Cyberpunk 2077 Game Review, IQ, Performance, and a PC Key giveaway!

Cyberpunk 2077 is probably the most anticipated and hyped PC game of the past decade.  Three of BTR’s editors have collaborated to produce this review, each of us playing for 25, 30, and more hours, and we will cover the gameplay, its performance and IQ (image quality), and of course, ray tracing.  We will also give away a Cyberpunk 2077 key to one lucky reader on Saturday.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a first-person action (read: shooter) role-playing (RPG) video game developed and published by CD Projekt Red. It was released for Windows and the last generation Xbox/PS4 platforms on Thursday. The game events take place in Night City, a huge open-world set in the alternate Cyberpunk Northern California universe 57 years in the future. Players assume the role of V, a mercenary who acquires skills in crafting, hacking, and tech, together with many customizable options for combat.

BabelTechReviews received a reviewer’s copy of Cyberpunk 2077 for PC courtesy of CDProjekt Red and NVIDIA on Thursday just ahead of release.  Rodrigo and I purchased digital keys, but Mario accidentally ordered a ‘box’ key that had to be physically shipped from Amazon – the same one we are giving away today; so we traded the review key so he could preload and play the instant the game released.  Mario said “I have waited for this game for 7 years”, and he did not want to wait an extra minute!  He started playing the instant it released after his day job ended, and he played it for nearly 9 hours straight missing sleep before returning to work the next morning.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a very long game that will keep players involved in this dark corporate-controlled dystopian world tale by clever storytelling, exceptional voice acting and motion capture, outstanding cutting-edge graphics including ray tracing, and a ton of good content in the main story and in the side quests.  However, its launch has been plagued by bugs and poor AI, by terrible performance on the last generation consoles, and by falling far short of being the in-depth RPG the developers of the game promised – that you can “be anything” in Night City.

V is a mercenary whose voice, face, hair, tattoos and piercings, body type including (male) genitalia, and clothing are customizable.  The stat categories include Body, Intelligence, Reflexes, Technical, and Cool which are influenced by the character classes: hacking (NetRunner), combat (Solo), and machinery (Tech).  Cyberware implants installed by a Ripper Doc offer upgrades that may be purchased or earned by completing quests.

As with most shooters, V can aim and shoot, run, punch, jump and double jump, and slide. Mele specialists can use fists, blades, or blunt objects.  Three types of ranged weapons may be modified with four types of damage.  The character strengths develop by use similar to Oblivion’s system.  If you prefer shooting, for example, just using weapons steadily improves stats like reloading and accuracy, but the game can even be completed without killing anyone.  So there is a playing style for just about every type of player.

The massive Night City is set in a future parallel dystopian Northern California location which consists of six distinct regions.  It is similar to many large metropolitan areas of California now – from towering skyscrapers and crowded streets to the industrial areas and gang violence-filled ghettos and homeless people living on the streets to the suburbs.  Night City is surrounded by the Badlands which may also be explored on foot or in various vehicles that may be purchased.  Just like any other major metropolitan area, players can expect a good day/night cycle which affects quests and player behavior, there are non-English speaking NPCs, and there are many quests available and quest givers known as Fixers to interact with.

Completing quests gain XP which improves the stats, and side quests yield “street cred” that unlocks additional options and quests.  V is also aided by various companions beginning with Jackie who is introduced into the game early as someone he already knows from the past or with who he has a good working relationship.  Although V has an apartment as a home base, it isn’t upgradeable nor are there any other apartments to move to.  But inside are storage for extra weapons and goods that the player doesn’t want to sell but cannot carry around without a weight penalty.

Just like with any RPG, Cyberpunk 2077 offers food and drink consumables that may be used for healing to supplement the self-healing implants and a rather extensive inventory system.  In addition, there are hacking, boxing, racing, and shooting mini-games, and a rather unique device called “Braindance” which allows V to experience other people’s memories.  Unfortunately, although Braindance recordings may be purchased, they do not appear to work outside of the main quest.

There are even romantic encounters available for V as well as using male or female prostitutes known as Joytoys – but these are improbably rare for such a huge city that features sex everywhere.  There are a total of only two Joytoys that V may interact with on Jig-jig Street available outside the main quest, but even the romances go nowhere nor do they advance the story or change anything.

The game promises much but what it delivers is actually rather barebones for even an RPG Lite.  You see NPCs everywhere but you don’t get quality interaction opportunities with generally abusive rebukes that all appear to be a part of the same weak AI subroutines.  Watch Dog Legions does this so much better, and every NPC has a subroutine and a different backstory.  Even Gothic 3 and Oblivion had better AI subroutines and NPC interaction than this game features.

