Cyberpunk 2077 review: Glitch in the matrix

After several delays and years of development, Cyberpunk 2077 is finally here. Does it deliver on all the promises or does Night City leave people wanting more?

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Night City, built on the backs of dreamers and bathed in the light of the neon signs that litter the streets. The bright lights are beautiful in the dark of night, almost hiding the scars beneath. But, as the sun rises over the horizon, the dirt and cracks in the surface begin to show. Such is the fate of Cyberpunk 2077. Ambitious. Beautiful. Broken. Cyberpunk 2077 is everything that I could have wanted from CD Projekt RED’s newest RPG. Unfortunately, the things worth loving and celebrating are buried under layers of game-breaking bugs and weird design choices.

There’s a lot I want to say about Cyberpunk 2077. A lot that I want to digest and break down. But, as I sit here, it’s hard to sort through it all. There’s a lot that I love. A lot that I want to praise. There’s also a lot of bad. Things like game-breaking bugs and graphical issues with NPCs and characters within the world. I’ll do my best to avoid them, but beware of mild spoilers ahead.

Dreamin’ a dream

If you’re looking for a world full of great stories and side quests, then you’ve come to the right place. While the main storyline itself is extremely strong—the relationship between V and Johnny Silverhand is one that works well and builds off itself throughout—the side quests really help to make the world feel like a living, breathing place.

Without giving too much away, the main storyline follows mercenary V as they try to make a name for themselves. Unfortunately, the big job that should have set them up for the future goes pear-shaped and V is soon stuck with Johnny Silverhand’s psyche in their head. To make matters worse, Silverhand is a bit of an anti-corporate terrorist and his influence quickly begins to manifest itself in V’s life.

But the depth doesn’t end there. Every side quest in Cyberpunk 2077 offers its own narrative, and while they’re all separate from the main story quests, it all builds together and connects to unlock additional paths that players can follow in later missions of the main campaign. In fact, the amount of endings players have available at the end of the game is partially determined by the characters that they've met and the side quests that they've completed.

It’s this weaving connection between the side stories and main storyline that really add to the depth of the world and the characters that you get to know throughout.

Build yourself up

Combat is another thing you’ll see yourself in quite a bit in Cyberpunk 2077. It works, but if you’re looking for super deep combat, you aren’t going to find it here. There are a couple of standout things—like the Cyberware upgrades you can pick up from Ripperdocs, which add the ability to slow down time or double jump. There are also plenty of weapons to choose from, including the deadly and iconic Mantis Blades, which sprout from your arms when equipped.

Gunplay is fairly weak at first, with headshots feeling really unsatisfying until after you’ve managed to snag a few upgrades. Once upgraded, though, they start to feel more like headshots. So, if you’re looking for that sweet pop as an enemy’s head explodes, then you’re going to want to put points into that. If you want more out of combat then I definitely suggest putting more thought into the various skills and Cyberware that you can invest in, as they really help to make it feel less like a point, click, kill simulator.

Which brings us to the class system. Unlike standard RPGs, which make you choose from preordained classes, Cyberpunk 2077 allows you to pick and choose the skills you want from five main categories. These categories can be combined together in any way that you want, allowing you to make a stealth hacker, a melee-focused stealth hacker, or whatever else you want to make by combining the various skills that you can unlock.

The system is also extremely forgiving, as you can spend much of your time focusing on one attribute and then just shift your focus later as you continue to level up and unlock new attributes and skills. There’s also the option to respec—something most RPGs offer these days—though it is a bit costly.

The city of dreams

If exploration is more your thing, then Night City has plenty to offer there, too. While the world isn’t quite as awe-striking as the large open worlds that we’ve become accustomed to over the years, there is a lot of content packed into the alleyways and streets that make up the city.

Side quests and other open world activities can be found all throughout the city and the Badlands that surround it, so there’s no worry about running out of things to do. There are plenty of clothing options and vehicles, which really lets you build your character’s fashion and style however you want. There is an armor system in place, though you can do away with most of that worry thanks to some of the subdermal Cyberware upgrades you can purchase from Ripperdocs.

