Expectation is a powerful word.
The jury is still out on Cyberpunk 2077’s notorious release. It’s certainly grabbed the world’s attention. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a delight in a brutal 2020 became a nightmare for many with the game’s atrocious launch.
Before I begin, I’d like to make something clear. I haven’t played a game like this in a long time. Something so enthralling, impressive and enjoyable, frustrating and disappointing as Cyberpunk 2077. It’s an infamous game for all the right and wrong reasons. I hope to bring an unbiased view to the table, or as unbiased as one can make it. I’ll cover as much as possible. I’ll try to keep spoilers as low as possible, but you may find some. Proceed in this series with caution. I want to offer an alternative take on this game, because a lot of the coverage about Cyberpunk feels split, either horrendous hate or blind defence. I’ll praise what deserves to be praised, and criticize what should be criticized. Trust me, Cyberpunk has plenty of both!
Eight years of development, hype and controversy created a perfect storm, as Cyberpunk 2077 became one of the biggest and most notorious launches in video game history. Once one of the most beloved companies in the industry, CD Projekt Red now has a giant target on its back with its once glowing reputation sorely tarnished. I’ve rarely seen such an online swing in relations for a company since Bethesda’s repeated screwups, and it’s become an exhausting battle trying to find communities willing to be honest and open about it.
In this series, I’ll be going through my personal thoughts. This article will cover the leadup to the launch itself.
Well. It’s safe to say that CDPR had a lot riding on this release. What started as a smaller company really blew them into the limelight in 2015 with The Witcher 3, a huge release which has been lauded by critics and fans as one of the best video games of all time. It transformed them from a smaller studio capable of good games into a massive, AAA behemoth. The Witcher 2 was pretty good as well, perhaps held back from its rough opening which turned away a lot of players, me included.
What helped their reputation was their excellent post-launch support and approach to DLC. CDPR have marketed themselves as ‘not like other AAA companies’ for a long time. When Cyberpunk finally launched, this claim has come full circle. Oops. Anyway, You know the issue with big games these days. Season Passes, Games as a service, micro transactions, DLC not being worth the price, intrusive DRM, all the things consumers hate. Yet we still keep buying them, continuing the vicious circle. Still, that’s a debate for another day.
Witcher 3 had none of this. Sixteen free DLC, loads of patches, strong expansion packs that felt like real expansions, and DRM-free. CDPR have fielded the excellent DRM-free and consumer friendly market Good Old Games for years. So you can imagine, the consumer reputation for CDPR has been fairly high for a while. With Cyberpunk’s announcement back during the dark ages, hope was high, and I mean high. I don’t think I’ve seen a game as hyped as this in the industry for years, although Elden Ring can give it a run for its money.
Hype is a very dangerous game. How many games have fallen into the hype circle only to end up not as expected? Spore, No Man’s Sky, Destiny, Anthem? The list goes on. When a game is hyped so much, they will always be disappointing compared to the idealistic (and foolish) vision we seem to get, and it’s a circle we cannot seem to break.
The marketing push for Cyberpunk was insane, and barely a day went by where I didn’t see something about it. The more something is hyped and built up, the more goes wrong, the more emotional attachment people have to it. Cyberpunk was delayed frequently, with concerns flaring up especially about the extensive crunch the developers have been put under. The devastating Covid-19 pandemic has only made things worse on that regard. The release was delayed multiples, first from April 2020 to September, than pushed back again to November. Finally, a set release date of December 10th was ready. No more delays, the big-ups at CDPR declared. Perhaps they should have waited…
Their problems were only just beginning. Firstly, CDPR provided review copies to major outlets with strict embargoes, forcing NDAS and only allowing footage provided by themselves to be shown in reviews. Furthermore, PC was the main target of reviews, excluding consoles completely. Seeing how bad the state of the game was on consoles, especially PS4 and Xbox One, this was seen by many, me included, as a deliberate attempt to mask how the game really was. This is not how you treat your consumers.
The second issue was a medical concern, and far more serious. Game Informer Liana Ruppert, who has epilepsy, suffered a seizure during a brain-dance sequence (something which comes up frequently in the course of the game). This came without ANY warnings. While CDPR was quick to fix this, how the hell did that sneak past quality control? It’s one thing for bugs, but to have scenes in game that induce seizures without any warnings of it? What disappointed me most was the personal attacks on those who exposed these issues. Really guys, there’s enough hatred and anger in the world right now. We’re better than this. It’s also interesting how all the hate and vitrol that targeted those who exposed Cyberpunk’s considerable problems has now turned full circle, right on CDPR itself by the same people who so ruthlessly defended them. Once again, we’re better than this, folks, and I wish people would calm and discuss things rationally. Perhaps an impossible dream? Probably so.
While the PC version was buggy, nothing compared to how bad things were on last-gen consoles. Considering CDPR said outright the performance was ‘surprisingly good’ on them, it screams a gigantic lie. When Sony ended up pulling Cyberpunk 2077 completely from their stores on the PS4 a week after release, you know you fucked up. Even now, Sony refuses to reinstall Cyberpunk onto their own stores.
The launch of Cyberpunk has been quite the pickle. I wasn’t too surprised, because most of their launches have been rough. With this much hype built around it, the last thing you want to do is fuck up the launch, which they achieved in spades. It might just be the worst AAA release in a long time. Many have compared it to other terrible game launches, such as No Man’s Sky, Anthem, Marvel Avengers, Fallout 76, Final Fantasy XIV, Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Mass Effect Andromeda to name a few.
For a company who constantly tells everyone they’re not like other AAA studios, they fell right into the same pitfalls, and it’s come with quite the drop in reputation. It’s led to attempted lawsuits. The devs of Cyberpunk grilled the management over the unrealistic expectations. It’s clear the game was released too early. Time will tell whether post-launch can fix these problems. They have made several public apologies about it, but as people say in A Song of Ice and Fire, words are wind. I put more trust in deeds, and after how terrible the launch was, a lot of people will believe it when they see it. They want to fix it? They need to prove themselves. The management over Cyberpunk has been a disaster. Things have improved slightly with the massive 1.2 patch in the end of March, which was delayed over a month due to a massive cyber attack on CDPR itself, making their task even more difficult, but I’ll go into that in the final part of the series.
So, there’s a little background. We’re going to move onto the review itself in Part 2. What did I think of the game? Is Cyberpunk really as overhyped, broken and disappointing as some people claim? Is there hope for this giant after all?
Find out soon!