Disclaimer: This review has been updated to include our verdict based on the initial 1.04 hotfix update for Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox One, and also now includes a score to represent that version of the game.
We're not sure we've ever before played through a fully released AAA title while constantly thinking to ourselves "this is going to be quite something when they actually get it finished" - at least not to the extent we've found ourselves doing so with the spluttery, stuttery console version of CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077. This game is one hot mess of bugs, glitches, shoddy AI and jank at launch and so far, and after now having now spent a good deal of time with the latest 1.04 hotfix, it’s not a situation showing any sign of improvement. There are serious problems here and they’re problems that are very obviously going to take a long while to fully resolve.
In the meantime, what we've got here as things stand is still, in a number of ways, a towering achievement on the part of its developer. There's an enormous, intricately detailed future-metropolis to explore in Cyberpunk 2077, an awe-inspiring backdrop to a solid main campaign that's jam-packed full of intrigue, excitement and a cast of genuinely interesting characters. There's some top-notch writing here, for sure, and it's coupled with excellent voice-acting and exquisitely detailed facial animations that do so much to sell the drama during the many long conversations you'll have with the friends and enemies you meet during your time in Night City. Things can be a little too puerile from time to time - this is a world that's got a pretty juvenile fixation with studded dildos, sex shops and smutty patter - but on the whole the sci-fi story delivers a tale that'll keep you gripped to the very end.
Zooming around the rain-soaked streets of this sprawling, seething metropolis in one of the game's many exquisitely detailed future-cars, flooring the accelerator of your motorbike as you emerge out of the darkness of a tunnel into the startling, sun-drenched desert wastelands that surround the city, is where Cyberpunk 2077 feels most like the game we dreamed it would be. There's so much detail at every turn here, so much meticulous artistry on display, that it's impossible not to be completely and absolutely sucked into the events at hand - or at least it would be if almost everything that CD Projekt Red has excelled at with this one wasn't constantly undermined by incessant technical woes.
We've heard about the dire condition of the base PS4 and Xbox versions of this game - a version that's been dealt with in a blatantly underhanded fashion by a developer very obviously aware of its glaring issues - and even on next-gen hardware there are a ton of problems to contend with if you're considering jumping in at this early stage. Our playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077 on Series X saw us forced to reload our game countless times in order to solve a myriad of issues that, at their most egregious, involved completely broken missions, a malfunctioning inventory screen that refused to let us change clothes or weapons, bugged out conversations, missing audio and disappearing vehicles. In the main campaign quests things seem to hold together more reliably but getting out into the wilds, exploring and taking on side quests here can see a multitude of bugs begin crawl out of the woodwork.
This is a game where jobs you decide to undertake will randomly start and stop of their own accord, your mapped route switching to some other side job or activity as and when it sees fit, where multiple conversations play out over the top of each other constantly, where your phone rings incessantly and then answers itself, often during critical campaign moments. Character models walk through one another, body parts disappear, items of clothing glitch around the screen obscuring your vision, there are long pauses as you drive across invisible boundaries into some other part of town, weapons disappear from your inventory, your vehicle won't respond to your calling it...the bugs are truly endless and they are pretty much constant.
On Series X, Cyberpunk 2077 is capable of looking truly astounding at times, especially when you choose to run in Quality Mode at 30FPS, but it's also loaded full of blurry textures and graphical anomalies, very often looking like something from a good few years back on last gen consoles. The level of actual interaction available as you wander the streets of Night City is also something of a disappointment with a handful of vendors the only real way in which you can interact with your surroundings. In relation to this, we're also pretty bewildered by the lack of aesthetic customisation options available from shops here. Where are all the tattoo parlours? Why can't we get a flipping haircut? Where are the car garages and why can't we pimp our rides?
This is an aspect of Cyberpunk 2077 that continues to bug in RPG elements that generally feel undercooked. The character creation suite is lacklustre - yes you can add a willy or vagina or choose to have no genitals, very good - but the actual level of overall customisation feels lacking. You can also choose one of three backstories that seemingly affect the conversational choices you can make during the game but honestly, beyond the opening act, we're just not sure how much of a difference any of this really makes and, in fact, it seems only one late game mission decides which of the endings you’ll get to see come the end of your adventure.
Quite tellingly, we never felt like returning to our house in Night City, never felt like immersing ourselves completely in our avatar in the way you might do in other RPGs – in the way the game’s TV advertising suggests you will - because it just doesn't feel like that sort of game. It's all rather hollow and empty on closer inspection, and so you're kept busy, distracted, constantly bombarded with side missions from your phone that never stops ringing and the whole thing - outside of the excellent core narrative holding it all together - feels disjointed, haphazard and messy.
