After months of fans waiting for Cyberpunk 2077 to finally be fixed, Liam Ferguson looks at the games release, the problems they encountered, and how they game functions after patches and updates.
In November 2020, The Witcher 3 (2015) developer CD Projekt Red (CDPR) released what was quite possibly one of the most hotly anticipated games in recent history with Cyberpunk 2077. First unveiled in 2012, with radio silence following that was only broken at E3 in 2018, the game had a lot to live up to. Promising an extremely vibrant open world that would elevate the genre to new heights, a rewarding RPG system that made player choice truly matter, and an overall unforgettable experience, CDPR positioned it as a game that would define their legacy after the unrivalled success they attained with The Witcher 3. What followed, however, were multiple delays, overworked staff, edgy marketing strategies, and a broken mess of a product that was quickly stripped from the PlayStation Network. So, how did all of this happen? And almost four months after launch, has it been remedied at all?
The first signs of trouble for Cyberpunk came about when they really began to market the game in 2019 as the geared up for the initial, unrealistic date of April 2020. An advertisement displayed a poster within the game world of Night City for an energy drink entitled ‘Chromanticore’ with the tagline “Mix it Up” that displayed a transgender character model with a bulging penis holding a can of the drink. Many people within the transgender community rightfully took issue with this fetishized advertisement as CDPR already had a history of making tired, stale jokes at the expense of trans people on their company Twitter page. At the time, representatives from CDPR promised that there would be a wide variety of gender-nonconforming characters present within the final game portrayed in a positive light, as well as this example of hyper-sexualisation present inside Night City. This was, of course, a lie, but more on that later. Ultimately, this blatantly transphobic marketing ploy would come back to showcase a company willing to appeal to the most die-hard gamergate supporting kind of players, and was an early warning sign of the performative activism the game delivered in its final release.
CDPR had ordered employees to begin working for six days of the week, as the team rushed to bring out a game that could be considered anything close to “finished.”
To continue touching on the pre-release aspect of Cyberpunk that served as red flags, in September of 2020 it was reported that CDPR had ordered employees to begin working for six days of the week, as the team rushed to bring out a game that could be considered anything close to “finished.” This was in contrast with comments CDPR co-founder Marcin Iwinski had made almost a year previously, promising a no-crunch culture when developing the hotly anticipated game. Crunch, an industry term used to define excessive workweeks and overtime usually in the leadup to a release, is a problem faced by many mismanaged game development companies, and as more reports came out around CDPR being a toxic place to work in, it came as no surprise that the studio heads mandated it to satisfy shareholders with a timely game release.
character models look like mushy PS2 era people, textures are popping in at random intervals and it can barely maintain 15 FPS even outside of combat.
Then we get to the release window for Cyberpunk, and all hell begins to break loose. Reviewers were given codes to the supposedly hundred-hour game mere days prior to release and were suspiciously only given copies to the PC version, leaving the PS4/Xbox One versions to be reviewed after people had already bought copies. The game was mostly reviewed pretty well, averaging in the 7’s to 9’s out of 10 with many ultimately reiterating that it was a good GTA style narrative with some cool world-building, but that ultimately would not set the world on fire in terms of innovation. Get to release day and there is rage. On PS4 and Xbox One, the game simply does not work - character models look like mushy PS2 era people, textures are popping in at random intervals and it can barely maintain 15 FPS even outside of combat. To add to this, the game managed to bypass certification which resulted in a sequence that gave some players seizures, as if things needed to get worse at this stage from a PR aspect.
In an unprecedented move, this led Sony to step in and pull the game from their storefront entirely in an act that can only be considered a mercy kill.
Shortly after release, CDPR promised refunds to any players that were dissatisfied with the version they knew was unfinished given that they intentionally only marketed towards the PC and PS4 Pro/Xbox One X versions. Of course, being the mismanaged company that they are, CDPR could not deliver on these refund requests. In an unprecedented move, this led Sony to step in and pull the game from their storefront entirely in an act that can only be considered a mercy kill. Refunds were then given to anyone who requested one. Microsoft kept the game in their store but offered refunds as well.
As mentioned, studio leads at CDPR promised that a variety of characters from all walks of life would be portrayed within the game, including your own customisable protagonist, V. This included them touting a deep, layered character creation that seemed weird to include in a first-person game, to begin with. The performative activism continued as it was said that you could choose to play as a transgender character, stating that Night City would reflect a world rife with body modification that makes gender irrelevant. This was not the case in the end, as gender was tied to the voice you chose, meaning while you could pick whatever genitalia on whichever model you chose, you would ultimately have to select the “female” voice option if you wanted to be referred to with she/her pronouns inside of the game. We somehow live in a world where Call of Duty lets you use they/them pronouns, but what was being marketed as the most open and diverse RPG in history couldn’t manage it. But hey, they included a slider for penis size that they showed off more often than the PS4 version of the game.
To discuss it from a gameplay perspective, Cyberpunk is fine. The gunplay is no better than Fallout, the driving is abysmal and the world is pretty enough if you play it on PS5/Xbox Series X or PC. The story is at complete odds with itself as side quests have almost no bearing on the overarching narrative as a result of its state of urgency, and the performances are all rather good. The RPG aspects often fall flat as there does not seem to be much real consequence from whatever dialogue options you choose. Personally, I managed to roll credits on what was being touted as the largest and most ambitious game ever made in around 35 hours.
Finally, at the beginning of January 2021, Iwinski posted a video on Twitter “apologising” for the state of the game. He continued to perpetuate the lies that dug him and his company into this hole by saying that they were simply unaware of just how bad the console versions were, and basically laid the blame on the quality assurance team. It is easy to see that the PS4 and Xbox One versions were nowhere near ready at launch, so one can only imagine the state of them before release, and there is no way top executives at CDPR were unaware of this. At the end of the day, all this Twitter video served to do was present the top brass at this company as spineless liars that were clearly bending the knee to shareholders who were told they would get a timely release.
So, here we are, in the months after release. CDPR have largely kept quiet after promising to fix the game. They delayed the multiplayer mode out of 2021 and pushed back the proper next-generation releases farther. They also provided a vague roadmap for hotfixes that will supposedly make the game work on last-generation consoles. A major patch was posted up for the title in late January, but as the game remains absent from the PlayStation storefront, it is clear that there is still a lot of work to be done. The studio was then hacked in February, which caused the delay of the second major patch that will supposedly make the game truly playable on those consoles. The company managed to destroy their incredible reputation overnight by releasing a half-baked game that delivered on pretty much nothing it promised to. It’s fair to say that Cyberpunk may never recover and become the incredible experience that people wanted it to be, but hopefully, CDPR will take this failure as a moment to completely reassess how they function as a company, and how they should market their titles going forward.