Cyberpunk 2077’s now been out to the public for five days, and while we still maintain that PC performance is generally positive, the game’s console ports have been filled with enough bugs and graphical downgrades that CD Projekt Red has issued a public apology encouraging disappointed players to seek refunds.
We’ve covered the game’s console bugs before, but as players get more familiar with Cyberpunk’s workings, it’s becoming easier to track when to expect certain bugs and what some of the most common issues are. And we’re sad to report that the game’s unreactive AI, one of the more apparent problems we saw with the game on release, is likely not a bug, but an intended 'feature.'
Long story short:Rockstar is still unmatched at making immersive open-worlds #Cyberpunk2077 pic.twitter.com/aEzogt0k3ZDecember 9, 2020
Let’s back up. On December 10th, we reported on, among other issues, a video of a Cyberpunk player causing a massive traffic jam in the game just by parking in the middle of a road. Cars stopped around the player, with traffic jams stretching into the horizon, rather than just driving around. And while we thought this might have been a bug at the time, it’s now clear that this is just how cars in the game work. But what’s more remarkable is CD Projekt Red’s apparent fix for the situation, which also looks like a bug at first glance.
Traffic #PS5Share, #Cyberpunk2077 pic.twitter.com/VAGiubDo9LDecember 15, 2020
On December 15th, Critic and Game Developer Gareth Damian Martin (who runs a site dedicated to worlds in video games) posted a thread to Twitter where he speculated that, to prevent traffic jams in the game’s world, CD Projekt Red simply deletes any stopped cars when the player looks away for long enough. He then demonstrates this in a video where he parks in front of a few cars and walks back and forth between them, with one or two cars disappearing every time he looks away.
“CDPR have made every stopped car disappear if you look away,” he writes. “That way the cars keep following their path and blockages are cleared up. This is NOT a bug.”
Essentially, he alleges that the cars in Cyberpunk 2077 have driving AI so primitive that many mistook it for a bug at first. To the game’s credit, we didn’t encounter this issue when playing on PC (Martin was playing on PS5), but Redditor's are pointing to similar problems. And even in our testing, Martin's other point was present across platforms.
Pedestrians #PS5Share, #Cyberpunk2077 pic.twitter.com/8088ToRTetDecember 15, 2020
That point being that the same Houdini act holds true for crowds when you shoot at them. While human NPCs will run away when shot at rather than just standing still, these running NPCs also disappear from the world when you look away.
We also tested this on PC, and had similar results to Martin, with the exception that the scant few NPCs who had swapped from running to crouching stayed in the world after we turned around.
So, while these issues could be chalked up to bugs, they are repeatable and at least one occurs across platforms, which makes it seem like this is just how Night City handles NPCs and potentially vehicles that break from their standard patrol routes. By deleting them, sometimes very shortly after the player looks away.
This is remarkably primitive AI for a big-budget open world game, and isn’t something you’ll find in Watch Dogs: Legion or Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which also came out this year. And while cars aren’t exactly a thing in CD Projekt Red’s last open-world game, The Witcher 3, we also tested that. And we can say with certainty that NPCs who you threaten with your sword don’t just disappear after running away in that game either.
So, given Cyberpunk's contemporaries, it’s easy to understand why some mistook this for a bug at first. But regardless of your platform, this appears to be Cyberpunk 2077 working as intended. It’s also possible that cars stuck around longer on our PC simply because the PC has more GPU and memory to render them longer. They might have eventually disappeared if we had turned away long enough.
The disappearing crowd issue, meanwhile, is prevalent enough that we’ve even seen some suggesting that players can purposefully shoot at crowds to make them disappear as a way to improve performance. We’d recommend just lowering the crowd density in the settings, instead.
It’s possible that this is something CD Projekt Red might address in patches, though we have no way to be certain. But as our Cyberpunk reviewer Jarred Walton explained to me over Slack, NPCs in the game right now are basically “cardboard cutouts.”
“They add to the ambiance, but there’s zero intelligence to them.”