I have replayed a couple games in my life. Last of Us, God of War, and Mass Effect come to mind. But rarely, even with replays, have I clocked in 126 hours into a single game. With Cyberpunk, I played it twice and this last play through was 89 hours and over twice as long as my original session.
Cyberpunk is an incredible videogame. It sets the benchmark for almost everything it sets out to do. The deep world-building, memorable characters, and top notch voice acting are best in class.
The graphics, sound, and engine optimization set a new standard too. I played the game on a variety of hardware and the presentation is consistently impressive whether on a Steam Deck or with path tracing on a 4090.
It took years of post-launch work to get the game where it is. That said, one stroll through Phantom Liberty’s Dogtown shopping district feels like a glimpse into graphic fidelity future.
I originally played Cyberpunk close to its launch in 2020. I had a great time with it then. The storytelling and characters were the same as they are today. Back then, the combat was loose. Systems were messy. It took heavy compromise for 4k/60 on top of the line hardware. The driving and physics were just as bad. But, the storytelling bones were top-tier and satisfying.
With the release of the Phantom Liberty CD Project Red announced an overhaul to the base game titled 2.0. They revisted a lot of the issues of version 1 including those mentioned above. They did a great job. The reworked talent system has better synergy, the cyberware system has smart limits, and my favorite change, consumables are on a cooldown. No longer can one spam healing items or grenades to make any encounter feel trivial.
I deliberated starting the game over or just jumping right into Phantom Liberty. In the end, I decided to play the whole thing over and I am glad I did. If you decide to hop right into Phantom Liberty, the game pops you out in the Pacifica district at level 15 with a bunch of talent points to spend. It was a bit overwhelming without playing the game for two years. With how Phantom Liberty slots right into the base game, starting fresh makes the entire experience feel whole.
Usually when I am done with a game and the credits roll, everything leaves my brain. I no longer remember characters or plot points or what I did with the last 30 hours. Whats remarkable about Cyberpunk is how I remembered almost everything from before. It’s truly a testiment to the writing.
My first V was female. This time around, I chose male. Both are great but I liked the male voicework more. I also chose a different character history where V starts off as a corpo doing dirty deals for his boss.
The world around Night City is built on corrupt corporations. Most of the population has sold part of themselves, mentally or physically, to survive. Where wars were once fought my governments, governments have now merged with corporations and we are living in the aftermath of the forth corproate world war. As a corpo, I enjoyed starting the game with a peak behind the curtain before setting on a journey to dismantle them and save my soul.
Cyberpunk is filled with endless surprises. I never could guess what would happen next. To talk about the plot would spoil too much. The world is dark, complicated, and rarely comes to a happy ending. What is great however, is how it never holds your hand.
We are used to games overexplaining the world through unnatural character dialouge. Cyberpunk never does this. One of the best compliments to the writing is how it respects player intelligence. It throws you right into the deep end with terminology, people, and places you’ve never heard of. After some time in the city and enough interactions, you start to understand the world around as if you grew up there too.
The characters feel real. They are funny, ambitious, passionate, and flawed. They text and call to see how you’re doing. The main characters have lengthy story lines to complete where sometimes you take care of problems through killing, but often you spend time getting to know eachother. It never feels forced or video-gamey.
The over arching story is powerful. You choose how you want to complete it but the choices you make unfortunately don’t effect the ending too much. The choices you do make feel weight in the moment. I chose a different conclusion with each playthrough, and while I liked my original choices more, both ending felt personal.
The graphics are still a benchmark for all games. It’s especially astonishing considering this is an open-world game. The city is vast and detailed with a large range of verticality and varied environments. The lighting gives the city as much personality as the characters. Vibrant neon signs illuminate and cascade across dabilitated ghettos and ultra expensive corpo shopping districts.
My only graphic crisitism is how on the graphic design. There is a limited amount of signage and everything is too over the top and over used. The same goes for recording you would hear over radios or on broadcasts. I am not sure how many signs I saw for Watson whore but its a stark contrast to a game like Grand Theft Auto where the graphic design is both satirical but grounded.
The animations and character details are on a level never attempted before. The first person camera lends itself well to witnessing everything up close. The combination of expressive writing and facial animations gives immersive weight to every encounter.
The sound is top notch too. Whether on headphones, laptop speakers, or a full home theather system, the mastering and dynamic range is fantastic. Little blips, the noise of your scanner, and gun shots sound great. The voice recording is worth noting too. There is tons of neat little effects like a slightly different sound when talking internally in your head, over a phone, or indoors. The high bit rate and crispy vocals sound so good.
The actual game play of Cyberpunk doesn’t live up to everything around it’s edges.
The combat has improved a lot. My first playthrough I went for a FPS shooter “reflex” build. Shooting combined with spammable healing consumables made the game feel trivially easy on “Very Hard” setting.
For my second playthrough, I chose the hacking/magic route with cooldown based abilities. Shooting and good aim was still relevant and the game felt better overall. I read they improved enemy A.I. in the 2.0 patch. I can’t say enemies felt smarter or on the level of something like The Last of US, but they felt serviceable.
Abilities have good synergy and the overall flow was fun. One common intro to an encounter would have me putting on a weak DOT on an enemy that would spread to those around him. I could then que up a more powerful DOT that would cause the first to explode. The accompnying graphic and sound effects would making a satisfying pop as their cybernetic implanted-heads explode.
The shooting feels good and there are a ton of guns and gun-types. Aiming is responsive although deadzone and stick linearity felt much better on Dualsense than an Xbox controller. That said, Dualsense, even today,sadly doesn’t feature rumble of any sort. I played a bit with keyboard and mouse but a game as long and dialouge driven as this, couch comfort reigns supreme.
I love Cyberpunk. I can still remember every character name and plotline. The setpeices were big and dramatic. I completed almost every side quest because I actually wanted to. The cars look cool but the driving physics suck. The city makes up for it. I have 126 hours under my belt, I saw the credits roll twice, uninstalled the game, and I genuninley miss it.
- Desktop RTX 4090 + 7800X3D
- Mobile RTX 4090 + i9-13900H
- Steam Deck
Difficulty: Very Hard
Playtime: 126 Hours Total, 86.9 Current Playthrough