Image Description: Promotional image for Cyberpunk 2077, showing the protagonist and the city
Announced 30th May 2012, Cyberpunk 2077 was not always presented as a behemoth of majestic stature. It was teased by a small Polish company known as CD Projekt Red, based on a 1988 tabletop game. The experience was defined to be one for mature audiences, written non-linearly in a pen and paper style with innovative purpose and revolutionary breakthroughs in the gaming world.
So, what went wrong?
Here we may delve into the world of ‘unrealistic expectations.’ A company’s best friend, the consumer, can become a hellish enemy when it comes to deliverable content. It is the consumer that ultimately dictates the success of investors and their relative interest in a project. Such expectations were set by the massively successful The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, widely considered one of the greatest games ever made. Cyberpunk not only had to live up to its intensely written predecessor, but also exceed it in terms of innovation.
Envisioned as an industry-breaking venture, it rather delved into errors that resulted in a game-breaking mess (at least in the eyes of many critics). Pre-release it was awarded over one hundred awards, offering praise and anticipation for what was expected to be ‘futuristic’ and ‘pioneering.’
It rather delved into errors that resulted in a game-breaking mess
However, the first port of criticism was directed towards the intrinsic design of the game. One major sequence of the game involves ‘braindances’, that were revealed to initially resemble medical devices purposefully used to induce epileptic seizures. The company responded with a patch that removed the intensity of this lighting, alongside a warning. This was not before a game journalist suffered an epileptic seizure as a consequence of this feature.
Transparency is vital for the interests of investors and consumers alike. This is where CD Projekt went awry. Failing to present the game on base consoles throughout various conferences and teaser trailers, it gave the false impression of fluidity and perfection.
It was evident on release that entire sequences of the game had been cut, and playthrough insinuates the once-intentioned railway system, broader romance arcs and faction gameplay had been cut to meet deadlines. Moon gameplay was also removed, as well as third person cutscenes and deeper character customisation. The company released an apology only once the game had been removed from the PlayStation Store by Sony and stocks had dipped, after release on 10th December 2020.
On the topic of release dates, this proved to be one of the most infuriating interactions between customer and company. It was promised in 2012 to be released ‘when it’s ready’, and the 8-year time difference from then and 2020 would suggest ample time to soften any inadequate code and design. First announced for April 2020, it was pushed back four times, with the final date being in December. Each pushback would suggest a bug-free conclusive enterprise, would it not? Alas, this was not to be.
Failing to present the game on base consoles throughout various conferences and teaser trailers, it gave the false impression of fluidity and perfection.
December 10th, 2020
On release day, problems ensued. Things were obviously removed from the game. AI was unintelligent in combat, stealth was broken, game-breaking bugs would block players out of missions and the mechanics were infantile in comparison to what was promised. Displeasure was voiced by gamers across the board and investors were blamed for the rushed release. The Guardian commented on the contradiction between a game exploring the immorality and inhumanity of a corporate and capitalist world, and CD Projekt Red’s management forcing their workers on a 6 day, often seven day week known as ‘crunch time’ for a year leading up to release.
But in the dirt, a diamond can be found.
Despite the woolly code and lack of transparency fogging the game’s reputation – mention you’re playing Cyberpunk to a friend and they may grimace – there is an undertone to the game that can be described as almost beautiful. The metaphorical use of a society heavily obsessed with human sexuality and promiscuity intelligently knits this into a multicoloured storyline; where a tree would represent the story’s trunk and the side quest’s the branches, Cyberpunk is instead a thorn bush with hundreds of interlinking fractals.
The four characters behind each romance are elegantly written and acted, creating an atmosphere achieved usually only with powerful movies or books. What was disappointing with vehicle and customisation choice is almost compensated for by the passion emanating from the game by the writers and designing team. Where the business and financial side of the company went wrong, the creative side went right. The atmosphere is positively intoxicating and unlike any other game before its time.
The inspirations for the game are unique from other genres, with hints of Blade Runner, steampunk (obviously), futuristic samurais, and a type of colourful design known as kitsch.
Where a tree would represent the story’s trunk and the side quest’s the branches, Cyberpunk is instead a thorn bush with hundreds of interlinking fractals.
As time progresses, the game will no doubt become patched to completion, and added content will hopefully be free as a compensation for the company’s errors (at least one would like to think). Although to some this will never be enough, this game is a masterpiece in the very fact it is intelligently crafted where creativity is due. The anti-corporate undertone is on a level equal in cerebral insinuation to that of works of literature of respectable acumen.
The music in this game is exceptional; where GTA Vice City created nostalgia in its tunes, Cyberpunk 2077 introduces the audience to a whole new genre of music that mixes in hip hop with techno, with chaotic tempos in Night City contrasted by the masterfully crafted guitar chords in the Badlands.
While at its heart a damaged game because of poor management and a desire to adhere to the whims of investors, there is a gem hidden inside. The future of this game is nothing short of bright and it is integral to the furtherment of the project that it be given a chance to be patched. Don’t fall for the mass hysteria sentencing this game to the status of disastrous – be forgiving enough, and you will be rewarded by the beauty of Night City and its phenomenal cast.
Image Credit – Instacodez on flickr