The wait is finally over! Cyberpunk 2077 is out in the wild and the immense open world, inspired by the 1988 table-top RPG of the same name, is ready and waiting for you to enjoy. First announced as far back as 2012 and originally slated for release on the 16th April of this year, CD PROJEKT RED's latest game has of course been subject to multiple delays. Pushing that date back to the 17th September, the 19th November, and finally to the 10th December, it seemed like Cyberpunk was destined to be a permanent object of anticipation, but no longer.
So has the extra time been worthwhile? Well, with the PS4 version of the dystopian future RPG arriving with a day 1 patch that is over 40 GB in size, I can immediately say that the update makes a clear improvement to the game and you should absolutely install the latest version before diving in. Playing the game in vanilla v1.00 form, I was a little underwhelmed in a few areas, but as of v1.02, lighting and textures appear improved, performance is massively boosted and even the impressive looking photo mode benefits from some important tweaks.
there is no real substitute for actually feeling how the features behave with controller in hand...
There is no doubt that the sprawling neon metropolis and flawed underworld of Night City, as well as the near-future tech and prevalence of cybernetic human-augmentations are a certain draw for sci-fi fans to explore as the mercenary known simply as "V". However, these are also things that bring a very alluring aesthetic for virtual photographers so it is great to know that CD PROJEKT RED have not overlooked the art form and have included a well-featured photo mode. As always, I'll be going into more depth later with a fully detailed review but for now, let's take a hands-on look at the photo mode and find out whether it too can live up to the anticipation.
Key Photo Mode Features:
Extensive character posing & positioning options
Stylised stickers and frames
Save & Load entire photo mode configurations
Admittedly, most of the features of Cyberpunk 2077's photo mode were revealed in the excellent photo mode trailer that the studio released around a week ago; you can see my breakdown of that here, but there is no real substitute for actually feeling how the features behave with controller in hand. Getting into the photo mode is easy enough with a simultaneous click of the L3 & R3 buttons that is actually a big improvement on the obscure combination of L3 & Options that the game used in v1.00 (see, you really should update it first). A stylised UI greets you with a series of red menu tabs, a permanent thirds grid, and lets the user freely adjust settings while hidden, but the interesting sounding "camera type" options may be something of a disappointment.
[ Image © CD PROJECT RED ]
The default mode is "Drone" but don't be fooled, this is an orbit camera that is permanently tethered to the playable character, using the RS to orbit around V and the LS to adjust the camera in the lateral truck & dolly planes. While it is possible to hide V in the UI, the behaviour is quite comparable to that of Death Stranding's camera and suffers from the same limitations of not being able to move past or look away from the character's position. Consequently, photographing the highly interesting environments is harder than it needs to be and revolves largely around placing the character to create a line of sight for the camera. As for that other camera type, it's a first-person perspective that doesn't allow lateral movement so no saving grace there then.
In fact, the Cyberpunk photo mode is one that is actually quite heavily focused on photographing the customisable protagonist; slightly ironic given that you play almost entirely in first person and so don't really see much of them ordinarily. This is the area that it really shines though. A solid depth of field implementation works well with auto or manual focus for classic portrait shots, albeit currently only possible to rotate the camera by 60°, and the Pose tab presents no less than 54 preset body positions and 11 facial expressions as well as the option to look towards the camera (where possible) and to toggle a rather beautiful muzzle flash when a gun is present.
Where CD PROJEKT RED have taken the poses to another level though is with manual repositioning of the character. No longer confined to the precise spot they occupied at the moment you enter the photo mode, the movement options allow them to be shifted around within a limited XY grid and rotated on the spot through 360°. This takes the photo mode beyond pure capture and more into scene creation as you are able to completely rebalance character positioning or even move them in relation to nearby light sources for a better setup. Make no mistake, this is an important step for consumer photo modes.
completely rebalance character positioning...
A series of post-process editing features including exposure, contrast, highlights and vignette largely work well in conjunction with the 15 preset colour filters to create some varied visual styles. Chromatic aberration and film grain too, are particularly well suited to the game's overall aesthetic and use of darkness, but it seems a shame that there are no colour saturation options to really help bring the vibrancy out of Night City.
For added creativity, the photo mode is complete with 49 frames that range from simple aspect ratio crops to imaginative masks and pre-made surrounds, as well as a truly impressive array of stickers. With 196 designs to choose from and 5 layers across which to place, scale and rotate them, these stickers can be used to transform the style of any photograph to create wallpapers, poster-style designs and more. The designs are particularly good too, and I love the scribbled ink, graffiti and digital overlays that are just perfect for the thematic content of the game. With no reset options in the photo mode at all though, removing them if you change your mind can be a bit labour intensive.
Rounding of the creative options are a set of 9 backgrounds that hide everything apart from the character, just to hit home how this is a photo mode that has been crafted with portraiture in mind. Along with some colourful backdrops, I am sure people will be pleased to see a (near) black scene that makes it possible to get those popular black-background shots pretty much anywhere.
With such an array of customisation types, the final UI tab and the one thing that was left out of the reveal trailer, really becomes relevant. While the camera tab includes a set of presets that are intended to provide quick composition options, the Load / Save feature goes further than that and probably beyond what I was expecting. Although being quite self-explanatory by name, it was a pleasant surprise to see this allow the user to save up to three complete configurations, including sticker placement, edit effects and even camera position. Whether it is to reproduce the exact same shot in a different location or to use a basic setup that is tweaked for each shot, this is a thoughtful feature that compliments the feature set.
The Cyberpunk 2077 photo mode is perhaps not the most versatile out there and it is disappointing to see another camera limited by using a third-person orbit rather than free composition, but the areas that it does focus on bring along some new and exciting prospects, particularly the photographic opportunities that are on offer in Night City.