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With Cyberpunk 2077's review restrictions, CD PROJEKT RED played the system

Cyberpunk 2077
Cyberpunk 2077 (Image credit: CD Projekt RED)

On December 10, Cyberpunk 2077 launched on all platforms (aside from Nintendo Switch), finally putting the long-awaited, futuristic RPG in the hands of players. Since the launch was preceded by a wave of largely positive reviews, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that the game was going to live up to its hype.

For PC players, this was the case — our own Jez Corden even labeled Cyberpunk 2077 as a "contender for best game ever made" in his PC review. Additionally, the game also plays well on next-gen consoles like Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. However, this couldn't be further from the truth for people using current-gen consoles like the original Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Riddled with bugs and filled to the brim with significant performance issues, Cyberpunk 2077 is nothing short of a mess on these systems.

The developers behind the game, CD PROJEKT RED, recently apologized for these issues, promised that fixes are coming, and are even allowing Xbox One and PS4 players to get a refund on their purchase up until December 21, 2020. Some are praising the developers for this move; after all, it's great that the studio is allowing disgruntled players to get their money back. However, I don't think the praise is deserved when you consider the context surrounding the game's launch.

A process rooted in dishonesty

Source: CD Projekt S.A. (Image credit: Source: CD Projekt S.A.)

Unlike the developers of other multiplatform titles that typically provide outlets with review codes for all platforms before launch, CD PROJEKT RED chose to limit review copies of the game to the PC platform — the version of the game that, by far, runs and looks the best. No official explanation has been given for this, and it seems clear that the developer intended to hide the game's poor performance on current-gen consoles so that the game would receive critical acclaim and sell well on all systems (something that predictably occurred).

Frankly, I don't think there's any other sensible explanation as to why these review code restrictions were in place. It reeks of manipulation and taking advantage of how many gamers look to sites like ours when deciding whether or not they should buy a game. You could make the argument that people should have waited for the full release before pulling the trigger, but the studio's CEO Adam Kaciński commented that Cyberpunk 2077 runs "surprisingly well" on current-gen hardware less than a month ago. On top of that, Cyberpunk 2077 overall has primarily been marketed as a current-gen experience over the last few years, giving players the impression that the game would perform well on Xbox One and PS4.

In the end, every sign points towards the review restrictions being part of a manipulative and intentionally dishonest plan to get the game in the hands of players without being open about how the game runs.

Fool me once, shame on you...

Source: CD Projekt S.A. (Image credit: Source: CD Projekt S.A.)

Moving forward, I think it's important for journalists and regular players alike to keep CD PROJEKT RED's actions in mind as other multiplatform games continue to come out (especially ones that are cross-gen) so that this kind of situation doesn't occur again.

In cases where a developer limits review opportunities to one platform, outlets should be critical of this — including within the full review of the game in question — and press the studio in question about why this is the case. Meanwhile, players should be wary of situations where the review process is restricted in this way and wait until after launch so that they can see how a game performs on their chosen system before making their purchase. These actions will help ensure that the relationship between studios, publications, and players remains open and honest, which is important.

Your thoughts

What do you think about this whole situation? Do you agree with me that CD PROJEKT RED was intentionally dishonest? Let me know.

Cyberpunk 2077 is available now on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One consoles, and Windows 10 PCs for $60. It will likely end up being one of the best Xbox One RPGs if CD PROJEKT RED can patch it up well enough. If you're interested in picking up the game or already have it, make sure to check out our must-know starter tips.

