Playing ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ How It’s ‘Supposed’ To Be Played Is Lifechanging
Yesterday, I got a new PC from PowerGPU after my old one died last week. I could have repaired it, and I probably still will, but I figured it was time for an upgrade anyway.
The first game I installed after I got it set up? Cyberpunk 2077. Not because I’m dying to go back and talk to Hanako for the twelfth time, but because I wanted to see how it looked on my new machine. And what I found was further evidence of how badly CDPR screwed up this launch, and how things could have gone an entirely different direction.
I’ve played Cyberpunk 2077 through about two and a half times now. My first playthrough was on my Xbox Series X running an Xbox One X version of the game. My second was on PC, running the game on my 2060, which was enough to make it certainly look better than the last-gen console version, and yet my build was not powerful enough to turn on raytracing without frames dropping into unplayability.
So, here we are nearly a year later. I now have a 3080, I am playing on a brand new $3,000 machine. We have had 10 months worth of performance patches and fixes.
And finally, finally Cyberpunk looks and feels like the transformative game it could have been, if it had resisted the temptation to both release too early and to cater to last generation consoles.
With my PC now, I can play on max settings, and turn raytracing up to Psycho levels. That’s literally what the setting is called, Psycho. This results in dramatic transformation of the lighting in the game, particularly at night, where you can now see things like reflections of the neon street signs in road puddles and car windows.
In general, the game looks absolutely incredible now, and I’ve been entertaining myself wandering around, taking the screenshots you see here. And it’s doing all of this while not dropping at frames at all, running smoothly.
The problem, of course, is obvious. I am on a computer that costs $3K. This is not the first game to run much better on an expensive machine, and yet the gulf here between not just an ultra PC and PS4/Xbox One, but also the current Series X and PS5 versions, or even a lesser PC, is massive. And what percentage of the playerbase has experienced a game that looks and plays like this? 1%? 0.1%? If that.
Cyberpunk 2077 should never have been released for last-gen consoles. Maybe that is incorrect from a sales perspective, as the game moved 15+ million units, many of those on those consoles, and yet from a reputation perspective, if CDPR had waited and produced a Series X/PS5 version that was close to this level of visual fidelity, the entire narrative around the game would have changed. And yet here we are a year later and we’re still not even sure that version is going to make it out this year.
I have never experienced a transformation quite like this, at least in terms of visuals. The core problems with Cyberpunk 2077 remain of course, and are not PC-dependent (enemy AI, game difficulty), but this could have easily been highly praised for a host of other reasons had it not released on consoles where it looked terrible and barely ran at all at launch.
My advice remains not to pick up Cyberpunk if you haven’t yet until the Series X and PS5 versions come out, as if they’re anywhere close to this, it will be a transformative experience. Everyone should get to experience the game like this, but only a tiny fraction ever will.