Don’t Forget About Cyberpunk 2077’s Disaster In Your Excitement For The Witcher 4

Anyone remember Cyberpunk 2077? It came out a couple of years ago, but perhaps it passed you all by. I seem to remember it got quite a bit of press coverage and it sold quite well, but there were a few small bugs floating around too. Keanu Reeves was in it? Not ringing any bells? I only ask because CDPR has just revealed a new Witcher game (which may or may not be The Witcher 4), and we all seem to have forgotten. Cyberpunk was a disaster, in pretty much every way imaginable, and yet The Witcher 4 (for ease, I’ll be calling it that and so will everything else) seems to be getting a free pass.

On one hand, I get it. The Witcher 3, unlike Cyberpunk 2077, was not a complete disaster. Instead, it’s still revered by many as the greatest game of all time, even after seven years of technical innovation and several studios with far bigger budgets putting out their best work. The Witcher 3 stands high above them all, so it stands to reason that there is some excitement for The Witcher 4. But that’s not as big a precedent as it seems.

CDPR has made three Witcher games. It has made one good one. The first game is generally agreed to be a write off by all concerned, and while the second game has its fans, it is nowhere near the level of perfection The Witcher 3 rose to. Then there’s Cyberpunk 2077, and while the bugs and botched launch have dominated the conversation, the fact is even in its best form, the game just isn’t that good. The city occasionally feels lived in, and beneath the surface you’ll find some fantastic stories away from the guns, but the gameplay is severely lacking in several places and it feels more like a series of disconnected (and often less impressive than the game wants you to believe) spectacles. People were so ready for it to be the greatest game of all time that barring a disaster, they would have convinced themselves it was. Unfortunately, disaster struck, so they had to settle for arguing that without the bugs it would have been the greatest game of all time. They’re still wrong, and even if they weren’t, the bugs did exist. They have to count on CDPR’s track record.

Let’s give CDPR half a point for The Witcher 2 and half a point for Cyberpunk, with zero for The Witcher. That gives it one good game and two halves, combining for a total score of 2/4. A 50 percent hit rate, which is accrued through two half hits and only one great game in four attempts. Added to that, most of the major dev team on The Witcher 3 (as well as several major figures from Cyberpunk 2077) have left, and the company has ditched its own internal engine to go back to Unreal. The Witcher 4 could still be great, but these are not the foundations on which you build a bankable, inevitable mega hit.

I have nothing against CDPR. I was an outspoken critic of Cyberpunk 2077 in the run-up to its release, mainly criticising the parasocial marketing approach that would soon turn toxic if the unsurmountable expectations weren’t met (called it), as well as predicting the transgender character creator would be little more than a marketing gimmick with no in-game substance (called it again). I was unimpressed by the game when I got my hands on it, not least for the wildly anti-consumer state it was launched in (and that many of my peers seemed too eager to defend), but also because, as stated above, I just don’t think it’s that good.

However, in the months since, I have grown into a Cyberpunk defender. I still believe the game is deeply flawed in a way that I don’t think can ever be fixed, and its ideas on a futuristic world are surprisingly dated, but in playing it my own way and soaking up over 130 hours in Night City, I have found a sort of charm. The reveal in the Witcher announcement that Cyberpunk 2077 DLC is being actively worked on was the best news of the entire update, because it feels more tangible, will arrive much sooner, and I’m excited to give Night City another go around. This is not motivated by hatred for CDPR, but concern for how short our memories are in this medium.

Remember ‘no pre-orders’? Then remember when Cyberpunk 2077 was the only exception because they tweeted like they were your best friend and an absolute top gamer? Then remember when it was fucking shit at launch and couldn’t be played on a PS5 for more than 25 minutes? Because it really doesn’t seem like you remember. It seems like you want to give a complete pass to the developer who mugged you off with the single worst, most dishonest launch in history. All because of a necklace in the snow. Get yourself some standards. The Witcher 4 might be good, it might even be great, but CDPR should be made to work a lot harder to win back your respect.

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