confirmed that you purchased Cyberpunk 2077 via PlayStation Store, we will begin processing your refund. Please note that completion of the refund may vary based on your payment method and financial institution.

It was later reported that developers at CDPR had been forced to work six days a week to finish the game and had repeatedly warned management that it was not yet ready to be launched publicly. Following the launch of the game, developers reportedly confronted company management at a meeting, asking why the company announced in January 2020 that the game was “complete and playable,” despite that not being the case. Another developer asked CDPR’s director if they “felt it was hypocritical to make a game about corporate exploitation while expecting that their employees work overtime. The response was vague and noncommital.”

In the latest turn of events, the New York Times has cited a post on the Polish financial website Bankier in which a Warsaw-based attorney and CD Projekt Red investor announced that he and his team are analyzing whether there are grounds for a class-action lawsuit against the developer.

The attorney, Mikołaj Orzechowski, stated that the current focus would be on whether or not CD Projekt Red broke article 28 of the Polish penal code, misrepresentation in order to obtain financial benefits. This could also be tied to reports that employee bonuses were given to the company if it received a certain critic rating or was released on an agreed-upon schedule. Law firms are also investigating the company for potential class-action securities fraud lawsuits on behalf of shareholders.

So where does that leave CDPR and Cyberpunk 2077 now? The company’s stock price has plummeted and many gamers are still left with an unplayable game while developers at CDPR work overtime to release patches and fixes for the game just to have it run in a stable state, let alone add the features that the game failed to include. It would seem that the only positive outcome of the situation is that it may shine a light on the business practices of the gaming industry which often overworks employees and ships unfinished projects to meet incentivized deadlines.

But what do those that have played Cyberpunk 2077 successfully think?

Authors Review:

This author managed to play Cyberpunk 2077 with minimal issues aside from a few game crashes and graphical glitches, this was largely due to the fact that  the PC version of the game was played, which many believe to be the most stable and polished version of the game. A powerful PC featuring an Intel i9-9900K CPU overclocked to 5Ghz and an RTX 3090 graphics card was Breitbart Tech’s test platform.

For the sake of this review, Breitbart Tech will quickly note the issues faced over the course of the 60 hours spent playing this game before discussing the actual contents of the game. Multiple times the game would crash in the middle of a level, this led to regularly pausing to save the game every five minutes for fear that we would lose progress, but booting back up into the game was a relatively painless process. On a few occasions, a bug would prevent progress, such as a vehicle needed for the mission would be flipped or destroyed or an action or prompt would not be available to me. Overall, while we faced many more issues than we have with other triple-A video game titles, the game was definitely playable.

Now on to the contents of the game. Cyberpunk 2077 paints a beautiful world that often verges on photorealistic, multiple characters come to life on screen and are some of the most visually stunning depictions of real-world people ever seen in a video game. The voice acting for almost every character is fantastic and the overall visual design of the world is mindblowing. Keanu Reeves’ performance as the rockstar-turned-terrorist Johnny Silverhand will surely go down as an iconic video game character alongside Master Chief of the Halo series and Kratos of God Of War.

Spoilers for the game’s main story are to follow. 

The game follows a character called V, a mercenary who’s tasked with stealing an item from one of Night City’s biggest corporations, Arasaka. The job goes badly and V is forced to place a data chip stolen from Arasaka into his brain — everyone seems to shove random USB sticks into their head without caution in Night City. During the job, V witnesses the murder of the CEO of Arasaka at the hand of his own son.

Following a series of high-octane adrenaline-fueled events, V passes out at his apartment only to awake to a man standing over him. It’s here that we’re introduced to Keanu Reeves’ character, Night City’s legendary rockstar Johnny Silverhand. The data shard stolen by V contained a digital copy of Silverhand’s personality and memories, meaning that digital Keanu Reeves is here to stick around and offer advice and criticism for the rest of the game.

From here the game really opens up, offering a number of side quests and missions for players to focus on. The game does provide a number of interesting mechanics such as “quickhacks” which allow players to hack into enemies’ cybernetics from a distance, shutting down their vision or delivering a virus into their system.

Players can choose to take a stealthy approach to combat, knocking out enemies or temporarily blinding them in order to sneak into restricted areas, or they can go in all guns blazing — but many missions are clearly designed for stealth especially when players have yet to reach a particularly high level.

It becomes quickly apparent that Cyberpunk 2077’s writers, artists, and designers are doing the majority of the heavy lifting in this game. Side missions that in other games would consist of simple tasks such as escorting an NPC or tracking down an item become full-fledged storylines in Cyberpunk 2077, with multiple in-game actors delivering incredibly believable and emotional performances.

Walking through Night City can be stunningly beautiful, especially when taking advantage of ray tracing technology which provides incredibly realistic lighting and reflections, but don’t stop and look too long or the cracks in the game become apparent. NPC’s are generally dull and lifeless and vehicles move on a set track like model cars. If you so much as brush up against a police officer the entire NCPD will spawn on you and kill you almost immediately.

Keanu Reeves’ performance as Johnny Silverhand is a highlight of the game as Reeves strays from his usual wooden and stoic performances to portray an idealistic and angry aging rockstar legend ready to burn the whole world down for his beliefs.

Reeves’ performance is supported by Cherami Leigh and Gavin Drea as the female and male versions of V, Emily Woo Zeller portraying Panam Palmer, Carla Tassara as Judy Alvarez, Jason Hightower as Jackie Welles, and Jane Perry as Rogue Amendiares, making for a fantastic cast that tell an incredible story.

When focusing on the game’s main missions and side missions, players are treated to a rich and detailed world with its own incredibly in-depth history and backstory. The game offers approximately 5 endings, two of which are quite bittersweet but satisfying, and three of which are generally depressing but still very much fit the cynical style of Cyberpunk 2077.

Verdict: Cyberpunk 2077 is a beautiful and well-written game held back by a lack of features and a number of bugs. If CDPR chooses to invest the time needed in this game it could still become a classic yet, but as of now is probably not worth $60. The game is largely carried by the writers, artists, designers, and actors. Wait for bugfixes and expansions before purchasing.

Score: 7/10

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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