I had the horrifying realization recently that CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 was released a year ago. I’ve gone through a full 12 months of writing about the game, its various updates, and almost incomprehensibly, even more content delays. And while a year passing by in what was seemingly the blink of an eye is horrifying, only one thing really trumps that notion: Playing Cyberpunk 2077 a year out from launch.
I reviewed Cyberpunk 2077 when it was released in 2020 and admittedly had a better time than a majority of players would have once the game was widely available. Sure, I noticed some weird bugs and glitches while I was playing. I remember cars grinding themselves against concrete barriers and enemies T-posing randomly, as well as characters that wouldn’t show up during calls and animations that were regularly out of whack.
Playing the game in 2021, I didn’t run into as many of those problems. In fact, the multitude of patches that Cyberpunk 2077 has received over the past year actually improved the game’s performance. On my midtier computer, I can run the game at 60 frames per second with everything set to high and ultra easily. And while I’ve gotten used to seeing people rag on the game over the course of the past year, one thing I’ve forgotten is how absolutely gorgeous it is.
A city like no other
Night City is still one of the best settings in a video game that I’ve seen. The scale of the place, how its buildings loom over you and its neon signs pound advertisements into your eyes, make it an oppressive construct of concrete and electricity. Driving out of the city proper, the badlands offer their own beauty. Taking a ride out there is a break from the cold, hard metal and concrete that makes up Night City.
But some issues with Cyberpunk 2077 have refused to go away, and sadly, the ones that stayed around all ripped me right out of the game. The city streets are practically empty now compared to the game’s original release, with fewer cars and pedestrians present. Somehow though, I still managed to run into twins and triplets of NPCs, something that bothered me to no end. Admittedly, I wouldn’t mind if NPCs were reused, but seeing two copies of the same person wearing the same clothes no more than a foot away from each other is just plain strange.
I only noticed that issue while I was walking around in the city, which is, admittedly, not really how players get from place to place in Cyberpunk 2077. The game has a parking structure worth of cars and bikes, and now, they’re all a pleasure to drive. Going back to the game’s launch period, I would liken driving in Cyberpunk 2077 to controlling a slab of butter on a hot skillet. You’d slide around with basically no control over your vehicle, and be left to slam into other cars, and often, pedestrians.
Today, that isn’t the case. Vehicles in Cyberpunk 2077 are now a joy to cruise around in, even if they’re nothing special. Players certainly shouldn’t expect anything like Grand Theft Auto V‘s driving mechanics, but what’s in the game now is at least respectable. That’s not to say vehicles in the game don’t still have some quirks, though. While I didn’t clip through the ground and fall into an endless void as other players have, I did find myself getting caught on invisible geometry if I ever got some air on a motorcycle.
Taken out of the moment
If anyone who played Cyberpunk 2077 a year ago is wondering whether or not the game is better — well, in some cases it is. It’s more stable and improved in areas, but at this point it also feels as though a certain level of “jank” is intrinsic to the game’s experience. It’s just not Cyberpunk 2077 if some small thing doesn’t wrong during the moment-to-moment gameplay.
I learned that lesson within the first five minutes of booting up the game. I hopped straight into one of my old saves, which funny enough, was right before a boss fight. Prior to the fight starting, I was in a call with an NPC I couldn’t hear, and after the fight, I had to jack into a network access port. Naturally, the cable that comes out of V’s wrist was invisible, leaving my character looking like a futuristic cyber mime.
These issues occurred during one of the game’s staple missions, and others like them followed throughout my time spent revisiting the game. Whether I was playing a simple side mission or something more story-heavy, an animation would be off, a character’s face wouldn’t move while they’re talking, or audio wouldn’t play. Something would always go wrong, and while it didn’t ruin the mission, it always sucked me out of the game.
Cyberpunk 2077 feels like it’s always trying to immerse the player. Its world is so large and all-encompassing, and style practically drips from every NPC and action players perform. But just as you’re about to get really into the game, something always happens. This is what I experienced with Cyberpunk 2077 in 2020, and it’s practically unchanged in 2021.
Even with all of its patches, updates, hotfixes, and improvements, Cyberpunk 2077 is still a janky game on a mission that is constantly thwarted by its own technical issues.