Cyberpunk 2077 is home to a huge sandpit filled to the brim with politically charged conflicts catalyzed by powerful people. Protagonist V may grace the game’s boxing art, but the hero is overshadowed by the towering skyscrapers and fascinating citizens of Night City. From sunny beaches to gloomy landfills, Night City feels alive even when you are not around to witness any shady transaction or police investigation. At least if you don’t play Cyberpunk 2077 on last generation hardware.
On high-end PCs, the appeal of interacting with VIPs and rolling out neon-bright boulevards is fully visible despite the infamous mishaps of Cyberpunk 2077. Chromatic implants glitter in dark hotel rooms, flickering light strips show beautiful reflections in puddles of rain, and character models are particularly noticeable. However, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of Cyberpunk 2077 suffer from several additional bugs and ugly graphics. Overall, my extended stay in Night City was uncomfortable and far from the experiences PC gamers have described.
Even after turning off my screen by turning off the film grain and many of Cyberpunk 2077’s other graphical features (these options don’t noticeably improve the graphics if left active), the game’s look remained the same: drab and bleak. The colors are vibration-free – vehicle paintwork, eye-catching jumbotrons, even the rays of the sun. NPCs are poorly rendered and appear as undetectable shapes. And surfaces have flat textures that are evident at most drawing distances. It’s hard to enjoy the interactivity of Night City when quest givers or companions are polygonal blobs and the cute sports car you’ve spent a small fortune on is just a blurry object with pale wheels. Ultimately, these textures will be loaded, but by then the damage will be done by immersion.
Frame rate drops are a common occurrence and tend to disrupt basic sequences of exploration and action. In densely populated areas like Watson and Heywood, you’ll have to stop frequently as the hardware tries to manage the myriad of NPCs and traffic jams. I also noticed that the game periodically freezes at high speeds, which can lead to crashes.
The spotty enemy AI from the PC version carries over here, but attempting to hit goals covertly or survive boss encounters can be frustratingly difficult when the frames happen to get hiccups. On several occasions, I snuck behind an enemy to incapacitate them, the game appeared to be paused for loading, and then suddenly the guard I was aiming at happened to reappear behind me. Smaller errors (like T-Posed-NPCs) no longer occurred regularly after the latest hotfix from CD Projekt Red, but problems with the game break – weapons are not displayed, the scanner is unusable – forced me to reload the saves or mine Restart the console periodically.
I can’t help but lament the potential of Cyberpunk 2077. Night City is an ambitious open world. Carnival by the sea gives way to bustling marketplaces. Caravan estates hide in the shadow of glass towers. Meeting new faces is exciting, and choosing unique lines of dialogue can even change the outcome of a side quest or relationship. Your decisions always feel meaningful. But appreciating all of that is virtually impossible on these consoles; Graphics aren’t necessarily the most important part of a game, but in the last generation versions of Cyberpunk 2077, the graphics and performance are so poor that they neutralize the game’s greatest strengths.
Cyberpunk 2077 wasn’t optimized for last-gen consoles, and no amount of interesting side activities can help. On the PC, the world lives up to its title as the “City of Dreams”. However, for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 gamers, their time in Night City is likely to be a nightmare.