Cyberpunk 2077 Review: Never Fade Away?

Cyberpunk 2077 came out a while ago, and I’ve had time to play through something like 90% of the game’s content. It’s an interesting game to review because it wears a bunch of hats.

My initial impression of 2077 was that it was stuck between two worlds; the current generation of video games and the next generation. Running on my PC, the graphics are excellent, and I’m running on a GTX 1080-sporting rig that’s inferior to the next-gen consoles and sometimes competes unfavorably with even the PS4 and Xbox of previous generations.

Stability and Bugs

Cyberpunk 2077 is not polished.

Stability was a major issue, though a patch a couple days after release saw major improvements. Despite having a dozen crashes to desktop, and a couple times I had to reload a save because of glitches, the patched experience was tolerable.

Cyberpunk seems to attempt to autosave right before a crash, so the interruption was usually minimal. I’d say this happened for about 85% of my crashes, and after the patch I was never afraid that I’d crash or encounter a game-stopping bug and lose progress.

To be fair, part of this is that the branching stories meant that some small losses of progress were opportunities to try different approaches, something critical when the game locks you out of saving during dialogue (which is frequent).

With that said, there are plenty of bugs. For a game that feels like I wanted the recent Deus Ex titles to feel in terms of verticality, the physics are seriously questionable. At one point, V got tripped by a drone while walking down some stairs and literally died. Getting stuck in place while trying to navigate tight spaces was a repeat offender and the number one non-death reason for me to load a save.

It’s something I’d tolerate without comment in Skyrim, where I’d use the console commands to toggle collision and go about my day.

Vehicles are similar victims of physics. Though I never had a save-loading incident with vehicle physics, it’s clear the engine doesn’t like fast-moving objects colliding with each other.

And the cosmetic issues are pretty common, though some of this seems to be a function of FOV and my anemic system. When I was playing on GeForce Now, the game seemed to have far fewer issues, suggesting that lower end hardware may be partly to blame.

With that said, I feel compelled to mention the technical difficulties because I otherwise love Cyberpunk. They were not major issues for me as a player, but I know I have a high tolerance for stuff. I never had a moment ruined by bugs; they occurred mostly in the open world sequences and rarely went beyond a momentary frustration.

World and Story

CDPR has a reputation for building living worlds and great stories.

2077 largely succeeds on this point. I’ve seen complaints about how living the world feels, and it’s definitely true that in a gameplay sense there are definite issues with how NPC crowds work. NCPD officers teleport in when V looks away. Only a handful of buildings have interiors, usually ones with some story role.

But I don’t think these are major issues.


Every part of Night City has its own flavor. You feel different in the different parts of the game world, even if the changes are subtle. Different cars on the street, different fashion, different radio stations. Even going between built-up urban centers and the sprawling outskirts of Night City feels like a major change.

The story, likewise, has its own flavor. There are dozens of memorable quest-lines, though I won’t spoil anything here. The romance partners all offer major quests, even if they’re not interested in the player’s customized V, and I found them all highly engaging.

Further, the side-quests are great. They’re divided into gigs, which often have a surprising level of depth, and more story-oriented side jobs.

Gigs can basically be excuses for gunplay, but the side jobs all feature interesting characters. I’d be interested in seeing just how many different ways the stories can unfold.

The main storyline is good, though I feel like I need to put an asterisk in there.

All the emotional beats of the main thread of the story land strong. There are a couple places where individual lines of dialogue felt like they were referencing things or taking a tone that didn’t fit what had happened, but the actual story itself progressed logically.

The endings are where the problems come. While the unsatisfying endings are clearly foreshadowed, they definitely feel like a lot of decisions are unfolding outside your control. Sometimes the storytelling elements (e.g. camera cuts, in one case) feel overwrought and ham-fisted. Other times V just does things that I as a player wouldn’t do. Previous decisions theoretically lead in that direction, but things that are supposed to feel hardcore and cool feel like the last thing I would’ve done.

Or, in short: V doesn’t get the same connection to the world you do, and the post-finale actions they take aren’t really up to you, though the finale itself is. As a result, the game seems scripted to distance V from everyone not directly involved in the path the player chooses, even if the player wouldn’t.


Barring a little open world fatigue, I have zero complaints about the gameplay in 2077.

In fact, I’d actually say that the gameplay is one of the best parts of a game that has some real shining gems in other areas.

While it’s not really dedicated to letting you play a nonlethal and stealth approach to everything, Cyberpunk gives lots of options. Attribute and perk points make your chosen path much superior to the alternatives, so specialization definitely gets locked in at a certain point.

However, the organically leveling skills and honestly superb gunplay feel like innovations. Almost every major RPG or FPS seems to have played a positive role in the development of Cyberpunk’s gameplay.

