So Cyberpunk 2077 is here. Sort of. I mean, CD Projekt Red released it, but it feels like we’re still waiting for the rest of the game to arrive. Even in the occasional moments when the game isn’t exhibiting obvious bugs, the experience is full of these odd moments where it feels like there’s something missing.
I want to talk about these odd moments and about my impressions of the game so far. If you’re worried about spoilers, then be aware that I’m going to mention the names of major characters and discuss some quests in the prologue. These spoilers are limited to the early parts of the game, but if you need to play through completely blind then you might want to skip this.
Anyway. I’m on my fourth-ish playthrough. Sorta.
What I’ve Done
Game #1: Female V. (Nomad) I played through the prologue and got a little ways into the main story. But I was nagged by doubts about some of the choices I made and really curious about the various roads not taken. Also, my build was a bit at odds with how I wanted to play the game and there’s no respecActually, I’ve heard there is, but I didn’t find it. In any case, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it in this playthrough.. So I started over. This is pretty common for me in complex games. I usually abort my first playthrough and start over once I get a feel for the mechanics.
Game #2: Female V again. (Street Kid) I went through quickly and mostly stuck to the main plot, although I did spend a few hours with Judy and Panam without reaching the conclusion of their stories. I went for the first ending available to me, which is where you basically
give yourself to Arasaka and end up living as a lab rat in space. It’s pretty obviously the “worst” ending. I mean, I gather all of the endings are a little dark / bittersweet because that’s how things go in this genre. These stories don’t generally end with sunshine and rainbows. But it was clear I could have found a better resolution to the conflict if I’d put in some more effort and gained a few more allies. In any case, it was a great ride and I really loved Goro, Panam, and (especially) Jackie.
Game #3: Male V. (Nomad) On this trip I really took my time and did tons of side content. Unlike Mass Effect, I don’t really have a preference between male and female V. They’re both good. I went for the ending where you
team up with the Aldecaldos, and I did the connected romance. The game creates a handy pre-ending save, so after that ending I jumped back and did the ending where you let Johnny Silverhand take control, which is confusingly the most sedate of the endings. In 2024 Johnny was a full-tilt terrorist psychopath, but he’s incredibly calm, mature, and circumspect after the events of the game. I get the sense that this is less about getting the “best” ending, and more about just seeing your choices play out for good or ill.
Game #4: Female V. (Corpo) The corpo character gets the least interesting story in terms of characters and drama, but you do get a really cool ride over the city in a flying car. Kinda reminded me of the intro to Prey 2017. In the previous games I just focused on being tanky. This time I tried a stealth build and then realized I hated it. This game doesn’t give you a way to return to stealth after being spotted, which means once you’re spotted you can either go guns blazing or reload. The load times in this game aren’t outrageous, but they’re not short enough to support trial-and-error stealth.
After all of this, I have a sneaking suspicion that this game doesn’t reward min-maxing the way other games do. Maybe it’s better to grab the low-hanging fruit from every skill tree rather than investing heavily in any one tree? I’m going to experiment a bit and see what I find. We’ll see.
I’m Not Complaining.
During these various playthroughs, I’ve noticed a few odd design choices where it seems like the developers did a lot of work for very little benefit, or where systems feel rudimentary and incomplete. I can’t help but think that these moments are the result of cut content.
I want to stress that these gripes should not be taken as demands. Sometimes you get reactions from fans that go like this:
In the E3 preview three years ago you showed the protagonist with a red hat and chewing gum, yet there are no red hats in the game and you can’t chew gum. YOU LIED TO US! YOUR GAME IS A FRAUD! YOU OWE US RED HATS AND GUM!”
I believe that games are better if companies can show parts of them to us while they’re in development. The developer can see what gets people excited, what worries them, and what makes them curious. It would be a bad idea to let the audience design the entire game for youThe audience doesn’t care about your budget and will happily demand the moon if you let them., but it’s a really useful source of information and can help you spend your limited development resources more wisely. But part of this deal is that the audience needs to be okay with the idea that things will changeAlthough you still need to make sure you don’t over-promise, as No Man’s Sky illustrates..
Back in the early days of Left 4 Dead, Valve was fairly free in talking about their future plans. They talked about new maps, weapons, and game modes. These comments were off-the-cuff remarks from designers who enjoy thinking out loud. But some people took these comments to be a solemn and binding public oath.
At some point Value realized that they had so much new content and so many disruptive gameplay changes that it made more sense to make a sequel rather than pushing the changes into the original Left 4 Dead. The original game had plenty of bonus content and updates by now, and it was time to make a clean break.
And then fans threw a fit and accused Valve of “lying”, because now they had to buy a sequel instead of getting more free updates.
