I know, I know. It should have been this way all along. If I'm being honest, it is much better in terms of playability.
Cyberpunk 2077’s Dec. 10, 2020 release was a total train wreck. It was buggy on nearly every platform imaginable. Some bugs were game-breaking, though many were not.
As time passed, the game’s Polish game developer CD Projekt Red rolled up its sleeves and released many updates to recover from its otherwise spotless yet now-tarnished reputation.
I already completed the game’s main story on my Xbox Series S, so I know pretty much how the game behaves, looks and feels on that particular console, which is the lower-tier version of the current generation of the Microsoft-backed green monster.
I recently gave the dystopian marvel another try on a last-gen console, the PlayStation 4, and I cannot say I totally regret it. Let me explain why.
I hail from the “millennial” generation, or “Generation Y” to be precise.
Back in the day, in order to play a game, you were required to physically move. You would collect your real, paper money, go to a store, and buy a game that comes in the form of a cartridge or a disc, housed in beautiful artwork, printed manuals and other goodies.
My love for the physical led me to try the game on my base PlayStation 4. I was casually walking around a tech store the other day when I saw the shiny little box that was Cyberpunk 2077, and couldn’t resist the temptation. Although I already "owned" the game, it was virtual, it was purchased on Xbox's digital storefront. I needed to get the real deal, and it was a fair price too.
I knew its PS4 release was problematic, and I thought it would be a waste of money at first. But the box itself shared the good news: the PlayStation 5 upgrade will be free of charge for every owner of the game, both digital and physical. So I considered it a long-term investment for the future, for the times when I am financially capable of getting my hands on a PS5. Besides that, even if it wouldn’t work at all, I just wanted to have a piece of history. This is a game that was first announced when Barack Obama was still the president of the United States, and released just months before his controversial successor’s tenure was about to end.
Nearly eight years of continued anticipation, that is. Coupled with the fact that I am a fan of science-fiction and its beautiful subgenre that is cyberpunk, I had to get a copy of the game that comes with all the goodies you would expect from a meticulous developer such as the CDPR.
In addition to the two discs, one for installation and the other to play the game, you get numerous pieces of history when you buy the physical release.
The first one is a beautiful map of the Night City – in Turkish, that is if you’re living in Turkey as the language is officially supported by the game. Even in-game objects such as elevator buttons and signs have been translated, though there is no Turkish voice acting so subtitles are the only option.
The map is highly detailed and also high resolution, printed on quality glossy paper.
You also get beautiful stickers to put on your laptop, console, phone, car or wherever you please. Another beautiful touch is the three “Night City” postcards, which you can actually write on and send to a friend in the real mail, like in the good old days before the internet and even fax machines, as if you’re sending them from the fictional town in the Cyberpunk universe created by the one and only Mike Pondsmith.
In addition, there is a user manual that comes with the physical release. The manual gives you very valuable insight regarding Night City and the game’s mechanics before embarking on your journey as a Corpo, Street Kid or Nomad.
After you pop in the first disc titled “Data Disc” in your PlayStation, let it install to your hard drive. Then, insert the one titled “Play Disc,” wait for it to complete the hefty 43-gigabyte update for the 1.23 patch, and you’re good to go.
Once the installation and update processes were complete, I started the game with little to no expectations. To be honest, I was subconsciously sure that the game would be at least somewhat playable as Cyberpunk 2077 was just recently re-released on the PlayStation Store (with serious bugfixes and performance improvements, of course) months after it was removed due to incredibly horrible performance issues, ridiculous graphics and bugs. Sony simply didn’t vouch for CDPR, and felt the need to take it down from its store after countless complaints from its customers. It was a fairly radical move. At the end of the day, many games are released with bugs and various problems, but usually none of them get pulled from digital storefronts as buyers wait for developers to stamp out the problems and polish the game.
An example I can give for this is Watch Dogs: Legion. When the game launched, I had just recently bought my next-gen Xbox Series S and wanted to play a title that really took advantage of the next-gen graphics, raytracing capabilities and overall quality of the ninth generation of consoles equipped with highly versatile and capable solid-state drives (SSD). My Xbox Series S, albeit without a true 4K support like the upper-tier Series X, could produce amazing graphical fidelity and quality, but there was one major issue: Watch Dogs: Legion just wouldn’t save due to problems with Ubisoft servers. I lost hours of progress due to that game-breaking glitch. But neither Ubisoft nor Microsoft pulled the game from the store. People just waited for Ubisoft to address the issue.
