The most consequential choice of “Cyberpunk 2077” comes before players even start the game. It centers on picking the right platform. As the launch feedback has shown, the much-hyped title from CD Projekt Red runs poorly on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 family of consoles.
“Cyberpunk 2077” is playable on the Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5, but those machines are running software built for the older machines via backward compatibility. Players won’t see how the latest consoles handle the game until later.
That leaves gamers with two options. They can pick it up for PC, but they’ll need a powerful rig to get the most from the experience. “Cyberpunk 2077” can even bring powerful graphics cards such as the RTX 3090 to its knees. For those who don’t want to fork over that cash, there’s the Stadia version.
Google’s cloud-based platform was slow out of the gate, but it has built up momentum over its first year. The service’s roster of games increased and the promised list of features has filled out. The turning point for the service was the release of “Baldur’s Gate 3,” which showed off the strengths of cloud gaming.
Players didn’t have to wait to download the title or its patches. “Baldur’s Gate 3” just worked anywhere players had a speedy internet connection. “Cyberpunk 2077” followed the same path at launch. I loaded up the Stadia site on Chrome and began playing a few minutes after the role-playing game went live for the world.
JUMPING INTO THE WORLD
I was making my version of V., the protagonist of the adventure. The character creation is robust and lets players customize everything including the sex, hairdo, body shape and private parts (if you’re into that sort of thing). From there, players are whisked away in and around Night City. The circumstances differ depending on one of three backgrounds from which players choose — Nomad, Street Kid or Corpo. Those life paths also unlock different dialogue choices for V.
“Cyberpunk 2077” is a love letter to the genre and takes inspiration from films such as “Blade Runner”, “Demolition Man” and “Dredd.” The world feels like an extension of the one inhabited by Rick Deckard with holographic goldfish, soaring skyscrapers and crowded flea markets. Being in a fictional California, Night City also has desert scrubland and a multiethnic vibe as each city section is dominated by a distinct culture and gang.
The world oozes lore and that makes it easy to slip into “Cyberpunk 2077’s” campaign. As V., players find themselves as a mercenary working his way up the underworld ladder. I made my protagonist male and went through the first act with his best friend Jackie Welles. The duo takes on a job to steal a relic from the Arasaka Corporation, one of the most powerful companies on earth.
WHAT IT PLAYS LIKE
During the theft, V. becomes a witness to the murder of Saburo Arasaka, the head of the Japanese mega-conglomerate. The executive’s death winds up in the crosshairs of powerful people, and the protagonist ends up embroiled in a tale of corporate espionage and betrayal. He also finds himself partnered with Johnny Silverhand, played by Keanu Reeves. The two have a relationship reminiscent of the one in “Fight Club.”
As much as “Cyberpunk 2077” owes its visual style to films, CD Projekt Red takes its gameplay cues from the likes “Fallout” and “Deus Ex.” The open-world quality and the way missions are strewn around the multilevel Night City reminds me of Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic franchise. Players will run across ambient missions or side quests just by walking the Night City streets.
The “Deus Ex” feel comes from the character progression and mission design. Players can mold V. to suit their playstyle be it stealth, run and gun, hacking or even brawling. “Cyberpunk 2077” accommodates multiple styles, but along with that, the mission design forces players to think creatively and use their talents to find multiple solutions for each problem. If players can’t get through a door because they didn’t invest in the technical ability, they can look for a side entrance or an alternate route. If they’re stuck without weapons, they can try to use stealth or quickhacks to defeat foes.
The gameplay is surprisingly malleable and almost puzzlelike for an open-world game, but as players get more powerful and locate powerful gear, V. can overcome most obstacles by blasting foes with whatever abilities they invested in. Violence, not craft, quickly becomes the answer to many problems.
THE BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS OF STADIA
So why did I choose Stadia? The easy answer is that “Cyberpunk 2077” is an enormous game that will devour 100 hours. It’s not a bad way to spend the coronavirus lockdown. With these long-form epics, it’s best to have easy and reliable access, and Stadia provides that. If my wife is on the television bingeing “The Crown,” I can play “Cyberpunk 2077” on the laptop at the kitchen table. If I find myself on a long errand, I can sneak in play time on the phone. If I don’t want to spend another five hours in front of a computer after working from home, I can turn to the living TV to play it.
Players don’t need a Stadia Pro subscription to access it. The game is always available once they have purchased it. “Cyberpunk 2007” won’t stream in 4K without the subscription, but that’s not a deal breaker. The game actually looks better to me on a lower 1080p monitor.
With that said, Stadia has its drawbacks. Visually, it’s not as impressive as the PC version. It doesn’t have ray tracing or all the other graphcl bells and whistles. The visuals also have a hazy sheen from the streaming artifacts and that takes some getting used to. The visuals don’t have the clarity of source material played locally, but it is stable and the service runs the game well enough that it can cast its spell on players.
On Stadia, “Cyberpunk 2077” has the power to suck players in and keep them entranced in compelling world of tech noir.