As a result, Valve got very quiet for future projects. Now the creative people at Valve don’t interact with the public except through prepared, vetted, approved-by-legal statements. That sucks.
The point I’m getting at here is that I don’t feel we’ve been misled by CDPREr, not on any of the things in this article, anyway. The way they handled reviews and the last-gen build of the game was obviously very shady.. It’s fine. I don’t think the company OWES us this stuffThey DO owe us some serious bug fixes, though!. I’m just listing these things because this is an incredibly ambitious game and it’s interesting to think about how much MORE ambitious it was before project management problems drove them into months of delays and crunch.
Anyway, below is my list of cut features. This isn’t comprehensiveLook on YouTube if you want to see TOP X FEATURES CUT FROM CYBERPUNK 2077!. This is just what I personally noticed and found interesting.
Wall Scaling / Wall Running
Back in the pre-release demos, the developers showed us that the player would be able to wall-run and scale walls using arm-blade implants. At the time, I thought this was an incredibly risky feature and I’m not at all surprised to find out it was cut.
In a generic Ubisoft-style open-world game, this kind of stuff probably isn’t a big deal. But in a dialog-heavy story-driven RPG, crazy traversal mechanics can be a nightmare for level designers to deal with.
We need a little dialog exchange to happen when the player reaches the garage in a warehouse. The dialog is supposed to begin the moment they approach the objective vehicle. The player’s friend will make a fuss over how the vehicle looks, so the player will understand that this thing is their goal. Except now it’s possible for the player to hop or glide over the trigger if they happen to be using a fancy movement ability. We can’t count on them standing where we need them to stand, and we can’t count on them looking where we need them to look. We can put in a doorway and force them to walk through it, but now that means we need to somehow put a choke point doorway in the middle of a warehouse. One doorway like this isn’t a problem, but if we have a lot of dialog triggers then it will kill the flow of our level. The player will wonder why we gave them these cool powers to move vertically if they’re going to spend all their time in stupid narrow hallways.
Either that, or we just take the lazy way out and grab their camera for a cutscene every time we need to make sure they stand in the right place and look in the right direction. (Yuck.)
It’s not that you can’t make a dialog-heavy game where the player can get around using unconventional means. It’s just that it makes this already-complicated job that much more complicated.
Train / Subway
Here is another casualty from the pre-release demos. Early videos showed V riding a subway, which then emerged from a tunnel to offer us a spectacular view of the city.
Now, technically you don’t need a subway in this game. You’ve got vehicles for transport, and if you’re in a hurry the game is fairly generous with its fast-travel kiosks spread around the city. The train isn’t needed in a mechanical sense, but it does seem like something they intended to have. Someone went to a lot of trouble to build one for that E3 demo.
Shamus, how do you know they planned to have a train? Maybe the train ride was just for the demo?
In the shipped game, you can see the tracks overhead. Also, there’s a fully-working elevator that will take you up to a train platform. It looks like you could board from here, but when you try to enter the platform it just opens up the fast-travel screen. The only reason to build that elevator and train platform was if they planned to use it. Also, the elevator is a complex object in an already complex area of the city. If they never planned on having us ride the train, then they would not have added this pointless elevator in such a high-detail, high-traffic area. The elevator could have been a simple facade, or even omitted entirely. It’s not like the area would have looked strangely incomplete without it.
As the game exists now, the police “simulation” is an embarrassment. If you break the law, then the police teleport in directly behind you and proceed to start shooting. That makes them pretty dangerous, since you’re instantly being shot in the back by adversaries that far outlevel you. On the other hand, they’re completely incapable of chasing you. You just need to drive a block or two and all is forgotten.
I really appreciate the terrible police system, since it offsets another terrible problem. Sometimes the asset loading can’t keep up and I’ll drive into a low-poly areaLooks like this bug was fixed in a patch last Friday. I don’t run into this anymore.. Objects seem to be missing from the scene and the textures are mud. I’ll slow down in confusion. Then the game finally catches up. The stuff around me finally materializes, and some civilians will appear directly in front of my bumper. So they get run over. The police spawn in, but I just need to drive a couple of blocks to clear that up. If every asset-loading mishap resulted in a full-blown police chase, it would get old fast.
On the other hand, a proper police chase in response to actual player shenanigans would be a lot of fun.
This game does have vehicle chase sequences, but they’re all highly scripted affairs that are part of story missions. These sequences have you leaning out the car window picking off pursuers while one of your allies handles the driving. These sequences are fine by the standards of the genre. Grand Theft Auto does this sort of thing all the time. But the game is unable to create a chase organically.