There is much to like about Cyberpunk 2077, yet in many ways, it falls flat in the immersion department especially outside of the quests.  The game world is absolutely incredible with so much promise – yet it feels unfinished.  Night City seems like it should feel more “alive”, yet it feels empty, and the many game bugs do not help the experience.  I was stopped in the main quest by a missing NPC that evidently clipped into an elevator wall and took his access card with him stopping my game’s progress.  Reloading from an earlier save before the combat started, cost me an additional wasted hour over the time wasted figuring out that the quest was bugged.

As V, you play one of three versions of the same character.  As to character development, what seem to be important choices, and even your backstory, really don’t matter. At the start, you are given a background choice of a street kid, nomad, or corporate (corpo) each of which have different strengths to build upon by choosing from development trees that you put points into so you can adapt the game to your own unique style of play. Your choice will affect the way the world often “looks” at you, how characters interact with you and opens up dialogue choices the others will never see. You can choose stealth and hacking computers, or you can put your life experience points (XP) into making an aggressive tank that shoots first and doesn’t bother asking questions.

I picked the Corpo background which allowed me some additional insight into the way that Night City is run by the corporations and became a cold and ruthless killer – no stealth, no discussion, no finesse, and no negotiation.  If you are in my V’s way, he will cut right through you. It’s as though he has an evil twin inside that he is allying with … Oh, wait.  Anyway, this former Corpo V is all about strength, power, and force, wielding mele as well as firearms equally.  And he is far more likely to hack a NPC terminally rather than hack a computer terminal.  In this way, Cyberpunk 2077 allows you a lot of freedom to solve objectives that will suit many styles of gameplay.

Mario’s V tends to roleplay a stealth hacker who listens to the fixer’s request for stealth and completing the job with no one noticing. Your reputation follows you and often stealth is challenging and interesting. Hacking everything in sight and slowly knocking every guard unconscious can be interesting. Mario likes sniping others from long distances, smart weapons, and hacking with large amounts of ram that regenerates quickly. This can feel incredible and fun when done correctly. Slight spoiler: There is a smart gun with an AI named Slippy – we suggest looking up and finding this gun when possible as it is hilarious and also deadly to use.

The choice of role playing playstyle is there but you may often have to force yourself to play this way – in some areas early on it is required for some side jobs as the enemies are very high level (this can be seen with the “very high” danger warning” on the map) that you will be unable to kill. Completing some of these nets you some serious cash and bonuses if you want the challenge. More often than not, the kill all and take no prisoners method is often ten times faster and better overall even though it forces you to ignore the fixers request for no witnesses.

Both Mario and Rodrigo picked the Street background.  Rodrigo says that he picked it because of survival on the streets of a big city, learning, and interactions with its different types of people that are sometimes undesirable, as well as the hard but exciting life on the border between the harsh reality of ordinary people and the desire to opt for times better; they are all elements with which he can identify for different personal and intellectual reasons part of life history in a big city and the particular neighborhood in which he has lived. Mario feels the same way. Nomads are interesting but they center around driving and vehicles from what we have found and street kid seems like the best middle ground choice.

Once you have picked one of three backstories and created your custom V, you play through the prologue to get acquainted with Night City and your interactions with the game, and the backstory lines will converge into the main plot.  There are bugs, the AI is broken, and the world is not interactive as advertised, but there is still a lot about Cyberpunk 2077 to like especially if you did not approach the game with extreme expectations from the hype.  In fact, this editor paid very little attention to the game in development to keep expectations to a bare minimum.

We have all been looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077.  It has been patched to v1.04 and we are eagerly awaiting the next patch.   Mario uses an i9-10850K and an RTX 2080 FE, Rodrigo uses an i9-9900K with an RTX 3080, and I played using a 10900K with all of the Ampere and Big Navi cards.  We all use the latest updated version of Windows 10, recent GeForce (457.51), and Radeon drivers (12.1.20), and we will give Cyberpunk 2077 visuals and general performance and compare IQ after our combined game and gameplay impressions.

Mario’s thoughts

I have more bugs, mechanic issues, driving, and gunplay issues that should never be allowed in an AAA game. Hopefully, these issues will be fixed in patches.  Crafting is an exercise in futility as you never get components that really upgrades until the late game. This is terrible and can probably be fixed in a single patch.

To make a single blue item that is probably less powerful than your current weapon requires 20 purple components. Dismantling legendary weapons that should get you these components do not. The drops are terrible and you will almost never have enough materials while having thousands of normal green materials that are worthless until later. RNG is needed and would allow you to craft fun weapons. One of the best parts of Fallout 4 is its ability to build ridiculously powerful weapons, and Cyberpunk 2077 is screaming for this. This may have been a strange end-game feature that was not fully fleshed out and it shows. At this time, crafting appears to be useless and I have no interest in it if I am simply getting better weapons from bodies and looting.

