Stop Pretending Cyberpunk 2077 Isn’t a Good Game

Judy from Cyberpunk 2077 leaning over V in a braindance chair.
CD Projekt Red

It’s hard to think of a game that has been as equally hyped as it is hated than “Cyberpunk 2077“. The RPG set in a grim near-future when corporations run everything and you’re nobody if you don’t have money was one of the most anticipated games of all time. But multiple delays, controversial marketing, and a messy launch turned the tide when it was released in 2020.

But despite its flaws, “Cyberpunk 2077” is a good game, and not enough people talk about that.

What Went Wrong?

“Cyberpunk 2077” was announced in 2013 and was originally set to be released in April 2020. Three more delays pushed the date back to September and November before it was finally released on December 10, 2020.

While game delays are common, players grew increasingly angry at just how many they had to wait through. It got so bad that the developers had to release a statement asking people to stop sending them death threats.

Goodwill was already low when it was released, and after release players soon discovered it was virtually unplayable. You could forget about playing if you had a PS4, Xbox One or a PC running anything less than a high-end GPU. Sony even removed it from the PlayStation store because it was such a mess.

It also didn’t help that the PS5 and new graphics cards — basically the only things that made it playable — were virtually impossible to get at the time due to a global shortage. Even fans who were willing to upgrade their setup couldn’t.

The “Cyberpunk 2077” bugs aren’t excusable and shouldn’t be forgotten. But they also shouldn’t stop us acknowledging the things the game did get right.

“Legends are Born Here”

Under all of the guns, sex, and bravado of its marketing, “Cyberpunk 2077” is a heartfelt exploration of what it means to be human. More specifically, what it means to be you.

You play as V, a low-level merc who’s hired for a job that’ll propel you and your partner Jackie into the major leagues. When the job goes sideways, you end up with an experimental biochip in your head and the digital ghost of Johnny Silverhand, a dead war veteran-turned-rock star-turned-terrorist, sharing your consciousness. Soon, you’re being hunted by the people who killed Johnny. To make matters worse, the chip is overwriting your memories with Johnny’s. So begins an uneasy alliance with the violent stranger in your head.

As you and Johnny work together to untangle your consciousnesses, you’re both faced with questions about your own identities. Is Johnny still himself, even though he’s a digital construct running off pre-recorded memories? And for how much longer will you remain V if your memories are being erased bit by bit?

“Would You Rather Live in Peace as Mr Nobody or Go Down For All-Times in a Blaze of Glory?”

Johnny becomes the only person V can talk to about how they’re really feeling, and the game gives you lots of opportunities to decide how your V feels. No matter how you feel, it becomes clear that you share the same goal: neither of you wants to die. To survive, you need to get Johnny out of your head. But he doesn’t want to be deleted.

A few times during the game, Johnny asks for control of your body so he can say the goodbyes he never got to have when he was alive. Trusting him doesn’t make these moments any easier. You might believe him when he says he’ll give you back control after playing one last gig with his old band, but the fear that V’s memories might disappear completely is always at the back of your mind.

So, yes, under all of the guns, sex and bravado, “Cyberpunk 2077” is a game about how people identify. If we’re defined by our memories and experiences, are we still us if we’re just a copy of our memories?

Kill Two Souls

There are multiple endings in “Cyberpunk 2077” based on your choices, and one of them is something most games don’t dare to offer. The final missions see you and Johnny mount an attack on Arasaka Tower to remove the chip from your head, and you can either team up with your allies or take your chances alone. Whichever you choose, you know it’s going to be bloody. But there’s another option: you can choose to end your life.

Your chances of surviving the mission are low, and you risk getting your friends and a lot of innocents killed if it goes wrong. Ending your life means the bad guys win, but your friends will still be alive when the sun rises the next day.

It’s obvious why not many games offer this ending: choosing this path ends the story then and there. You miss out on the final main quests and your chance at a proper goodbye with all the friends and lovers you’ve met during the game’s 25-hour-plus playtime. But “Cyberpunk 2077” is all about player choice, and a lot of players choose the lesser evil.

Even now, more than two years and multiple patches, updates, and DLC announcements later, goodwill towards the game is low. But don’t let the outcry fool you — “Cyberpunk 2077” is good, and it’s worth playing now. It’s a beautiful game that lets you decide who you’d be in a fantasy world more than most RPGs do, and encourages you to question what makes you you, in a game and the real world.

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