Beyond all of the now widely reported bugs and issues there are also real problems here with regards to the game's NPC behaviour and enemy AI. For as much as Night City is an astonishing sight to behold, for as much as it has the power to suck you in on an aesthetic level, it's also populated by dullard citizens who either don't respond to your presence at all or, when prompted, deliver lines of dialogue that have nothing to do with what's currently taking place. Sit and watch them for a while and you'll observe how they mill around in circles and bash and bump into each other and even straight up just vanish. You'll also notice far too many re-used assets, with identical character models often found walking side by side - a far cry from what we had hoped - and heard - would be delivered by the game's developer.
In combat the AI also proves to be somewhat disappointing. Enemies are initially quite exciting to face off against, and Cyberpunk 2077 certainly gives you plenty of ways in which to toy around with them, however they soon reveal themselves to be pretty dumb, lacking in variety, easy to shake off and, once you level up a little, just far too simple to dispose of. Indeed, as we proceeded to unlock more and more of V's cybernetic implants, giving ourselves access to a host of ways with which to befuddle and confuse our foes, the game - on normal difficulty at least - presented little to no challenge in its face-offs. Even a handful of late game boss battles, sequences which should have been big, dramatic engagements, were a doddle to blast through by simply mashing attack and hacking our enemy to pieces with our super-charged arm blades. We actually beat one of the game's main late-stage bosses with nothing more than a nightstick and a lot of running around in circles.
This isn't to say the core combat's not enjoyable - there's a ton of ways to approach and infiltrate enemy territory and V's hacking abilities make stealthing your way through missions a blast for the most part - it's just that the AI feels like its lacking a lot of the time, it's just another element of the game that feels surprisingly unpolished. It's a shame because there are some incredibly well conceived main and side missions here that set you up for thrilling encounters but then end up disappointing because you just mill through all of your foes, one-shotting giant tank turrets and slicing soldiers to ribbons by simply running around and mashing attack.
The jankiness here also extends itself to Cyberpunk 2077's driving mechanics. AI cars have absolutely zero awareness as things stand right now and the cars you yourself pilot feel unsatisfyingly weightless and twitchy, minimal contact with other vehicles or scenery often resulting in massively exaggerated losses of control. On motorbikes things fare better, and taking it slowly in cars makes the problem less of an issue, but it's yet another aspect of the game that feels strangely shoddy and unrefined. It also doesn't help that - on console at least - roads are at times almost completely devoid of traffic, other vehicles materialise and dematerialise in front of you, vehicle models can be seen to be 2D from a distance and those great big stutters as you cross into new parts of town cause the entire game to freeze for up to ten seconds at a time...it's a constant litany of technical issues that whittle you down and make the whole thing feel like a bit of a struggle.
We also found ourselves feeling somewhat disappointed with the progression, loot and weapons systems here. There’s a ton of loot, guns and clothing to pick up as you make your way around Night City but none of it feels essential or important beyond an aesthetic level. There are the expected tiers of rarity with common and legendary gear vying for a place in your inventory but honestly, going into battle here – and this is a problem mainly caused by that lacklustre AI – it just doesn’t feel like it matters what gun you’re packing, one will do as well as another because the foes you’re facing aren’t tactically aware enough to make it count. Perks do have their highlights, we loved unlocking the gorilla arms, super-charged jump and arm blades but, as you continue up the chain, things become strangely boring, just doling out minor percentage gains to elements of combat you likely won’t ever really notice or care about because the game doesn’t present a challenge that makes you need to.
We could go on and on here really, talk about that horribly busy world map, the magic teleporting police, the rather meaningless weapon stats, the enemy awareness icons that disappear at random, the buggy HDR settings that entirely disappeared from our in-game menu at one point, or the handful of missions that we completed only be told later that we hadn't but, and at the end of the day, it's much simpler to say that Cyberpunk 2077 just feels like it needs far more time in the oven on console. Our biggest worry in this regard, however, is that bugs can be fixed, performance can be improved, but some of the deeper problems, such as the lack of opportunities for interaction with the world, janky driving mechanics and questionable AI, are going to be issues that are much harder to resolve.
There's a fascinating narrative at the core of this game, an astonishing setting, some amazing characters to meet and plenty of fun still to be had if you've got the stomach to put up with the constant jank, bugs and performance issues that await you at this point in the game's journey. We genuinely look forward to returning to Night City once it's been patched and upgraded, we're sure CD Projekt Red has every intention of fixing things - even if they haven't exactly been honest about various aspects of this release thus far - but for now it is what it is and it has to be scored as such. Would we happily recommend this game to a friend in the state it’s in just now? No. There’s just too much weighing it down as things stand, problems that turn what should be a fantastic experience into a rather grating and disappointing one that’s left us feeling slightly bewildered for all the wrong reasons.
Cyberpunk 2077, in its current form on consoles, is a hard game to recommend getting involved with. There's a strong narrative here, brilliantly written characters, some excellent side missions, fun combat and an astonishing setting but, as things stand right now, it's an experience that's in need of some serious TLC. The Series X backwards compatible version may well perform better than the frankly shocking last-gen console efforts but this is a game that we had constant problems with, one that doesn't feel or play like a fully finished product and one that is truly quite hard to recommend in its current incarnation.