The perk system seems semi-pointless except for three areas: intelligence, body, reflexes. I max them out and probably do not miss much from the others. Most missions, dialogue, and perks require leveling these three areas and give you a significant advantage over the others. On the other hand, quick hacks are incredible and my favorite part of the game so I tend to focus on intelligence.

Gunplay is often terrible for new players requiring multiple headshots for a single normal NPC. At the start felt off although as the game progresses your guns become better, eventually smart weapons and huge DPS numbers weapons make the game a breeze even at higher level difficulty. This is fine but creating bullet sponges for the most minor quests is not that fun and a combination of quick hacks, smart weapons and more do their best to make this better. We would have preferred smarter AI and harder fights – bullet sponges are a tired trope of the genre at this point and developers should do better to remove the flow of ‘500 bullets to kill one enemy and don’t get shot twice or you are dead’ game loop.

My favorite part of this game is the Ripper doc upgrades and hacking. Hacking during firefights plus everyday use during stealth and more to do things like distracting enemies is fun, and the system is rewarding enough that hacking everything is something I enjoy. Some (like Mark) might find this tedious and that’s OK! The choice is yours. Others might find it fun to rush in with grenades and massive guns. Some might enjoy a stealth katana kill that does extreme damage like a ninja assassin. I like following my fixer’s request for stealth and when they ask me to massacre everyone in sight I love that too. Again, the game allows you to role-play if you seek it out but the fools rush in gameplay loop is here for the taking and will often be easy enough to do. Mixing these playstyles kept the game interesting for me and allowed for some interesting interactions I may not have ever had otherwise.

The amount and the variability of the voice acting of the NPCs are incredible. Some parts of the game are mind-blowing and a huge step forward for gaming.  Multiple interactions occur with the most random NPCs. This is not Fallout 4 yet it is still incredible even in the game’s current somewhat unfinished state.  Hopefully, a couple of patches to the base systems and the game may become nearly perfect. A major complaint I have of other non-scripted AI is the weird rudeness. Everyone in Night City hates life and is a cussing champion, and the world is hyper-sexualized. This is Cyberpunk after all and most should be aware of this before they step in.

As expected, Cyberpunk 2077 was released prematurely and is under-baked. Gamers may be fatigued with games releasing in semi-broken states but this has welcomed the next generation of gaming in a glorious fashion.  Just ignore the game being like Uncle Buck’s car sputtering to a halt with a massive boom and try not to notice it. The charm is there once you get to know him. The charm and the game world are just enough for us to still be able to enjoy it and I am looking forward to getting back into the game 6 months down the road when this game will be significantly improved, but it should likely have been delayed.

Performance:  I had seven crashes in the first five hours.  Widescreen monitor support (2560×1080) for me is garbage as the initial UI and some menus can cause issues.  Upon every death, the respawn and loading menu go less than full screen. This also returns the game to these lowered resolutions and cuts off the sides of my screen. The only way to fix this is a manual switch to the desktop and then back again to the game. Alt + enter does not work for me.  I play on the hard difficulty, so often there are things that can kill you instantly.  Death is inevitable and a challenge that I love, but it quickly became a frustration that transcended the game and it caused me to move over to a non-widescreen display (2560×1440) until it was fixed in the latest patch.

Driving feels really really bad using a mouse and keyboard.  Not too many players will use a wheel and pedals as Mark does.  A controller is better, but driving feels especially bad at first. Better cars down the road have better handling and speed so it makes some sense for cheap cars to feel cheap. I often ran over NPCs because my car’s brakes took 45 seconds to bring the car to a halt causing me to have to reload the save or run from the mission area until the combat state was reset. Once I even clipped into a cop killing him before he had even been rendered causing the entire police force to teleport in behind me to nuke me.

Melee and Sword combat just feels awful especially after the Witcher 3’s beautiful combat and fluid movement that I loved; it feels like a misstep. Some melee weapons early on are powerful and fun but need some better hit detection/build help.

Loot – just way too much junk.  There are small little items everywhere and this requires you to check, but it can really slow down progress.  The perk to sell or dismantle this junk automatically is awesome, but this was apparently meant for crafting which is also currently useless until the late game.

Notifications/popups/calls/audio seem to pop constantly.  I once had a slow-talking character telling me about a somber subject with a hooker and her male companion laughing in the background on repeat throughout the entire conversation. It was funny for 5 seconds but this is constant. Overlapping contacts and quests will try to push you all the time and the pop-ups are there again and again and often over each other.

The bugs and crashes are intolerable although I had a hilarious crash when I was robbing a car and a cop came and knocked me out. Soon as the baton hit came the crash. Ironic. But some players report 20 hours in with no crashes while others like me experience a crash every 30 minutes.  I replayed a mission last night 5 times where you need to be stealthy the entire time, and it would crash right at the end just because it doesn’t let you save while in combat.

