Night City Is All You Need: A Cyberpunk 2077 Impression

2077 Promises Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n Roll. But It Isn’t Revolutionary


Patrick Albert Villegas


To Andrew Poli. Thank you for the game and for being a great friend.


Disclaimer: I did not purchase this game. A copy was given to me for both personal and review purposes.

When it comes to Cyberpunk 2077, I often find myself at a loss for words. If a close friend were to come up to me and ask, “Should I buy this game?” I can’t help but hesitate and stutter as I try to think of what to say. Because what the game does well, it does really well, so much so that it’s some of the best gaming had to offer in 2020. But those shining moments are far and away from one another, filled with events that stumble and trip drunkenly while still trying to act as if the game didn’t just break its nose on the concrete floor.

The game is poorly optimized. Depending on your hardware, experiences can range from buggy yet smooth open-world exploration to unplayable messes.

It’s been around two months or so since the game was released to the public, and you rarely ever see 2077 being discussed by the masses anymore. 2077 is no longer in the spotlight, no longer the game you’ll see nonstop on your Twitter feed, filling it with nonstop controversy whether it be about the internal crunch time, the terrible bugs, the questionable depictions of trans people, or any other sort of bad publicity to help ruin its reputation. But it is the crunch I wish to touch on first. For this reason alone, I cannot openly recommend this game to anyone who even has a passing interest in the future of the games industry. Supporting such a game, one built on the backs of hundreds of employees who were mismanaged and overworked for months, means this game is unethical in my eyes. Any messages the story tries to preach about being anti-corporate, being anti-establishment, fighting for the little man, and rebelling against the oppressors, mean nothing for a game developed with crunch culture. It is hypocrisy, and all I can ask for is that future AAA companies learn from CD Projekt Red and aim to be better, though, to be honest, it will likely never happen. Money is money, after all, and it’s all that matters in this industry.

But despite that, Projekt has a game to offer, an experience. And I would feel remiss not to at least touch on my own time in Night City.

Cyberpunk 2077 was supposed to be the game of the century, the game that revolutionized the 9th-generation of gaming consoles in the same way something like Super Mario Bros. did for the 1st-generation. It was supposed to blow us away. But it wasn’t able to live up to these insurmountable, some might even say impossible, expectations. Now that the dust has effectively settled, I feel more comfortable saying what I need to say. While many have moved onto the next AAA gangbuster or simply forgotten the allure of Night City, I have stayed behind, contemplating long and hard about how exactly CD Projekt’s latest title has affected me. I have been in this world for weeks now, sucked in by its promises of sex, violence, and rock and roll, and I can say that Night City has lost its luster to me. Yet I cannot help but stay.

It’s similar to how tourists might feel when they visit a new foreign country for the first time. They can’t help but be blinded by the glitz and glamour of it all, of all the new sights and smells and experiences you never thought imaginable. But stay any longer, and the cracks start to form. For me, this vacation is nowhere near over. I still haven’t beaten this game, but I will. I need to finish what I’ve started, to go back and find out how V’s story ends. To finally lay my interest in Night City to rest and explain why Cyberpunk 2077 was never nearly as bad as people said but also say that it deserves to be ridiculed for the shortcomings it does have. For now, though, I merely wish to tell you my honest opinion about this wonderfully broken game, even if the mirrors are all already cracked, the smoke is nothing more than a weak mist now, and the lights have been burnt to a crisp.

Part 1: Night City, The Star of The Show

Night City is the perfect backdrop to let yourself go wild.

In my Fantasy class, they taught me the importance of setting. A good setting is said to be its own character. It is a living, breathing organism, one that is so believable in its existence that a reader can easily imagine a million other stories set within the world of this plot. A good setting absorbs the reader into its lore and makes them want to stay long after the story has been told. It is the reason why people never forget Middle-Earth and why everyone can remember the dual suns of Tatooine. Night City has been made real in 2077, and what I love the most about this game. It is a beautiful place, filled with the most atmospheric locations I have ever seen in a video game, like a mishmash of Los Angeles and the Las Vegas Strip. Within the city, buildings blot out the Sun, standing tall and imposing over the city’s denizens. Its people are unique and distinct, at the very least visually. In all my hours of playing, I swear that I did not meet a single NPC that looked exactly the same as another one. Each district in the game has a distinct flavor to it, whether it be heavily industrialized Pacifica or the Beverly Hills inspired Westbrook. Even venturing out of the city into the east is exciting, as the desert hills surround you and offer a much-needed change of pace to all of the neon plastered all over the city streets.

