By Ronald Gordon
Night City. A place named for its dark nature and the grim acts that take place within its borders. Many adventures have taken place there, and many more will happen in the future, but yours is a very, VERY special case. Night City is a place where people chase their dreams and live lives of glory, but soon enough you’ll find that the only thing Night City can bring you is one step closer to Death’s cold embrace.
Cyberpunk 2077 has been a much debated, often hated, sometimes loved, Open-World Action Adventure game developed and published by CD Projekt Red, creators of the famous Witcher game trilogy. Yet I generally really enjoyed the experience. Assume the short but impactful name of V and build a character who will face the dangers of the infamous Night City and follow the admirable goal of becoming the best of the best. Except, like most things in life, that leads to many hardships.
Cyberpunk 2077 has an amazing story that’s filled with twists and turns galore. At first, you’re a simple merc, doing jobs and making a name for yourself, but after a huge heist gone wrong leaves you in a sorry state, your low-level life of crime quickly turns into a race for survival, thanks to a biochip linking the consciousness of a long-dead radical terrorist to your rapidly deteriorating mind. It’s up to you to find a way to remove the chip and live on, before your two minds become one and V becomes none.
I loved Cyberpunk mainly because of how it framed this dilemma, since having two minds in one body certainly isn’t an easy thing to deal with. The dramatic struggle you undergo while trying to get the chip out of your head feels genuine, and the emotionally charged reactions from V crank things up to 11. As you progress with finding a way to remove the chip, you gradually grow weaker and weaker, and your dialogue options start displaying more panic and worry with each choice. Cutscenes begin with you stumbling as you walk and taking a second to breathe, the screen will glitch as you cough into your hand and see traces of blood on your palm. But the worst of all the symptoms is that your brain buddy Johnny Silverhand, played by Keanu Reeves, gradually grows more active as time passes. Your actions will mimic his, your speech and mannerisms become more similar, and soon enough you’ll start to question which one of you is in charge of your mind.
The gameplay is fairly simple: it’s a first person shooter first and foremost, but it’s got some pretty fluid mechanics when it comes to movement and combat. You can run around, slide, crouch, peek from behind cover, and use Quick Hacks on your enemies. Quick Hacks are fast and easy methods to manipulate your opponents into making your battle easier. Everyone in Night City has some cybernetic enhancements, and it just so happens that you’ve got the knowledge that lets you hack into your opponents’ tech and mess around with it. You can blind them by rebooting their optics, overload their systems with a high voltage, send a ping signal out to show all the devices they’re connected to, and even jam their weapons. It’s all about using whatever you can to turn the tide, and being quicker on the draw than your opponents.
The music in Cyberpunk is one of the best parts about it. The battle music gets you into the flow with hard techno beats and bass drops. But it can also turn more solemn during the later sections of the game. For instance, whenever you and Johnny have a conversation, the music turns into a slow, repeating melody, reminding you that the more you see Johnny, the less you’ll see yourself. You’ve only got so long to find a solution before Johnny takes control, and every time that one melody plays you know that you’re about to lose another inch of leeway to Silverhand.
The visual style is, of course, one of the game’s major selling points. Cyberpunk 2077 is a beautiful game with a Sci-Fi aesthetic. I enjoyed how Night City, much like New York City’s bustling Times Square, was filled with bright lights and holographic billboards. Every place you turn you see something lit up and lively, and some of the people you come across add to that with their colorful clothing and outstanding cybernetic enhancements. Night City feels like an actual city from somewhere in the future. With compelling people, odd street vendors to visit and crowds littering the sidewalks, Night City seems like a place that anybody would want to go to pursue dreams of fame and fortune, despite the violent nature of some of its citizens.
I thoroughly enjoyed Cyberpunk 2077 for what it brought to the table: a very peculiar yet highly enjoyable plot line, high octane violence with equally violent music, and the radical Johnny Silverhand who may as well have taken over my body, so extreme was his character. Although CD Projekt Red faced a lot of criticism recently because the Old Gen base console versions didn’t look as good as the others, I for one like the game as it is. It may not have been built for my base Xbox One, but I didn’t let that interfere with the overall experience. I’d suggest Cyberpunk to anyone who wants a good story, but I’d also advise waiting for some patches and hotfixes to roll around so that the game’s optimization can be tweaked. I’m doing that myself, so that I can replay on my own time. There are so many secrets within Cyberpunk, and I want to see them all as they were meant to be seen.
Based in the Bronx, Ronald Gordon is a senior intern for the New York Videogame Critics Circle.