The good.  Ray tracing is incredible yes, and DLSS is a godsend!  Photo mode is nice.  And although every voice actor in this game is perfect, I skip most conversations and read them instead.  Unlike Mark’s style of shoot them first, I like the stealth with the hacking abilities. I like taking enemies out with little to no damage, plus hacking everything I see gets so many points.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a beautiful game with a rich world and characters you will instantly care for.  For example, a neighbor lost an animal friend and he was causing so many issues that the cops were called. It turns out that he recently left the force and was depressed because he could never express himself to his tougher colleagues who called him a pussy for showing emotion  Due to this, he only had his turtle to talk to. I only found this out by choosing the right dialogue and taking the optional path of looking for his friend’s grave.  This allowed me to force his friends to show compassion and to literally save his life.  But if you do not take the time to speak nicely and choose the correct dialogue, the neighbor kills himself and it felt horrible.

Role-playing is nice, and I find myself not caring about 200 FPS, but rather how beautiful the city looks and ray tracing and DLSS are worth even with a lesser 60 FPS experience.  Cyberpunk 2077 is so stunning in a lot of areas that I skip fast travel points and will often explore the city doing a plethora of side quests. Traveling this way often leads to more side quests and calls from fixers as well.

Gameplay.  Here are 5 minutes of gameplay video at 2560×1440 using Ultra ray tracking and Quality DLSS.

Performance and framerates.  I play on 2560 x 1080 or 2560x1440P depending on the monitor using an RTX 2080 Founders Edition and I have had to adjust settings downward playing with Ultra ray tracing, even with DLSS.  One solution was to turn off cascaded shadows. For some reason, that gained me 10 FPS or more.

Here are the optimized setting for an RTX 2080/16GB DDR4/i9-10850K at 1440P that I use:

[Updated 12/16/2020 7:38 AM PT: Credit to Digital Foundry; it was originally left off by mistake]

Standard Optimized Settings

  • Contact Shadows: On
  • Improved Facial Lighting Geometry: On
  • Local Shadow Mesh Quality: High
  • Local Shadow Quality: High
  • Cascaded Shadows Range: High
  • Cascaded Shadows Resolution: Medium
  • Distant Shadows Resolution: High
  • Volumetric Fog Resolution: 1080p Ultra, 1440p High, 4K Medium
  • Volumetric Cloud Quality: Medium
  • Max Dynamic Decals: Ultra
  • Screen Space Reflections Quality: Low but High if you find the amount of grain distracting.
  • Subsurface Scattering Quality: High
  • Ambient Occlusion: Low (there is barely a difference)
  • Colour Precision: Medium
  • Mirror Quality: 1080p High. 1440p High, 4K Medium
  • Level of Detail: High

Recommended Ray Tracing Settings

  • Ray Traced Reflections: On
  • Ray Traced Shadows: Off
  • Ray Traced Lighting: Medium – If that is not enough for you, Turn off reflections – the RT lighting is more important, on balance.
  • Image Quality Recommendations: 1080p DLSS Quality, 1440p, DLSS Balanced, 4K, DLSS Performance

To conclude, I play Cyberpunk 2077 this way because I find it interesting and challenging to roleplay as a stealthy hacker.  But at every point, the AI is braindead. Cars run on rails whereas GTA 3 has better AI for cars.  The Cyberpunk 2077 world is jam-packed with people who are only pre-determined NPCs using preset lines. Everyone acts as weird douchebags most of the time. You talk to them and it’s usually “F’-off, I’m busy” It may be the aesthetic the devs went for, but it’s off-putting when you start to peel back the layers. The core game with its multitude of sidequests are amazing and interesting, but the world you are in has to be really looked at with rose-colored glasses most of the time.

Thank you, Mario.  Let’s see what Rodrigo has to say.

Rodrigo’s impressions

Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that I have been following and looking forward to since CD Projekt Red announced its development years ago especially since the announcement came from the developers of an acclaimed and successful fantasy action RPG series, The Witcher.  What struck me most about the announcement and development of Cyberpunk 2077 was the potential of a game with a powerful mix of elements that I found very attractive and interesting.

On the one hand, the fact of advertising itself as an immersive single-player RPG experience was already a point in its favor that immediately got my attention given my historical gaming preferences for RGP.  I also liked the dystopian and cyberpunk atmosphere, setting, and plot, as I am a fan of the dystopian plots even in books, and the possibilities for philosophical reflection they offer about our current real-world and our current and future life paths strongly based on technology. Finally, as a lover of first-person shooters and RPG games, the possibility of enjoying the previous elements from this perspective was another point that undoubtedly made me enthusiastically follow the development of Cyberpunk 2077.

