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Cyberpunk 2077

Is it worth playing Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox Series X today?

Magnus has been waiting to start the game until after Hotfix 1.06, and is now giving his thoughts.

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It is, at this point in time, challenging to come up with anything decidedly "new" to tell you about in regards to Cyberpunk 2077. The long awaited release, perhaps one of the most hyped games in recent memory, drastically fell from grace, and ever so ungracefully ended up being a scandal, rather than a triumph. The subsequent backlash which followed the tumultuous release can now almost be considered pop-culture history, and the saga still rolls on with added litigation from angry investors, and continued scrutiny from displeased consumers. It's at least safe to say, that the game landed with a hollow thunk rather than the boom we were all expecting.

If you, however, go back and read our original, and rather critical review, alongside other reactions across the ether, the final judgement passed on the game does seem like it desperately needs crucial context. You see, while there does seem to be relative agreement in saying that Cyberpunk 2077 does spin an utterly compelling tale, and does present a wholly engrossing metropolis begging to be explored. But, when considering some lacklustre, half-baked systems, and ultimately a heap of technical issues across the board, one might easily feel discouraged to even risk it. Which is a shame.

CD Projekt RED did introduce several updates quickly, and are planning to introduce two additional ones, one landing this month, and another in February. If you were to start playing today on either console or PC, you'd have to make do with "Hotfix 1.06", a state which does fix the game's most glaring faults, like crashes to desktop, game-breaking bugs and glitches as well as some performance-related issues, it does still leave the game in a curious state.

Cyberpunk 2077

So now that the Christmas and New Years period is in our collective rear-view mirror, and the daily grind once again greets us, I thought it might be worth checking in with Cyberpunk 2077 with Hotfix 1.06 installed on my Xbox Series X. And by the way, this is the very first time I'm playing it, because just like many others I decided to wait after the initial critical reception highlighted the most egregious cases.

And how is it then? Well, after playing for around 35 hours, I actually haven't really stumbled upon any technical faults which directly hindered my progress. Both colleagues and particular cases found through numerous articles and videos exactly like this one mention bugs that make cars explode suddenly and violently, NPCs critical to mission progress fall silent or V's character being thrown hundreds of meters up into the air. I can safely say that that has not been my personal experience, and I've also yet to experience a single game-breaking crash throwing me back to the Xbox main menu. So far, so good, right?

But sadly, this is where the positive impressions of the game's current state ends. But if all you're looking for is a direct confirmation that the absolute worst technical errors, those that either directly hinders or takes progress away from you, are gone? Well, you might as well start your adventure, but that really, really does not constitute an experience which is... you know, recommendable, and that's the case even on Xbox Series X, regardless of whether you're playing on Performance or Quality.

Cyberpunk 2077

So let's get to it. First and foremost, the entire experience from beginning to end does feel incredibly janky. Yes, that term covers a lot of errors found in games, but in this case it neatly describes the choppy framerate, the lacklustre physical connection between the characters and their immediate surroundings. It's all just a bit artificial, like there's no physicality in the world, just flimsy software moving across a barely tangible digital landscape. A pretty close comparison are Bethesda's grand RPG's like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 4. Sure, objects are inherently physically tied to the world they exist in, but the player's interaction with them aren't. Cyberpunk 2077 is like this from beginning to end - floaty, incoherent and unresponsive.

Not only that, the frame rate itself is uneven as hell. Yes, on the console's Performance setting, where the game basically aims for 60fps, a bit of stability is regained, but that does not mean that performance dips aren't abundant. At times the entire game looks like an old phone when left out in the cold for too long, and where the entire UI struggles with dragging pixels around the screen. It's distracting, and at times my girlfriend even described it as "nauseating." Aw.

The game also experiences severe problems with texture pop-in, and here I'm both talking about entire assets disappearing and reloading depending on the angling of the camera and the movement of the character, but also popping in and out of focus constantly. Some games have a tendency to have two distinct degrees of focus, where the line between is so clear that you can see that line being drawn in front of your eyes, and the two rendering degrees working together. That line is clearly here too, sadly.

To be honest, there's really not a single area of the game's technical performance, or rather a single part of the game's technical dimension, which satisfies. No, none of the issues described above are per-se game-breaking, but cumulatively they create constant detractions and distractions from your overall immersion, something the game works so hard to construct and maintain. And this is without describing the little things, such as pedestrians being permanently scarred for life once your car tire as much as touches the pavement, or enemy bodies suddenly behaving like pinball balls.

Cyberpunk 2077

It's all just, yeah, very disappointing to say the least. It's disappointing because CD Projekt RED placed themselves in this situation, it's disappointing because like games like Fallout: New Vegas, Battlefield 4 and even in part The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, there's a decent game buried under all of these annoyances, it's annoying because even if Cyberpunk 2077 was amazing, I still wouldn't be able to recommend you play it today. That says a lot about the state of our industry, and considering the studio's leaders championed a more healthy and pro-consumer trend-bucking identity just a year ago, this is a far cry from that. Instead, it's perhaps the most egregious example of a "sell now, fix later" mentality, just like Fallout 76. Imagine if you travelled back in time and told your past self that these two games could be spoken about in the same breath. God help us.

I know, it's difficult talking about technical problems in games in general, because there simply is no guarantee that a larger portion of the players have experienced something similar. More often than not, a particular bug or glitch is rare, and sometimes even unique, and that means that one player could theoretically get the whole rollercoaster ride, while another has an entirely different perspective. I do feel rather safe in stating unequivocally that on Xbox Series X at least, I cannot recommend you play Cyberpunk 2077 today. No, it won't corrupt your save file or crash instantaneously, but that should not be the bar the game has to cross to be enjoyable and worth your time. So, just wait.

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