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

28 Comments
  • Spot on, they're a publically traded company who knew full well the ramifications of what they were doing. They simply opted for the "easier to ask for forgiveness" approach and unfortunately, they probably will be.
  • It seems normal they would want the best performing version of the game to be reviewed.
    Just look at all the game sites that would review ps4 game versions rather than xbox1. Are they and the devs being dishonest?
  • Yes, intentionally withholding versions that are broken until after reviews are posted and it's too late to cancel preorders is dishonest. Further, IGN speculated, not reported so there's my caveat, based on "people they talked to" that the last delay was because it failed certification with Sony or MS or both.
  • The difference in those cases is that Xbox One review codes are still available. And on Xbox sites like ours that matters because we don't review on PS4 here, we stick to Xbox and PC. The fact they weren't willing to give out Xbox codes is what makes it sus.
  • To me it reeks of bean counters trying to squeeze as much money they could for the Christmas rush. The pandemic didn't help but that's no excuse for restrictive reviews. It's no secret that CDR was going to delay launching on some platforms initially. The problem with many accountants (I stress not all are like this) is that they only see numbers not people. Because throughout there career that is what they mostly see - numbers not people. So in order to monetize as much possible, CDR fell into the classic pitfall that many studios fall into - over promise and under deliver. I hope this is a learning lesson for CDR. As the saying goes its quicker to disassemble bridges than to build them. They should've said the launch will focus on PC first alongside the next gen consoles. There is another factor at play here, Cyberpunk 2077 is an Nvidia meddled title. When I say meddled, I mean it. It's amazing for RTX but to get similar performance via rasterization (DXR or Raytracing on 6000 series is not supported at launch) it needs some beefy GPU horsepower. Which neither the previous gen Xbox and PS4 have; the only exception is the One X. So it's easy to see why it's so buggy, it's literally not optimised for the hardware specifically. Such optimisations take time. Also another factor at play is if Google threw CDR a bunch of money wanting day one launch on Stadia. Although that doesn't add as much complexity in terms of optimisation to obtain similar graphical quality on very low end custom jaguar socs. Not to mention the crazy amount of programmatic testing involved. To add to all of this; the initial launch version is DRM protected. Since its widely proven DRM often degrades performance in certain PC configs. Given all consoles are now effectively x86/x64 (i imagine most of the code base is the same to reduce crunch time). DRM could be another factor as well.
  • Some great points. I still think something is missing here though. It seems that (judging from comments on various sites including this one) some people can play the game on their (PS4) console normally and some cannot. That seems to indicate it is also related to a console part that differs per console (like perhaps deteriorated harddrive / storage or such).
  • @ochhanz Good point, since many PS4 owners would have also no doubtly upgraded their HDDs so one has to ask are those experiencing issues are using SATA or SSDs?
    If the former, is the issue with 2.5 Sata at 5400 RPM or not?
  • Nobody should play their game. This is terrible. Also, pull all reviews from all review sites and only show reviews of the Xbox One and PS4 copies. Of course, that will not happen.
  • Yeah no not happening, I'm not gonna destroy one of the few last good studio for one stumble that will be fixed in a few weeks and end up with only money making machine like EA... I know what I can loose not what I will earn... Very wrong stupid move IMO... And à big potential loss for gamers... With such mentality EA Activision ubisoft and Sony should be bankrupt since the late 90's
  • Sorry man but with this move cdpr is no longer one of the last few good studios.
    There are plenty of studios making actual good finished product. Cdpr has made it clear what they are. If this destroys them then good riddance. It will not be undeserved.
  • Hmm CD projekt for me is a PC first dev studio, console of any Gen wasn't there target platform IMO. That being said they should have hold the console version if they knew it would be broken. At the end of the day the game is awesome when it's running properly and I'd rather have it suck on old Gen and be awesome on current Gen and just need a few big fix over the course of the next few weeks than beeing good on last gen and just a forgettable game on the new Gen and PC. This situation sucks Big time... Because on one side they did make a mistake or a effed up move (it doesn't really matter in the end) on the other side the game is indeed awesome in it's best version and the studio has always had great customer practices in the past... I feel like while they deserve to be "punished" we need to be careful not to sunk one of the most fair studio when it comes to customer consideration in the past... I'd take a CD projekt game with bugs over any EA games with even half the issues... Cause I have faith things will be handle in a customer oriented fashion
  • JMV83, that was perfectly said. I hadn't thought about all of that before, but I agree with you 100% (and you helped me see a bigger picture here).
  • It also plays great on my Xbox One X, and so I assume on PS4 Pro. Unfortunately, there's no option to release only for Xbox One X and Series X, so the policies effectively forced them to release for Xbox One or deny all of us dying to play on our Xbox One X's. I would prefer to release and just say, "plays but sucks on Xbox One, you really need an Xbox One X" then to not release for Xbox at all.
  • Yes, I blame them but I also blame you (and I'm speaking to Windows Central). You wrote the review and decided to not mention those issues. You gave it a 5/5 as the best game ever made despite the fact it launched completely unplayable. Rather than play the "media is a victim" role after the fact, do your job and be honest in your reviews. If what they gave you was a game that is only playable on a computer with parts you can't even buy, then you need to say that. If there is a restrictive review process, you need to say that. You are complicit in these actions when you participate in them. The gaming press needs to stop buying into the hype and remember that these are products by profit-seeking companies. Treat them as such. When you give a product a 5/5 rating, you are basically telling your readers that their hard earned money is worth what you just reviewed.