Now the game is finally here and I have had the opportunity to enjoy although not yet complete it, I must admit that it meets all of my expectations quite well. On the other hand, I maintain expectations at levels never too high to avoid later useless frustration and specially exaggerated criticism. In my opinion, the game complies enough with all the elements that I required, and visually it looks amazing in almost every Night City location I’ve seen so far. Therefore, the game meets all my expectations despite some RPG aspects that might be potentiated, like a higher variety of NPC conversations and interaction with them, more freedom and variety for daily activities outside the main missions or secondary plots, and some technical and optimization flaws.  But the game’s main flaw is a poor and very basic NPC AI that barely meets today’s minimum standards.

Overall, I consider Cyberpunk 2077 an excellent game, I’m really enjoying it, and visually and graphically it is a blast, despite some flaws and glitches that I’m pretty sure CD Projekt Red will fix in the coming game updates.  I covered only 7% of the main story, but I’ve already played 30 hours.  In this game and generally, for all open-world RPGs I tend to advance very slowly in the main story, diverting myself with the secondary missions and errands I find and completing them in the interim between progressing from one of the main missions to the next.

That said I’m quite disappointed with the level of performance optimization, gameplay bugs, and graphics glitches. For me, there is also severe texture loading and pop-in right after launching it and loading a game until after playing for a few minutes, they load properly.  I also found a workaround that may help gamers with similar issues.

Hotfix 1.04 bugged my prior save games in a way difficult to explain and understand.  At this point, I cannot rate the game as excellent but still in the need of a lot of polishing especially in terms of gameplay bugs and graphics glitches. I had to start a new game to fix the fully broken catalog of cars after 1.04 (more precisely the lack of the original varied catalog, since after updating to 1.04 the 90% of the spawned cars are now always the same 3 models of trucks and vans all the time and everywhere!), plus to workaround a new catalog of game-breaking AI issues.  Fortunately, I found at least a legit way using the GOG’s offline backup files which are still version 1.03, and skipping the two 1.04 patch files, and the instructions are reproduced here:

Quality Workaround Guide for Cyberpunk 2077

Please note that this is exactly what I did. Of course, there are some steps that you might consider unnecessary, or even redundant, but I wanted to reproduce exactly what I did to work around Cyberpunk 2077 for getting the best texture IQ and the general state of the game. Therefore, if you do not reproduce all the steps exactly the results will likely vary.

Steps

    1. Backup your CP’77 game saves [located in …Users/(User)/Savegames/CD Projekt Red ].
    2. Uninstall Cyberpunk 2077 via the GOG Galaxy 2.0 client (uninstalling it from Windows should work as well but I didn’t), and delete any associated game folder or file, including your the local ‘CD Projekt Red’ savegames folder (patch above) and the local game’s DX12 shader cache and settings folder […Users/(User)/AppData/Local/CD Projekt Red/cache].
    3. Go to your GOG account (gog.com/account), open your games collection (Games/My Collection) and click on ‘Cyberpunk 2077’.
    4. Download and save the ‘offline backup game installers’ from Part 1 to Part 27 [make sure you excluded the two installers for ‘Patch (1.03 to 1.04)’].
    5. Before running the offline game installer and install CP’77 from the downloaded offline files, please clean your local D3DShaders (go to Users/User/AppData/Local/D3DShaders, select all and delete, close related programs and give administrative permissions if you are asked), and then perform an in-depth GPU driver uninstallation using DDU and run it using ‘Safe Mode (Recommended)’ launch option. Before running DDU and until you reinstall the GPU drivers, please make sure you keep unplugged from your Internet, or alternatively if you know how to do it, enable the specific Windows Update OS policy to not allow Win10 automatic driver updates using your Local Group Policy Editor, and enable the specific policy, apply).
    6. After DDU (choosing Clean & Restart mode), install your previously downloaded GPU drivers suite, select your driver components and make sure you check the ‘Run a clean installation’ box as well; when the installation is complete, you can plug your Internet again, restart Windows.
    7. Back to your Windows 10 session, check if there are still present some NVIDIA/NVIDIA Corporation folder in your OS drive, search for “NVIDIA”, and if you find any NVIDIA folder delete all manually. (Optional) After step 4. and the above, you can use a Registry cleaner application to delete any possible NVIDIA registry key in the Windows 10 registry that left, even after DDU.
    8. Install the game running the downloaded offline executable (Part 1), and install it out of any of your GOG Galaxy folders, so the installation path should look like this X:\(Main game folder name), like mine C:\Cyberpunk 2077.
    9. From the NVIDIA Control Panel, leave as default the corresponding CP’77 program profile (if not present in the list, add your game’s .exe), except for the Power management mode setting set to ‘Prefer maximum performance’. In this case, do not set Texture Quality to ‘High Quality’ but left it set to Quality as default.
    10. Run CP’77 with Administrative privileges (this time, GOG Galaxy 2.0 client should not trigger now), only the game.exe will be launched, and let the Introduction to be run, when the Intro is ended also wait a minute in the Cyberpunk 2077 splash screen, then press to enter in the main menu of the game.
    11. From the main menu, go to Settings -> Graphics and make sure High is the value for Texture Quality and also select Ultra preset (no RTX features) and then disable both Film gain and Chromatic aberration settings, after that go to Video and check your display resolution and make sure ‘Full Screen’ is also set, click on Apply.
    12. Start a new game, the loading screen will trigger, and when the loading is complete please wait 2min before pressing the key to go into your new game, play a bit (do not save any game since the GOG’s cloud files will be redownloaded later, or you can always copy-paste your backup later), exit the game.  Please note that the “waiting” times I recommend in steps 8 and 9. are meant to allow any shaders compilation or optimization process to be completed successfully before playing. This is also something I also recommend for CP’77 before any gameplay or benchmarking session.
    13. Back to desktop, restore to default the CP’77 NVIDIA profile, delete manually the content of the NV_Cache folder (…ProgramData/NVIDIA Corporation/NV_Cache), the content of the D3DShaders folder, and all the content of the game’s local DX12 cache/settings […Users/(User)/AppData/Local/CD Projekt Red].
    14. Open GOG Galaxy 2.0 client and it will locate your game files, start to verify, redownload and update your game files.
    15. After that repeat steps 7 to 9 in order, and then launch the game with Administrative privileges..
    16. Delete all your games autosaves, and then start a new game (optimal to prevent the gameplay issue due to possible broken saves pre- applying this workaround process), or if for you the later is not possible at all because, for example, you are very far in the main story or you love your character so much, then load a manual save you know it was made on v1.04 (the massive better IQ would work despite your decision to start a new game or load a prior 1.04 manual save game).
    17. Check the results in terms of IQ in textures, and then choose and set the RT preset, tune RT individual features, and choose DLSS preset if needed.
    18. Hope it helps you. For me, it made a massive difference in terms of IQ and a much less buggish gameplay experience (for example, it got rid of the game’s cars catalog bug post hotfix 1.04).

