Cyberpunk 2077/GTA 5
Time to write a take so hot my keyboard is melting as I type. GTA 5 is quite literally the most popular game of all time, selling 150 million copies and debuting to rave reviews when it arrived all the way back in the PS3/Xbox 360 generation. The game is been alive and well ever since, due in part to the success of GTA Online which prints money for Rockstar and has allowed the game to live across three console generations now.
And yet for me, famed disaster Cyberpunk 2077 is actually a better game.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, pondering why exactly GTA 5 has been this acclaimed, and been selling this well for so long, and why, despite all the negatives, Cyberpunk 2077 has been stuck in my brain since its launch last year.
I have to make one grand caveat here, the idea that I’ll ignore the technical challenges Cyberpunk 2077 came with. I’m talking about its thousands of bugs that had to be fixed post-launch. Or the performance issues that endure to this day, especially on last-gen consoles, where the game probably just should not have been made for those systems in the first place. Cyberpunk 2077 being explicitly broken in many ways at launch was the majority of the reason it got so much bad press. But the game itself? I think you can make the case.
Night City > Los Santos
Night City is a gorgeous, beautifully realized place, probably one of the best-looking futuristic cities I’ve seen in the video game space. Los Santos and the wider San Andreas area may be large, but I don’t think they hold a candle to the design aesthetic of Night City, and it’s simply not that interesting of a place. Night City has not realized its full potential yet, and if it had a decade to expand like GTA did, I think you’d see this be even more pronounced. I know there is technically more to do in Los Santos, minigames, property to purchase, and yet Night City remains a place I want to actively spend time in, which I can’t say is true for GTA’s world.
V > Franklin And Michael
GTA 5’s triple protagonist idea always kind of rubbed me the wrong way, and I’m willing to say that V, particularly female voicework V, is a better lead character than at the very least, Franklin and Michael, two thirds of GTA’s leads. Trevor is a unique case and I think he’s fantastic due to the performance of Steven Ogg, and yet I think Cyberpunk has done a great job fleshing out V as a protagonist which you rarely see in first person games.
Cyberpunk Supporting Cast > GTA 5 Supporting Cast
Panam, Judy, Kerry, River, Jackie, Takemura, I would list all of these as being a better supporting cast than anyone GTA 5 has to offer. I genuinely cannot even remember anyone from GTA 5 outside of the main leads and that one guy with glasses who helps you plan missions. Cyberpunk established a great set of newly iconic characters outside its lead that are better than anything GTA offered, and you’re able to develop real relationships with them as the player character. I also maintain that GTA’s brand of comedy has not worked in a long time, and the Cyberpunk script is better overall, despite a missing storyline here and there, cut for time.
Cyberpunk Combat > GTA Combat
This one may be controversial. I will obviously give car combat to GTA 5, as it is terrible/non-existent in Cyberpunk outside of scripted segments. But on the ground, in-person combat? I think that goes to Cyberpunk with its varied styles of play, guns blazing, stealth, melee, hacking, and it’s better than GTA’s run-and-gun style with snap-to-target aiming. Cyberpunk missed the mark in some areas, but combat wasn’t one of them.
So, where does Cyberpunk lose? A few areas for sure. Anything with vehicles, racing, combat or otherwise. Anything having to do with enemy AI, whether that’s gang fights or police. And of course Cyberpunk doesn’t have a GTA Online mode at all to compare for a multiplayer option (not yet, anyway).
But in the end, despite all the issues, I would consider Cyberpunk 2077 a better game than GTA 5, despite the acclaim, despite the sales, and despite Cyberpunk going through the ringer this past year for various reasons. I absolutely think CDPR screwed up by releasing the game a solid year early with all its technical problems, overpromising and underdelivering, but fundamentally, there is a great game in there, and in fact, one I’d consider one of the best in this sandbox city genre.
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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series, and The Earthborn Trilogy, which is also on audiobook.
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