Panam and I share a hotel room on the outskirts of Night City. It smells like kisses and garbage. Probably not cleaned here in six months. Soda cans and soy tissue paper litter the floor between our beds, but I’m too tired to pick up and throw shit. Outside, a woman is crying while Panam is whispering sweetly in bed next to mine.
I would have liked a single bed but Panam had jokingly dismissed it – a clear signal.
I take off my high-heeled boots and sink into the dirty bed.
The morning sun wakes me up, another day that I’m alive. The bed next to it is empty. Rested, the room looks even more disgusting than yesterday and I hurry u with the boots under my arm. The woman outside is still crying and I’m worried. Maybe she needs help. I see Panam away by the car but go to the crying woman first. Her choombas stand by her and smoke. But they do not comfort her, they just stare. I make my way forward and try to initiate a conversation.
“It’s hard to tear my eyes away from me,” she says sensually and starts roaring again.
Astonished, I stumble from there. Had she had a short circuit in her head? I look at the others. They are empty-eyed and talk incoherently. Everyone behaves like robots. Has the chip in my brain burned? Am I crazy?
The absolute biggest flaw in Cyberpunk 2077
We are starting to approach the end of the year and so it ends with the article series Cyberlogg in which I take apart different aspects of Cyberpunk 2077 for analysis. In previous parts, we have dealt with the spectacle and the beautiful environments, two really positive aspects of the game. Today, in contrast to the fantastic city and the superb characters, we will discuss the weaknesses in them – namely the people of Night City.
The artificial intelligence that controls all the unimportant (and in some cases even the essential) NPCs in the game is truly awful. It is at such a low level that it is hardly possible to call intelligence. In addition, the systems that deal with the population and enemies are comparable to games from the 90s. This is my single biggest disappointment with Cyberpunk 2077 and it also trumps the lack of basic features and side activities.
To begin with, all ordinary NPCs that fill the streets of Night City are hollow bodies without contextual programming. In the example above with the crying woman, she and the figures in the surroundings lack phrases connected to the event in front of them. They do not say words of comfort, do not dismiss the player or ask to be left alone. Instead, they say one of many generic random phrases such as about the weather.
Second, the game seems to have a population generator to fill the environments. This is okay considering that the city should contain millions of people. The problem arises when the generator copies NPCs instead of generating variation. On a distance of 50 meters, I often have time to see several copies of the same NPC. The same hairstyle, clothes, skin tone, physique and gait. Rubbet! Many times the copies make up half of the present population. And it makes me want to cut out my eyes!
The population generator also populates and removes NPCs sporadically. An NPC you had behind your back can suddenly disappear when you look over your shoulder. If you do some pirouettes, NPCs can appear and disappear in just a few moments. This really kills the empathy and makes Night City appear like a lifeless backdrop.
Then the traffic is completely crushed. The drivers in Night City do not understand what to do as soon as an obstacle arises on the street. They become paralyzed and just wait for the obstacle to move. They do not honk, do not drive, do not reverse and take a different path. They just sit there like fools and stare. If I happen to park my car with a wheel outside the parking window or sidewalk, all traffic stops. Ten, fifteen cars can stop and wait for me to finish my mission and drive on. It’s even so bad that if I’m a passenger in a car, with a nice character, and we’m on our way to an important mission, errors in traffic flow can cause the character to adjust speed (sometimes to 5 km / h) several hundred meters in advance so that a dull car will have time to cross the street further ahead. You do not want to ride a shotgun in Night City!
Unfair police operations
The police system in Cyberpunk 2077 is another thing with the population that completely sabs the empathy. To begin with, they are almost completely absent from obvious criminal activities in the city. People are robbed and murdered on the right and left without lifting a finger – probably to get the player involved. But god fucking forbid if you accidentally hurt a civilian. Then the police intervene in full force to kill you.
You can have a police star on your search (lowest level) and three, four cops spawn without warning ten meters away from you and start shooting completely wild. No warnings, no prison. Immediate execution. If you get more stars, new, stronger cops spawn until you are dead or walking around the knot. Well, because if you run away, it’s calm. Wait until the call goes over and then you are OK.
How the hell did CD Projekt Red reason when they designed the police system? Why does it not take half a minute before police arrive in cars? Why do they not arrest me and take me to the station? Why do they give up as soon as I run away?
Another sad detail in the whole thing is that civilians do not run away when the firing begins. Instead, they crouch in the middle of the chaos, only to die when the bullets start bouncing on the walls. They do not run away, do not take up their own weapons (Cyberpunk is a world where everyone is said to carry weapons) and they do not take protection. They just get in the way and die, which usually results in more cops in your ass. I at least expected them to run into one of all the houses where they could despaw. But no. If they survive the tumult, they get stuck in their panic and do not move out of the spot, but stay until you have left and they disappear.
One detail I like is how cops clean up and investigate areas you cleared of criminals. If you return after a while, they have put out barriers and put the bodies in body bags. But that whole experience is ruined by the fact that they start shooting at you if you stop and watch while they work. The police are damn fussy in Night City.
Useless extras who kill the empathy
It makes me so sad that the incredibly beautiful and well-designed environments in Cyberpunk 2077 suffers due to poor artificial intelligence and lack of NPC systems. And understand my criticism right here, I’m not looking for deep dialogues with random figures on the street, or that the streets have hundreds of pedestrians. I do not require every NPC to have a name or pre-programmed routine. Damn, I do not even demand that the intelligence during battle is particularly high (because it is a bit mediocre here too). No, I just want the empathy of this amazing world not to be undermined by stupid behaviors and ill-conceived systems.
With so many different clothes and visuals in the game, it’s amazing how random NPCs look alike. The gangs are approved because they have dress codes, but civilians should not look the same, or behave like slices of bread. They should have behaviors and profiles that match the events in the environment. If there is a war in their backyard, they should take protection or defend it. If there are obstacles on the street, they should take a detour. When talking to them, they should say something relevant, or just shut up.
And the police should not react so aggressively to the player’s mistake. One should be able to surrender voluntarily, be detained and released. Not shot to death for the slightest misfortune. That they spawn on the player is just laziness on the part of the developer.
All these problems I think CD Projekt Red can fix with a little effort. I really hope they take this seriously. I can not understand how the major publications have not dealt with this topic in their reviews. All whining about bugs is understandable, but these are not bugs. The NPCs’ behaviors are poorly designed, carelessly executed, and sabotage the entire experience. There is nothing to miss, because you see it everywhere in the game.
In the next Cyberlog we round off with Cyberpunk 2077game mechanics and systems. We will both deal with the good and bad parts, as well as talk about the wasted potential.