I’m willing to bet that somewhere in the Cyberpunk 2077 codebase there’s a huge block of chase-sequence code that’s been disabled because it was too buggy to shipAnd considering the state of the rest of the game, that’s saying something!.
Sure, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they always planned to build this massive city at this incredible level of graphical fidelity and then program in a police simulation that’s less sophisticated than the one in the original 1997 version of Grand Theft Auto. It’s possible, but it doesn’t sound likely to me.
Which makes me wonder what the original design was, how far they got with it, and if it might make it into a future patch / DLC.
In the world of Cyberpunk there’s this thing called a “Braindance”. The concept should be pretty familiar to fans of the cyberpunk genre. A Braindance is a recording of someone’s sensory data. You can put on a headset and play back their BD, and it will let you experience everything they did. You’ll see, hear, taste, smell, and feel it all. Obviously this gets used for sex, but there are lots of other uses. They can be used in crime scene investigations and espionage. Sometimes they’re used for other thrilling activities. There are also underground snuff BDs of people being murdered, because apparently some people want to experience that sort of thing. You get the idea.
The story makes a big deal about this. Early in the game there’s an extended tutorial where you try a couple of these. You learn to control the playback, rewind, examine the data for subtle environmental clues that the original user might not have noticed, and so on. The game explains the technology, the business, and has you meet multiple people involved in the creation of BDs. One of them gives you a headset so you can view a BD anywhere you go, instead of needing to come to their porno palace to view them. The whole sequence takes a solid 30 minutes. A third of a movie!
So it feels like BDs are going to be this really important mechanic, like Batman’s detective vision. But then it… isn’t. It crops up a couple of times in future side missions, but never again in the main plot. It’s not nearly as relevant to the story / gameplay as this setup would lead you to believe.
Also, you can walk into stores that sell BDs. But these are “incompatible” with your hardware so you can’t actually play them.
Why allow the player to buy them at all? Elsewhere in the game if you walk up to a shopkeeper that sells things you don’t need, the game will have them greet you without opening up a store interface. If there was a fishing pole salesman in the gameSpoiler: I haven’t found any., he would just ignore you. He wouldn’t open up a sales window where you could purchase a fishing pole you’re not able to use.
So why does the game sell you BDs you can’t view? My guess is that the original design intended for you to actually be able to view these things. Maybe this was a collection minigame, like the booty cards in the original Witcher, or maybe this was just for cheap thrills like picking up prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto V.
I don’t know, but the attention-grabbing introduction and the inexplicably useless BD chips makes me think there was a lot more to this system that was cut.
This next section has spoilers for the prologue. Feel free to skip it.
The Missing Backstabs
While setting up for your first big heist, you have two missions: One has you obtaining a special robot from a gang of nutters, and the other has you meeting with Evelyn Parker for the Braindance introduction I talked about above.
The mission with the gang is full of choices. You can pay for the bot with your own money and walk out without firing a shot. You can refuse to pay and kill the gang leader in negotiations, forcing you to fight through his crew. Before the job you can optionally meet with a corpo, and she’ll give you money you can use to pay for the bot. Or you can start shooting as soon as you get in the door, so instead of killing the boss in dialog you’ll have to face him in a mecha suit at the end. Along the way there’s a hidden option to liberate the previous gang leader they’ve locked in the closet. At the end you can end up spending $10k of your own money, or you can end up $10k richer by keeping the corpo’s money, or you can break even.
That’s a lot of outcomes for such a simple mission!
Meanwhile, the Braindance mission acts like you’re making big choices, but none of them matter. Evelyn Parker asks you to betray Dex, your fixerHe’s basically a talent scout / agent for mercs.. If you refuse, she keeps trying to convince you and you’re given a second chance to accept. Later when you meet with Dex, you’re given the option of revealing Evelyn’s treachery. It feels like you’ve got tons of choices, but literally none of this matters. It never comes up again and the events of the story render the entire exchange moot.
This, along with things that happen to Evelyn after the heist, make me think that these choices were supposed to lead to different outcomes.
During this questline, your best-buddy Jackie shows up with a fancy motorcycle. When you ask him how he got the money, he evades the question. Maybe this was foreshadowing for another backstab that never made the cut.
Once you create your character, you’re done. Once the game has started, you can’t change your look at all. You can’t even get a haircut!
In a world where people can radically alter their appearance at will, it feels really strange to not offer any cosmetic alterations to the player. In other games this would be a “nice to have” feature, but in the world of Cyberpunk it feels really strange to not have it.
Above I said that I don’t think that CDPR owes us any of this stuff, although I do feel like this one ought to appear in a future DLC. Even if we just get the option to change out makeup, tattoos, and hairLetting the player change their gender and body type might break something, since some characters will only romance V if the player is a certain gender. If the player can change at will, then it’s possible to have begun a romantic plot and now be trapped without the recorded dialog to continue it., it would be really nice for all those players who realize they hate their chosen makeup. This is a long game, which means there are dozens of hours for you to experience second thoughts.
