I decided to read several user reviews before heading into watching this movie, to see what the general public had to say. Either they simply didn’t understand the movie, refused to, or were just plain old too stupid to get it. It happens. It’s why the original movie infamously changed the point of humans being used by machines because the writers thought the audience would be too dumb to get it. They were right.
My expectations going into this, based upon the knowledge of the previous movies, is that Neo and Trinity never got to have their own story. They never got to have the epic love they were promised, they were sacrificed for the greater good, they got to save humanity. So, I expected this movie to give them that catharsis, that emotional release that fans wanted, to see Neo and Trinity together, alive, happy. And guess what? I was right, the movie is a love story and a fan send off to everything The Matrix.
The story is once again filled with philosophical topics, and observations on current society. It begins with an in-depth and meta look at the Matrix movies themselves, and as them being existing pieces of artwork within the Matrix itself. This smart self-awareness allows them to simultaneously reference themselves as being a sequel while also riffing on topics of originality, and reboots – and how they sell. It gives the viewer a starting point that this is something new while also something old. By starting with the old, you can take the viewer on a journey to showcase the new and then bring in even newer ideas.
“Quietly yearning for what you don’t have, while dreading losing what you do. For 99.9% of your race, that is the definition of reality. Desire and fear, baby.”
Spoilers From Here On
So the point of the starting opener is that Neo is so ingrained into the Matrix, that the creator of it all, the analyst, even has Neo believing he’s a game designer for the video games based on the movies. However, deep down, some part of Neo knows this to not be true, and subconsciously or maybe consciously, he creates a modal window into the matrix reliving the opening sequences of Trinity’s escape at the start of the first movie. This is explained as a way to force the evolution or enhancement of a program, which turns out to be Morpheus. This aspect is taken from the games as Morpheus is dead. To get Neo out, the resistance, or the real world, tried to replicate his past in an attempt to spark his memories. Yet, the Matrix is tricky and resilient, and he is not willing to let go just yet. His therapy sessions basically convince him that everything is in his mind, and it plays on that trope of ‘how do you know you’re really insane or just being gaslit?’
Now they have to move past being meta, they have to directly reference it by playing the movie physically as a medium within the Matrix itself, to force Neo to realize what’s happening. He does, and his journey into the real world is again similar to the first time around. Even Neo himself has lines mentioning that. Then his acclimatization to the real world involves fighting Morpheus similarly to his initial fight against him, except this time, he does awaken his latent powers. His mojo slowly comes back to him. We get introduced to Ion, and how the definition of us vs them changed. And all the while, we are introduced to the new crew, led by Bugs, played by Jessica Henwick who does a phenomenal job.
“The sheeple aren’t going anywhere. They like my world. They don’t want this sentimentality. They don’t want freedom or empowerment. They want to be controlled. They crave the comfort of certainty.”
Now the story starts to get into new territory, once the connection between the past and present is now set up. Neo won’t do anything without Trinity and so he plots to get back inside, and free her if, and this is the most important part of it all. Having agency and choice. If she so chooses.
Then we add a bit of Mr Smith, back in a new body, played by Jonathan Groff, to add chaos to it all, and to let him get his own ending too. We bring back an older character, aged up, from the original series. Niobe. As well as other favorites, and tie up their plots and emotional arcs.
“For mom and dad, love is the genesis of everything.”
Lana Wachowski did a great job with the story. It was obvious she cared about these characters, and that she wanted them to have everything they deserved. I loved the ending because it ties into the idea of rebirth, of change. Of not doing things the same as before. In the previous movies, Neo held all the power, a male. At the end, it becomes subverted, a female has the power. This is even promoted further by using the song Wake Up, performed by a female artist.
Overall, I loved it. Keanu Reeves was a pleasure to see again in action as Neo, Carrie-Ann Moss was powerful, and delightful. The action sequences were fun, the plot never boring, and all the while I was glued to the screen wondering how it all fit together. It tells you, and you’re never quite confused as to what’s happening. I recommend it.
“Media is nothing but neuro-trigger response and viral conditioning.”