I hope it’s worth it and that you consider it useful or at least interesting.

Thanks, Rodrigo.  Let’s look at performance and IQ.

Performance Options

There are many options for playing Cyberpunk 2077 including using ray tracing.  The game is very demanding and even an RTX 3090 cannot expect to run maxed settings at close to 50 FPS on the Ultra preset even without ray tracing and especially without DLSS.   Here are the graphics settings that we generally used for playing on GeForce RTX cards.

The settings used for performance benching were either 1) the Ultra preset (no ray tracing/DLSS), 2) the Ultra Preset + Ultra ray tracing with the option to turn DLSS on or off.  Further tests were made of the 4 DLSS quality levels’ performance.

Here is BTR’s benchmark which is very demanding and represents what you will probably find in-game in the most demanding action scenes, but this one is 100% repeatable with almost no variation between runs.

Please note that this benching sequence was originally captured on an RTX 3090 at 1920×1080 on the Ultra preset – no ray tracing and no DLSS.  This benchmark is what BTR uses for this review and for future reviews and driver performance analyses.

NVIDIA and CD Projekt Red teamed up to bring ray tracing and DLSS to Cyberpunk 2077.  The cutting-edge visuals are enhanced by ray-traced shadows, reflections, global illumination, diffuse illumination, and ambient occlusion.  However, the real star is DLSS for anti-aliasing using upscaling to provide the large performance boost needed to enjoy all of the improved visuals brought by ray tracing at decent FPS.  Let’s take a look at it.

Ray Tracing 

Instead of prebaked rasterized lighting that game developers have had to use, ray traced reflections give superior lighting which works well with the effects that Cyberpunk 2077 strives for.  Here are a couple of screenshots that show an immediate difference – both captured at Ultra Preset – just with ray tracing on vs off.

It’s really obvious that ray tracing brings quite a lot to the visuals.  But it is even more apparent with the camera in motion.

Let’s look a bit more closely at ray tracing on versus off in another example

All of these extra ray-traced visuals would be for naught were it not for DLSS which uses AI upscaling only for GeForce RTX cards.  DLSS is almost essential when enabling ray tracing to maintain playable frame rates and it can increase performance by 50% or more in some cases.  You can use DLSS by itself, but coupled with ray tracing, it allows a player to experience all the enhanced visuals that ray tracing brings with acceptable framerates.  Best of all, Quality DLSS IQ is the same or better than the native resolution.

Above we see ray tracing ultra at the native resolution and using the default AA versus using Quality DLSS which improves performance for free on RTX cards and there is no disadvantage to using DLSS whatsoever – just large performance gains.  In this case, AI really works for Cyberpunk 2077 visuals – but sadly not for the NPCs.

