Cyberpunk 2077, the biggest cautionary tale in modern gaming, is officially back on the PS Store. It kind of feels like that Spongebob meme – you know, that one and only meme from Spongebob – where some guy finds Patrick’s wallet, only Patrick insists it’s not his. Well, Patrick is CDPR, the driving license is Cyberpunk 2077, the wallet is a standard PS4, and that blue guy is all of us. Aren’t memes even funnier when someone describes them badly instead of using a meme generator site? What’s that? No?! Well, screw you pal. The point is Cyberpunk 2077 is once more available on PS4, except it’s not really.
While Cyberpunk 2077 is back on the PS Store, we’re being advised not to buy it on PS4. I don’t mean that someone has done a tech analysis and concluded that it runs a bit worse on PS4 than, say, Xbox – I mean we’re literally being told ‘don’t buy it on PS4,’ by both CD Projekt Red itself and PlayStation. Instead, both recommend using the juicier PS4 Pro, or just straight up using a PS5. It’s worth noting that the game is not out on PS5 – the PS4 version is compatible, but the PS5 version of the game, along with the Xbox Series X/S versions, is still in the works on top of the game’s still ongoing bug fixes and DLC. Thanks to the problems at launch, we still don’t know when any of this stuff is going to arrive.
The facts are very simple – this is a PS4 game we’re being told not to play on the PS4. Scratch that, it’s a triple-A PS4 game with a huge hype cycle and massive marketing campaign that we’re being told not to play on PS4. You can still buy it, of course. I don’t know if the PS Store can detect the difference between a PS4 and a PS4 Pro, but putting out a tweet essentially saying “you can buy this, but don’t,” is horrifically anti-consumer. There are definitely players who are going to buy this on their regular PS4s – PS5s are notoriously hard to get and for literally every other game, the standard PS4 works. I know, I had the base version of the console last gen and had zero issues with its performance aside from it running a little loud. These players will be buying it because if they want to play Cyberpunk 2077, they have no other options, and they might not have even seen the tweet telling them not to. It’s reasonable for a player to assume that if a game is available to buy on the PS4, it will work on the PS4. We should be outraged that CDPR and Sony are selling these folk an unplayable experience.
Outrage is pretty common in gaming, and it feels wrong to be encouraging it, especially around a game as toxic as Cyberpunk 2077. For the record, I don’t care for the game. While it would have been fascinating to see how the game itself and the discourse around it would have been different if it came out bug free, it still would have had its issues. Bugs or no, Cyberpunk 2077 is a game with a very binary perspective on gender that trades on a mostly superficial view of trans people, a horribly misogynistic view of women and sex workers, fridges one of its strongest female characters, and contained a (now patched out) racist meme.
I don’t like the game – even without the questionable content, I thought most of the world was pretty uninspiring, Us Cracks were the only characters vaguely off the beaten path that I enjoyed, and rebelling against what the game wanted from me by using it as a fashion simulator (or speaking to the people making it into a fashion magazine) was the most fun I had. But still, it’s a blockbuster release, and I take no pleasure in seeing the people who like it – even the people who supported it at its most toxic – getting screwed over like this. I’m not winning because they’re losing. Nobody is winning except the people making money, and that’s what got Cyberpunk 2077 into this mess in the first place.
This is where that outrage comes back into play. I don’t want it to be expressed with death threats to developers, or in the whiny caricature of gamers we see snapping video game discs while frothing at the mouth to stick it to the man. There has also been a huge anti-journalist culture that the Cyberpunk fanbase has leaned into – for obvious reasons, I think we should avoid that too. I don’t want to encourage people to get more angry about this game that in truth has never come close to delivering on its potential even months later, but we should not stand for Sony selling us a game on PS4 while telling us not to play it on a PS4. It’s ludicrous.
One look at Cyberpunk 2077 on PS4 and you can see why. It’s locked at 30fps, but the world is also completely empty. The NPCs and cars in the game at launch were fairly dull and predictable, disappearing or resetting as soon as you turned away and looked back, but the PS4 version seems to have removed all but the most essential ones entirely. It’s a ghost town, and regardless of my own thoughts on Cyberpunk 2077’s quality or themes, it’s clear that this is a shadow of the game it once was. Not even a shadow of its looming potential – the game seems to work on a basic ‘does not crash’ level, but aside from that it’s demonstrably worse than it was at launch. I’d love to hear an explanation for why it was finally deemed okay to sell now, when the game is so obviously not ready that it’s being sold with a warning that it’s not actually going to work on the console it is currently being sold for. The conspiracy theory that Sony is pissed CDPR left it carrying the can for refunds doesn’t ring true for me – if that was the case, I doubt it would be back on the store now.
‘Anti-consumer’ is a phrase used a lot in gaming, and not always accurately. It’s not anti-consumer that Nintendo doesn’t support Smash Melee tournaments, for example, and while locking story content behind DLC is awfully money grubbing, I’m not sure it’s technically ‘anti-consumer’. Cyberpunk 2077 on PS4 undoubtedly is, however. It’s a PS4 game being sold on PS4 while the PS4 makers tell you not to play it on the PS4. I know we’re all bored of talking about Cyberpunk 2077 by now, but this seems to be sneaking under the radar. It’s disgraceful that our industry allows it, and it’s a worrying sign of the growing divide between the players and the suits out to make a quick buck.
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