Movement is fluid to where I’d often parkour instead of driving. Gunplay feels smooth. The guns themselves seem to be arbitrarily anemic for the first bit of the game, but by the second hour of gameplay I didn’t notice any issues with pulling the trigger and waiting for bars to deplete versus feeling like I was in a gunfight.

Quickhacks feel like the best part of EA’s failed Syndicate reboot, where you can do nasty things to your adversaries in lieu of or as a complement to gunfire and melee attacks.

I didn’t use melee combat much, but I enjoyed it when I did. Combined with the smooth movement and stealth mechanics, bonking enemies with a gold-plated baseball bat is an actual strategy.

Plus, picking up an HMG or special weapon feels like a real power trip. At one point I gained an anti-tank rifle with exploding rounds. Disassembling enemies from a city block away, even without investing many perk points into the rifle tree, was a marvelous experience.

Also, that V’s phone lets you call fixers and contacts without going to them directly is a welcome break from the usual side-quest backtrack. I think this can be a source of some frustration when you don’t get to have the personal face-to-face like Geralt would in The Witcher, but overall it’s a plus.


I mentioned GeForce Now earlier, because on a high-end system 2077 is absolutely beautiful. I played just a couple segments on Nvidia’s streaming service, but what I played was a phenomenal experience.
GeForce Now brings the Cyberpunk experience to life.

I’d roughly sum up my experience with the graphics by saying that on a moderate system the graphics are at average or above average quality. The fidelity is something that you’d expect from the coming generation if you leave out emerging technologies like ray-tracing and accelerated up-scaling that permit some neat tricks.
But even on a system with a GTX 1080 the game is still tremendous.

The one caveat that I’d add is that sometimes Cyberpunk pops and sometimes it doesn’t.

There are definite distinctions between the best and worst looking parts of Night City, and I’m not just talking about aesthetics.

Only technical issues might cause a noticeable quality decrease on the textures and models side, but the aesthetics and views just differ greatly.

The badlands outside Night City are an example of this, as is the night/day cycle. Daytime Cyberpunk can be beautiful, but there are times and places where it stands out better than others.

Some of this is just a natural consequence, sure. There’s something about rain at dusk that is perfect on-brand cyberpunk. It’s not the same as driving through the city on a clear day. I felt like all the story missions looked better than the open world gameplay, and this wasn’t because of any technical wizardry. It was just that they scripted the times and places to give the right feel.

With that said, the graphics for action are tremendous. Gunfire and smoke feel right. Dark places shine in particular, making stealth sections feel great.

And there’s perfect aesthetics almost everywhere. The outskirts of Night City could stand something of an overhaul (Mad Max proved this is possible!), but even there the scripted sequences shine. Arasaka corporate buildings, high-end clothing shops, urban sprawl, and even underwater areas feel right, though there isn’t much submerged action in the game to show them off.


The soundtrack for Cyberpunk 2077 is astonishing. I started listening to the excerpts of the soundtrack that released before the game, and since then I’ve been listening to the OST both in and out of game.

I don’t care as much for the radio, but that’s a matter of taste. It seems odd that a cyberpunk game wouldn’t embrace at least one synthwave station, but I preferred the radios as ambience through the world rather than accompaniment to driving around Night City.

And the sound really makes Night City come alive. It’s got the tailored feeling of a game, not real sound of a city with all the cacophony you might expect, but it’s got the right cues to place you in the scene.

Combat feels good, too. Vehicles sound right. It’s not something I’m usually particularly aware of unless it goes wrong, so I’ll cut this section short.


The technical issues didn’t bother me as I played through 2077.

The UI did.

There are lots of little nit-picky things. While aesthetically pleasing, the UI is often not particularly functional.

The inventory has some notable issues. I had issues previewing weapon stats, which would require me to open up the crafting menu to get full details on items. Sometimes deconstructing items wouldn’t result in a UI update. Weapon and armor mod effects were often not clear.

With that said, the basic functionality was intuitive, if limited in terms of usability as one plays through the game a lot.

Crafting is the biggest pain. Both making things (welcome to rare upgrade module crafting) and disassembling things suck. The lack of a batch function for crafting is notable, while the disassembly of lots of single items takes longer than it should, especially with the UI not being fully responsive all the time.

The UI sounds are tolerable, though by 50-60 hours they outstay their welcome.


Cyberpunk 2077 gets a solid 9/10 and change from me, and the remaining progress to a 10/10 is a fairly easy grab if future patches and free DLC deliver.

My number one complaint was that it was often over without closure. Once you complete a side-quest line, there’s no change in the world, no lasting relationship. By the end of the game I felt like V was alone in the world; calls went to voice-mail, I could walk through NPCs’ houses and apartments without seeing them, and the world became a ghost town stripped of places to interact.

