The Thursday Inbox tries to imagine what CD Projekt expected to happen with Cyberpunk 2077, as one reader looks forward to Kunio-Kun’s Dodgeball.
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Every lie incurs a debt to the truth
I was under no illusions after so many chaotic delays and other red flags that Cyberpunk 2077 would be released in anything other than a less than perfect state. I was excepting a buggy game. No problem, bugs I can cope with. It turns out it’s actually less buggy than I anticipated. Indeed, there are fewer bugs than I’ve experienced with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The latter game has hard crashed my PlayStation 4 so many times I fear that it will end up bricking my console.
What I didn’t expect, however, was the utter lie regarding how awful Cyberpunk runs on the base PlayStation 4. How this passed any kind of approval from not only CD Projekt Red but also Sony and Microsoft is astonishing and unacceptable. It has all the hallmarks of a game designed for the PC with a PlayStation 4 version shoehorned in at the last minute. The massive compromises are everywhere. Night City is utterly devoid of any cars or pedestrians. It feels mostly like a poor man’s GTA.
The graphics, to put it bluntly, are atrocious. Without exaggerating not only are there better-looking games on the PlayStation 3, but at times I was wondering whether I was playing a N64 game. Rather ironically for all the fuss pre-launch about a transgender poster, it can’t actually be seen in the game as it’s so blurred. Games like Ghost Of Tsushima or Red Dead Redemption 2 show what can be done with the base PlayStation 4 graphics wise. Cyberpunk has no excuse.
Worst of all is the frame rate. Despite running the latest software version, many aspects of this game are simply unplayable. I’m unable to complete some early missions as the terrible frame rate is such a huge disadvantage, especially during combat. It is a disgrace the game has been released in this condition, particularly after years of development for a game announced before the PlayStation 4 was even on sale.
As such it saddens me that for a game I was looking forward to I’ve requested a refund for the first time in my life. Unsurprisingly, Sony initially refused my demands for a refund citing their terms and conditions, but this is where the phrase ‘does not affect your statutory rights’ comes into play, notably the Consumer Rights Act 2015. With this we have the right to expect that the digital content is of ‘satisfactory quality’. This means that it meets a standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory, taking account its fitness for purpose and freedom from minor defects which are all important factors when considering its quality.
Very clearly Cyberpunk 2077 does not fulfil this criteria, even more so given that CD Projekt Red have essentially admitted that they lied (again covered by the Act). Thus, after a short robust exchange of messages and the threat of further action Sony very reluctantly refunded my money. So anyone seeking a refund from Sony, Microsoft or other outlets, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 is your friend.
What won’t happen
I have to ask why anything is being directed towards Sony or Microsoft for Cyberpunk being broken?
The certification process is basically have they paid the fee and will the game break or hack the system?
In all my time around video games, there have been a lot of ‘broken’ games released (that don’t get fixed). So many that I would think GC could write a book about it.
But it has never been aimed at the platform manufacturer.
I understand that the game is high profile, so backlash is expected as it is broken. But this should be aimed at CD Projekt for building up so much momentum and releasing a less than expected product.
Maybe one way to fix it is make or patch a last gen version for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Lower the resolution to maybe 720p, have less people traffic, and all best performance settings by default. Then sell it at a lower price (£20-£30?).
They would have to have some way of refunding the people who bought for full price for last gen.
GC: Lower the price and refund customers? Yeah, that ain’t happening.
I just don’t get all the Cyberpunk 2077 controversy, GC?! I mean come on guys, CD Projekt Red are sorry and was a very highly respected gaming studio for almost 20 years and now it’s all basically been undone within a matter of what? Just a few days? How on earth did they honestly think they would get away with all the performance/technical issues on the base PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles? By not showing any actual real gaming footage except on PC or the next gen consoles and by giving review copies out to everyone so near to the official launch date?
What on earth were they actually thinking and even hoping to achieve by all this frenzy? Is it to be the number one laughing stock of gaming in 2020?