Cyberpunk 2077 features five DLSS options: Auto, Quality, Balanced, and Performance, as well as Ultra Performance. These options control the DLSS rendering resolution, allowing you to choose your own balance between image quality and FPS. The Auto option will automatically set what the game considers the optimal DLSS mode for the selected resolution.  As a tourist, I preferred DLSS Quality, but when I need a bit more fluidity, it is easy to switch to DLSS Performance or Balanced on the fly by pausing the game and changing the options without having to exit the game for the changes to take effect.

Here are our performance results using the top 4 Ampere video cards and AMD’s new Navi 2 cards, the RTX 6800 and the RTX 6800 XT.  Unfortunately, although Big Navi can now run ray tracing, the AMD drivers haven’t been updated to include them yet for Cyberpunk 2077.

Worst case, using BTR’s benchmark, we averaged around 43 FPS using an RTX 3090 at 3840×2160 using the Ultra Preset.  Using Ultra ray tracing dropped the performance to completely unacceptable in the 20s FPS, but Quality DLSS brought it up to average just a hair below 40 FPS which is reasonable for this game using a GSYNC display.  In our opinion, the RTX 3080 isn’t really ideal for 4K, dropping to 37 FPS average on the Ultra Preset and it drops a further 3 FPS turning on Ultra ray tracing with DLSS Quality.

The RTX 3080 shines at 2560×1440 averaging just above 68 FPS and turning on ultra ray tracing plus DLSS Quality drops the framerate average to just above 57 FPS.  The EVGA RTX 3070 FTW3 managed 50 FPS average at 1440P on Ultra and 45 FPS with ultra ray tracing plus DLSS Quality, but the RTX 3060 Ti is best suited for 1920×1080 if you want ultra everything.  The new RTX 3060 Ti averages above 68 FPS at Ultra 1080P and can handle ultra ray tracing plus Quality DLSS at 58 FPS.

My RTX 3080 results are lower than Rodrigo’s that cannot be explained by having slightly different PC hardware.  It may be that his texture workaround had a positive effect on performance or that the game’s performance issues affect each PC differently.  We will each continue to benchmark Cyberpunk 2077 and have added the game to our respective benchmarking suites and will continue to compare our results as the game continues to be patched.

This chart will give you an idea of how well DLSS scales with Quality (as good or better than the native resolution), Balanced (about as good as TAA), and Performance (slight IQ loss) using an RTX 3080.  The scaling is similar for all of the Ampere cards.  We did not test Ultra Performance DLSS.

DLSS is the magic that boosts framerates and makes ray-traced effects playable in real-time.  It allows an RTX 3080 to play on the Ultra Preset with Ultra Ray Tracing at 4K that would otherwise be a slideshow without DLSS.  And similarly, an RTX 3090 that gets mid-forties FPS on the 4K Ultra Preset (with no ray tracing) can get nearly 80 FPS using Balanced DLSS!

We also benchmarked the RX 6800 XT and the RX 6800 on the Ultra preset (without ray tracing).  Neither card is suited for 4K but the RX 6800 XT averages 68 FPS at 2560×1440 and the RX 6800 averages 59 FPS so both cards are also excellent for 1080P with maxed-out visuals.  It will be interesting to check performance when ray tracing is enabled for the Radeon 6800/XT since there is no AMD DLSS equivalent yet, and we will follow up.

Cyberpunk 2077 environments are a good showcase for global illumination and reflections which cast realistic reflections on floors and walls.  With ray-traced indirect diffuse lighting, we can see accurate details that include lighting from dynamic light sources reflected from nearby surfaces in real-time.  Ray tracing effects are a very nice feature for the cards that can use it, but the game is visually impressive without them.  It is also very demanding and the new meme may become “Can it Run Cyberpunk?”

Conclusion & Cyberpunk 2077 Key Giveaway Contest

Cyberpunk 2077 is a really good game that all three of us enjoyed and are continuing to enjoy despite its flaws.  Each of us bought a retail key prelaunch and each of us feels that we got our money’s worth.  Despite the ridiculous hype and broken promises made by the developers, it offers amazing visuals and ray tracing for RTX cards, a great story with superb acting and motion capture, and some side stories with real depth.

Cyberpunk 2077 is addictive and it pulls you back in despite its bugs and flaws as an RPG lite shooter.  There is a ton of good content, however, and we expect that the devs will patch the game.  We three all agree that it deserves an 8/10 as a great open-world game even in its unfinished and unpolished state.  Ray tracing certainly adds value for RTX card owners, and DLSS is the star that makes the game fluidly playable whereas otherwise, it would struggle.

The Cyberpunk 2077 Key Contest Giveaway!

Thank you for reading through to the end.  We have one retail Cyberpunk 2077 key that we purchased from Amazon.com to give away.  Starting now, please comment on any recent BTR post to enter.  We will put every entrant that comments into a random drawing and draw a lucky winner on Saturday, December 18 19, 2020 at 10 AM PT and announce it right here in an update. The winner will have 24 hours to claim the key based on the email account they used when commenting/entering, or we shall move on to the runner-up under the same conditions until the prize is claimed.  The key contest is for the GOG platform and for North America contestants only.  Good luck!

