By now we pretty much all know about the horrific farce that has become the Cyberpunk 2077 launch. A game that’s been eagerly awaited for years finally gets released, and it’s gone wrong.
So what happened, and why? What makes CD Projekt Red’s latest—and arguably, greatest—release such a mess?
A brief history of Cyberpunk 2077
Announced in 2012, hype for the game started early, with a trailer in 2013 gathering initial interest, and the Polish team behind the development growing from 50, to over 500 in the second half of the decade.
At E3 in 2018, a show of the pre-alpha gameplay and more substantial second trailer helped bring the game back to the forefront of gamers’ minds. Then, at the same show a year late, in 2019, a third trailer and second gameplay demo were released – along with an all-important release date: 16th April 2020.
Let’s face it though; 2020 has been a strange year, and delays are inevitable. Perhaps we can blame COVID-19 for the April release date being pushed back to 17th September, then 19th November and then…
The game finally saw the light of day on December 10th 2020, right in the middle of worldwide lockdowns, frenzy over new generation consoles (and their scarcity), excitement regarding cutting-edge GPUs (with yet more scarcity), and a desperate need for something to let us all forget the year we’ve had.
Surely, this would be the game release to end all game releases, wouldn’t it?
The weight of Cyberpunk 2077
To be fair, it’s hard to blame developers for pushing hardware to its limits. If they didn’t do that, then nothing would evolve and we’d all still be playing Pacman and Space Invaders, the latter using transparent green monitor overlays to simulate ‘colour’. With Cyberpunk 2077, we were to be treated with graphics to blow our minds. Real time raytracing, a long-coveted development for example, was on the top of a long list of impressive features for the game.
And, again to be fair, if you are sitting behind the latest kit, the experience of Cyberpunk 2077 is impressive indeed. UGP’s own Matt Campbell was blown away by the game, using superlatives such as ‘awesome’, ‘amazing’ and ‘incredible’ to describe what he was seeing, but then Matt has access to the very latest technology as soon as it becomes available, and his gaming rig, though it ‘needs an update’, outstrips what most of us would consider ‘top end’.
If you are one of the people sitting behind a six-year old PS4, and hoping to get some sort of playable enjoyment out of this game, you may be disappointed. No, not ‘may be’, you will be disappointed. Slowdowns, graphic glitches, people popping up out of nowhere – all of this is rife if the hardware can’t handle it.
It’s not all CD Projekt Red’s fault. Sony, as a major player for example, insists that any game that is available for a PS4 must play on any PS4 – that includes the original launch platform, as well as a more-zippy PS4 Pro. It’s in their developer rules that you can’t single out the more capable machines and say the game is a Pro-exclusive title. It’s a decision that’s there to avoid consumer confusion, but its not without its casualties.
Imagine if you dragged out your dusty 2013 PC, and expected to run 2020s top AAA titles on it without an issue… Yeah, please don’t do that.
So Cyberpunk 2077 pushed it to the limits, and those limits broke.
Returning the game – an unprecedented move?
Responding to the many complaints by the millions of gamers out there who raced to download a copy of the game only to find it was basically unplayable, the publishers have done something that surely is unprecedented for downloaded software, and have offered a money-back return. It’s not without its caveats – put too many hours into it before claiming your refund and they will (quite rightly) argue that you are taking the piss a little, but the fact remains, that if you paid for a copy of Cyberpunk 2077 and found you couldn’t run it properly, they’re willing to take the hit and give you back your readies. It’s the least they could do.
Of course, though the returns policy may be somewhat unusual, we have been here before. Hands up if you remember Crysis back in 2007 – another game that was so graphically demanding that the systems of the time simply collapsed trying to run it. Again, this led to anger and disappointment, especially in the console community, where people don’t have the ability to custom upgrade their kit.
So, it’s happened before, and it’ll no-doubt happen again.
But does that make it right?
The weight of Cyberpunk 2077 – again
It’s not just the hardware that’s been pushed by Cyberpunk 2077, it’s also the teams behind it. With millions of dollars injected into triple-A titles, the huge amount of pressure that’s put on the crew to hit deadlines and get it out there is tremendous. Cyberpunk 2077 was never a game in a void; it had spawned so much merchandise and third-party product even before its launch that another delay to fix that pesky ‘people can’t actually play this game’ problem was probably not even possible.
Comics, Funko Pops, mugs, t-shirts, artwork books, figurines, soundtrack… even a separate tie-in card game, the merchandising surrounding a release of this size is significant. And for each a company, with deadlines and demands, a team with their own pressures. Juggling it all is a nightmare, and somewhere, something is always going to give.
Not that it should be the core game experience.
Add to that the realisation, that must have come somewhere along the line, that the next generation of consoles were going to end up launching right alongside, and you have the perfect recipe for the perfect disaster. You can imagine the conversations:
“Do we ditch the PS4 and XBox One versions and just move to the new hardware? It’ll run it all so much better?”
“No, no, we must press on. We announced it for current generation hardware, we must deliver on that.”
Well, they certainly did that. Sort of.
How to play Cyberpunk 2077
If you are a gamer, whether that’s based on your PC, or if you are a die-hard XBox fan, there’s going to be a time when you upgrade your kit. Simply put, if you want to play Cyberpunk 2077, that time is now.
You can pretend that your dusty old GPU will manage, or that there’s no need to get in the very long queue for a PlayStation 5, but you know you are only lying to yourself. The new generation of games is here, with Cyberpunk 2077 at the vanguard. Your only other realistic option is to skip out on this one, and keep on with the stuff you’re used to for a little while longer.
But you’re probably missing out, because the people that can run this game, those lucky state-of-the-art hardware lovers, they’re lapping up everything Cyberpunk 2077 can give.
And who wouldn’t? It has Keanu Reeves in it!