But Sony must have been more frustrated with Cyberpunk 2077 (rightfully so, the game was a total disaster), so it took it down. But after seven long months of improvements and updates, it was finally re-released recently. I was sure I would appreciate the updates, or at least that I wouldn’t bump into a Night City citizen whose eyes, mouth or nose wouldn’t properly render.
To be honest, it was a total surprise for me at first: Yes, I knew that the game wouldn’t look as good as it does on PS5 or an RTX-equipped PC but, man it looked good for what it's worth on a last-gen console. It sure as hell is not stunning or anything, but considering that I am running the game on a base PS4, not even a PS4 Pro, the graphics are amazing. But still, just look at what Naughty Dog has achieved with Last of Us Part II, and imagine how much better Cyberpunk 2077 could be if CDPR could do a better job handling it ... Optimization is everything, especially in the console realm.
As I was walking with my boy Jackie Welles to conduct the first mission, I was so sure that the frames per second (FPS) would dip to nearly single-digit FPS levels in the first gunfight or as soon as there is some intense action on the screen. It did not. Maybe I am very lucky or something but, the FPS rates (especially during intense gunfights) went way beyond my expectations. I haven’t measured them to be honest, but I’ve been a gamer all my life so I can easily say that on a base PS4, Cyberpunk 2077 does not dip to unplayable FPS levels no matter how intense the gunfight is. It surely drops, sometimes perhaps to under-30 FPS levels, but it was never game-breaking, at least for me, as I kept my expectations at the lowest level possible due to the horribly bad state of the game when it was first released for PS4.
But driving is something else really. The FPS drops to awful levels, especially when you switch to third-person mode while you're driving your car and when there is a lot going on on the screen. It is on the verge of being unplayable. It still works, but it sure is not a pleasant experience. Don't expect anything more than 30 FPS when you're driving in a crowded area.
Other than the awful experience of driving, I have had some very brief FPS drops; but the game bounced right back to normal and did not repeat the drop continuously. Just a sudden hiccup and it continued as normal for a long time, if, again, I was not driving. I guess highly detailed, densely populated Night City give the PS4 a very hard time. Another thing that surprised me are the load times. The PS4 is not an SSD-based system so I expected cruel load times; in all actuality, the game loads pretty fast on the HDD-based system.
Other than the performance, as I underlined previously, the graphics are decent for an eight-year-old console and the city looks lively to be honest. But there is a catch: some textures are disturbingly low-resolution. Draw distances seem to be improved but they still need a lot of work. In some places, objects in sight render quickly, but in others, the draw distance suffers and takes its toll on the visuals. Shadows, especially the main character V's shadow, look particularly bad on some surfaces. I saw some pixelated and horrible shadows on some particular surfaces like doors, even though they otherwise look fine for PS4-level graphics.
Looks like CDPR really improved the game with the 1.23 patch, even though Cyberpunk 2077 needs much more work to be a totally playable game. I agree that the game should have been optimized before its initial release, but after Cyberpunk 2077's countless delays, the Polish company just couldn’t withstand the pressure anymore.
But let's not get stuck in the past, let's get lost in the dystopian future.
I haven't been able to thoroughly put the game through its paces on my PS4 as of yet, and I cannot say for sure if you'll come across any game-breaking bugs or more serious performance issues as you progress in the game. I stumbled upon some minor bugs (such as people spawning out of thin air during a cutscene and an enemy levitating above the ground) but none of them were game-breaking. During the beginning of one particular mission, the game just did not recognize my right analog stick and did not let me use it. I saved the game, re-started it from that save file and it was resolved. Yeah, it is clear that this game is, even seven months after its release, nowhere near perfect. But in addition to my own experience, my research in online forums and websites also show that the game, in its current state, is playable on PS4. Of course, there may be some problems here and there but they will be nothing another patch won't solve. It's a whopping seven months since the game was released anyway, so I can easily recommend anyone except high-performance-obsessed gamers to play the game on their PS4 consoles if they do not have a highly powerful PC gaming rig or a next-gen console. The game is only going to get better from this point.
I just wanted to give you the good news with this week’s column: if you have a PS4, you can purchase Cyberpunk 2077 with peace of mind now. It is a budget-friendly way to get a taste of Night City and the incredibly detailed and intricate plot of the game. But prepare yourself for some horrible FPS drops while driving and less horrible ones in moments of intensity, especially when you are also in a vehicle. As I said, keep your expectations low, at least for now, until CDPR makes the game much more playable. I spent several hours playing it, and I can confidently say that, if you keep your expectations low, the game in its current state on the PS4 is playable now thanks to the latest patch. And one last thing, get your hands on a physical version if you can, and I promise it’ll be worth it.
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