The voice acting is another great part of the puzzle, and while the celebrity spotlight falls on Keanu Reeves throughout much of the story, the real shining lights here are characters like Judy Alvarez, the voice actors for both male and female V, and the other supporting characters that appear. Compared to many of these other actors, Keanu’s performance can come off really stiff at times, though it does even out as you continue through the game.

Some of my best moments in Cyberpunk 2077 have come from simply walking or driving through the world from one objective to the next. The conversations that NPCs have as you walk by, and the sheer volume of people moving around the city, helps to bring Night City to life. There are some not-so-great development choices with the traffic AI—like the fact that they aren’t coded to pass around stopped vehicles, instead just piling up and then despawning as you move the camera around—but these are less bugs and more strange development choices.

The way that the NCPD spawns work is also questionable, with the NPC cops simply appearing near you instead of driving up or walking up like they do in other games. It is immersion-breaking, but as someone who played without getting the cops called on them that often, I never had to worry about it too much. It is still an issue, though, and one of many that are worth discussing.

Beyond the neon lights

While Cyberpunk 2077 is beautiful, and both the main story and side story quests are strong, the game has a lot of weaknesses to account for, too. I personally didn't run into too many graphical issues, though I did experience other issues with the game. The 3080 in my rig took everything that the game had to throw at it and handled it exceptionally well, though I did notice some textures popping in during exploration, as well as NPCs and cars sometimes phasing through solid objects. I realize that not everyone is as lucky as I am in that regard, and even if you are, chances are you’re going to run into one of the many other issues plaguing Cyberpunk’s beautiful world.

Throughout the 50+ hours I’ve spent in the game I’ve experienced a myriad of bugs. Some were simple, like having my clothes magically unequip themselves between missions. Others resulted in me being unable to reload my weapons or even shoot my weapons, forcing me to completely reload the last save file. Other game-breaking issues I encountered resulted in dialogue options not popping up when they should, causing me to miss some timed dialogue sequences, and even having mission triggers bug out and not pop up when they should have.

The game, though an RPG, doesn't offer any real way to customize your character outside of clothing changes after you complete the initial character creation. This means you can't change your hair or change up any of your other facial appearance options. This is more preference than necessity, but as an RPG, you'd expect to have a way to change up how your character looks throughout the game. It's possible we'll see this added in a future update similar to The Witcher 3's barbershop system, but at the moment it doens't exist in-game.

Free your mind

I love what Cyberpunk 2077 has to offer, but the sad truth of the matter is that CDPR pushed the game out before it was ready. Despite multiple delays, the game launched with a ton of issues. Ultimately, there’s a lot of good about Cyberpunk 2077, though it is buried under quite a bit of bad.

If you’re excited about playing Cyberpunk 2077 for yourself, then I recommend giving it a few months. Let CDPR sort out some of the bigger issues and then give it a try. I’d love nothing more than to sit here and tell you that it’s a perfect game and that you won’t have any issues playing it. Sadly, that isn’t the case. In its current state, Cyberpunk 2077 has a strong story and world, but those strengths are weighed down by bad design decisions and bugs aplenty.


This review is based on a PC copy of Cyberpunk 2077 provided by the publisher. Cyberpunk 2077 is out now on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PS5, and Xbox Series X.

Guides Editor

Joshua holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and has been exploring the world of video games for as long as he can remember. He enjoys everything from large-scale RPGs to small, bite-size indie gems and everything in between.

Review for
Cyberpunk 2077
7
Pros
  • Strong main story and side quests
  • Living, breathing, and immersive world
  • Tons of content to explore
  • Great voice acting and performances
Cons
  • Loaded with game-breaking bugs
  • Graphical glitches like texture pop-in
  • Keanu acting performance feels stiff at times
  • Lack of customization options after initial creation
  • Weird development design for AI and AI spawns
From The Chatty
  • reply
    December 16, 2020 9:00 AM

    Josh Hawkins posted a new article, Cyberpunk 2077 review: Glitch in the matrix

    • reply
      December 16, 2020 9:30 AM

      I do find it interesting that the game mechanics themselves don't really show up at all in your Pros/Cons lists. They seem to just kind of exist for the purpose of the world and story whether you liked or disliked them in the review, with the brief exceptions of gunplay or random spawning cops. RPGs, for me, live or die by them and the story so I'd like to know how you feel about the systems in the game and whether or not you think they are fun.