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This is fine
I’m currently playing Cyberpunk 2077 on a base PlayStation 4 and for a while it was plagued by some pretty serious bugs, such as textures not loading, bodies floating into the air and frequent crashes. Weirdly, this now seems to have resolved itself and the game is running much better.
I have to wonder whether CD Projekt should have binned Keanu Reeves and devoted his fee to some more quality control? He doesn’t add anything to the game and yes, I know he was Johnny Mnemonic and Neo back in the 90s but he’s clearly phoning it in.
Despite the issues I’m enjoying the game, which can basically be summed up as Deus Ex Theft Auto.
I’m always pleased to see new games added to the Nintendo Switch Online apps but this time I’m more excited about the additions to the Japanese versions rather than the games we’ll be getting on the NES and SNES.
I’m hoping I’ll be able to stumble my way through the menus of Kunio-Kun’s Dodgeball and Hebereke with zero knowledge of Japanese. I’m also quite looking forward to the ping pong game, I’m not really sure why.
GC: As a point of trivia, Kunio-Kun’s Dodgeball is part of the River City Ransom/Street Gangs/Renegade franchise.
The blame game
All this chat about who should be sharing the blame with CD Projekt Red seems to be as prevalent as the technical state of Cyberpunk 2077 itself and I’m increasingly of the opinion that it only serves to distract and displace the blame unjustly from the publishers and developers.
I totally agree about the points made against pre-ordering most games without question but when it comes to consumers taking responsibility for encouraging publisher behaviour, this to me shouldn’t extend beyond the quality of gameplay. By all means, hold gamers to account for throwing money at publishers without questioning whether or not a game is likely to be worth their time but why should we be blamed for expecting a game to simply work as a minimum criterion when we pay £45+ for it?
What are we basing that principle on? How many games have launched in this sort of state, especially in recent years? I’ve seen multiple people list the usual examples of No Man’s Sky, Fallout 76, and Battlefield 4. These to me are the stand-out exceptions and I’m happy to be corrected but the vast majority of triple-A games released these days might have some minor performance issues or bugs at worst. Why should we then base all our expectations and principles on the tiny minority of offenders, as though they represent this apparently inescapable inevitability?
I’ve got even less time for the ‘reviewers should be more responsible’ argument. All those people who are desperate for reviews won’t accept for a second that a critic should refuse to review a game because a version the reviewer doesn’t have access to might not work, when they already have a version that seems to work fine. Especially when the relevant site dedicates extensive coverage to the state of other versions of the game when that does become apparent. Are critics instead now expected to play five or six versions of multiformat games before offering an opinion that’s weighted across all of them?
As far as CD Projekt Red are concerned, it seems impossible to me they didn’t make an executive decision weeks ago to ask for forgiveness instead of for permission, and that’s exactly how it’s panned out. They probably had that ‘rebuild the trust we have lost’ line penned well before 10 December.
I imagine they believed their own hype after The Witcher 3 and realised when it was too late that they’d bitten off more than they could chew. It’s hard to see how that could’ve happened from a project management perspective, though, as it only takes a few hours playing their previous games to realise they’ve still got a few important technical/design lessons to learn as a development team before they start promising one of the most hyped games of the decade.
PS: I’d be interested in hearing about how closely the ‘finished’ game seems to resemble that famous behind closed doors demo that had people salivating a couple of years back. Bugs aside, if it’s more or less representative of that initial promise, I’ll probably still give it a go when I eventually get a PlayStation 5.
GC: There were a few behind closed door demos, but the first one was what turned out to be the first proper mission and it looks and works exactly as promised. At least as far as we can remember.
Wait and see
Personally speaking, I don’t even know why GC showed the letter from ‘Mark’ in Wednesday’s Inbox. You’re more generous than I would’ve been in your situation, given his vague insults about you and other reviewers being ‘gullible’ and saying you haven’t met his standard for… something he never explained.
I’d say that reviewers have handled Cyberpunk 2077 extremely well. Every review I’ve read from a trusted source has managed to point out the bugs and critique the (apparently very good) game that lies beneath them. If you’re somehow unaware the state Cyberpunk is in you’re either not paying attention or – and I suspect this is what has happened to Mark and why he is seeking to blame others for his mistakes – you blindly pre-ordered the game in advance.
