Best of 2022: Cyberpunk 2077’s Redemption Arc is a stunning return to CD Projekt Red’s model

It’s December 2020, and Cyberpunk 2077 is about to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Cyberpunk 2077 hit store shelves eight years after it was first announced, and it had all the momentum in the world to help it end the year in huge style. With developer CD Projekt Red garnering plenty of goodwill from its work on The Witcher trilogy, the idea of ​​a studio working on a cult classic IP combined with a Keanu Reeves-stealing E3 moment turns up in one of its most-anticipated game debuts. all times.

Come launch day, it was a different story. While PC reviews mostly praised the game, it came with a giant asterisk visible from orbit as Cyberpunk 2077 was crawling with bugs, devastating glitches, and a world that felt half-baked at best. Cool game features previously shown in the trailers, such as using wall running to get an acrobatic drop on enemies, were missing from the final version.

Console gamers bore the brunt of Cyberpunk 2077’s flaws, as the game was barely playable on last-gen PS4 and Xbox Ones, while on PS5 and Xbox Series X | S newly launched deal with a lot of problems.

If you’ve been following the game, you’ve likely seen stories detailing a range of issues plaguing the game, from Night City’s randomly broken neon streets and faceless NPCs, to broken missions, and the odd car falling out of the sky. It got worse for CDPR as its reputation was battered at the time, which led to an unprecedented move by Sony and Microsoft to not only offer refunds to consumers, but to keep Cyberpunk 2077 off their digital store shelves for the next several years. months.

While Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t the first high-profile game to reach a less-than-ideal state (Fallout 76 is a notable example here), years of patience, hype, and amazing previews have sent anyone’s spirits back to reality. who was excited about the opportunity to play a rebel in a dark future. The elevator pitch for Cyberpunk 2077 was solid escapism pure and simple, but the reality of the game was a bubble of depression for a number of reasons, as stories of crisis culture and behind-the-scenes drama will be announced in the weeks. to come.

Since those turbulent days, though, Cyberpunk 2077 has become an entirely different beast that feels much more representative of CDPR’s original vision. It’s not perfect—one recent session saw my prized motorcycle go into orbit after hitting a cobblestone in the road—but frequent updates have vastly improved the experience. When Cyberpunk 2077 mistakes happen, they’re now something to laugh about instead of shaking your fists.

It is, of course, an example of a studio patch that worked hard behind the scenes to not only fix the game but to create a product that has the potential to become a classic and proud part of its history. CDPR’s initial moves saw massive bandwidth-busting patches released in the wake of Cyberpunk 2077’s launch, while paid expansion plans were put on hold until the game could be improved. For example, the March 2021 update 1.2 disassembled the entire game for its most important overhaul at the time, improving the experience on a grand scale and micro scale with hundreds of tweaks and substantial changes.

This update wasn’t a cure-all for Cyberpunk 2077 and its constant bugs, but it was a huge leap forward compared to the game’s initial launch day release. Dragon Age: Inquisition Design Director Gabriel Amatangelo joined CD Projekt in 2020 and was promoted from Cyberpunk 2077 Creative Director to Game Director as the game began drawing a dedicated crowd of players. CD Projekt was undergoing an ambitious makeover behind the scenes as it began developing multiple AAA games simultaneously.

Reports of crunch culture were damaging to CD Projekt Red’s reputation, with the company being blamed for breaking its promise to provide “more humane” working conditions during the game’s development. Co-CEO Marcin Iwinski told investors after the September 2020 delay of Cyberpunk 2077 that reports of a crisis in the game’s development “were not that bad,” but he later had to retract and apologize for those comments to the CDPR team.

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The director of the upcoming Witcher game, Jason Slama, later tried to play down concerns about mandatory crunch practices. “I have never been so prepared,” Salameh said in response to a tweet regarding CDPR’s dismal track record when it comes to crisis, promising better conditions for those appointed to work on the new title. CD Projekt Red has made an effort to change workplace culture since the launch of Cyberpunk 2077, with a 2021 strategy update saying that the studio is “working hard to reduce stress, prevent burnout, and give our employees everything they need to focus on working with a totally positive mindset.”

It remains to be seen how effective these policy changes will be in the face of many ongoing projects, as CDPR still has fresh memories of the disastrous Cyberpunk 2077 launch that left many fans disappointed in the company after they purchased a broken game on day one.

With the game’s foundation secured, the Cyberpunk 2077 development team has begun working to patch any remaining cracks. The return to the PlayStation Store saw positive download numbers, more core patches, and plenty of free content to entice players. It’s taken a year to get to this point, and the best is yet to come.

All of this behind-the-scenes technical work has put Cyberpunk 2077 back in combat form, with the February 2022 Update for Next-Gen 1.5 marking a seismic shift for the game in terms of stability, performance, and power over the existing PS5 and Xbox Series X | S Consoles Not just a tech upgrade, this was the update that reset the Cyberpunk experience with new cyber mods, smarter enemy intelligence, improved romance options, and revised driving controls.

Update 1.5 was the shot in the arm the game needed to get past its turbulent launch-day history, but arguably Cyberpunk 2077’s biggest moment came from the debut of an anime spin-off that helped bring it back to the mainstream map. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, a beautifully animated show produced by Kill la Kill’s Studio Trigger and released on Netflix in late 2022, has helped bring millions of people back to Night City with quality production values.

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With the sharpest animation from a new pair of Mantis blades, great dub voice acting, and the best use of Franz Ferdinand since “Take Me Out” became a ubiquitous track on the billboards of 2004, Edgerunners helped turn the fortunes of Cyberpunk 2077 around. CDPR also struck while the cyber iron was hot, revealing a final major patch that added a few Edgerunners easter eggs for fans to discover.

All of these changes helped transform the fabric of Night City, making the urban sprawl feel exciting to explore rather than run like a broken Matrix simulation. A wildly ambitious game, Cyberpunk 2077 lives up to its fantasy art ideals with engaging storytelling, deep levels of customization, and the freedom to become a legend on your own terms.

In its current form, Cyberpunk 2077 is a thrill ride, a world in which you forge your own legend while listening to Keanu Reeves chew through all the scenes available as Johnny Silverhand, arguably his best role since Always Be My Maybe. Night City is a hell of corpse-maddening bandits and corrupt politicians, an incredible sandbox with a new story around every corner and gameplay flexibility that lets you hack your way to victory in a digital and gruesome way.

Eight years in development and two years of post-launch support, Cyberpunk 2077’s successes outweigh its failures. It has the cool factor few games can equal – a bleak, dark aesthetic where neon lights slowly bleed into a world positively transformed by a Netflix boost and gamers ready to take a second chance at CDPR’s grand vision of the IP. It couldn’t be easy for a studio to watch the hype train derail and be savaged on an industry-defining scale, but CDPR rolled with the punches, nailed down Cyberpunk 2077’s most problematic issues, and kept working on creating one. One of the coolest sandboxes to ever appear on PC or console.

From controversy to critical acclaim, Cyberpunk 2077 in its current form isn’t just the game fans were expecting in 2020; It’s a better-realized showcase of some of CDPR’s stellar talents for storytelling, surprisingly tender moments, and bouncy action with deep layers of customization that mirror your Night City character’s approach to problem-solving. It remains to be seen how effective CDPR will be in avoiding severe and error-ridden launches in the future. But on paper, the future looks bright, as The Phantom Liberty expansion will introduce players to a new side of Night City – with Idris Elba along for the ride – and a full sequel is in the early stages of development.

The products discussed here were selected independently by our editors. GameSpot may receive a share of the revenue if you purchase anything featured on our site.

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