I got all hot and bothered when I first heard last year that players could customise the genitals of their character in Cyberpunk 2077. Throw in modern graphic cards, 4K monitors and many of us hot-blooded gamers were raring for some spicy bedroom scenes from the Polish game maker that brought us The Witcher and its many sex-laden scenes.
Sex and breasts in video games used to be a big deal, but it has largely become de rigueur like R-rated dramas on Netflix. But being able to choose your type and size of the nether regions was kinda “going where no man had gone before.”
Absurd as it may sound, I spent almost 30 minutes customising my character at the start of the game. First I chose a guy and discovered I could have my genitals blocked out. Then, I found I could choose between a short and a long penis. Heck, I could even choose the female organ. I tried a female and could choose the size of my bosoms and again a choice between the male and female sex organs. In the end, I went with an ample-chested lady with her biological genitals intact.
That was about as sexciting as it got. I completed the game in about 30-40 hours and had a couple of sexual trysts in the game. But nowhere did any of the explicit cutscenes show my genitals; not even my boobs. Apparently, if you undress and look at a mirror in the game or go into some photo mode, you can proudly admire your genitals (but I really don’t see a point in this self-flagellating action).
What was even sadder – that while I would go out of my way to unlock all the sexual encounters in The Witcher III, I found it too much of a bother to try to romance some of the key characters in the game. In fact, after getting bored with the “open world” concept of the game, I just wanted to rush to the end to finish the game.
Always titillating, never satisfying
This titillating strategy permeates throughout the game, and I don’t just mean the dodgy parts (nor the horrendous bugs that you probably know about already). It gets pretty exciting at first to be able to participate in various side quests and open-world encounters as you are often rewarded with XP and better guns and gear to make your character V (that’s her name, and also his name if you choose to be a dude) more powerful for the next encounter. But after a while, it just got boring and repetitive.
Whatever the side quest may be, there is always one sure way to resolve all problems – kill everyone. Yes, you can be a netrunner (also known as hacker) to stun and damage your enemies (because everyone has some biochip or sensor in their body). And you can be the stealthy assassin to take them out one at a time in silent style. But why bother when my tech-powered sniper rifle can rip through walls and deliver a quick headshot of instant death to any enemy hiding in cover.
When they come charging, I whip out my Lizzie pistol (named after the owner of a bar and the same place the gun is found) and just shoot everyone to death. Injured? Just inject yourself with some meds that heal you (you can craft them too, which makes them almost limitless). Sometimes, when you knock people out instead of killing them, you get bonus XP for completing the quest the right way, but why bother when you just need to complete another quest (of many endless quests) to net the same XP gain.
One cool feature (or at least I thought it was cool at first) is the RPG elements in the game where you can decide how to develop your character. You can choose to place your attribute points in Body, Reflex, Technical, Intelligence or Cool whenever you level up, similar to how we would build a strong barbarian warrior or a powerful gnome sorcerer in Dungeons & Dragons. Each attribute has a few corresponding perks. For instance, if you choose to build Reflex, you can improve your Handgun, Rifle and Blade perks, making you a better fighter when using these weapons.
However, while having a 12 per cent increase in critical chance (the chance to land a critical hit whenever you shoot or slash to register bonus damage) seems like a cool thing in many turn-based RPG games, in real-time-shooter Cyberpunk it really makes no difference because you just have to unload your entire magazine and the enemy will still die anyway. I found myself placing my points into Technical – which improves Crafting so that I could create powerful weapons more efficiently and early. I also put my points into Intelligence to improve my hacking skills to earn more money with every hack. This may be a game about guns, but it’s Economics that lets you wield the best self-crafted weapons.
Talking about guns, there are many different guns to choose from. But unlike Borderlands 3 or Destiny where you will jump for joy every time a unique legendary gun is discovered, it kinda got stale after a while in Cyberpunk 2077. There isn’t enough thought given to high-end legendary loot and there is no “set armour” like in Diablo III to make you grind to the death. I just stuck to good old Lizzie and she effectively wiped out everything that threw itself at me.
Saved by the plot. Well, almost
The one saving grace about the game is the story. I found the game a lot more fast-paced and exciting when I decided to stick to the main quests and not get distracted by the infinite side quests (there is even one where you have to go around everywhere looking for missing cars).
It’s 2077, and the world is ruled by evil corporations.
When the game starts, you can choose three backgrounds – the outcast nomad who shuns the evil city, streetsmart city dweller or cold calculating corporate executive. Each background has its own backstory that takes about 1-2 hours to complete. It doesn’t matter which origin you choose, because after an hour or two of play, you are all put onto the same path in the game. Your background offers additional dialogue choices in many instances but they don’t lead to any real combat benefit or economic advantage.
You play as V, an up and coming operative that gets things done for the various fixers in town. The fixers give you gigs, you complete them and you earn money, weapons and street cred. The higher your street cred, the better jobs you get and more fixers wanna talk to you. Cyberpunk 2077 takes place in this fictional Night City, which seems to be modelled after California.
Night City is divided into many districts and each has two to three rival gangs. You have the Mafia-style Valentinos, the Yazkuza-inspired Tyger Claws, the cyborg Maelstorms, the French-speaking Haitians and many more. I am not sure how it works, but I have killed many of these gangs members for profit and they are still not attacking me on sight. In some parts of the main plot, you will have to choose sides and in that way be involved in some of the gang wars.
In the early part of the game, V and her best friend Jackie are aiming to amp up their street cred when a pudgy fixer with robo-arms called Deshawn offers them a job. This job requires messing with the Yakuza-style Arasaka Corporation and soon things get out of control. There are several twists in the plot and I did enjoy watching the story unfold as I progressed in the game. As I played the game, I felt like I was transported into a Blade Runner sci-fi movie with Yakuza corporations ala Rising Sun. I won’t spoil the plot but suffice to say that the plot thickens as it unfolds.
But the ending was abrupt and anti-climatic. In fact, there are 5-6 different possible endings and when you complete each of them, you are transported back in time to the point where you are about to embark on the final chapter. That means you can attempt all possible endings while levelling up your character at the same time. I only completed the game once, and I really felt like a lab rat for the ending that chose me. I could not feel motivated enough to try for a second ending and the game effectively ended when I completed it the first time. Sadly, at the point of completion, I was only at level 20 (out of a possible 50) and had completed about 10 per cent of all the side quests in the game.
I decided to read up on all the alternative endings and decided there were really no good nor happy endings. Seems like you are quite screwed, whichever path you choose.
In the end, Cyberpunk teases, but it really does not quite deliver.
Graphics - 9/10
Plot - 8/10
Gameplay - 7/10
Addictiveness - 5/10
Verdict - 7/10
Cyberpunk offers great potential but in the end it doesn’t quite deliver.