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        December 16, 2020 9:47 AM

        i can overlook the bugs like t-poses and floating items. but for the life of me, i can't forgive 3 things with this game.

        1. not a single tutorial on how inventory and cyberware + related mods and upgrades work or work together. i get that most of it is self explanatory, but i spent an hour last night trying to figure out why i can't apply the cyberware stuff in my inventory to my actual character.

        2. story lines that got cut. the montage they showed of jackie and v living it up was in one of the trailers. i thought we would actually get to play through it. but it was literally the same montage in the game. wtf?

        3. NPCs recycle the the same 24 or so lines that have no context. cops spawning behind you. no ability to see or customize your character after the initial customization screen. fuck, i think NBA2k gives you more character customization than this "RPG" game.


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          December 16, 2020 9:53 AM

          I liked Point 2! That montage was actually really fantastic in setting up where your character is at in the world. After a huge fall (at least in the corpo path), starting just on the cusp of making it big again. I'm totally fine not having drag myself through a low-end-gig-grubbing-scrub section... because it's not like the actually game doesn't offer that in loads, regardless.

          REALLY impressed they managed to do that sequence in-engine!

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            December 16, 2020 10:10 AM

            I agree. The montage was obviously intentional and serves as a way to get you to the real starting point in the game regardless of which life path you chose to start with.

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              December 16, 2020 10:24 AM

              It didn’t strike you odd how you are apparently meeting all these characters in the montage and then when you run into them in the open world you have dialogue options that make no sense? Or how you run into fixers in the real world and they have a couple dialogue options that seem a bit out of place and then there’s nothing to do with them? It really seems like you are already supposed to be established in the world but they just skipped over all of that because reasons.

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                December 16, 2020 12:42 PM

                Interactions with characters outside of quests seems flaky at best outside of quests. It'll be interesting to see how different this game is in a year or so

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          December 16, 2020 10:12 AM

          It's really confusing. I have no idea what I'm doing basically.

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          December 16, 2020 10:21 AM

          Yeah the disconnected story and characters is really confusing and seems to really indicate that that montage was meant to be playable stories that got cut... like how talking to ripperdocs prompts conversations like you’ve met before or even had other conversations and even did stuff together. It feels very disjointed and is extremely unfortunate. And who the fuck is T-bug? Like, I thought T-Bug was some AI for that combat tutorial but then nope, turns out she shows up like “yo what’s up good to see everyone” and I’m like “Whoa, you’re a real person!?”

          It’s such a fucking shame. I hope hope hope that they finish the game how they originally intended, some day.

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            December 16, 2020 10:53 AM

            Yep, this really bothered me too. More of a reason for me to return it on PC and buy it again late fall 2021 to see if they somehow fix that.

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            December 16, 2020 12:33 PM

            I’m still right at the beginning, but wasn’t T-bug the tutorial leader? In which case, you meet her first thing.

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            December 16, 2020 12:34 PM

            She is a netrunner. You don't generally deal with her in person and even when you do, they specifically call out that it's novel.

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          December 16, 2020 11:27 AM

          The montage feels like they couldn't figure out a tutorial. The opening 90 minuets of the game are not good at all.

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            December 16, 2020 11:33 AM

            The montage bit is one of the coolest things the game does, narratively. Probably the single best thing it does honestly. More games should do it.

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              December 16, 2020 11:52 AM

              Visually it was very cool but it felt like it was there to fill a gap in development.

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                December 16, 2020 12:39 PM

                Eh, I don't know where you'd get that idea. Did they ever hint at that being a playable sequence or something? Narratively it made perfect sense for them to montage-fast-forward through 6 months of game time so I'm not sure if I buy it.

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                  December 16, 2020 12:49 PM

                  And also that montage happens in real time, in-engine, no loading or pop in etc. It's a technical marvel. It obviously took way too much time/effort to be an afterthought or bandaid IMO.

