Even with a GeForce RTX 3080—a brand-new, nearly top-of-the-line graphics card—we haven't been able to crank Cyberpunk 2077's settings to the max. At high settings with no ray tracing, we're hitting between 45 to 80 fps on a 1440p ultrawide. This is with an older CPU, to be fair, but I only bring it up as context for another fact: Cyberpunk 2077 is also available on the original PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, consoles which released in 2013 and weren't top of the line graphics processors to begin with. It's not going great.
You're going to run into bugs in any version of Cyberpunk 2077, but people playing on original PS4s and Xbox Ones are playing a very different-looking game than we are on PC.
This is Cyberpunk 2077 on PS4 currently. Shockingly disappointing. pic.twitter.com/J5nXB0gEYODecember 10, 2020
"Things that are off in the distance mostly look fine, until you start to move the camera, or begin walking, at which point they dissolve into a low-res haze," wrote Kotaku's Ethan Gach about the Xbox One version. "People's faces look flat unless you're standing a foot away from them, and even then there's something off about the lighting and texture, as if an entire layer of graphics is missing, or out of sync with everything around it."
I've had an experience like that, too, but it was when I woke up from anesthesia after getting my wisdom teeth out. It sounds pretty rough, and as you'd expect, a lot of players who stuck with the last-gen console version are distressed about it.
"Look, obviously the game won't look as good as it does on PC," wrote a disappointed player on Reddit yesterday. "No one expected that. Yes, we know the upgraded versions of last gen consoles and current gen will run games better than the base versions. But what we have here is insulting, and a slap in the face to all of us that haven't upgraded and trusted CD Projekt Red because of their reputation."
Don’t worry everyone we’ll just crunch the staff for another year to iron these out. pic.twitter.com/brj1v0ibtjDecember 10, 2020
For that player, the issue is the way in which Cyberpunk 2077 looks bad on old consoles. It's not that it was built with certain hardware limitations in mind, but that it was seemingly built without those limitations in mind and then bashed into a shape that could actually run—downscaled and depopulated.
I'm inclined to agree with their assessment. I don't know exactly what's going on behind the scenes, but the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Cyberpunk 2077 do look like the PC version but with loads of settings turned down. It's very clear, at least, that the render resolution has been heavily reduced for the old consoles.
Of course, the Twitter clips getting lots of retweets only show the worst bits. IGN has posted an extended gameplay video captured on an Xbox One, and it's pixely, but doesn't look unplayable—depending on your definition of playable, I guess. The video does take place outside of Night City, though, and it's in the city where performance suffers most.
There's always some awkwardness during the transition from one console generation to another. Back when the PS3 and Xbox 360 launched, it wasn't uncommon for two completely different versions of a game to release—one version for the old consoles and one for the new. Sometimes they were even made by different developers.
No one would've accepted two completely different games both called Cyberpunk 2077, so CD Projekt was perhaps in a bit of a bind. But the game was originally going to release before the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X were even out (and the PS5 is so hard to find it's only kind of out), so it's surprising that it runs this poorly on the consoles it was theoretically intended for. There are more powerful editions of the last-gen consoles, the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X, but upgrade machines that release midway through a console cycle have always seemed like a hard sell to me—unlike PCs, consoles are just supposed to work, right? Not anymore, it seems.
This is Cyberpunk 2077 – PS4 version 1.00. Resolution is literally below 720p and the game takes 20 seconds to load in textures. Inexcusable. Unfathomable. Unplayable. pic.twitter.com/AZ2OPTnkdLDecember 9, 2020
Regarding the new consoles, Cyberpunk 2077 apparently runs much better on them, but the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 versions of the game aren't technically out yet. Only the Xbox One and PS4 editions have been released, but because the new consoles have backwards compatibility, Cyberpunk 2077 can be played on them, and there has been an effort from CD Projekt to take advantage of the better hardware. If you play Cyberpunk 2077 on the Xbox Series X, for example, you can switch between quality and performance modes.
Console players are also being advised to tweak HDR and other graphics settings, such as chromatic aberration, to improve the look or performance, which is another way that console gaming has become more like PC gaming in recent years. Are we destined to completely fuse with console gaming someday? It's not seeming impossible.
For now, we're all playing Cyberpunk 2077 on PC, obviously, and while it remains buggy as hell and getting a high framerates might be hard, it looks quite good on our platform even on medium and high settings. Some evidence of that: Andy Kelly took some great screenshots of the NPCs who hang out in Night City, and also put together a lovely video tour of the city.
To our last-gen console owning friends: We're sorry, and we're here to talk if you need us, or advise you on a PC build. (Annoyingly, though, right now is a terrible time to buy a graphics card, but we're hoping for things to be better in the spring.)