After reading the title, many people will be reading these words thinking I’m talking about a certain review that scored Cyberpunk 2077, 7 out of 10.
I’m not, I’m talking about every Cyberpunk 2077 review I’ve seen so far and the reason why I won’t be reviewing the game.
To start things off, I like to think I’m a fairly experienced reviewer, I started off writing reviews as a hobby back in 2006, and have been reviewing for mainstream and specialist press since 2012.
I’ve reviewed hundreds of games both good and bad and I’ve had many compliments on how I review (and undoubtedly a few criticisms as well).
Before Cyberpunk I’d only ever refused to review a single game over the last 14 years and that was Hitman Absolution when the whole story was built around an amateur decision by a professional, a mistake that didn’t sit well with me and created high-level subjectivity which meant I felt unable to fairly judge an otherwise high-quality game.
The art of reviewing, (which I feel many people, even “Professional” reviewers often seem to forget) is, that our words can often guide hundreds and thousands to buy or avoid a game, being too subjective and pouring our heart and soul into a review alienates the masses while being too neutral means you’re never really connecting with the reader, likewise skipping sections of the game to get a review out earlier is even worse as you need to experience every ounce possible, knowing that a part you miss or dislike might be loved by your readers.
You guys want brutal honesty, but you want any criticism to be founded and explained. Equally, if a reviewer loves a game, you need to know if it’s a personal love of a genre or if that game really is something special.
So back to Cyberpunk, a large, open-world RPG which combines elements of games like Deus Ex, even Mass Effect and of course CD Projekt Red’s own ‘The Witcher 3’.
Unfortunately, many people don’t see it like that, weeks and weeks before release I was seeing Facebook groups littered with “It’s going to be better than COD” and “I love GTA, this is going to be Ep1c!’ which hopefully gives you a rough idea how hard it is to remain neutral when everyone’s on the hype train and handling misinformation like it’s come straight from the developers…
But, I completely understand why.
You are all consistently spun a giant web of lies and deceit, Developers saying how hard they’re working on a revolutionary new title, Publishers insisting they’re behind the best product ever, Public Relations teams spinning every fine detail to sound like a groundbreaking new feature and worst still, press jumping on the bandwagon to highlight anything that looks new and fresh or familiar to any other big game, and circling every positive or negative aspect with a big bright highlighter in the hope of enticing the reader to read their article and then you’ve got the keyboard warriors filling social media with their own opinions.
It’s a minefield of information that very few people can even try to navigate through without getting caught up on some spiel.
If you check any of my existing reviews on Xbox Infinity, you’ll notice I’ve started adding specific information to the top of the review stating important information, most of this is what I’d hope to see in any review, but none more so than what I want to highlight regarding Cyberpunk… The console the game has been reviewed on, since the release of the Series X its clear experiences will differ between consoles with the exact same game, and this is highlighted to a great degree with Cyberpunk. It’s made even worse by many BIG name websites, declaring “Series X version” when it’s simply the Xbox One version running on Series X, this just further confuses people.
Further outlined by a conversation I’ve today had on Facebook with a guy insisting Call of Duty: Cold War is the same game on Xbox One and Series X (even though, unlike Cyberpunk that has been optimized for the new consoles).
Highlighting important information should be as mandatory as summing up your conclusion in the last few paragraphs.
The gaming press industry needs to wake up and smell the roses, the majority of people won’t read every sentence of a 2000-3000 word review to discover these details, but they will scroll to the big score at the bottom and/or read the summary before they proceed to make their own opinion on a small percentage of what we write coupled with the hype and inevitable negativity you see on your average social media post.
But with Cyberpunk 2077, carefully outlining the experience and reviewing the game fully on all systems is the only way a review can be taken seriously and I haven’t got the time or resources to fully review the title on Xbox One/S and Xbox One X/Series S and Xbox Series X.