  • bobsentell, I have also blamed the medio here for failing to highlight this information as a core risk factor for prospective customers, but they are definitely not "complicit." That implies intent. I don't suspect for a moment that Windows Central intentionally tried to inflate user expectations in order to help CDPR sell more games. This was a case of they tested the game, saw it ran great, and reported that. The reporting was honest, albeit incomplete, as was the awe for a great game. If anything, it was naiveté, or maybe you could even say stupidity, for not seeing the obvious risks with there only being a limited set of test platforms, but that's still a far cry from complicity. By the way, I'll keep pointing this out: it does play great (has a lot of the minor bugs we all know about, but looks incredible) on current gen Xbox One X. So on some current gen consoles, it really is a great game, just not on all.
  • Jez reviewed the game on PC, where the game plays fine and looks great. It's not his fault that CDPR didn't let us take a look on console. I do however think that the press does need to press studios about why they don't have codes for all platforms as I said in the article.
  • Brendan, I wrote an eloquent response here praising Jez (his review of Cyberpunk 2077 being the first time I ever had an emotional reaction to a game review), but pointing out that if it's not normal to keep reviewers from the console version when it's releasing at the same time (I don't know, is that normal or not?), then he should have emphasized that this is unusual and likely indicates problems. Unfortunately, the Windows version of the Windows Central app is buggier than Cyberpunk 2077 and bumped me to another article, erasing everything I'd written.
  • Oof, that sucks. Sorry you’re experiencing issues!
  • I do agree that only allowing reviews on some systems is a form of dishonesty. I also agree that this should result in skepticism of CDPR in the future if they try something similar. However, I don't think it's all that bad, and I do think some reviewers deserve a little bit of the blame for not pointing this out more thoroughly. They wrote as if the games must play the same on all systems, rather than emphasizing (I know it was mentioned by some) that we should all assume the worst for existing consoles specifically because CDPR was not allowing reviewers to test that version. As a parallel, we all know that if a movie doesn't provide advance showings to critics, it's probably because they know critics will pan the movie. It seems not providing a Cyberpunk 2077 review on a particular swath of platforms ought to be a similar signal that it will be bad on those systems, whether from CDPR or someone else. Also, I've not seen it written about yet, but it looks gorgeous on Xbox One X, so the "current gen" problems must be limited to Xbox One and Xbox One S, they do NOT include current gen Xbox One X. That adds nuance to the argument that also deserves more coverage.
  • I've written some critical notes about the media's treatment of the game. On further thought, 2 points on that: 1) This really only applies if it's abnormal to keep some versions from reviewers. I really don't know the process well enough to know what's "normal." If game companies always only put their best foot forward and reviewers typically only base their reviews on top-of-the-line, cutting-edge hardware, then I suppose this would be no different (but in that case, CDPR didn't really do anything wrong either). 2) Jez is flat out awesome. Even if he was in the wrong here to not express concern over console versions because CDPR was keeping that under wraps (whether he was wrong or not really depends on what's normal in #1), I will still seek out and read his reviews. We all make mistakes and miss things from time to time. Jez has a long history of writing insightful, compelling reviews that help lots of us. I remain a huge fan of Jez's and appreciate Windows Central all the more for his being part of the team.
  • The Series X|S and PS5 are now current-gen consoles. The Xbox One and PS4 are now last-gen consoles. I have no issues with what they did. Cyberpunk has always been primarily for PC, consoles were a bonus, last-gen consoles were a cherry on top. I understand people may feel cheated, but they're doing right by them by offering refunds. I don't understand the hate this is getting.
  • Because: They didn't allow outlets like us to play or review the game on consoles. They said the game played "surprisingly well" on Xbox One/PS4, despite the fact that it does not. Lot's of things to be sus about here. It strongly comes off as them hiding the poor performance so that they could still get their high sales and review scores. Also, if you're going to sell a game on a system then it should perform well on that system. End of story.
  • Console gaming is supposed to just work right out of the box but it doesn't. I think the devs felt pressure to release the thing after delaying it for an eternity.
  • Gamers these days have unrealistic expectations of games. "Omg shadows aren't dark enough. The leaves don't move with the wind. I can't see the skin texture." I can tell a lot of people weren't around when Mario RPG was awesome graphically, or wowed at NBA2K on Dreamcast. I've played plenty of buggy games, I even forced bugs with game genie. The amount of whining people do shows no matter how much better games become, the mindset of the players overall becomes pettier because the expect near perfect games, delivery, and responsiveness (from the game and developers) as someone else mentioned, scrutinize and support else EA and Ubisoft will be the only options left.
  • I don't disagree in some cases but a lot of the stuff regarding this game shouldn't be dismissed as "whining" When character models and textures take 30 seconds to load in fully and the FPS is terrible, the experience is basically ruined.
  • If you bought a car and it didn't work as intended, would you also be as apathetic towards your purchase?
  • So then PC reviewers would be called fools for trying to review Cyberpunk on a laptop; but when they try reviewing Cyberpunk on an equally powerful 7 year old PS4, they expect raytracing and extremely long reaching render distances? Maybe people everywhere need to set their expectations for old gaming hardware a little better...
  • They aren't expecting ray tracing they are expecting the game to run at 30 frames, it doesn't, it is significantly lower than that.