This review was done on a machine capable of running Cyberpunk 2077 on a high graphics preset. Without sounding that I am dismissing those with problems, lets get serious. What did more than half of you expect that are complaining how you can’t run it without serious issues? I knew going into it for years that you’d need quite the capable rig to experience it in its full glory. I was fortunate enough to experience that. I didn’t have a single game breaking bug. I experienced all there was to offer, and I lapped it up like the thirsty dog that I was. That is not to say that there aren’t bugs and glitches, of which there are. But to focus your entire displeasure of the game on that solely screams to me that you’re out to get them, to tank their review scores. To those that tried to play on PS4/Xbox one, the only blame you should lay is on CD Projekt Red’s investors and higher-ups. It is their fault and their money deals made with Sony/Microsoft that the game was even attempted to be released on those consoles. The game could have been so much more on the PC but the aforementioned dealings ruined that. All of that aside, here’s my view on the game.
Mild spoilers to follow.
Night City, the home of our main character and that of Johnny Silverhand. A beautiful spectacle filled with grandeur, intrigue, mystery and the more than one occasional dead body. A place where all your dreams could come true, or come crashing down with a burning intensity. It is here where the journey begins, and it is here where it all ends. It is your playground, and it can become your tomb. You’ll never want to leave. In my time in Night City, I had accrued 88 hours playtime and in that time, I had finished every single side job, side gig, police scanner and all 6 endings of the game. The seventh ending, the secret ending, is a little bit of a nightmare to do because you have to make exactly the correct choices of dialogue during one mission and if you mess up, unless you have a save file ready, then you have to play the game anew.
I’m getting ahead of myself, let me familiarize everyone with the general gist of the game. You start off by picking your difficulty, your character’s gender (male or female), then you can customize your character to your heart’s content using their customization features such as the infamous dick size, then you move onto picking your lifepath. There are three of them, and each provides a slightly different beginning to the game. They are the Nomad, Streetkid, and Corpo. Nomad starts you off outside Night City in the Badlands, Streetkid starts you off inside a bar, and Corpo – well, I haven’t played that option. It is with these three options that replayability arises, because each gives you the ability to choose different dialogue choices within Night City which would reward you with slightly different lore or information. My main playthrough was with the Streetkid, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Now I’ve read other reviewers thoughts on the game, and while they’re somewhat valid, I feel almost all of them missed the mark or the point. This game isn’t GTA, it isn’t Skyrim, it’s not Witcher 3, nor is it a game without heart and soul. This game is Deus Ex open world. Once you get that perspective into your head, everything seemingly clicks into place. The story is a little bit all too human, too comparable to reality. I’m not talking about the cybernetics or hacking in the game, I’m talking about the class division. The struggle between the haves and have-nots. Between the rich and the poor. Between the corporations and everyone else. And those that seek to bring change to the world, those that seek to tear down the walls between these, they are labeled as terrorists despite not bringing fear into the hearts of the populace but rather encouraging change and being looked upon as heroes – as legends. Johnny Silverhand, played by Keanu Reeves, is one such character, and he’s the man stuck inside your head. For better or worse. It is your character’s main goal, to figure out how to get him out while you’re slowly dying from him being trapped inside you. Two souls in one body. While also trying to be a legend in your own right, and name. Do you help the corporations, betraying your own principles? Or do you tear them down, and become a legend of Night City? Or do you decide that Night City is a soulless place that deserves no-one and leave it all in the dust? All of these are possibilities and it is up to you to decide.
The similarity to Witcher 3 is that you’re not roleplaying your own character, you’re roleplaying V, like Geralt, and while you have the say in what you do or speak, in the end, V is a character separate from you. Their goals and aspirations aren’t yours but you may influence them and change them. There are set goals in place and you can guide V to one of them. You can choose who V is as a fighter, and as a lover; male, female, or both, it’s up to you. The max level in the game is level 50, and along the way, you get to choose how to distribute your attributes. Each attribute can only go up to 20, and they will have an effect on choices you can make in the world. They’re divided between Body, Reflexes, Technical, Intelligence, and Cool. Within each of these attributes are skill trees which give bonuses to various skills such as shooting a revolver vs a shotgun, or wielding a blade vs a blunt weapon. You gain 1 attribute point and 1 perk point each level plus each of the subcategories, which also go up to 20, can give you perk points. These perk points are spent in the subcategories, the skill trees, and there can be a respec for 100k eddies. Eddies are eurodollars, the main form of currency in the game.
