I loved Cyberpunk 2077, right from launch. I stand by my review of the game, and am still more than happy to not only call it my 2020 game of the year, but one of my favorite games of all time. That said, I did play exclusively on the PC version of the game on a capable rig without any expectations whatsoever, which is an experience that very aggressively diverged from many others.
Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox and PlayStation was a well-documented mess. The new-gen Xbox consoles didn't do too much to mitigate the damage either, with poor resolution, bad textures, poor performance, and glitches galore. Since then, CDPRED has been hard at work trying to repair the game and bring it up to expectations. This week, we finally got the 1.5 update that brought with it new-gen enhanced versions, complete with a wealth of other changes and improvements.
I went back to give Cyberpunk 2077 another try on my Xbox Series X, to see whether it lived up to my experiences on the PC version. Thus far, I'd say it's finally ready for console play — with caveats.
Rebalancing the loot and "RPG" aspects
One of my biggest complaints and criticisms about Cyberpunk 2077 was the itemization and RPG mechanics. In my humble opinion, CD Projekt RED isn't particularly great at this in general, with itemization and character progression in The Witcher 3 falling a bit on the messy side. Cyberpunk 2077 turned that strangeness up a notch, though, with itemization that not only made characters look horrible, but also came with gameplay-trivializing overpoweredness in certain gear combos.
I played Cyberpunk 2077 entirely as a Netrunner in my review, which I'm certain enhanced my experience of the game overall. I didn't engage much with the game's weaponry or gear, instead opting to hide in a corner and murder enemies via CCTV cameras and hacks. This gameplay style felt great and still does, but in subsequent attempts to play, I found Cyberpunk's gunplay and melee combat wholly lacking. CD Projekt RED has attempted to address some of these inconsistencies by adding new weapons and rebalancing some of the game's high-end mods and equipment aspects. You can't just stack mountains of crit-enhancing mods anymore, with new restrictions forcing you to be a little more considerate about how you approach character building.
Many high-end items now have more strict stat requirements too, which should add to the sense that your build actually matters. Some existing builds might end up broken as a result of this, though, with no way to re-allocate stats beyond starting over as of writing. They have added bonus stats to certain bionic upgrades, though. For example, Gorilla Arms now enhances your "body" stat, allowing you to carry heavier weapons without actually investing the points into your character.
While some existing playstyles may get nerfed as a result, many of these tweaks should add to the game's depth, allowing for lesser-used builds to shine. CD Projekt RED also tweaked some talent trees like Cold Blooded to bring them up to par with other builds. CD Projekt RED also added new animations for certain melee weapons, like the Katana, which enhances the "cyborg ninja" fantasy a fair bit.
I need to get deeper into the game to really get a feel for how this translates to overall gear progression, but early impressions are promising. This time, I'm going through the game as a tech sniper with light hacking, which should allow me to pick off dangerous enemies through walls and then opt for a tech shotgun to mop up.
Sadly, it doesn't seem like CD Projekt RED has gone to much trouble to address how horrible-looking gear is in the game. You can have a badass armor suit, then find a ripped neon green vest that has better stats. The game desperately needs some form of "transmogrification" system where you can swap an item's stats for another item's looks, but I suspect that'll come in a future patch. CD Projekt RED did add a barber system to your mirror in-game, allowing you to change hairstyles and the like, so I suspect they've heard the feedback about the visual aspects of roleplaying in Cyberpunk 2077.
Speaking of visuals, let's dive into some performance and graphics criticisms, shall we?
Visuals, performance, and AI enhancements
I did dabble with Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox Series X post-launch but found it too horrible to play. The game ran far better on my RTX 2070 gaming PC, both in terms of visual quality and performance, making the Xbox version simply rough to deal with. Thankfully, as of 1.5, the game has become a little closer to what you might expect from a "AAA" new-gen game.
Previously while driving around Night City, the game would hitch and stall, unable to stream new areas fast enough on the Xbox Series X. Performance enhancements and optimizations seem to have fixed that across the board, with the game running at a thoroughly stable 60 FPS at all times. The game is simply stunning, with one of the densest and detailed open worlds in industry history, and the Xbox Series X finally comes a little closer into parity with its PC counterpart. It's not all glowing, though.
