It’s been a week since the game launched and it’s time to reflect on where we are, what went wrong, and what can be done so CD Projekt can fulfill their promises and have the game reach its full potential. This Cyberpunk 2077 analysis takes a look at the problems.
First and foremost, I think we can all agree the problems lie firmly at the feet of CD Projekt but there are other factors too that raised expectations. It’s probably best to start with the marketing campaign to see what went wrong and that really begins with developer and management comments about how different the game will be compared to what has come before.
Random weather such as sandstorms, realistic NPC actions, a living city. Simply put, the bar was set quite high. Their excitement for what they were in the middle of creating was infectious. This is not a bad thing if you truly believe everything you say is deliverable. The problem is, sometimes it’s better to keep quiet and let your customers and reviewers discover these great features when they enter the game. The hype meter for Cyberpunk 2077 has been on overload for the past twelve months.
Next up, Night City Wire. In essence, this was a great idea, the problem was it was so carefully scripted that any problems were so well hidden. While Hollie did a great job at presenting the show from the viewpoint of a gamer to help explain all the great features in Cyberpunk 2077. It was another way to raise expectations with carefully selected gameplay demonstrated on more powerful PC systems. While it did show some interesting behind-the-scenes development processes, a lot of the time it rehashed the same footage or threw in a few new never before seen bits and pieces of footage. It just didn’t feel like it was covering Cyberpunk 2077 fully when it came to the actual features touted by the developers. There were still a lot of questions.
We also can’t forget the multiple delays. By the time the game had been pushed back from November to December, there was an unease in the community. Would it be delayed again? Is it really ready and will those extra few months make any real difference? Each delay piled on an extra load of pressure on the development team who must have been thinking the project would never end when the December delay was announced.
The Cyberpunk 2077 Reviews
I want to talk a little bit about reviews and reviewers. I know quite a lot about this subject as I have hired them in the past and even been one myself for many years. CD Projekt knew what they were doing when they released review copies late in the day. Sites had to share details about their traffic, audience, and what they covered whether it was written or video to CD Projekt. CD Projekt and PR would then coordinate and hand-select the sites they thought should have access to the code. Oddly enough, one source told me that CD Projekt was fully in control of this and various outside PR companies working for CD Projekt had no idea what was happening with code for outlets. As one reviewer told me, “we are days away from release and we have no idea why we have not got code or heard back. Nevermind though, at least an Instagram model has it.” For any site trying to serve its audience, seeing developers pull stunts like that is really frustrating and quite insulting.
Ultimately CD Projekt dropped the Cyberpunk 2077 review code on a very select group with under a week until release and under a strict no-footage NDA. One source told me they had a few days to get through it to hit the Monday embargo. Developers know that reviewers will be put under pressure from editors to hit a review embargo. Mid-tier trafficked sites cannot afford to miss the embargo and let the likes of IGN or Gamespot hog all the attention when that embargo lifts. It’s a dirty business with sites trying to break through to the top of the pile, often with a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude. What many people forget is that page views equal real hard cash (funding) for websites. Get in first and the potential customers will want to read whether what they have bought or pre-ordered is going to be worth it. It’s therefore imperative that the embargo is hit.
Then there are the reviews themselves. We generally saw 10/10 or 9/10 across the board. Why? It’s simple, there was not enough time to properly analyse the game. There were a few notable exceptions and perhaps their lower scores reflected the lack of time to test Cyberpunk 2077. Reviewers need time to do their job properly.
The Bugs and Consoles
I am a PC gamer through and through so I have no first-hand experience of the old-gen versions of Cyberpunk 2077. That said, CD Projekt did show console footage just prior to release. If you watched that then you’ll know the experience you were going to get was not on par with the PC. To be blunt, it looked like a blurry mess.
Since the game launched, I have now seen some extraordinary last-gen footage that looks like something out to the late 90s. The fact that CDPR had the balls to put the game in a box and sell it for older consoles is astonishing. While they acknowledge they did not pay enough attention to the older console versions, they should not be let off the hook for what transpired. It was their decision to release it on the older consoles, in fact, they were quite proud it was coming to every console under the sun. There was obviously real negligence when it came to releasing it for the PS4 and Xbox One.
Every player’s Cyberpunk 2077 experience has been different on the PC. Prior to launching the game for the first time, there were already reports that the game was quite buggy. It took me around 10 minutes to happen upon an annoying one in the character creator where the mouse kept jumping to the top of the options. You know that if that was missed, then there’s likely to be even worse to come.
Fortunately for me, so far there have not been too many, and nothing game-breaking in my experience although others have not been so lucky. Jumping off the roof of my car did kill me, inventory menus sticking on the screen when you’ve left the inventory, little annoyances like that are the main things I have experienced. There’s also the annoying amount of time tweaking settings and file editing to get more than an average 30FPS on an RTX 2070S.
Bugs outweighed by fun-factor?
There are patches coming, we know that. We know that eventually the bugs will be squashed. What will make Cyberpunk 2077 a success is whether the world grabs enough players to put up with the bugs while they are being fixed. Night City is a great looking city and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying exploring it and diving in and out of the main questline to tackle Gigs or just generally explore for the map project.
That said, CD Projekt really needs to look at cleaning the game up. The UI can be annoying, especially inventory and crafting, the AI really needs addressing, especially vehicles which also could do with some handling work. While I know that idea of a real ‘living city’ is likely not to appear, CDPR need to at least fix up the basics. For now, assuming you haven’t experienced any horrific bugs, the game is engrossing when playing along the main questline path.
Was it Ready?
No, it wasn’t and the release should have been pushed back to 2021, no matter how much the community or press complained. Perhaps if they had made that tough decision the company shares wouldn’t have taken such a massive hit to their share value. You have to keep the shareholders happy, it is a business after all. That’s something gamers often forget but there has to be a balance and that starts with honesty to the customers and the shareholders.
CD Projekt staff are also not impressed with the management. They endured crunch prior to launch, listened to upper management state the game was completely playable at the start of 2020 when it was nowhere near ready, and now they are watching the backlash from consumers unfold around them. This of course prompted a sharp apology.
To sum up, the launch was a bit of a disaster, the last time we saw a game struggle post-launch with an extreme amount of hype was No Man’s Sky. If you remember, Hello Games released the game and then went quiet for quite some time. They had the sense to realise their reputation depended on them fixing the game and living up to their game feature promises. Then there was Fallout 76 with all its launch issues and it’s now in a much better place. CD Projekt should take note because Cyberpunk 2077 is more than salvageable. The team needs to look over what was promised and start fixing the game to deliver that experience fans were expecting. Gamers who feel burned and have not requested refunds need to also step back and wait to see what CDPR’s next move is. Let them get on with it and try and deliver on the promises in a timely fashion.
Overall, I have been enjoying the game, but perhaps that’s because I always try not to fall for the pre-release hype/PR/marketing trap for any game. No game is ever perfect, a 10/10 should be an almost impossible score to reach. With that in mind, Cyberpunk 2077 would have had to be truly groundbreaking and there was only a sniff that could possibly be the case if they got everything they promised just perfect. You have to create something that is truly outstanding and that doesn’t happen very often in gaming.
I do have faith that the game will be turned around, and until that happens, I’ll continue enjoying it for what it is because there are many positives such as the design of Night City, the voice acting, and the story. Cyberpunk 2077 could still really shine but the management at CD Projekt need to step up so the whole team’s vision can be realised.