Some of that was because I put every hostile NPC in Night City in early retirement, but it was still an eerie feeling. I rarely feel like random encounters improve an experience, but I would’ve given money to get jumped by scavs or stopped by a pleading NPC as the exclamation mark map points disappeared.

Finally Reviewing the Samsung HMD Odyssey

Samsung HMD promotional image courtesy of Amazon (affiliate link).

Alright, I’ve been using my VR headset for months now, so it’s time to review the Samsung HMD Odyssey.

This is something that was an incredibly expensive “impulse” purchase for me, in the sense that I was planning to eventually get a VR headset, and I’d been saving up money for one, but I basically tried it out in the store and then knew I had to have it.

First things first, you need to understand where Windows Mixed Reality stands on the VR Headset market.

What is Windows Mixed Reality?

Windows Mixed Reality is basically what you would call a VR headset.

The Mixed Reality term is something of a misnomer; the system doesn’t support any AR or MR features, like interacting simultaneously with physical and digital objects. The outward cameras are apparently IR-only, though I haven’t heard much about this or checked it out myself, so don’t expect further support in a software update.

The Windows Mixed Reality platform works well on Windows, obviously. There are some third-party open source systems that claim to have some support for them, but the only experience I have is with OpenVR, which only works with WMR on Windows through the Mixed Reality Portal, which is a native Windows application.

However, once you have a WMR headset, you will find that 90% of the VR software out there is compatible with it. I haven’t had any issues with abject incompatibility, and while many experiences are designed with the outside-in tracking rather than the inside-out tracking of WMR that won’t be too much of an issue.

Inside-Out Tracking

The selling feature of WMR for me is that it has inside-out tracking. This can create a handful of issues (for instance, I find it hard to get height scaling correct at times), but it also means a vastly reduced setup and the ability to play in any environment.

I literally just push my chair back from my desk when I’m ready to use the headset, and then back up to it so that I have a frame of reference so I don’t start punching furniture.

This means that there aren’t any cables or battery-powered equipment required other than the headset and motion controllers. Low setup, low maintenance, and low clutter are the selling points of the WMR setup.

I have occasionally experienced some minor hiccups with tracking, but it’s not usually significant. The tracking FOV is pretty good, and you usually can figure out what went wrong and fix how you’re holding the controllers once you’ve spent as much time in VR as I have, which is not an astronomical amount of time.

An important note here is that not every VR device has the same controller, but the WMR controllers are pretty robust, with trackpads (that have touch sensitivity and d-pad style pressing functionality), thumbsticks (that click in), menu and grip buttons, triggers, and a Windows button, they really are as functional as a gamepad with the extra feature of motion tracking to add icing to the cake.

Why Samsung?

Well, I’m a little brand loyal to Samsung. I can’t really afford many Samsung products, or at least not cutting-edge ones, but I’ve always had good experiences with them.

However, the real selling point on the Samsung HMD Odyssey is that it’s got a little bit more cutting-edge technology in it than some of its competitors. This is marked by a higher price-tag, but it is made up for in a couple ways.

First, there’s a higher FOV and vertical resolution, which pays off. The 110 degree FOV is nice, though I don’t have experience with other headsets for a comparison. You’ve got about 160 more pixels of vertical resolution (1440×1600 panels), with AMOLED rather than LCD displays.

Let me just say this: looking through the lenses, the only obvious difference between reality and VR comes from how stuff is rendered and the occasional grid effect, which only happens when you’re really focused on certain things (I find it to matter only in rare cases where I’m closely examining distant objects).

Another feature is the integrated headphones and microphone. These weren’t necessarily deal-breakers, but certainly set Samsung apart from the other WMR headsets.

It’s worth noting that the headset is a little heavy. If you strap it down right, a lot of the weight balances well, but wearing it too loose will cause issues, something that I often encountered during play sessions when it was pushing 85 degrees in the room.

My Experiences

One of the things that I noticed about myself when I play in VR versus outside VR is that the experiences are a lot more personal. One of my favorite VR experiences is Skyrim VR, and it definitely feels more frenetic and emotionally charged than standard play (and I’ve got over 400 hours to compare to). Archery and gun-play cannot be approximated by traditional control schemes, but are really fun with motion controllers.

I haven’t really tried any of the VR setups that are intended for mouse and keyboard or gamepad play. I’m strictly using motion controller-based titles.

The motion controllers are pretty nice; I have some issues with the battery hatch coming loose on the right controller from time-to-time, but I also have large hands and tend to mash my grip down really hard, which means that I’m essentially pushing on them in exactly the way you’d want to open them. It’s not a huge issue, and being conscious of my posture when I hold the controllers mitigates this. Every game has a slightly different control scheme, which is a pain, but not insurmountable.