Cyberpunk 2077 has a ray-tracing mode on Xbox Series X, which is a little tough to use. It absolutely craters the frame rate on Xbox Series X, cutting in half to 30 FPS. Not only that, but it seems to introduce some uncanny input lag that's hard to measure. The game is utterly stunning with ray tracing turned on, dripping in graphical opulence, but it just makes it feel a bit tough to play. The "rooftop sequence" with Johnny Silverhand was utterly mind-blowing with ray tracing enabled, something more akin to that Matrix demo we recently got, but the frame rate trade-off is a bit too much in general play. It's a shame, because on PC it can produce truly indulgent environmental realism without impacting performance anywhere near as much as it does on console. Hopefully, Microsoft can explore machine learning to elevate ray-tracing capabilities of the Xbox Series X, because today, it just doesn't seem to be quite there yet.
Furthermore, if you're on an Xbox Series S, you're pretty much flat out of luck here. While the game has been improved over its Xbox One S backward-compatible format, the game is still capped at 30 frames per second, despite the more powerful CPU found in the Xbox Series S. CD Projekt RED says they are investigating potential methods to raise the frame rate, but at least for now, the Xbox Series S version of Cyberpunk 2077 still remains a bit of a disappointment. Considering other games like Chivalry 2 and Call of Duty eventually did figure out how to squeeze more frames out of the Xbox Series S, I'm hopeful that Microsoft can potentially work with CD Projekt RED to help elevate the Xbox Series S version a bit.
One of the most contentious aspects of Cyberpunk 2077 pertains to its sandbox. Coming in from other CD Projekt RED games with no expectations whatsoever, I did not expect Cyberpunk 2077's NPC behavior to be any more complex than that of The Witcher 3, serving merely as background objects rather than sandbox entities. However, CD Projekt RED's marketing most definitely tries to align the game with Grand Theft Auto-style expectations, and it became a central criticism of the game over time. It does seem like CDPRED has made some enhancements here, though. Vehicles behave a little more intelligently than before in subtle ways, slowing down ahead of inclines and other obstacles. Police behave a little more intelligently too, reacting to criminal behavior from NPCs in a less scripted, and more dynamic way.
I think CD Projekt RED may still have a long way to go before the sandbox truly feels "alive" and not like a backdrop, though, if that is indeed what they're going for. But the work being done is excellent and makes the game world already feel more like a sandbox, and less like a pretty background you're meant to mostly ignore.
A long road to redemption
Despite the enhancements, Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox is still glitchy. After a few hours of play, I've probably encountered more glitches and odd behavior than my entire playthrough on PC, coupled with four hard crashes. I've seen NPCs in cutscenes path through objects. I've seen the return of an old bug where "jacking in" to objects glitches out. I've also experienced hovering objects and strange ragdoll anomalies in combat. Most irritatingly of all, sometimes the music gets corrupted, adding maddening distortion to bass tones in some tracks — although, experience from other games on Xbox makes me wonder whether this is an issue with Xbox's Quick Resume feature, rather than Cyberpunk itself, since I've had this happen in other games too.
Indeed, it still seems like there's a long road ahead before Cyberpunk 2077 really hits the level of quality and polish CD Projekt RED led people to expect. Cyberpunk 2077 is an incredibly special game, with unprecedented ambition and environmental detail, in a world that still has truly insane potential for DLC and long-term fun. CD Projekt RED was one of the industry's most beloved developers before Cyberpunk 2077, making it something of a cautionary tale. The best place to play undoubtedly remains a Windows PC. Still, I think Cyberpunk 2077 as of 1.5 is more than in a playable state for Xbox Series X gamers, but Xbox Series S gamers may still want to hold off a bit to see whether they can solve the FPS problem.
Patch 1.5 says to me that CD Projekt RED has finally turned a corner on salvaging Cyberpunk 2077, though. The additional weapons, gameplay features, and other tweaks are a promising sign that more free content and expansions could be on the way to elevate and enhance the game even further and help it to finally deliver on that very clear potential and become unanimously one of the best Xbox games of all time in the process.
There's a city to burn
Ignore the haters, Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the best open-world games ever made, although it remains a bit rough around the edges. Xbox Series X and PC players should be good to go now, but Xbox Series S gamers may want to wait a bit longer. For those on Xbox One consoles ... you should probably skip this one until you can upgrade.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!