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                  December 16, 2020 2:09 PM

                  It's not that it's a horrible bad thing, it just feels like "we couldn't figure out a gentle way to get you in this game world, so how's about we just throw you in the middle of it and next mission we give you a USB chip with a training module in it!"

                  It felt mediocre to me

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              December 16, 2020 2:44 PM

              Hahahahhahaha no, fuck no. It’s jarring laziness to use a marketing video as a montage to merge three different starting stories.

              It would be better to cut the 3 life path parts and make one good tutorial area that can be skipped if you want. If you skip the tutorial then you get to watch that marketing video montage, that you do daffly claim is amazing.

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                December 16, 2020 2:50 PM

                I was impressed technically since it was all in-engine. And that my character in the mirror actually looked better than the in-game ones, it was wild and made no sense why the game itself cannot do that.

                I don't know how they did all that jumping around to many different scenes seamlessly and without any hiccups.

                I would say all that stuff in there could make for an interesting DLC expansion instead of the standard post-game stuff.

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                  December 16, 2020 3:02 PM

                  I was pretty unimpressed with the opening 90 minutes of the game but I was impressed with the AA in the game. I'm on a 1080p TV and the last 6 months have had me terrified that my standards have risen and I can see jaggies. I've noticed a lot lately and been really worried I'm slowly going to turn on my TV.

                  Anyhow between Astrobot and CP2077 it seems very obvious to me that the scaler chip in the PS5 is nice. Edges are smooth as hell. So it's clear to me now, both Witcher 3 and GTAV just don't have AA or don't have good AA. They look like shit for jaggies and pixelation.

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                    December 16, 2020 3:14 PM

                    Cyberpunk 2077 has TAA forced on by default on PC, there isn't even an option in-game to disable it, which is quite rare. I'm sure the console versions are using the same AA method there.

                    GTAV & Witcher 3 are FXAA or SMAA or some other inferior post-process AA method, pre widespread adoption of TAA. That is why they are jaggy as hell. Only real fix on PC is supersampling/downsampling from a higher res. GTAV on PC does have an optional early form of nvidia specific temporal anti-aliasing (TXAA), but it's not nearly as good as modern methods. GTAV also has standard MSAA option that doesn't touch transparencies and kills perf as nearly as much as supersampling.

                    The downside of TAA in Cyberpunk 2077 is still there in a slightly softer and slightly blurry final image, but they do a have a small amount of post-sharpening included which helps. You really only need to add more on PC if using DLSS which can introduce even more blur depending on the setting.

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        December 16, 2020 11:01 AM

        That's a good point, to be honest. When I was trying to write this review, it was really tough to put my thoughts down and make it all make sense and feel concise, which probably resulted in some things slipping through or getting cut in the process. I wanted to touch on the things I loved about the game, but I also didn't want to breeze over the issues, because they are issues.

        More than happy to provide some additional context, though.

        Cyberware is a pretty interesting and cool system, but it definitely feels like it could be fleshed out more. As a whole it is just kind of there, and it works more as a second upgrade system than a real game-changer, at least in my opinion. I actually spent most of the game ignoring it because it just didn't feel that important to me.

        The advertisements put a HUGE emphasis on style and choosing your clothes and that just doesn't really feel like it's the case in the game itself. The clothing offers armor, which you need as you would in any other RPG. There is a Cyberware upgrade you can grab that removes a lot of this worry, but overall you'll probably spend a good bit of time trading out items for more armor and shit like that. If it's an upgrade, it's an upgrade.

        Driving is abysmal at first, but like any game with shitty driving (looking at you ubisoft) the driving does get easier over time. Doesn't make it better, but this also isn't a driving game, so wasn't really willing to knock it off for not offering a great driving experience right out the gate.

        The upgrade system can be a bit confusing, just because they've chosen these dumb names for the attributes. I had friends messaging me constantly asking what the difference between the sub-cats were, etc. There also appears to be one missing. Maybe DLC down the line?

