June 9, 2019: I walked into the ramshackle establishment, trepidation already hard in my heart. One look around the joint, and I knew I had been right to be afraid. Wall to wall, the place was crawling with the worst scum on Earth. Red-rimmed, beady eyes stared back at me as I fell into step behind the line of sleep-deprived, ravenous patrons waiting to make their purchases. When my turn finally came, the dealer barely looked at me and started typing commands into his computer interface.
“How many?” the ghoul behind the counter asked.
“Uh, one,” I replied cautiously.
A few moments later, I shuffled back out into the world clutching a tiny piece of paper that I would need to keep safe for several months, in order to redeem it for my $60 pre-order of Cyberpunk 2077, THE game that would redefine gaming itself. Now it was just a matter of waiting. I had already been waiting for the game for seven years, since its initial press release in 2012. The recently announced release date, April 16, 2020, was but ten months away. That was nothing.
December 10, 2020: It had been a tougher ten months than I had thought, and an even worse seven months of additional delays on top. But it had been worth it. After all, CD Pojekt Red had assured their customers that the delays were necessary in order to make certain that Cyberpunk 2077 would be the “crowning achievement of this generation,” and to “make sure everything works well and every version runs smoothly." Clearly, these goals had been achieved, as I was at this very moment driving home with my very own copy of the game. Finally, the fans would be rewarded for their patience.
March 22, 2021: I woke from a restless sleep and immediately snatched up my DualShock 4. Shaking the grogginess from my skull, I kick-started my PS4 into action. There was no time to rest on my laurels. After all, Keanu Reeves was trapped in my cyber-mind, and if I didn’t get rid of him soon, my own consciousness would be lost forever, as would my ability to emote anything beyond surfer-zen acceptance of impossible events, and mild, but lethal, anger.
As Cyberpunk 2077 loaded up, I thought back upon all of the trials I had already managed to overcome throughout my 50+ hour journey. My pants disappearing from my body in the middle of a gunfight. Collecting powerful mods, yet opening an empty mod inventory when trying to attach them to weapons. A complete inability to answer phone calls from a mission-giving NPC. Countless times, I’d carved an impossible swathe through armies of enemies, only to be presented with an error message indicating I’d have to do it all over again.
Yes, I'd been through hell and back during my time in Night City. But still, I did my best to persevere. I would see this adventure through to the bitter end, even if the entire graphics engine crumbled upon itself, and I wound up having to shoot at a single pixel that represented the final boss. I would finish this damn game no matter how many strings of code had been accidentally erased by CD Projekt Red cleaning staff, nor how many testers had been high on PCP during trial gameplay. I felt unshakeable. And I refused to allow myself to fall into despair. Although I did think it very strange that the “Continue” option was mysteriously missing from the main screen.
No matter. I would just find my last save in the load screen. Or would I?
March 23, 2021: I had fallen deep into despair. After innumerable attempts to track the lost save data across my PS4 hard drive and beyond, into the Cloud, I had found that all of my sweet, hard-fought progress had been hopelessly eradicated from existence. A quick Internet search revealed that I was not alone in my suffering. Apparently, there existed yet another bug that I hadn’t known about, and that remained unfixed by any of the patches released thus far by CD Projekt Red. As described in numerous angry posts across the Internet, if your save game files rise beyond 8 MB, and/or too much crafting and looting is done, the saves will become corrupted and implode inwards upon themselves to create a vacuum in cyberspace that will eventually consume all digital data in the world and send civilization back to the Stone Age. Okay, perhaps that is an over-exaggeration, but for those of us who have flittered away dozens upon dozens of hours of our lives trying to push their way through the campaign, which would have amounted to a fraction of that time if not for the game-crashing bugs, it felt like a massive loss. Still, one thing was for sure. My hard-earned money would not be lost. I would recover my $60, by God, or die trying!
March 24, 2021: Reinvigorated by purpose, I marched up to the counter at GameStop and slapped down my copy of Cyberpunk 2077 in its original packaging, with all materials intact, accompanied by a time-worn, but still completely legible receipt of purchase. I felt confident in my task. After all, every major retailer, including Amazon, Sony, Microsoft, and Best Buy had issued press statements announcing they would provide full refunds for Cyberpunk 2077, with no limit on time from purchase date due to the obviously unstable and veritably unplayable nature of the product. True, GameStop was the only hold-out, stating they would only issue refunds within 30 days of purchase. But surely, due to the unforeseeable circumstances and clearly defective nature of the game, this good man across the counter would see reason, and allow me to become whole once more. Financially, at least.
Sadly, I could not have been more wrong. Over a period of approximately ten minutes or so, a brutal battle of words was fought. Logic was relayed and roundly rejected. Threats of discontinuation of personal consumerism were shrugged off like a light breeze. It was a legendary contest of wills between one victimized man and a poorly-paid cashier representing an International retail powerhouse. But eventually, I emerged from the den of evil, stumbling on weak legs that quickly gave out, sending me to my knees upon the concrete. I stared at the money clutched in my sweaty fist, counting the bills to be sure it was real. I confirmed it: a cash sum of $16.50: GameStop’s trade-in value for a used copy of Cyberpunk 2077. I lifted my head and screamed into the sky. For I had been totally and unequivocally vanquished by the forces of evil and ineptitude.
Take this tale as a cautionary one, my fellow adventurers. Do not allow yourself to be caught up in false hype. Take the time to scout and prep properly before setting out on what is told to be a fantastic voyage. For all too often, those running the show fly too close to the Sun and wind up burning their in-game pants off.