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

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.