Cyberpunk 2077’s biggest story issues can’t be fixed with updates
Cyberpunk 2077The latest 1.5 update serves as a smooth relaunch of the game on next-gen consoles, with many gamers hesitantly giving the game a second chance. “Love It or Burn It” reads the new tagline as CD Projekt Red seeks clearly to embrace some of the controversy surrounding the game’s December 2020 launch, as Cyberpunk 2077 was marked as “unfinished”. This has been the source of the game’s major criticism, but has also somehow shielded it from further analysis of the real game hidden beneath. After all, once the game is fully patched, it should still stand on its own as a cyberpunk game.
Cyberpunk 2077The problems don’t end with the technical and performance issues that CDPR tries to fix, nor does the game’s problems end with the bad reputation it gained after its initial launch, which it didn’t may never be able to completely shake. Cyberpunk 2077The issues are at a fundamental level, which no amount of gameplay fixes could fix.
The problem with Cyberpunk 2077 is Cyberpunk itself
Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t just a big budget, seven-year-old AAA game, but it’s also named after the entire genre of fiction it portrays. This leaves the game with the impossible responsibility of being the pinnacle of its genre for game support, and Cyberpunk 2077 never quite reaches that peak.
Its name is not so much the problem, but the vanities of the cyberpunk genre itself. Yes Red Dead Redemption was named “Western” or if Skyrim was named “Fantasy”, they would still work because these genres are related to setting or aesthetics, and really any style of story can be told in these genres. However, the cyberpunk genre, perhaps more than any other, is closely tied to the themes of the stories told within it. A cyberpunk world is a mirror or metaphor for the themes of the story, often related to what it means to be human or the nature of consciousness. Cyberpunk 2077 touches on all the tenets of the cyberpunk genre like ticking off a checklist, but never takes any real risks or goes beyond scratching the surface. It’s a cyberpunk game, but it lacks key aspects of the cyberpunk genre.
What it means to be cyberpunk
Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the world of cyberpunk role-playing game created by Mike Pondsmith in 1988. From there, Cyberpunk 2077 takes its name, setting and particular style from cybernetics inspired by 80s technology. However, the tabletop game takes its name from the cyberpunk genre, which was already established by this point, defined by many novels and films of famous science fiction.
The seminal classics of the cyberpunk genre don’t just share a techno aesthetic; they all had a sort of meta-humanistic aspect to them, a question for the audience. blade runner asks how anyone can know they are human. ghost in the shell asks if there is a difference between consciousness and the body interacting with the world. The matrix asks questions of perception vs. reality. Even the cyberpunk The tabletop game has a unique empathy mechanic whereby if a player’s humanity drops to zero, that character is taken away from them and becomes an NPC.
Games have already embraced meta-narratives, as titles like BioShock and Spec-Ops: the line had compelling meta-narratives regarding player choice. A big-budget cyberpunk RPG with as much anticipation as Cyberpunk 2077 had pre-launch would have been the perfect place to do something special like this.
Players vs. Johnny Silverhand
The basic concepts for a good meta-narrative cyberpunk story are all there in Cyberpunk 2077, while the main plot revolves around the player character, V, having the replicated consciousness of a long-dead punk outlaw implanted in his head. Unfortunately, the game never fully addresses any of the humanistic implications of this. Instead, the Johnny Silverhand engram in V’s head is mostly treated as a talking time bomb that can crack jokes when the player tries to defuse it. An engram scenario like that of Cyberpunk 2077 would actually be a perfect setup for a deep, metatextual cyberpunk story, and a video game would be the perfect way to tell it.
The story of a corrupt, violent, and reckless conscience that invades the main character’s mind, makes his decisions for him, and threatens to completely take over describes not only Johnny Silverhand, but the player as well. It’s a parallel that would be perfect fodder for a cyberpunk genre meta-narrative, but the game never comments on it. Cyberpunk 2077Johnny’s story attempts to portray Johnny Silverhand as an uncontrollable force who will most likely kill V if he takes autonomy over their joint body, but Silverhand never poses nearly the same threat to V as the other invading consciousness. , the player, who walks V in all possible dangerous side quests.
Perhaps the player should have taken on the role of Johnny Silverhand in the story, serving as a corrupted engram that takes over a character’s body. It would make for a cyberpunk RPG where player choices directly oppose character choices, serving as a deep examination of storytelling and how video games specifically include their audience. It would have made a cyberpunk game worthy of the genre title.
The future of cyberpunk 2077
Since its launch, Cyberpunk 2077 was in artistic limbo, as players either hated the game for being released as it was, or they withheld judgment until the game could be viewed as it was meant to be from the start. The new 1.5 patch represents a second life for a game that many saw as full of potential but technically disappointed. However, now that the dust appears to be settling and the game is seemingly in its true playable form, players will have to judge not only the game itself, but whether the revival of Cyberpunk 2077 was worth all the effort. Its story and characters are compellingly written, but it falls short of several of the main themes indicative of the genre it is named after.
Cyberpunk 2077 is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.
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