When I published my Cyberpunk 2077 review last month, I had not yet finished the game. Based on what I had played until that point, I still felt confident in my opinion – hence the review. I beat the game a couple of weeks later and have watched all possible endings on YouTube (no, I did not play them all myself). My general stance on the game has not changed, but I am even more convinced that Cyberpunk is a character and narrative-driven game, first and foremost.
Before I go on, beware that I use this blog post to talk freely, something I avoid in my usual reviews. I will drop a few spoilers, and although I try to stay as vague as possible, there will be a few hints here and there. With a little more knowledge and research under my belt, I will also briefly return to gameplay and the technical aspects of CD Projekt Red’s ambitious creation.
Let’s dive right into the last point, the “Nerdy Bits”, as I call them in the reviews. I forgot to mention a few things, and I want to provide more facts to substantiate my statements.
My opinion has not changed. If you are committed to a console, the “next-gen” update on the high-end machines is the best way to experience this opus. It has a bunch of issues, but when the action is most hot, the performance is rock-solid. This is where the “research” element comes in. I turned to the YouTube to try and find out what a high-end PC experience can look like. With full ray tracing enabled, it is like another game. First of all, there are almost no screen-space artifacts. I once more turn to Digital Foundry for an explanation. In one of their recent uploads, Oliver MacKenzie discussed the current-gen patch of Resident Evil 2 Remake. It is a perfect example of what also happens in Cyberpunk 2077 on consoles (and most likely on PC without ray tracing). Watch about 30 seconds of this video where he explains screen-space reflection artifacts (SSR). Cyberpunk’s reflections are grainy and exhibit the same and sometimes very distracting occlusion artifacts.
The first point I can partly show off with a screenshot of my own making. Focus on the road at the center of the image. Note that I had disabled the “Film-Grain” option in the graphics menu.
When driving a car, it is noticeable but barely distracting. On foot, however, the occlusion artifacts make themselves known more frequently in shiny and reflecting areas. For example, pedestrians passing by on the sidewalk on a rainy day will cause such visual glitches.
Another talking point of mine was about shadow-casting and how the world sometimes appears flat. Once more, I reference a Digital Foundry video, this time from their PC specialist Alex Battaglia. Although the most striking visual effect is ray-traced reflections and, as such, is the talk of the town, lighting and shadowing are more critical for a convincing 3D effect, and this is the first topic discussed in the video. This part of the technology has the most transformative impact on the graphical presentation. CD Projekt Red even chose ray-traced shadowing on the consoles over reflections. Unfortunately, though, the console implementation is only ever noticed in specific indoor situations. As such, the effect is rarely worth the severe performance implications.
I want to emphasize the voice actor quality again, especially when the credits roll and you hear from all the friends you have met. I was a bit disappointed during the first hour or so, but once I got used to the style, I found it extremely convincing and of incredible quality. Even the male V. I do not like the voice; the performance itself is top-notch, though.
Summarizing the technology section, Cyberpunk is best experienced on a powerful gaming computer. The next best thing one step down is an Xbox Series X or a
NowhereToBeFound PlayStation 5.
Moving on to the gameplay and how I experienced the remainder of the game. The further I progressed in the story, the more “work” I had to put in to keep moving forward. Many story threads required waiting for a day for somebody to call. My list of side quests has shrunk to only a couple, and one of them was the cyber psycho mission where you are supposed to find and subdue 19 (!) violent criminals. I’m sure there is an exciting tale hidden somewhere. But 19!? That is an awful long “collectibles” quest. So, my options were to pursue some task I did not care about, go to V’s apartment to sleep (although you can also pass the time in the middle of the street, so what’s the point of the apartment), or actively contact fixers to get a gig. Unlike the game’s early hours, quests did not throw themselves at me anymore.
Consequently, I lost a bit of interest. I was hopping between Judy’s arc and Kerry, an old friend of Johnny Silverhand. All I cared about was Judy, and once I had finished her story, I moved on to the final stage of the primary campaign to find out what would happen to V.
(⚠️ Spoiler-free zone malfunctioning)
Nothing has changed regarding game mechanics or storytelling. It is as top-notch as it has been throughout the game. How the ending plays out, though, is up to you. Be warned; Cyberpunk does not have the “ultimate happy ending”. One is considered the best ending, but you will not find a “happily-ever-after” conclusion. What kind of ending you experience depends on your immediate choice in the final part and how many stories you have completed on your way there. You are presented with at least three options, I would assume (or maybe not, who knows). I had a fourth one, thanks to befriending and helping Panam. The others are suicide, trusting Arasaka, or agreeing with Johnny and turning to his old partner in crime, Rogue.
My first attempt was not what I had envisioned, and you know what? It hit me hard. I was upset. I cursed at the screen. I was at a loss and did not know what to do. I could not even get myself through the epilogue to see the credits. But not because it was a bad ending. I was so invested in my version of V, accompanying her through all sorts of dangerous and emotional situations
that I honestly cared about her and wanted her to live. It is reminiscent of my first Dragon Age Origins playthrough and how that ended (my writing seven years ago was not as good as it is now, so I apologize in advance). Cyberpunk made me care. I was invested in my V. I have played many story- and character-driven games, and only a few established an emotional bond between me and my virtual hero:ine. Consequently, I reloaded a save game right before I had to make the decision and tried again. This time with a friend, and that is what got me a satisfactory ending.
This achievement is the true strength of Cyberpunk 2077, making all endings startling yet appropriate, although it might not be what I want for the virtual Me.
Now that I have had time to think and experience all of them, I must say that they are the perfect culmination of previous events and life in Night City as a whole. Life is grim, onerous, and dangerous. The first big gig went south, and the finale is equally imperfect.
During the credits roll, you see holos of recorded messages from your friends. One more testament to the focus on characters and their relationships to V. I love elements like this. It immediately made me miss playing Cyberpunk, going on adventures, and interacting with them.
As you can see, there is actually a reason for you to design your own V. During all possible endings, you will see your hero:ine from an external camera view. This strengthens my wish for more customization options regarding body types. During the final scenes of the epilogue, I really liked the outside-view decision – and I have come to appreciate the 1st-person view. It is a genius move regarding the emotional bond between you and your V.
I am interested in returning to Night City and reliving the adventure with a different origin story. When Cyberpunk was flowing, the game felt amazing to play. Like Horizon Forbidden West, though, I will hold off until I can enjoy the game in all its glory, meaning on a high-end computer with all the traced rays.
Thank you for again indulging me in a bit of Cyberpunk 2077 rambling. It is a game that did what few games do, so I found it worth discussing its endings separately after my initial review.