        Dialogue feels better than any other game I've played, tbh, and you're gonna use it a lot here. You can literally walk away from 90% of the conversations (unless you're sitting down) which makes it really cool. Tired of listening to that one annoying NPC drone on and on about that job you need or accidentally chose the wrong dialogue option? NBD. Just turn and walk away.

        Crafting is cool, but another one of those things you can ignore if you want. I went through the entire main storyline and a good portion of the main side quests without touching it aside from upgrading one weapon and then crafting some ammo. Now, once you start putting upgrades into it, it probably becomes a lot more usable, but for the most part it just kind of exists if you want to use it.

        Let me know if there are any other mechanics or anything you have any other questions about.

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          December 16, 2020 12:10 PM

          Crafting... Yeah they could make it a little more user friendly. For me it was only really used early on to craft pistol ammo because I never had enough in the first couple hours of the game. After that I pretty much never really used it.

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          December 16, 2020 1:32 PM

          Cool, yeah I was just mostly interested in that stuff and what you liked and didn't like about them. Seems like overall it kinda comes out a wash although the dialog options being great is a huge plus in my book. Thanks!

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            December 16, 2020 1:40 PM

            Yeah. It's a mixed bag. Definitely not the strongest RPG out there, I will admit. But it was a hell of a fun game and hit some of the right check marks. With a little love, it could be truly great. Honestly reminds me of the first Witcher game. Lot of good, but also some kind of weird stuff that didn't always seem to make the most sense/matter. Least that's my take.

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      December 16, 2020 10:07 AM

      I'm kind of surprised that I keep hearing no mentions of things related to facial expressions and body language tech in reviews. Maybe I just haven't been playing the right games lately but there are a lot of story missions where these things are incredibly well done and provide some of the most convincing emotion or behavior I've seen in any game I've played. It's not always consistent but when it works it's really, really good.

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        December 16, 2020 10:51 AM

        It's the only thing keeping coming back for more. I've very close to returning it on PC right now. I've got a 7700k 1080TI setup and can really only do 1080p to get 60FPS, and even at resolution some areas still turn into slide shows.

        BUT most of the dialog scenes are WONDERFUL like you are saying and FPS is locked at 60.

        It all makes me want to just return it, then pick it up again, on PS5 this Fall 2021, when I'll have a PS5 and the game will have a native PS5 version that will run 60FPS locked.

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        December 16, 2020 11:08 AM

        Yeah, the body language and facial tech is definitely something worth praising. As mentioned in a previous comment above, there was a lot on my mind that I was trying to touch on in the review and some stuff just kind of slipped through the cracks.

        It's been a really long week/weekend, ya'll.

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          December 16, 2020 1:07 PM

          i dunno, i feel the opposite. the facial animations are pretty good with emoting, but when one of the detailed main NPCs talk, the mouth movements are off. i feel like uncharted 4 and TOLU2 did better with animating speech during cutscenes.

          oh and when i told to random NPCs, their mouths don't even move. lol

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            December 16, 2020 1:16 PM

            You're right about it being inconsistent. The NPCs are especially egregious if you take the time to actually go look at them and notice that 50% of the time their mouths don't even move properly.

            Other spots though like when you first sit down with Dex, T-Bug and Jackie in The Afterlife and Jackie is tapping his leg anxiously and Dex is smoking a cigar just looked REALLY good. It really felt like you were sitting down with real people in that part. If they could hit that note more consistently it would be really amazing.

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            December 16, 2020 1:43 PM

            I've seen some really, really good moments in particular side quests and in some of the main missions. But no, it doesn't stand up to the level seen in TLOU2 or even Uncharted 4. But I still think it's worth praising for the times it does work really well.

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          December 16, 2020 1:37 PM

          Sorry Josh, hope you get some rest soon!

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        December 16, 2020 2:10 PM

        Body language is good, yeah. I can see people clearly react to specific things I say, like look away at the mention of someone's name. It's well done!

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      December 16, 2020 10:16 AM

      A lot of the characters in this game want revenge on someone... seems to be a core theme...

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      December 16, 2020 11:43 AM

      Good review, I agree with most all of it. Also, this seems like a good place to dump some random thoughts I had on the game. None of this should be a spoiler but obviously nuke it if you think otherwise.