My own opinions of Cyberpunk 2077, playing solely on Xbox Series X are high, and I can honestly share that this limbo-dancing palm tree is the only bug (that I could imagine being seen by the masses), I’ve encountered to date.
It was far more funny, than game-breaking. Sure there’s fishing tackle protruding through female clothing (don’t judge – we need to test these things), but there really hasn’t been any other major issues.
I would have gone as far as saying Cyberpunk might be one of the best “last-gen” titles. Reminiscent of ‘Black’ on the original Xbox, which seemed to push the boundaries of what was possible on the outgoing generation of machines, on my own experiences with Night City and I would have easily scored Cyberpunk 2077 a very capable 9/10, the direction and complexity were clear to see and after exploring the graphics settings (as I do for every game) I was really pleased with how the game looked and performed, and even though some would argue “you shouldn’t need to tweak things to look their best, I’d simply explain that not everyone shares “A developers vision” and I’d highly recommend you check every game you play regularly to make sure you’re getting the most from it graphically.
But that was my experience on the Xbox Series X, an experience that most people, through cost, or availability won’t yet witness because they’ve not got their hands on the monolithic newcomer.
Looking at the core Xbox One experience, that review score might have been lucky to receive a disappointing 6/10.
When I witnessed the performance on ‘last-gen’ machines, I was angry and appalled at how a game can ship in that state, and even more annoyed that the same game running on Series X felt like such a drastically different experience.
Worst still the “Optimized for Series X|S” version that could have potentially blown other optimized titles out of the water, will now be even further delayed as the developers rush to patch the holes which are present when the game is running on last-gen systems.
Can we have a moment of silence for what Cyberpunk 2077, could have been…
I’d even go as far as guessing CD Projekt Red wanted to cancel the last-gen versions of the game when they pushed that big yellow notice in November, declaring “We need to make sure everything runs well and every version runs smoothly”, but by the time the release dates of the new consoles were announced the hype-train had already left the station and when they knew how poorly their prized asset was performing on low-spec machines, it was way too late to shift to next-gen exclusivity, without an even greater backlash to what they’ve now got to deal with.
Now we have the issue that a game is, in my honest opinion, perfectly fine on Xbox Series X, very good on Xbox One X & Series S and appalling on Xbox One / One S…
Imagine if they’d been honest, and only released on Series X, PS5 and high-end PC’s initially, (and if the last X months had been spent solely optimizing those experiences), The 9’s and 10’s would have been founded, and the game would have carried so much positivity into a delayed last-gen release, those rose-tinted glasses would have been in full effect.
Instead, the games industry is in turmoil with dozens of reviews declaring Cyberpunk is a 9/10 or even 10/10 because outlets have been just as hooked on the hype-train or judging solely on high-end machines without consideration for the vast majority of people who will be buying the game who still have last-generation hardware.
Then you’ve got negativity spread by other areas of the gaming press, those people who claim to review but admit they’ve not covered all areas of the game, and a sour last-gen experience burning a hole in the credibility of the title on the machines it should have been exclusive to.
With all of that said, there are three options for the gaming press…
We can jump on the hype train, I could go into great detail in what warrants a 9/10 score on Series X and ignore that hundreds of millions who might consider the game, are looking at low-spec or last gen-hardware.
Likewise, we could point out everything that’s bad with the performance when Cyberpunk is bent over and stretched across every inch of struggling hardware, and maybe even declare it lucky to be receiving any review of 7/10, let alone higher.
or our own choice, by refusing to give a review and in this instance trying to explain that the game is so dependent on your chosen hardware, it’s impossible to review fairly.
The only hope is that developers and publishers learn to be honest with themselves, and if something isn’t working out, rather than trying to perform miracles, concentrate on where and what is working well and make it special.
Maybe then, gaming press can start to be clear with the readers on what is and isn’t worth checking out.
for transparancy, all screenshots where captured using xbox Series X, built in Screenshot method, during a short period of time when on the way to a side-misison, these screens are unedited with the last one having all UI elements disabled via the in-game options menu.