Well at least it’s not a post about Battle for Azeroth. But it is another post where I say what I really think instead of what people want to hear, so I’ll probably get in trouble.
Like Roger, and late-breaking addition Scopique, I took a look at GameSpot’s Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay demo. My reaction was a bit less enthusiastic. (Those two links are the only other two reactions I’ve seen to the video, by the way. I did not even
to read any YouTube comments.) Up until now I’ve been pretty dispassionate about the game, largely ignoring it. I typically don’t start thinking about whether to buy a game or not until launch day or beyond.
But in this case CD Projekt Red is definitely going to get a lot of scrutiny for any non-Witcher followups to their beloved Witcher series. And I’m as curious about it as anyone else (although the “cyberpunk” genre doesn’t do much for me).
On first viewing, the Cyberpunk 2077 3D environment looks amazing. The models and animations are fantastic, extremely realistic and immersive. The visual artists have done a job so good that it requires more non-repeating positive adjectives than I know off the top of my head.
The soundscape is less impressive, but not offensive. The music, on the other hand, will probably get on my nerves if it remains a couple of pulsing buzzes repeating in the background ad infinitim, like a faulty fluorescent light.
Now for the bad news: I always look at the gameplay in game demos. I couldn’t care less if the game looks great-I’m never going to buy a game just because it looks great, because every game looks great now. So how was the Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay? Unfortunately, it looked boring and derivative, yet another product of a generic game engine. (Proprietary in this case.) It’s another in a long series of first-person shooter games that looks and feels exactly the same as the last one-another version of Far Cry 2 through 5, with a little bit of Grand Theft Auto and Fallout 4 thrown in. Fun games, sure, but… already done. And done well.
I also saw a disturbing amount of “walking simulator” in that footage. Walking into a room to equip a new gun? Walking to a closet to equip a jacket? Walking around the city to upgrade your gear? Walking all the way downstairs to start a mission? Walking to a doctor and sitting in a chair and having a conversation to upgrade your cybernetic implants? It sounds suspiciously like the kind of game system that is cool at first, and impressive in a demo, but after the hundredth time playing through it you just want to smash your face against the wall with frustration because it takes too long. There was a lot of that kind of thing in the Grand Theft Auto series, as I recall. It discourages experimentation. I, for example, will probably try to avoid ever changing my weapons or jackets if I have to physically walk all the way back to my apartment to change them.
So if the gameplay isn’t anything special, or even actively annoying, Cyberpunk 2077 is going to need a really strong story with great characters to elevate itself above a forgettable game that’s blindly consumed, like a bag of potato chips. Story, after all, was the biggest strength of the Witcher series, and why we all love CD Projekt Red and can’t wait to see what they do next.
But I didn’t see any compelling stories or characters in that Cyberpunk 2077 footage. I saw unmemorable people running errands to make money to buy guns and upgrades, and no personal stakes. The voiceover artists sounded businesslike and uninterested. The narrator (aka. sales rep) had to keep explaining to us what was going on, so that’s kind of a big red flag. Hopefully they only showed the optional side missions, and the main story will … have a story. (I think the narrator actually mentioned they were showing a side mission, so that’s good.) Otherwise the game will just be a more-detailed version of The Sims.
I’m just now reading that this game is based on a tabletop RPG. To me that doesn’t bode well. The Witcher was based on a series of books, so there was a built-in story and character arc to build from. Tabletop games only have a setting, they don’t usually have much in the way of plot and characters, unless the gamemaster makes one.
So my hot take as of now is that CD Projekt Red is counting on gamers to be so dazzled by the amazing visuals and environment that nobody will notice there’s not much substance underneath, until well after the purchase. Given my observations of gamer habits over the past couple of decades, it will probably work.
But they’re going to have to do better to get any hype or pre-orders from me.
UPDATE: Fixed all my misspellings of CD Projekt Red.
P. S. I woke up this morning, tried to import some pictures of a couple of praying mantises from my camera into my PC, and discovered my D: drive was missing. That’s the drive that literally everything I do with a computer is on. Fun! I powered down, jiggled the drive cables (basically the only user maintenance that can be done on a hard drive), powered up again, and the drive returned. I’m now copying files like crazy and researching for a new hard drive.
P. P. S. The plumber is here fixing the spigot. Incidentally, speaking of the evolving English language, “spigot” should be spelled “spikkit.” And now he’s gone. It took him like an hour, including crawling around under the house. It would have taken me weeks to do something like that.
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