      I finished over the weekend with around 30ish hours of playtime I think. Overall I liked the game quite a bit, but it could have been amazing with a bit more work. I imagine that whenever we see a sequel it'll address a lot of complaints people had since they'll have this game to build off of rather than completely developing it from the ground up.

      Main story was good. I didn't do a ton of sidequests but I did both the Panam and Judy quest chains and they were great.

      The two different endings I saw were both good and not some ME3 or Deus Ex crap where they were just slightly different. They put a good amount of effort into the end sequences, and I'm not sure which choice I preferred more.

      Some skills could have used a bit of work. I went reflex/cool/int to basically try to be a cyber-ninja stealthing around and hacking people to blind them and then chopping them up with my katana. But there really wasn't much to make melee survivable for some of the areas where you couldn't stealth. Maybe the OS upgrade to slow time for longer would have helped, but I wanted to hack stuff still. I also did not come close to getting any of my skills to 20. I'm pretty sure the highest I had was maybe around 10.

      It would have been nice to see them do more with the various gangs. The maps showed how each area was primary controlled by one specific gang, but none of that mattered too much. They were just kind of minor details in the story.

      Quest chains that made use of skills would have been good. Like Skyrim guilds.

      Braindance stuff was good but they kind of stopped using it halfway through.

      Not sure any quest chains had as many paths as the first big one with Maelstrom and getting the bot.

      So many messages and calls to buy cars.

      Items outside of crafting were mediocre. I never got anything too amazing for my build. I don't think I ever seen a single cyberdeck drop.

      Not sure how enemy scaling worked but for a long while I couldn’t mess with any random street gang members outside of missions because they would just one shot me.

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      December 16, 2020 11:53 AM

      Curious if you could give it a rating assuming most of the bugs were fixed? Would it rate 8, or 8.5 or even 9 out of 10?

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        December 16, 2020 1:09 PM

        Without the bugs, I'd probably be willing to give it an 8. We don't really do decimals here. I think it would need more features to really hit that 9 mark, tbh. There are some core RPG things missing that I'd love to see added.

        All in all, I really, really love the game and plan to replay it again over our break with a different lifepath/sex and focus on skills, so i guess that should tell you how much I enjoy it as a whole.

        But yeah.

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      December 16, 2020 12:05 PM

      All in all a fair review. I LOVE the game, and I've put a shitton of time into it so far. I beat it once already with around 45 hours in. Already started on a second run.

      There are a ton of issues that really need to be ironed out. I'm sure that things will be patched into a much more playable experience than some people are currently getting.

      Even with all the crazy shit I ran into I can look past it. There is just a shitton of fun to be had in this crazy little game.

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        December 16, 2020 1:10 PM

        Yeah. I agree. I really love it and want it to be as good as it can be. I just ran into too many issues to call it a great game. It has the potential to be great, but they've got to put some more work into it to really get it there.

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      December 16, 2020 3:54 PM

      Yeah. I think I will wait. I finally played Witcher 3 this year. I don’t want to deal with an unfinished product.

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      December 16, 2020 4:23 PM

      The whole front of the game needs a redo like they did for witcher 2. Why is there long VR training session on how to shoot a gun (press x) and grabbing enemies (press x) but absolutely nothing about crafting or how to craft or how cyberdeck works. Also thr hacking needs a better explanation and all the breach protocol shit could also use better explanation.

      Also how to break down guns and why and what to do with the parts and why...just large sections of the game are like "here whatever dunno doesn't matter"

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      December 16, 2020 10:50 PM

      Is this the same Joshua Hawkins? https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/16/us/communist-cookie-monster-mural.html

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      December 18, 2020 2:01 AM

      I am thoroughly enjoying the game. Yes, there are glitches. T-Pose, NPCs suddenly changing clothes and some items floating, but really it is not at all detrimental to the gameplay. It does disturb immersion, but not by much as for me it only happens very seldom. It's a fair review and I'm sure that in a few month common issues and glitches have been taken care of and perhaps some more detail given to NPCs and content.

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