Games: If 2020 wasn't dystopian enough for you, Cyberpunk's got you covered
Cyberpunk 2077 (Multi)
By: CD Projekt Red
IT WAS with admirable honesty that Irish rail operator Iarnród Éireann once ran with the slogan "We're not there yet, but we're getting there". It's a sentiment the Polish developers of Cyberpunk could use word-for-word.
The success of The Witcher series has transformed Warsaw-based CD Projekt Red into an $8 billion behemoth – and breath was suitably bated for their first blockbuster not to feature Geralt of Rivia.
Announced back in 2013 and with a reported budget topping $300 million, anticipation for Cyberpunk bubbled over into death threats after its umpteenth delay. Finally released, it's both overdue and premature – but if 2020 wasn't dystopian enough for you, Cyberpunk's got you covered.
Based on a tabletop role-playing game from the late 80s, Cyberpunk's marketing trump card is the presence of Keanu Reeves. No stranger to the form, Reeves's bodacious CV includes game tie-ins to Bill and Ted, Dracula and Johnny Mnemonic – but as insufferable ar*e Johnny Silverhand, he steals this show.
Starting with a choice of three life paths that dictate your background, players star as V – an Edgerunner who exists on the fringes of society, performing dubious jobs in the hyper-capitalist Night City. Imagine a future designed by Elon Musk on crack and you're halfway there to Cyberpunk's power and tech-obsessed megalopolis.
Mixing elements of RPG and first-person shooter, a bewildering level of twiddly customisation lets you tweak each and every inch of V – right down to the undercarriage. Yet while you have levels to gain, stats to upgrade and perks to purchase, Cyberpunk's highfalutin' ideas take a backseat to action, with jolting shots of pulp-movie violence that play out like Blade Runner as directed by Paul Verhoeven.
While you can cruise through Night City's main story in around 20 hours, to do so would mean missing out on its glorious sidequests, which swell the running time multiple times over. A mix of pulpy-detective work and high-stakes heists, its myriad missions generally involve retrieving valuable objects from buildings and can be completed all shooty-shooty or with stealth and hacking, depending on how your skill tree blooms.
Yet ironically, for a game about constantly upgrading tech, Cyberpunk is itself in dire need of an aggressive debugging and needs more patches than a pirate convention. Characters and body parts disappear or float through the world while one glitch makes the player's crotch appear outside their trousers. It's hard to immerse yourself in a neon dystopia when flapping around like a Denny's Gold Medal.
A day one Band-Aid has smoothed out some of the more shocking boo-boos, but it's still crippled with enough bugs to force the developer into offering refunds on PS4/Xbox One.
So a few screws are loose, but there's a brilliant game dying to get out – at times you can feel its foot kick through an ugly belly – though what should easily become an eight out of 10 is currently a wait out of 10. While Cyberpunk could never live up the hype, after nine years in development the last thing fans expected was a fixer-upper.