I bounced off Cyberpunk 2077 three years ago, now I can't get enough of it

Cyberpunk 2077 screenshots from Xbox Series X and Patch 2.0
(Image credit: CDPR)

There are times where I can't help but stop and stare. Marveling as strikes of neon light struggle to piece thick slabs of smog suffocating the skyline of Night City, trees gently swaying in a breeze as rainwater pools in languishing side streets. Death and decay, exuberance and excess – the city is awash with it, and it's difficult to turn away from. Now it is, at least. I couldn't have turned away from Cyberpunk 2077 any faster when it launched almost three years ago, as my poor old Xbox One struggled to quantify one of the most calamitous console editions to release in a generation. 

I honestly couldn't tell you now what pushed me over the edge back then. Perhaps it was the prevalence of bugs and poor optimization that propelled me to abandon a twenty-hour save, or the narrow approach to character customization and world progression. Whatever the reason, I was content with moving on and never looking back. I think that's why I'm so surprised to find myself leaving Sea of Stars and Starfield behind to return to Night City on a brand new save. The truth of it is, the Cyberpunk 2077 that exists today is pretty damn astonishing. 

Welcome back to Night City

Cyberpunk 2077 screenshots from Xbox Series X and Patch 2.0

(Image credit: CDPR)

Given the totality of the work developer CD Projekt RED has sunk into Cyberpunk 2077 since December 12, 2020, it feels almost reductive to focus on the RPG's visual identity. The thing is, there's this fidelity to the design that's difficult to ignore, and a scale to the outlay of the space that's oftentimes awe-inspiring. And I know that this all sounds hyperbolic, but Cyberpunk 2077 is honestly the closest a video game has come to really nailing that Blade Runner aesthetic, delivering in a way that I had always hoped the Prague hub in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided would but never did. 

Cyberpunk 2077 works to make you feel genuinely small amongst the towering skyscrapers, with every aspect of the environment working to fulfill this fantasy that I'm a small fish in a very large, exceptionally dangerous pond. The streets are alive with movement, the roads are bustling with activity, and the way that quests are slowly dealt out in tandem with my growing street cred makes it feel as if I'm on a journey of ascension rather than steadily clearing the map up one waypoint at a time like a disgruntled janitor. I know a lot of these aspects have been gradually improved over the past three years, but I'm experiencing the totality of it all with Patch 2.0 and I'm loving every second of it.  

Cyberpunk 2077 screenshots from Xbox Series X and Patch 2.0

(Image credit: CDPR)

"Cyberpunk 2077 is the closest a video game has come to really nailing that Blade Runner aesthetic"

Perhaps the 2.0 changes that I'm enjoying the most concern the expansion of combat, with armor stats shifting away from items of clothing and a reworked perks system allowing for greater customization. I steered well clear of melee the first time around, finding it to be a little weightless, but refined animations and a suite of new abilities have finally dragged me away from all those tantalizing smart-weapons – there's something really satisfying about the ability to block incoming projectiles with a katana, or being able to Air Dash gracefully between enemies while slicing off limbs. And when I inevitably decide that I've gotten bored of my current outlay of character perks, refunding them is as easy as a button press, allowing me to refocus my specializations on the fly in tandem with installing expanded Cyberware connections. 

Where parts of Cyberpunk 2077 felt a little disconnected the first time around, so many of these changes have really allowed for greater immersion and opportunities for role-play. Instead of moving an avatar through beats of a predefined story, I feel as if I have more scope to shape my journey. My V is a leather jacket-clad netrunner, queuing quick-hacks and skilfully juggling enemies with pistol and blade no matter the odds – a cybernetic John Wick who is becoming best friends with the apparition of Keanu Reeves' Johnny Silverhand. Honestly, what more could I ask for from a sci-fi RPG?

Play your way

Cyberpunk 2077 screenshots from Xbox Series X and Patch 2.0

(Image credit: CDPR)

Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty Screenshot

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Looking to get a little more out of Night City? Then you'll want to check out our Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty review.

Admittedly, the current state of Cyberpunk 2077 has gotten me thinking about what could have been. For as much as I'm enjoying the refinements, and new additions like vehicular combat, I can't help but wonder what the core of the experience – the narrative, progression structure, and core mission design – may have been like had these elements been in play from the beginning. If anything Cyberpunk 2077 2.0 has only gotten me more curious about where CDPR may take this franchise as it now begins production on the sequel. 

But even with all that in mind, enough work has been done to the overall package that Cyberpunk 2077 is finally able to shine on console. I find myself really appreciating how cinematic moments shared between characters can be, and just how propulsive the core campaign missions are. Cyberpunk 2077 is an exceptionally impressive RPG in 2023, one I find myself enjoying far more than I ever did The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – which isn't something I thought I would ever say when I took my first trip to Night City in 2020.

CDPR will never be able to completely erase the mistakes it made in the past – much like Final Fantasy 14 and No Man's Sky before it, Cyberpunk 2077 will forever bear an asterisk denoting a radically misaligned launch. But the time, resource, and energy has been allocated to get the experience to where it deserves to be. Do yourself a favor and give Cyberpunk 2077 a try, because I'd wager that you won't regret it. 

The game has completely swallowed all of my spare time, and what's bloody great is that when I do finally clean up every quest that the game has to offer, there's an exceptionally great expansion in Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty waiting for me on the other end. Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the best RPGs on PS5 and Xbox Series X right now, and it's difficult to see it relinquishing that position anytime soon.  

I don't know about you, but when I'm finally done with Cyberpunk 2077 I'll be keeping a close eye on all the upcoming CD Projekt Red games that are in development.

Josh West
Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar+. He has over 15 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.