Technology

Cyberpunk 2077 patch 1.23: is the game fit for its PSN comeback?

It’s far from perfect but there are big improvements.

Delisted from the PlayStation Store in December last year, Cyberpunk 2077 has finally re-emerged on Sony’s storefront, available to buy once more for PS4, PS4 Pro and PlayStation 5. Removed from sale over its many bugs and performance problems, its re-arrival suggests that the game has significantly improved since launch – and at the very least, it should not crash back to the PS4 front-end, behaviour we noted in every single patch update we tested until now. So is the CD Projekt RED epic really ready for prime-time on PlayStation consoles with its recent patch 1.23 update? We’d say that it is – with caveats.

It’s interesting to note that CDPR’s patch notes for version 1.23 are relatively light, at least compared to prior updates. Still by most games’ standards, it packs a decent punch. We get a string of bug fixes specific to certain missions, along with crash fixes, CPU optimisations, and improved streaming. This sounds promising, but it’s worth highlighting that even Sony itself still seems to have reservations about the game. The store actively discourages buying Cyberpunk for use on the base PS4 – the most popular and widespread of last-gen consoles – saying that it’s “not recommended” with more updates due to arrive for it this year.

But we do have some good news here. The game didn’t crash once in our tests – something we couldn’t say for prior updates. We can’t totally rule out that it won’t crash, but the game certainly seems more stable right now. On top of that, there are genuine improvements over patch 1.2, and they are most noticeable on the vanilla PS4 – the console that Sony doesn’t recommend you buy the game for. In fact, in all of our stress tests the standard PS4 sees the biggest improvements in terms of getting closer to the elusive 30fps. In the worst throttle points, there are improvements of up to 5fps – indicating a substantial optimisation push. It’s not always such a significant increase – jerky 20fps shoot-outs aren’t hugely improved – but regardless, 1.23 is consistently ahead. Patch on patch, it does seem like we’re seeing gradual but noticeable improvement.

What of the game’s bugs? Well, while crashes are reduced, bugs and visual oddities are still present across the board. Patch 1.23 restores the lighting in the game’s first city-based shootout, which seemed to vanish in the last update, but hitching is still a regular occurrence. Sudden stutters kick in during play if you move too fast through Night City. From what we can see, these frame drops are tied to the game’s world streaming engine – a CPU bottleneck that coincides with textures, geometry and NPCs popping in. As a result, there’s a lot of geometry and texture pop-in while NPCs can still render in their low-poly state in busy areas.

As for PS4 Pro, the truth is that as of patch 1.2, this machine was already looking pretty good. Cyberpunk 2077 has historically run better on the Pro and with that being the case, the game only has an incremental increase to stability with version 1.23. Side-by-sides with our library data show all the usual test points are a matched 30fps on each patch. The city market run, the driving shootout – all 30fps with occasional one-off missed frames. Streaming hitches can still occur, however, and there are still a range of visual glitches you’re sure to encounter, like unformed NPCs with low mesh geometry and placeholder textures.

As for PlayStation 5, the game is still running under backwards compatibility albeit with an unlocked frame-rate. It ran fairly smoothly at launch, but the code has bound to have improved through the various stability upgrades and crash fixes. However, performance remains much as it was at launch: it’s mostly 60 frames per second, but traversal through the city or going hell for leather in combat can see performance drop into 50-60fps territory. PlayStation 5 actually runs fairly well, and it’ll be interesting to see where CDPR chooses to take the game with its dedicated next-gen upgrade currently in development.

In the here and now though, patch 1.23 is mostly a win for the last-generation PlayStation. The base PS4 and PS4 Pro versions are better in frame-rates – though sub-20fps gameplay still blights the base console. Most crucially? Crashes are reduced – at least based on my time with it. Sony’s technical requirements for publishing the game on the PlayStation Store don’t demand specific performance targets – but having stable code, free of craching, definitely is a bare minimum. More updates and improvements are promised though – and improved stability in performance, plus comprehensive improvements to the pop-in problems must surely rank foremost amongst them. We’ll be reporting on further updates as they land.