Cyberpunk 2077 Review: Release, Gameplay & More
Warning: This game is not suitable for younger viewers as it’s rated M for Mature. M-rated video games may contain content that is inappropriate for children and/or unlabeled content that exposes younger viewers to explicit messages and themes.
In 2015, Polish video game developer and publisher CD Projekt Red was at the top of the gaming industry. Hot off the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which was largely considered one of the best games of all time, gamers couldn’t wait to see the developers’ next project.
And at Gamescom 2018, CD Projekt Red released a full trailer and pre-alpha gameplay for its next title, Cyberpunk 2077, which was released on December 10, 2020, following numerous delays.
Now that the game is out, it has been mired in controversy. The primary issue is that Cyberpunk was released in a lackluster state on the Xbox One and PS4, leading to numerous patches, an apology from the head of the company, and an unprecedented refund policy.
However, on a proper gaming PC (or PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X), and thanks to those patches (and others on the way), Cyberpunk boasts an incredible setting, engaging plot, and compelling gameplay worthy of the CD Projekt Red pedigree.
Cyberpunk 2077 plot
The game takes place in Night City, an American megacity located in California and entirely controlled by corporations. And it takes inspiration from the Cyberpunk tabletop role-playing game created by Mike Pondsmith. Pondsmith, in turn, was inspired by seminal science fiction authors such as William Gibson (Neuromancer), and Phillip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), whose influence you can feel in the game world.
Players assume the role of V, a fully customizable mercenary who can assume three different classes: NetRunner (hacking), Techie (machinery), and Solo (combat). After selecting a class, V assumes one of three life paths: Nomad, Streetkid, or Corpo (corporate). These life paths add exclusive missions to the game, including a unique prologue, and they affect how characters interact with you in the game world.
After you create your customized V, you can start the game's plot. Given that Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most ambitious open-world games ever created, you’ll experience a lot of the plot via exploration. However, Cyberpunk 2077's main story involves various heists and betrayals around Night City, during which you’ll become close to legendary in-universe rock star Johnny Silverhand, portrayed by none other than Keanu Reeves.
Cyberpunk 2077 mission structure
You can complete the main campaign in Cyberpunk 2077 within 25 to 30 hours, but if you’re a completionist, you can play the game for significantly longer. There are 33 main story missions in total, including three unique prologue quests depending on your life path. There are also four separate epilogue outcomes depending on your choices. All of these main quests are built around Cyberpunk 2077's main characters and center on the major themes of the narrative.
Other quest structures to explore
There are three other types of quest structures beyond the main story. The first is the side quest, which you can find in most modern RPGs. The side quests in Cyberpunk 2077 are structured to tell the story of a specific community or location within Night City.
There are more than 90 side quests in the game, and some have branching storylines across multiple missions. You can find many of them just by traversing Night City and interacting with different NPCs.
There are also more than 85 gig missions and more than 15 Cyberpsycho sighting missions available. These missions are contract-based and allow you to interact with the game world in a less story-driven way.
Gigs come in several forms, including assassinations, fetch quests, sabotage, and search and rescue. Each gig quest type caters to a certain style of play, and you can access them once you enter a new area of Night City.
Cyberpsycho sightings, on the other hand, are essentially mini-boss fights that put your combat skills to the test. If you played The Witcher 3, they largely resemble that game’s monster hunts.
Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay
Although Cyberpunk 2077 uses a first-person perspective, it’s not classified as a first-person shooter like Call of Duty or Titanfall 2. While the game includes some elements of shooters, it’s an RPG, first and foremost. As such, Cyberpunk 2077 places a strong emphasis on exploration, interaction with NPCs around Night City, and leveling up your character.
It’s a game about choice
More than anything, Cyberpunk 2077 is about choice. This choice is primarily emphasized in the gameplay mechanics, particularly in how you communicate with other characters through dialogue options. Those options vary based on your character build and how you approach missions.
The different classes and life paths that you choose affect gameplay as well. For example, the NetRunner class is capable of Quickhacking. This exceptionally cool feature allows you to pause time and use viruses to damage enemies, mark them on your map, or temporarily impair them in order to sneak or fight through a particular section.
Customizing your V with skills and perks
When building your customized V, you can put skills into various attributes. It works much like in Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop RPGs. In Cyberpunk 2077, these attributes are called Body, Intelligence, Reflexes, Technical, and Cool. Each attribute has between two to three subcategories that you can increase when you level up. Doing so allows you to build up your character in a variety of ways then play each class differently depending on your play style.
You can also select perks when you level up, which is similar to Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and other action RPGs. These perks allow you to spec your character in a way that suits your playstyle. Each character's perk selection is not tied to their class, and you can combine perks in a number of different ways to customize your gameplay.
While the combat is not the most complex and mirrors many first-person action RPGs, you do have a considerable amount of flexibility and control. This makes the gameplay and your choices, both in and out of combat, feel more rewarding and consequential.
Cyberpunk 2077 graphics
Cyberpunk 2077's graphics is one area where the game has run up against many technical difficulties. Although the game looks great at higher quality settings, it seems that CD Projekt Red developed Cyberpunk primarily to be played on high-end gaming PCs.
As such, we do not recommend playing it on consoles, since even the Xbox Series X is reported to have issues like frequent frame rate drops, even when switched to performance settings. On the bright side, it is more than likely that many of these issues will be fixed within the next six months, since the developer gave extensive post-launch support to their previous title, The Witcher 3.
However, the graphics themselves look fantastic when you discount frame rate issues and technical glitches and run the game at higher graphics settings. Night City is a sprawling city scape, and its graphics help to reflect the sheer size of the open world.
Can you run Cyberpunk 2077 on your PC?
As we mentioned earlier, Cyberpunk 2077 suffers from a number of bugs and technical glitches that affect its performance. However, a high-end gaming PC will allow you to play through most of these bugs and enjoy the game as intended.
When purchasing a gaming PC to play Cyberpunk 2077, we recommend looking at gaming desktops or laptops with an NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 2060 GPU or better. This will allow you to comfortably run the game at 1440p Ultra settings with ray tracing, which brings out the best balance between graphics and performance. If you’re in the market for a new gaming PC, consider one from the HP OMEN gaming line.
For those who prefer gaming laptops, the HP OMEN laptop 15t-ek000 is a great pick. It boasts an upgraded Intel® Core™ i7-10750H processor and an NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX™ 2060 GPU.
And if you prefer gaming on a desktop PC, you can’t go wrong with the HP OMEN 30L desktop PC. Among other stellar components, it features a 10th Generation Intel Core i7 processor and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER™.
Technical issues aside, Cyberpunk 2077 is a really solid RPG, especially if you’re playing it on a high-end gaming PC. However, to some, it may feel like a game that you have played before. Cyberpunk 2077 is not an innovative title, which means it may not define a generation like The Witcher 3 did before it.
However, while the mission structure and open-world elements follow a similar formula to other games, the world within Cyberpunk 2077 is its stellar achievement. Night City really feels like a living, breathing place with game-changing nuance and details, and exploring it is certainly worth the price of admission alone.
About the Author: Daniel Horowitz is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Daniel is a New York-based author and has written for publications such as USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media outlets.