Can Cyberpunk 2077 Recover?
If you know anything about video games, you’ll know that “Cyberpunk 2077” by CD Projekt Red was one of the most anticipated games of the past year. In fact, it’s one of the most anticipated games of the past ten years. The game was in development for more than a decade and promised to build us the most impressive, immersive, interactive living city environment ever seen in a video game. It might have succeeded in doing that, but it’s hard to tell right now because it keeps crashing all the time.
As even the most casual gamer is undoubtedly aware, the game’s launch has been an unmitigated disaster.
While we could spend hours describing every fault that’s been reported with the game so far, it all boils down to the same thing, which is that the game barely works in its current state. You’re more likely to have a good time playing it on Google Stadia or PC than you are on consoles, but if you have a last-gen PS4 or Xbox One, you’re likely to be plagued by poor frame rates, texturing errors, frequent crashes, and unfixable, game-breaking glitches.
Even if you have a more recent console, you’ll still encounter regular crashes. They’ve been noted to be more common when the central character is driving quickly, but as driving fast is key to completing many missions, it still ruins the player’s experience. The patches that are due out in early January are supposed to fix this. If they don’t, the game will likely be as good as dead.
In truth, it might already be too late to save “Cyberpunk 2077.” The game has experienced the indignity of being booted from the PlayStation Store, with no timeframe given for its expected return. Sony is deeply unhappy with CD Projekt Red because it’s had to create a special website for processing refunds and allegedly believes that the developers have misled the company concerning how bad the problems are and how quickly they might be fixed. If the next set of patches – the seventh to be released – don’t make a huge difference, Sony might decide never to make the game available again.
Without access to PlayStation customers, the entire game would likely become financially non-viable in maintenance beyond that point. There’s a lot at stake for CD Projekt Red – but there are precedents for games recovering from this.
The most obvious example we could point to is “No Man’s Sky,” which turned into a running joke when it was rush-released by Hello Games in a comically unfinished state in 2016. Almost none of the content that had been shown off in previews and trailers was in the game, and there wasn’t even a proper ending. When they eventually completed the game’s one central quest, all players got a string of question marks, after which they were propelled right back to the beginning. A lot has changed since then.
The game has multiple quests, multiplayer modes, a thriving community, and several endings – none of which reset the game. It’s gone on to win awards within the past twelve months and has finally become the game that everyone hoped it would be when it was brand new.
Even the world’s biggest and most successful game developers sometimes run into trouble. Rockstar Games had issues with “Grand Theft Auto 5” when they added the Diamond Casino & Resort in mid-2019. Even though no real money could be won at the virtual casino, some countries looked upon it as an online slots website. As it isn’t legal to play online slots everywhere globally, that became a massive problem for Rockstar. It didn’t matter that the only currency that could be won from the casino’s games was virtual – the fact that these virtual chips could be purchased with real money was enough for some regulators to say it was too similar to the style of casino games for their liking, and Rockstar suddenly had to make major changes to a new feature they’d initially hoped would be an instant moneymaker. In that case, though, the game had a pre-existing reputation for quality so that it could survive the negative press. “Cyberpunk 2077” might not be so lucky.
The situation for “Cyberpunk 2077” is even worse than it was for “No Man’s Sky.” For all the hype that surrounded the latter game at its launch, it was still a cultish science-fiction game created by a little-known independent developer. “Cyberpunk 2077” is a high-profile game that prominently features movie star Keanu Reeves and comes from a developer with a strong track record. “No Man’s Sky” was seen as a failure to launch for Hello Games. “Cyberpunk 2077” is being seen as a fall from grace for CD Projekt Red.
It would be a shame if this game were to be written off. When it isn’t crashing, there are signs that it could be excellent. Graphically the game is stunning. The scope and scale of “Night City” are incredible, and the rich tapestry of characters inside it is amazing. It has the authentic look and feel of a cyberpunk movie and has a tone that’s somewhere between “Blade Runner” and “Grand Theft Auto.” If everything worked as it should, we’d be talking about it as the best new game anyone’s released in decades. It’s worth persevering with.
The question is whether CD Projekt Red is capable of fixing everything that’s wrong with it or whether it’s too fundamentally broken ever to be repaired. The fact that it’s still crashing so regularly after so many patches is a major worry, and if that’s still happening after the end of January, it suggests that the programmers can’t solve the problems.
We’d love “Cyberpunk 2077” to be a success. We hope that it’s the start of major Hollywood stars following Keanu Reeves’s footsteps and creating video games with the same respect they treat films. For that to happen, though, this has to be done right. It will be a massive month for the game, its players, and the people who made it. We hope they’re up to the task.