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.