Also, I think this would be a boon for people looking to roleplay. I can imagine a Nomad V rolling into town with a beard and mullet, and as the events of the story unfold he goes native by getting a mohawk and tattoos, and covering himself in makeup.
There are two prostitutes in the game. Both are in Japantown, on Jig-Jig street. One is male, the other is female. Either one will bang V regardless of player gender. You just pay some money, and you get a short sex scene with your chosen joytoy.
It’s pretty raunchy, but also totally appropriate for the setting. The only thing I wonder about is the limited choice. I could see a player saying, “I’m into guys, but not THIS guy!” It seems like it ought to be straightforward to have other joytoys available, even if it’s just the same animations and the same filthy hotel room.
The thing is, there are other pairs of prostitutes around the city. It’s the same deal: One male, one female. Both offer you a good time through spontaneous dialog when you walk by, but there’s no interface to respond or accept.
I really suspect these other prostitutes were supposed to be as… interactive as the first two, but got cut for time. In the grand scheme of things, this is probably for the best. I’m sure some players will be unhappy with the current selection of hookers, but this sort of content has got to be pretty far down the priority list.
I guess I’m part of the problem. Even with the bugs and missing features, this is still the best game I’ve played since Prey in 2017. If they came out with another half-baked RPG a year from now, I’d still be there to hand over my $60. This game fulfills my desire for cool conversations with interesting characters, and I haven’t been able to scratch that itch since the death of BioWarePart of my problem is that I am sick to DEATH of medieval fantasy, which is where most RPG come from. I just… I’m so tired of swords and kings and pastoral landscapes. I’d rather play a big dumb shooter than put on another set of stupid chainmail. That’s it. I’m burned out. Done.. So CDPR can release a half-baked game and still count on preorders from folks like me.
Still, the state of this game is crazy. They thought they were going to ship in March 2020. Then it slipped, and slipped, and slipped, all the way to December. And the team had to crunch. And yet despite that massive investment of additional man-hours, it’s obvious a huge amount of stuff was cut near the end.
How bad is their project management? I know it’s really hard to make accurate projections on large complex projects. I get that. But how can you be off by this much? They had nine extra months, more work from the staff, they cut a bunch of content, and they still couldn’t ship the game in an acceptable condition? Why was a March 2020 launch date EVER under consideration?
This needs to change. Not just for the fans, but for the overall health of the studio. I can understand that it’s hard to give firm dates when you’re making ambitious games at a massive scale, but this mess doesn’t do anyone any good. It’s bad for the consumers who feel ripped off, it’s bad for the critics who have to try and review an unstable gameIf there’s a Day 1 patch then you can’t really review the game the players are buying, you’re reviewing some earlier, buggier version., it’s bad for the employees who have to work long hours for months on end, it’s bad for the company name, and it’s bad for the industry as a whole because it further exacerbates the existing animosity between publishers and consumers.
 Actually, I’ve heard there is, but I didn’t find it. In any case, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it in this playthrough.
 The audience doesn’t care about your budget and will happily demand the moon if you let them.
 Although you still need to make sure you don’t over-promise, as No Man’s Sky illustrates.
 Er, not on any of the things in this article, anyway. The way they handled reviews and the last-gen build of the game was obviously very shady.
 They DO owe us some serious bug fixes, though!
 Look on YouTube if you want to see TOP X FEATURES CUT FROM CYBERPUNK 2077!
 Looks like this bug was fixed in a patch last Friday. I don’t run into this anymore.
 And considering the state of the rest of the game, that’s saying something!
 Spoiler: I haven’t found any.
 He’s basically a talent scout / agent for mercs.
 Letting the player change their gender and body type might break something, since some characters will only romance V if the player is a certain gender. If the player can change at will, then it’s possible to have begun a romantic plot and now be trapped without the recorded dialog to continue it.
 Part of my problem is that I am sick to DEATH of medieval fantasy, which is where most RPG come from. I just… I’m so tired of swords and kings and pastoral landscapes. I’d rather play a big dumb shooter than put on another set of stupid chainmail. That’s it. I’m burned out. Done.
 If there’s a Day 1 patch then you can’t really review the game the players are buying, you’re reviewing some earlier, buggier version.
A wild game filled with wild ideas that features fun puzzles and mind-blowing environments. It has a great atmosphere, and one REALLY annoying flaw with its gameplay.
Charging More for a Worse Product
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Even allegedly smart people can make life-changing blunders that seem very, very obvious in retrospect.
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