Disclaimer: Cyberpunk 2077 contains certain color schemes and braindance sequences with flashing lights that may be epileptic and photosensitivity triggers for some players.
Polish Developer CD Projekt Red first gained international attention in 2007 when they adapted a popular book series by Andrzej Sapkowski into an RPG chronicling the adventures of famed monster-hunter-for-hire Geralt of Rivia. Four years later, the sequel released to slightly more widespread acclaim, and the company started work on the third game. Upon release, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was lauded by many as the greatest RPG ever produced. Then in January of 2013 CD Projekt Red released the first teaser for Cyberpunk 2077, claiming it would be their most ambitious project to date. It was quite an announcement considering the third Witcher installment had yet to be released, and many fans waited with bated breath wondering whether or not this new project could actually top it. This reviewer is happy to announce that while Cyberpunk 2077 may yet be quite rough around the edges, after eight years in development, the long wait for a ticket to Night City was well worth it. Set 57 years after the table-top RPG that it’s based on, Cyberpunk 2077 tells the story of a gun for hire known only by the alias V. V’S background, gender, voice, and appearance are all chosen by the player, and the story involves V pitted in a fight for survival after a job to retrieve an experimental microchip goes awry.
Gamer’s with motor-function disabilities will find a partially accessible experience. Cyberpunk 2077 is primarily an RPG, but it’s played in the first-person perspective, and gunplay is integral. Aim assist is present but at times does not seem to register that there’s an opponent in your vicinity. In the early game there are several sections in which an NPC is driving and the player must fire on pursuers from the passenger seat. These sequences are not only made more difficult by the fact that snap-targeting is unresponsive during them but also because at the time of writing, there is no customizable controls available. Thankfully however, these parts are very few and far between, and any problems brought on by early-game weaponry are offset by the more powerful additions to your arsenal, specifically smartguns, which feature a targeting system that negates iron-sights and causes bullets to home on whomever happens to be unlucky enough to get caught in your reticle. The weapon and item menu is set to a toggle by default, and the game pauses once it’s activated, so there’s never any danger in being killed while selecting a firearm. Should a player not be able to use the wheel, it shouldn’t present a problem because one can simply cycle through any of the three weapons V can have equipped by tapping the triangle button on PlayStation or Y on Xbox. CD Projekt Red also sought to eliminate much of the frustration brought on by repetition. There’s a manual save system that allows for saving pretty much whenever and wherever one chooses provided they are not in combat or speaking to someone. What sets this apart is that where other titles claim to possess manual save systems, when you load these saves, they still take you to the last checkpoint you reached. Cyberpunk drops you in at the exact location of your save, so if you saved after a particularly difficult scenario, you no longer need to repeat it. Nearly every mission in Cyberpunk 2077 requires that several objects be scanned using V’s optical implants. Scanning unfortunately doesn’t have the same toggle function as the weapon wheel and requires that a bumper button be held while moving the right stick. It’s due to the sheer number of these sections and the aforementioned lack of customizable controls that Cyberpunk 2077 is partially accessible, and there are some timed dialogue choices and timed hacking, but these two things don’t stifle progress, you’ll never see a fail state because time ran out in either instance, and this is fortunate because the journal menu doesn’t effectively convey the difficulty of some missions. They range from very low to very high on a danger scale, and yet some activities labeled very high can be entirely void of combat, while moderate ones can sometimes contain overpowered enemies. Traversal is not a barrier, as even if a player is unable to drive there are fast-travel points on virtually every corner.
In the visual category, Cyberpunk 2077 is partially accessible. It has been patched extensively since release, and even the bright lights of the braindance sections have been noticeably dimmed. Players also receive an epilepsy trigger warning each time the game boots up. Fortunately, braindance sequences are scarce, and you are always given ample warning to brace yourself before the bright lights appear or opt out entirely. With that being said, I would still recommend that any players with photosensitivity look away when V puts on his braindance helmet. Once past the initialization, the rest of the sequence can be visually likened to the Arkham series’ detective vision. Cyberpunk 2077 also features subtitles with speaker-tags, and their size and background opacity can manually be adjusted. When traveling to an area on the map, if tracked by the player, it will display a dotted line leading to the selected point. Three color-blind modes are available, and although map icons are small by default, they all have distinct shapes, and the map screen has an ample zoom, ensuring even those with low vision can find their way. As with the motor-function section, the scanning function is what keeps it from attaining thoroughly accessible status. Scanning involves combing a room to find an object or objects that are typically marked with a magnifying glass icon. The trouble is that these icons don’t usually appear until V is standing in range, and even then, there are many instances where the scanner will be pointed at the correct object but won’t detect it. This is particularly annoying when using the visual layer of the braindance machine, which blurs environmental detail. The text size in the inventory is easily legible, and players with low vision will have no issues, as large arrows indicate quality, comparing your equipped item with whatever your cursor selects.
Auditory accessibility is barrier free. Combat can be hectic, but thankfully damage indicators are quite large, and as mentioned above subtitles have speaker tags, and their size and background opacity can be adjusted, so the hard-of-hearing will be able to follow the engrossing story. Fortunately, audio is also not necessary for scanning objects, and even the audio scanning function during braindances has visual cues representing sound waves, so even if the object isn’t heard it’s easily identified. Any settings applied to main subtitles also apply to background characters, so there’s no missing exposition even if it’s just a radio announcer.
Not unlike the battle-hardened monster slayer that paved the way for CD Projekt Red’s rise to prominence in the games industry, Cyberpunk 2077 has a few major kinks in its armor with regards to bugs and accessibility, but being the talented group of craftsmen that they are, they’ve managed to fix some already with further patching expected in early 2021. Bugs are to be expected with any great open-world title, and CD Projekt Red’s most ambitious work to date is no different. If you are a fan of Deus Ex and can only afford one game after the holidays, this is the one to get. Cyberpunk 2077 is not only the best representation of Mike Pondsmith’s classic and iconic universe, but it also stands on its own merit, bolstered by what to my mind is another career-defining performance by Keanu Reeves. Technical issues aside, Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the best sci-fi RPGs in years and shouldn’t be missed, even if there are barriers to work through.