The game can be a little daunting at first, due to the many subsystems and menus and inventory screens but these are quickly learned with the help of the tutorials during the beginning portion of the game. Some things, such as crafting, need points invested in the technical attribute and subcategory crafting itself to be leveled up to unlock better equipment. During my adventure, I found crafting to be the single most useful ability and that the technical attribute to be the most useful for dialogue or entering places. There is another component to the game, and that is the cybernetics or cyberplants as they’re called. You can visit cyber doctors known as Ripperdocs in game, to acquire and install any new ones you want. The various ones that are available are all dependent upon the attributes you may or may not possess. The most handy implant that doesn’t require any attributes and will drastically open up exploration for you, is the double jump located in the legs category. Verticality is everywhere, and the sheer places you can visit and explore and get to once you get this upgrade are vast.
The quests in Cyberpunk 2077 are little bit different than conventional quests you might find in a RPG. The main quest is indeed a little bit short but that’s because the game wants you to do the side jobs or side quests as they’re normally called. These aren’t filler and are rewarding, both in terms of in-game experience and currency but also emotionally. You can pursue a relationship with certain characters, and you can have sexual relations with them, but not to the extent that you might have thought. You are rewarded with a sex scene but it’s not as explicit as you might expect. It’s more on par with a scene from the Mass Effect series. Completing these side jobs also fills in the story some more and does have an impact on the ending portion of the game. The things that are filler are the police scanner gigs which have you clearing out criminals and retrieving material goods. Each of these does come with a data shard which when read, provides some small lore. The side gigs that you find serve to help create world-building and as well, some data shards with lore. They’re often simple but serve as a fun distraction from everything. The map is littered with these. I finished all I could find before I even began the main quest during Act 1, as I enjoyed being in the world and exploring it. To get around, there are vehicles and I hear the complaints that driving is bad but it’s honestly not. Drive in first person and it’s quite fun; sure, V could sit a little higher in the seat, but that wasn’t really a problem. It took a little getting used to but soon I was like a professional race car driver flying down the streets, weaving between traffic. The speed is in miles, and that might affect some who aren’t used to it.
The references in Cyberpunk 2077 are incredibly vast and like the photo above, sometimes a little too on the nose. V is wearing a headset called a braindance device, that allows a wearer to experience the feelings and emotions of someone who recorded a so-called braindance. If you recall the movie Strange Days, it’s heavily influenced from that. Even one of the side quests is eerily similar to the movie’s plot. There are also Matrix references, Mad Max, Batman and all sorts of popular fiction. Each of the side jobs’ titles are song lyrics or titles.
The graphics of the game are absolutely astonishing and I’m often held in awe. I’d often just stop and gaze at the beauty that is found in the extremely detailed world. It is clear why the base consoles simply cannot run this game. The amount of detail in even one building is far more than in any other game. The way that the rain falls and creates puddles, the little splashes of the drops, the reflection of lights in the puddles and of buildings. How the condensed fog from exhausts forms, how the city’s neon lights transform at night. There is just so much to experience. And then the soundtrack on top of everything is just the cherry on top. I often found myself just listening to the entire menu song before actually loading into the game. In-game, different missions had different songs and sometimes I’d not be doing the objective because I’m just vibing to the music. And that’s not even compared to some of the songs that are found in the in-game radio. Some of these are absolute bangers.
Some of the faults I do have with the game are the propaganda to be found or heard, which is to be expected. The following two images are just one example, but there are numerous ones to also be found. Even Johnny’s constant critiques of corporations are but one form of propaganda. It’s hard to make a futuristic world without doing so. Other faults I find are that some guns and weapons are simply far too strong, and once acquiring them, you’ll have little want for anything else.
To surmise, I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed every single waking minute I had of playing this game. I went into it expecting Deus Ex meets an open world and I got exactly that. I got to experience pain, heartache, happiness and joy, sadness, desolation, loss of hope, and the possibility of something more. I experienced a rich and fully realized world. And most of all, I had nothing but fun for 88 straight hours. Not many games can make such a claim or deliver such an experience. That’s all for now until the next time, when the expansions are all released; good night and good luck Night City.