Games

Cyberpunk 2077 (PC Review)

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.

Welcome to Night City

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.

Johnny Silverhand, played by Keanu Reeves, goading you on to do the side job.

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.

V sitting atop a floating vehicle, reached by double jump and the verticality of buildings

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.

River Ward, possible romance option. Female V describing things men have said to her.
Judy, a possible romance option.

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.

A Death Stranding reference

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.

Another example of verticality

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.

Exhibit A of propaganda
Exhibit B of propaganda

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.

The City that provided hours of fun.

Games

Marvel’s Avengers (2020 Game)

Made by Crystal Dynamics, Crystal Northwest, Nixxes Software BV, and Eidos-Montreal. Published by Square Enix. Available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and Microsoft Windows. The review is based upon the Microsoft Windows version, attained for free with a qualifying Intel purchase.

Where to start? This game is overly ambitious in its promises, and for the most part has failed to deliver. The good part of the game is the story, writing, and lore and everything else suffers tremendously. It’s like video game developers are doomed to repeat history over and over, not learning from previous developers on what not to do for a video game. They merely had to study Diablo 3’s failures to see how they should have done the looting and gear system. You don’t make the intrinsic difficulty of the enemies tied to the intrinsic power of your own heroes. At minute one to hundred hours, there is no difference in how strong you are. It all takes the same amount of damage to defeat the enemies. There is no sense of growth for the player at all. I am always struggling facing my foes and that should never be the case. There should always be a sense of growing upwards, of being better, and in Avengers, despite being superheroes, random robots and mere bullets can defeat you easily.

The two directors of the game should have known better but looking them up, they are both relative unknowns to the video game world. Shaun Escayg has three video games to his name, and the other, Morgan W. Gray, only has this game. I was going to ask did Crystal Dynamics fire everyone that ever worked on their games, that Tomb Raider died for Avengers, for this? Looking at their history on Wikipedia, it’s actually not far off from the truth. The creative directors of Tomb Raider did in fact leave the company. It explains a lot of the direction this Avengers game took. And what are these directions? Well aside from the difficulty being tied to your own stats/gear, which affects everything because it is the core gameplay loop experience, there’s not much else offered. You choose a mission, load in once, load in again, and then fight through a series of copy pasted hallways and dreary rooms filled to the brim with uninspired robotic enemies and occasional humanoids. Your objectives range from killing certain units, killing a group of units, standing on three different sections waiting for a percentage bar to fill while keeping enemy units off them, to clearing waves of enemies. Missions can range from as short as 2 minutes to 2 hours long. The long missions are ones in a semi-open world where you have a series of objectives to complete but you can explore around to find chests or other ways to gain loot. It’s an incredibly grindy experience that feeds back into that dopamine reward system of getting shiny new gear.

The enjoyable part of the game, that which kept me coming back to finish the campaign, aside from the emotional storytelling, is the combat. Each Avenger feels unique in their actions despite everyone sharing nearly the same exact controls, you have a light attack and a heavy attack, and a ranged attack. Through combinations of these attacks, you can unleash signature moves that are well known by all the heroes. At first, button mashing does work but eventually you need to get used to using dodge. There is a parry function but at higher difficulties, it is absolutely useless and will get you killed. And speaking of that, the game has some of the most infuriating artificial difficulties I’ve experienced in a game, and I’ve beaten Dark Souls/Sekiro and neither of those come close to the cheese experienced by enemies in this game. Despite my ever rising pool of health or willpower as it’s known in this game, enemies will two or three shot me every time. At higher difficulties, this becomes a one shot and rarely a two shot. And why? Because every enemy has an unblockable attack that must be dodged and yes, there is an indication for these attacks but most times they come from missiles or projectiles off-screen. So you’ll be fighting your enemy and out of nowhere, you’ll get hit by a stray missile and be stunned. That moment of being stunned is enough for another missile or projectile to hit you, causing your hero to be downed and awaiting revival from a friendly hero or AI.

Speaking of the AI, your friendly heroes are incredibly harebrained and coded to be nearly useless. They will repeatedly stand in front of your path, hindering your movement or blocking your ranged attacks. Each hero has a support ability, a power ability (attack move) and an ultimate ability that either boosts your strength or unleashes a really strong attack. 9/10 times when I’ve done a power ability or an ultimate ability, the AI stand right in front of the enemy I’m trying to target and ends up absorbing the impact, rendering my move pointless. One of the heroes, Miss Marvel, has a support ability which is a group heal. Now you’d assume that when she’s used by the AI, that when you have low health that she’d pop that heal. You’d be wrong. I’ve never seen her use it when I have low health and am in dire circumstances. I’ve only ever witnessed the AI pop that heal when I’m either at 75% or 50%. Both percentages I can easily manage with takedowns (unique moves that appear when an enemy’s stun meter is filled up) that grant me health regen. But when I’m in the midst of combat with numerous enemies, and so many projectiles that the game becomes pure chance, that ain’t the case. Skill is entirely removed, and I’m left at the mercy of luck. Will she heal me? Or will she ignore my downed status? Chances are 60/40 in favor of the AI not doing either.

Moving on, each hero has maximum level of 50 and a power level (gear score) of 150. Leveling up grants you a skill point to use on the vast skill trees available. Some skills are locked behind level gates while others are available from the start. At max level, you’ll have every skill unlocked. To get a power level of 150 requires a disgusting amount of time spent grinding the same missions over and over trying to get a miniscule increase in gear compared to what you’ve currently equipped. Each piece of gear has a max power level of 140 but through upgrades can reach that 150 power level. These upgrades are costly and to get a full set to 150 requires an absurd amount of materials. Materials which are gained by dismantling gear or finding it out in missions. Alternatively, you can buy materials with another material that is rare to acquire. This is clearly designed for the long haul.

Other aspects that are worth mentioning is the sheer amount of things to buy, cosmetically. You can buy them using in-game currency called units which are hard to come by and the cost of cosmetics is astronomical. Some of these cosmetics are legendary items costing upwards of 7000 units. I’ve been playing for 32 hours and I have only 7600ish units. Or you can pay real money for credits which can then unlock the items directly. Credits are also earned via each heroes’ individual battlepass that nets 1300 credits per completion. New hero battlepasses will cost 1000 credits or 10 dollars. The farthest I’ve gotten any hero is to page two of their battlepass, and that battlepass goes up to 5 pages. Like I said, they want the long haul. Playing on PC is an interesting experience because the numerous crashes, bugs, and glitches is truly astounding. We had a beta and you’d think they’d use that time to figure out if they should release on time or delay. I can confidently say that they should have most definitely delayed the game by at least 6 months or so to help iron out the kinks. I was nearly done the campaign when the game refused to load in. I had to go into the multiplayer component and was forced to watch spoilers so that I could then go back into the campaign because loading into the campaign directly resulted in an infinite loading screen. I have fallen through floors more times than I can count, I have crashed to desktop because of reasons I don’t even know. My power levels have fluctuated while I’m in a mission resulting in my death or inability to even damage the enemy. I have bought a cosmetic only to have it re-locked and now unable to use or purchase again.

Did I enjoy the campaign? Yes, I did. Did I enjoy multiplayer? No, because even that is broken and unable to find other players. I feel sorry for anyone that got suckered in by the advertising and bought this game for full price. I am happy I got it for free because I would have never bought this, and if I did, I would have severely regretted it. As much as I am a fan of Marvel and their superheroes, this game is a massive misfire. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 on Switch is by far a better game. And if you’re looking for a Marvel game to play, make it be that one and save yourself a headache.