I’ve generally found that many of the “issues” with VR can be overcome if you’re willing to invest a little time in it.

Motion sickness, for instance, was an early issue. After a few hours, however, I found that it went away in 90% of cases. I also keep a physical frame of reference (the seat of my chair) and a fan blowing toward me, which helps as well. I’ve found that with this setup I don’t even need comfort settings in many games.

I did have an issue where one of the lenses of my display cut out while I was playing. Samsung was pretty easy to deal with and I was able to send it off for service and have it back in about a week (service was covered under warranty).

Wrapping Up

In general, do I recommend a VR headset?

Definitely. Maybe not yet; $500 is a little steep, but if you want a much more immersive experience and you’re going to use the headset a lot, then I think it could be a good investment.

The Samsung Odyssey has been treating me really well. Barring that one incident I described above, it’s functioned flawlessly. I use rechargeable batteries in the motion controllers (affiliate link), which reduces the cost of operating the system a little over the long run. Each charge lasts for about a week or two of fairly “heavy” use for me, or a month or so if I’m using the headset very intermittently (like, say, during July when it was too hot to wear the headset).

As far as the different options go, I wholeheartedly recommend the Samsung offering, which is available at Amazon (affiliate link). When I got mine, I got it from a Microsoft store physical location and got a 10% educator discount, but if you’re not getting it in person I would strongly suggest Amazon; I haven’t had a bad experience with the Microsoft store online, but I don’t trust their shipping quite as much as I trust Amazon’s.

Audioshield and VR Design Experiences

I got Audioshield on sale, and I was pleasantly surprised by how different it was from the other VR experiences I’ve tried. I’m generally quite pleased with VR in general, but I noticed a few things that really stood out about how Audioshield was using its design in a much more efficient and smooth method than other games.

Continue reading “Audioshield and VR Design Experiences”

Into the Breach Review & The Joys of Simple Combat

I got Into the Breach today. It’s a tactical strategy game with roleplaying/roguelite elements. I figured that it would be an especially good case study after yesterday’s article on designing combat systems for games, and I was not disappointed.

The whole game is quite charming, as one would expect from a title from the FTL developers, though I think I enjoy it more than I enjoyed FTL (which I loved certain elements of, but didn’t particularly find replayable or mind-blowing, merely competent and well-designed).

Continue reading “Into the Breach Review & The Joys of Simple Combat”

Review: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is an action-adventure game set in Middle Earth, which is most famous from the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit. As far as game inspirations go, it is most clearly inspired by Assassin’s Creed and the Batman: Arkham series of games, which it manages to blend together with a mix of the former’s intriguing stealth and the latter’s brawling fisticuffs, and add some of its own twists to the mix.

Continue reading “Review: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor”

Thursday Review: Loadout

Loadout is perhaps the most over-the-top puerile game I’ve ever played. And it’s amazing. It’s not necessarily great, but I truly enjoyed it from the very get-go, and its crude charm wins a lot of points when combined with a surprisingly good community and solid objective-based gameplay. Continue reading “Thursday Review: Loadout”

Thursday Review: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier

I’m perhaps not the most impartial judge of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. I’ve always enjoyed Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy games, but there’s always been something about each of them that just drives me up a wall. Fortunately, Future Soldier did its best to make me question my long standing love of Tom Clancy video games, and convinced me that sticking with the classics is really the way to go after all. Continue reading “Thursday Review: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier”

Thursday Review: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PC!)

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is a far cry from most of the Metal Gear games that people know about. While it retains some of the over-the-top elements of Metal Gear, it is happy to add its own assortment of craziness and spectacle to the mix, leaving behind all but the vestiges of stealth. Continue reading “Thursday Review: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PC!)”

Thursday Review(s): The Rapture Is Here And You Will Be Forcibly Removed From Your Home and Eldritch

Today I’ll be looking at two approaches to Lovecraftian gaming, the delightful “The Rapture Is Here And You Will Be Forcibly Removed From Your Home” (henceforth abbreviated to the frighteningly long “TRIHAYWBFRFYH” and also Eldritch, which is a “roguelike first-person platform exploration” game that essentially plays like a first-person Spelunky. Continue reading “Thursday Review(s): The Rapture Is Here And You Will Be Forcibly Removed From Your Home and Eldritch”

Thursday Review: Gunpoint

Gunpoint is an interesting game. It starts out full of character, winds up feeling a little contrived and convoluted by the end, but still delivers solid gameplay throughout. Being essentially a film-noir stealth game with more gadgets, it has the full standard gumshoe attire, and an amazing soundtrack that manages both to have a deliciously rich jazz style and a marvelous cyberpunk style for the same songs. Continue reading “Thursday Review: Gunpoint”