There's a lot wrong with Cyberpunk 2077. Whenever you complain about the game you are asked to show your credentials, the game extracting a blood toll in exchange for criticism, with only the most knowledgeable granted permission to point out the game's most glaring flaws. I've beaten the game twice, and have over 150 hours in Night City, rushing through the story the first time and soaking up every inch of it the second time. I have done every single side-quest in the game aside from the repetitive police events and one quest that bugged out on me because hey, that's Cyberpunk. I can't say I hate it – no sensible person could invest that much time and effort twice in a thing they hate. I love parts of Cyberpunk 2077, even if those parts come from playing it subversively. Still, it has some issues.
I'm not talking so much about the bugs. I think we've discussed them enough already. I don't even mean how hollow the world is – we can't explore any buildings unless they're currently an active part of a mission, which is a major step back from the typical conventions of open world games, and it feels like that's swept away in the discussion of bugs, but I don't mean that either. Cyberpunk 2077, in places, has brilliant writing and fantastic characters. But everywhere else is a black hole, slowly sucking in all of Cyberpunk 2077's redeeming qualities until nothing else remains.
The female characters in Night City have always been difficult to understand. Judy and Panam are the game's two best characters, both well rounded and perfectly written characters with bite, heart, soul. However, most of the other women are treated terribly by the game – even the very first mission has you carrying a dead, topless woman around, underlining that women are objects. We see female characters fridged, undressed, sexualised, demeaned, ridiculed, and objectified routinely. Posters around the city include women frothing champagne on their faces and tongues, snakes slithering into women's bodies, and of course, the infamous Mix It Up poster, featuring a hypersexualised trans woman with a thick and veiny cock on display. It's infuriating that women like Judy Alvarez live in a city routinely decorated with misogyny – worse, misogyny with nothing to say. The common excuse is that this is a dystopia but why is it that dystopias created by men always involve naked women and no criticism of our dominant sexual cultures? It's a total mystery.
However, the neon was on the wall from the very first trailer. A slick, stylised vision of Night City first hit our eyeballs nine years ago with a cinematic showpiece showing Night City cops lining up to fire slow motion bullets at a killer surrounded by blood and dead bodies. As the first bullet hits the assailant, we see she is a gorgeous woman, the shot bouncing off her face and shattering. Next we cut to an overhead shot of blood showing a red stiletto abandoned in the rain, and then our first glimpse of those pornographic posters that will come to define Night City.
As the guns continue to scream out a hail of bullets, we see the woman has mantis blades – sharp, spring-loaded knives that burst from her arms. This undoubtedly cool reveal is accompanied by the woman kneeling, legs splayed sensually, in an outfit that resembles a cotton sports vest and plain white panties. Combined with wet hair, thick lips, a doe-eyed expression, it's a look that wouldn't look out of place on one of the tamer pages of Playboy. Take out the bloodstains and the dead bodies, and it looks exactly like a soft-porn shoot.
There's no real story here. It's years before the game hit shelves and it was just supposed to be a snapshot of all the cool things the game has, but it's telling that highest on the list of cool things to show off were sexualised women covered in blood while being shot to death. Play our game, you get to see naked women and then kill them. That was the promise and, for once, it's a promise Cyberpunk 2077 kept. I still have a strangely affectionate place in my heart for Cyberpunk 2077, but the warning signs that it wouldn't love me back were there from the very start.
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