I don’t need to explain to anyone why 2020 was a hard year. COVID-19 negatively impacted so many things, many of which is still a problem, which is why I wanted to make sure if we did any of our yearly awards, it would be a most disappointing game. What makes it different from literally every other award is the intent and execution. I don’t need to really justify something like The Last of Us Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, Final Fantasy VII or any number of other things being the best, because most people will agree they’re on some level of good. There will always be things someone feels is more deserving, but it rarely requires a lengthy explanation as to why. Most disappointing is similar, in that it’s usually one of a handful of games, but the reasoning is far more important. It never comes without someone disagreeing with the assessment and this one will likely not be any different.
COVID-19 aside, this was a stacked year with a lot of potential for disappointment. I mentioned a few above, but there was also Animal Crossing: New Horizon, DOOM Eternal, Watch Dogs Legion, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Paper Mario Origami King, Nioh 2, Demon’s Souls, Dreams, Marvel’s Avengers, and I can honestly keep going. Truth be told, a surprisingly high number of these games delivered an experience that resonated with our community as a whole. The only real standout negative was Marvel’s Avengers and the ultimate recipient, Cyberpunk 2077.
Going into Cyberpunk 2077 there were untold levels of anticipation. Even before seeing it, the concept, idea, and CD Projekt Red, fresh off of their work on The Witcher 3, made it interesting. The showing at E3 in 2018 was also arguably the most interesting booth. The sheer number of people who wanted to see it was insane and it was the only backroom booth I’ve ever seen with a literal line of people waiting for hours to get in (admittedly some of the attention was from people who referred to it as “the place to get the figure.”). The following year it was another extremely popular booth, with the actual presence on the floor being immense, so much so it rivaled things like Borderlands in presence.
A lot of this made total and complete sense. What was demoed looked amazing and the presentation was top notch. It was one of the very few experiences where I instantly understood the hype and anticipation around something that was little more than an interesting concept. Given the reaction, I don’t feel like this type of resonance was unique to me and something a number of people felt, though likely in their own way.
All of this anticipation and build-up was bound to disappoint someone. Every major release disappoints some number of people but Cyberpunk 2077 stands out in how it’s disappointing. A lot of this is reminiscent of why I gave the original Destiny this award back in 2014. It isn’t just that the product failed to live up to the hype and didn’t meet expectations, it’s the potential loss. Where Destiny showed what it could be in the Vault of Glass, people on modern consoles or powerful PCs have repeatedly said Cyberpunk 2077 is a lot of fun. It’s just, a good number of people have yet to experience that version of the game. Having seen footage on a base model, it’s understandable why so many people wanted refunds and felt ripped off.
Even those who got the true experience are stuck with an experience widely believed to be unfinished. There is a general sense that the story was finished and the rest was still in some level of development. It makes sense, it wouldn’t be the first experience to go that way (this was something that plagued early Destiny), though perhaps the most disappointing thing is how it will all shake out. Based on early updates, I have no trouble believing it CD Projekt Red won’t eventually achieve a much better experience. The question moves from whether or not it will happen and more, when, followed by wondering how many will stick around for that ride and at what cost. It’s unfortunate out of everything in 2020 the last major release was also the most divisive, though hopefully some good will come of it long term.