Karl Puschmann: Why Cyberpunk 2077 is the perfect metaphor for 2020

Keanu Reeves stars in the blockbuster event of the year. But then he didn’t have much competition. Photo/ supplied

With bullets filling the air around me, I jumped into the getaway car and told the driver, an AI bot named Del, to hit the gas. Speeding away from this heist gone bad, I noticed something fatally wrong with my partner in crime who was also in the car. He had a gun sticking out of his head.

This wasn’t what was fatally wrong with him. He had been shot. Not in his head, which a gun was sticking out of, but in his tummy, which was spewing blood. Even I, a humble cyberpunk not a medical doctor, could tell that his wound wasn’t good.

Turning to me he began to speak. His final goodbye was a touching, tear jerking monologue about the good times we’d shared and the future he wouldn’t live. I would have been incredibly moved had I not been laughing so hard at the gun sticking out of his head. He looked like he was wearing one of those old novelty arrows Steve Martin wore in his early stand-up sets.

Yes, in the neon-soaked streets of Night City my oldest, dearest friend bled out to the sound of me laughing my ass off.

A scene from the blockbuster video game Cyberpunk 2077. Photo / supplied.
A scene from the blockbuster video game Cyberpunk 2077. Photo / supplied.

Welcome, then, to Cyberpunk 2077, the biggest blockbuster event of the year. Admittedly, yes, we’ve been a little light on blockbusters recently but still, the point stands.

Because even had the usual rollercoaster rush of super, space or action heroes exploded onto the big screen as normal, the cool looking futuristic dystopia presented in this supremely ambitious videogame would have stood proudly amongst them.

The game rivals film in nearly every way. It was in development for over nine years, had an industry-leading reported budget of $440million and stars a perfectly cast Keanu Reeves as a cyber-rock star-terrorist dude, who downloads into your brain and starts messing with you.

Thanks to a combination of big promises about its revolutionary gameplay, the strength of its uber-cool futuristic setting and the absolutely jaw-dropping visuals that trickled out over the last couple of years people have been super-hyped for this game that just released on PC and game consoles.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a very big deal. It’s also a huge buggy mess. What do I mean by that? Here’s an example; a character delivered a dying monologue with a gun sticking out of his head.

In a game of this size and scope – and it feels huge – there’s bound to be some problems. The thing is this game has many problems. Random objects have floated through the air like leaves in the breeze, mission critical conversations have triggered inaudibly on top of each other leaving me bewildered as to how to proceed and pedestrians have walked straight through my car like cartoon ghosts.

All action in the blockbuster video game Cyberpunk 2077. Photo / supplied
All action in the blockbuster video game Cyberpunk 2077. Photo / supplied

Mostly they’ve been trivial or amusing and I’ve shrugged them off because its been great fun doing cyberpunky things like hacking into an enemy’s cybernetic implant, short-circuiting it and then emerging from the shadows to rain down a storm of bullets.

But it’s not always possible to laugh CP77’s bugs off. More than a few times the game simply gave up trying to fulfill the scope of its ambition and crashed.

On next-gen powerhouse the PlayStation 5 it’s playable but also extremely janky. There’s only been horror stories from those attempting to play on PS4 and Xbox One. The advice is don’t bother. It’s such a miserable and broken experience that the developer began offering refunds to the disgruntled mass.

But on PS5 I’ve muddled along for around 15 hours so far, gripped by its main story, rogue’s gallery of dubious characters and exhaustive catalogue of self-contained side-quests. It may not look anywhere near as gorgeous as we were led to believe but its futuristic Blade Runner aesthetic, is still beautifully realised and frequently jaw-dropping.

Okay, yes, sometimes people have a gun sticking out of their head but Cyberpunk 2077 still impresses as much as it disappoints. Fixes are promised early next year for its vast array of problems so I’m going to quit playing now and travel back to the future once all the bugs are exterminated.

During my time careening around Night City I couldn’t help but see the game and all its troubles as an apt metaphor for 2020. We were all hyped and excited to leave 2019 behind. Then, once we got started we quickly discovered it was plagued with potentially fatal bugs that caused the whole system to crash.

Nevertheless, we kept playing even though we knew something else was bound to go wrong any minute. It often did. Until finally, mercifully, a fix to the whole damn mess was promised for early next year.

And that, friends, is that for another year. Thanks for reading. Have fun over your holidays, look out for each other and stay safe.