My policy is always to wait for reviews, no matter the game, and once again that policy has paid dividends. I’ll pick the game up sometime next year, when I have a PlayStation 5 and CD Projekt has sorted out the bugs. At that point it will be as if nothing was ever wrong and I’ll make sure to follow the same logic with the next big release after that.
Quite the interesting Reader’s Feature pitting Zelda: Breath Of The Wild against The Witcher 3 over the weekend. I really enjoyed my time with The Witcher 3 earlier this year and can easily see why it is eulogised by gamers – especially those that prioritise storytelling, character development, world-building, and side quest design in video games.
The Bloody Baron quest line in particular has some of the most poignant and profound writing and performances I’ve ever experienced in the medium. I was amazed by the delicacy and nuance in the morality of the layered proceedings, the humanity in that tale of guilt, misfortune, and grievance really resonated with me.
Geralt is an exceedingly amiable and witty protagonist, with other excellently written characters being Yennefer, Ceri, Dandelion, Triss, the Crones Of Crookback Bog, and the aforementioned Bloody Baron, along with a few others (I’ve yet to play the DLC as well).
I even thought The Witcher 3’s combat was better than many gave it credit for, with a compelling sense of rhythm, strategy, and visceral challenge when played on the hardest difficulty. The world design was also stunning to behold and a pleasure to virtually inhabit.
However, Breath Of The Wild is easily the better of the two games when it comes to the paramount aspect of gaming for myself: the gameplay.
Everything from the controls, interactivity, player agency, map and inventory system, open world/level design, combat and traversal mechanics, physics engine, puzzle designs, artificial intelligence, crafting, weather system, and most importantly; how fun it is, were leagues ahead of The Witcher 3 in my opinion, and groundbreaking in their inventiveness and efficacy.
There’s a seamless, organic quality to embarking upon an adventure and being subtly guided to points of interests that comfortably surpasses the sense of exploration and discovery in The Witcher 3 for me. There’s nothing remotely as wondrous and rewarding as scaling a high vantage point and identifying an alluring orange light far away denoting a virgin shrine, and subsequently plotting a course to travel there and plunder its treasure.
There’s nowhere near as compelling a stimulus to experiment with and manipulate the gameplay parameters to your hearts content in The Witcher 3, it’s a significantly more rigid and conservative gameplay experience outside of the character interactions, in my opinion. It’s crazy how the Zelda community are still finding ever more creative ways to exploit the game’s extraordinarily malleable mechanics and design.
I also don’t feel like Breath Of The Wild gets enough credit for how elegantly its lore is embedded into its relatively chipper post-apocalyptic world, or just how effective its visual storytelling is. I don’t believe there are any fundamental flaws with Breath Of The Wild’s story other than perhaps the near non-existence of a back story for Ganon and some pretty risible voice-acting.
Other aspects of Breath Of The Wild’s design I found underwhelming are the infuriatingly imprecise maze board-tilting shrine and repetitive combat trial shrines, rather weak bosses other than Ganon and the DLC’s excellent Monk boss, and the lack of variety in the enemy design.
Thankfully, when you consider Breath Of The Wild’s accomplishments on a macro level one can’t help but just marvel at its mechanical and structural ingenuity, maverick spirit, and artistic resplendence. Breath Of The Wild is undeniably representative of the peak of modern game design in my opinion, and still arguably the greatest game ever made in my estimation.
There is only one thing that can save Cyberpunk 2077… a VR mode.
If Microsoft were looking to buy CD Project Red, now would be the time.
GC: Now there is a thought.
This week’s Hot Topic
The topic for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Xane, who asks what’s the most money you’ve ever regretted spending on a video game related item?
It can be an early mistake from your children or a more recent purchase but what game, hardware, or merchandise do you really wish you hadn’t bought?
Do you blame the game or item itself or misleading marketing or reviews – or did you simply get the wrong idea about what it was? Did the mistake change your attitude at all and have you made a similar mistake since?
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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.
You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.
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