The Winner is Magnus!

Congratulations.  Please email apoppin@gmail.com to confirm your win and to receive your keycode.  You have 24 hours to claim the code or the runner-up will be announced tomorrow at this time.  Thank-you to everyone who entered and who commented on this review.

Next up, the showdown between the reference RX 6800 vs. the EVGA RTX 3070 FTW3, followed by an AIB RX 6900 XT review – and we shall also test this big bad boy in VR against the RTX 3090 and the RTX 3080.  Stay tuned!

Don’t forget to enter our Cyberpunk 2077 key giveaway right now!  On Saturday morning at 10 AM, we will put the names of all of those who recently commented on one or more of BTR’s articles into a random draw, and one lucky winner will be able to play Cyberpunk 2077 for free this weekend!  Please check back here.

Happy Gaming!

 

 

43 COMMENTS

  1. This is awesome! Hope to play soon, Gotta keep some money and follow this guide. btw i have rtx 2070 super. Thanks for this in-depth review!

  2. Can’t wait to play this game and enjoy exploring Night City when I am able to save up enough money to build a new PC. My current Intel 4790k and GTX 970 video card is definitely showing its age.

  3. The optimized settings are shamelessly lifted word for word from the digital foundry cyberpunk settings video, without credit.

  4. I can’t wait to play this game whenever I find a 3060 ti in stock. My current 1050ti would probably just die if I tried to play it now.

  5. A very fair and we’ll thought out review. One that acknowledged the flaws AND the great things about the game. I LOVE this game and have been excited for years! But it definitely needs some work. Primarily on AI, driving, and customization.

  6. I like how you all broke down your recommended settings for the smoothest game play experience. How do you think it would run on older cards like the other non 2000 series NVIDIA cards?

    • DLSS is a lifesaver for the RTX series of cards. Older cards run just fine if you are on an intel CPU currently. We have seen some issues with Ryzen and other AMD CPUs not using their full potential until a patch is released. You should be fine with high settings on a 1080-1080 Ti.

  7. I was really excited about this……I hope to be again. Witcher was a bit of a mess, this seems like a dumpster fire now….but I trust they WILL fix it all. Thanks for the comparison shots, very useful!

  8. I really look forward to playing this, but not until most of the big initial bugs have been killed, especially ones that corrupt your saved games.

  9. Love your driver reviews and the thorough methodology. Would love to see your opinions on the upcoming 3080 Ti.

    • Thank you for the positive feedback! Happy to hear you like them. This time, we had to skip our GeForce 460.79 review as we hadn’t enough time to finish and publish the analysis before the faster than expected GeForce 460.89 release. Anyway, our next Game-Ready 460.89 driver review, which compares latest driver 460.89 vs. 457.51 (our previously recommended), is already on its way. Quake 2 RTX 1.4.0 and Cyberpunk 2077 will also be added to my benchmarks suite from now on. We hope that NVIDIA may slow down a bit and doesn’t release another Game-Ready driver version in a few days. Fingers crossed, and stay tuned! 🙂

  10. Interesting that 1440p DLSS Performance performs worse than 1080p DLSS Quality. Love the screenshots with sliders for comparison.

  11. YIIIIIH BOYEEE!

    I’ve been waiting my whole life for this, something about the old Total Recall, Strange Days, Blade Runner aesthetic that has always spoken to some very primal part of me. I’m’ still not sure why in the year 2020 we aren’t all dressed like the denizens of Night City… I am dissapoint. Oh well, I’m turning my apartment into as close an approximation as I can with a neon sign already on the way 🙂

    • You’re welcome! Please, after doing your own application and testing of the workaround, tell us your results and experience. It is important for me to get information from other users’ applications, as I have some hypotheses about the root cause of certain game issues I would like to be able to contrast with your help. Thank you in advance.

  12. big thanks to apoppin, Mario and Rodrigo for this article. Ive been waiting since monday, lol. appreciate it very much and the content. very through. i appreciate the recommended game settings on how to setup this game depending on what hardware you have. and seems like apoppin mentioned that the driving with a wheel seems to be the best experience. this game looks really fun.

    looking forward to the 6800 vs 3070 showdown. thanks again.
    cheers. Magnus

  13. Thank you babeltech team for this theough review of cp2077. It seems rtx is very taxing. I wonder how a 2070 vanilla would handle rtx
    .
    Ouchie

  14. Thanks for the review of the game in it’s current state. Hope to win this giveaway and hope some big patches are coming down the line!

  15. Thank you for the review and the giveaway. I heard that there might be some performance gains (for the hitches while driving) on certain PC configs if you enable Slow HDD mode even if you’re running the game on an SSD.

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