Speaking of neon, I would feel remiss if I did not discuss the advertising in 2077. Night City is run by corporations, and it is to be expected that corporations hold their influence in one of the most tried and true ways imaginable, commercials. Except in the world of 2077, modesty is thrown entirely out the window. The phrase “sex sells” is entirely an understatement. Everywhere you go, you can’t help but see a pair of boobs sticking out from a billboard sign or a man posing seductively all over the walls and screens to help sell the latest in cybernetic technology. And it doesn’t stop there, not by a long shot. Showing graphic content is fair game in Night City, so you’ll see ads of someone’s head exploding over an energy bar or of someone snorting drugs to help advertise a loaning company. Each advertisement is designed to be eye-catching and evocative, as each one tries to leave a mark in your brain to help you remember the product. The best part is, you eventually get used to it, in the same way, you get used to advertisements on buses or billboards advertising the latest Toyota model. It gets to a point where you are so desensitized to what is being shown that you no longer raise an eyebrow or gawk at the sheer audacity of this world. It’s at that moment you become a citizen of Night City. The city no longer shocks and awes. Instead, you just walk past it all because you have better things to do than think about that one ad for Milfguard. This is the moment that the game’s world was most immersive for me, and I loved realizing at the moment how messed up it would truly be to live in this version in this hellhole. 

But if that doesn’t convince you that 2077 has one thick atmosphere, then I encourage you to really look at the beautiful world CD Projekt made. Turn off the HUD and just drive through any of the districts of Night City. If the game doesn’t crash and burn, if everything magically goes right, the world becomes all-encompassing. Walking your apartment complex makes you realize just how bad you have it and how much worse it can possibly be as you see people laying next to dead roaches on the street. In every regard, I give the environmental artists and designers all the respect in the world. They truly made Night City a character, and it was easily the biggest highlight for me.

Part 2: Everything Else

But what about the rest of the game? What about everything else that it has to offer to honor the legacy that is the cyberpunk genre? Well, as far as I can tell, not much.

Once in a blue moon, your character, V, can look like the greatest netrunner to ever roam Night City. Most of the time, though, they tend to look homeless.

Combat, exploration, dialogue – the three main pillars of an RPG. They make up the fundamental cores of how a player interacts with a world and what is expected from it. 2077 failed to truly impress in even a single one of these categories for me.

Combat in 2077 is designed to accomplish one thing, subduing whatever threat you can’t talk or ignore. Whether it be shooting, hacking, slashing, or bashing, you need to kill in 2077 to survive. Those are the rules Night City establishes through its tone alone. And the game makes you feel strong by merely being the main character of the story. Becoming overpowered in 2077 is an effortless feat to accomplish. I made my version of V, a stealthy sniper samurai, shooting people from afar with a charge rifle that pierced through walls and sliced gang members into tiny bits if they ever got too close for comfort. It was fun for a while. Then I first got the Mantis Blades, let me tell you, I got absolutely ecstatic using them. But after around a half-hour of watching the same animation and stabbing the same enemies through the chest, it got boring. I no longer had the same thrill of hacking and slashing because I realized there was no real threat or consequences for me to do so. The AI in this game feels like sponges meant to absorb bullets rather than fight back. The power fantasy was fun, no doubt, but no gang of thugs ever felt like a real threat to me. For the most part, I felt unstoppable, and I would go on absolute tears destroying anyone in my way. If my health got low, taking a medkit meant I literally never had to leave combat. The only time I ever died was due to dumb mistakes, such as shooting a red barrel, which for some reason, are always one-shot kills. Stealth always felt too easy to be fun, with the AI again being too simple and oblivious to provide a challenge.

If you end up winning any and all combat scenarios, you will be rewarded with better gear and weapons to use. Due to how pricey crafting can become, if there is a specific piece of clothing or handgun you are really attached to, it’s often not worth it to upgrade it compared to switching to something with a more significant armor or DPS number. If you choose to go this way, it oftentimes leads to your character looking wearing a combination of clothes and equipping ugly weapons that make them look more homeless than futuristically suave. 

Characters like Johnny Silverhand, although interesting, seem rather run of the mill in terms of performance and personality (sorry Keanu).

The last thing I want to discuss is dialogue. A mainstay in games such as this one, dialogue allows you to speak through the character of V and voice how you feel about certain situations and topics in Night City without the need for violence. But for the most part, the dialogue never felt important in the world of 2077. In many situations, whatever you ask or say is only ever filler or some variation of “Yes, I can do this for you.” I never felt like my choices mattered in these conversations. Finally, the dialogue system also suffers from a similar situation as Fallout 4, in the sense that the dialogue options displayed are oftentimes less than what you may expect V to say or within a completely different tone of voice than expected.


Final Thoughts

With the game finally rushed to release, it’s sad to imagine what could’ve been with only a bit more time.

I still need to go back and finish this game – I still need to take on Arasaka and avenge Johnny Silverhand so that V can get the satisfying ending they deserve. With so many other games on the market, so many different ways of spending my time, I find it hard to want to come back to Night City and roam its streets once more. 

I know I need to, but at the moment, playing feels like a job rather than a game is the moment I lose all sight of why I even played games in the first place.


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