Cyberpunk 2077 is finally here. After years of waiting, one of the most anticipated games ever (in my book, anyway) has arrived. Or at least, it will arrive on December 10, 2020. In advance of the launch, CD Projekt Red gave us (and a bunch of others) early access to a near-final build for review. Naturally, we wanted to run benchmarks to see how the game actually performs on a variety of hardware. However, there’s a major disclaimer: This is near-final code, but CDPR has been working on bug fixes, tuning, and optimization for the past couple of weeks. AMD and Nvidia are also working on driver improvements, and the preview copy includes Denuvo protection. That could impact CPU performance in particular, which is why this is a preview of how the game runs. The final release code should perform at least this well, and hopefully a bit better.

With that out of the way, we can finally put some hard numbers to the official Cyberpunk 2077 system requirements. The minimum GPU listed is a GTX 780, with GTX 1060 6GB recommended for 1080p high, RTX 2060 for 1440p ultra, and an RTX 2080 Super for 4K ultra. Then there’s the ray tracing additions, with the RTX 2060 listed as the minimum for 1080p and RT medium, 3070 for 1440p and RT ultra, and 3080 for 4K RT ultra. Based on what we’re seeing, it looks like those recommendations are for 30-40 fps. If you’re after smooth 60 fps performance, you’re going to need to aim quite a bit higher on the hardware specs (unless the day-0 launch patch provides an unprecedented boost to performance).

We will say that the game is very playable at 30-60 fps on PC. Gunfights can be a bit more difficult if you’re at the lower end of that range, but if you’ve played another shooter at 30-60 fps, Cyberpunk 2077 shouldn’t pose any problems. It’s not a fast-paced shooter by any stretch, and there are often other alternatives to shooting. Still, going from 30-40 fps up to 60 fps makes for a much nicer experience overall.

Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Cyberpunk 2077 Performance Preview Test Setup

TOM’S HARDWARE TEST PC

We’re using our standard GPU testbed as usual (specs to the right), which is very much over-spec in terms of what Cyberpunk 2077 requires. We’ve got twice the memory and twice the CPU cores, more or less, with a couple of handfuls of GPUs for testing. We did want to check CPU scaling, and for ease of testing, we opted to simply disable half of the CPU cores on our Core i9-9900K. That gives us a CPU that’s similar to a Core i7-7700K, though technically it’s clocked a bit higher and has more L3 cache. We only tested the fastest RTX 3090 with the faux-7700K, just to see how much CPU matters—and of course, Denuvo could affect the performance of the preview code on slower CPUs. The release version of the game will be DRM-free, at least on GOG Galaxy, and we’ll be retesting on a more extensive suite of CPUs and GPUs once we have that version.

Even with limited testing, we still have a bunch of test results to show. We’ve run non-ray tracing benchmarks on all of the GPUs using the medium and ultra presets, and then we’ve done a bunch of additional testing on RTX cards with ray tracing enabled, at varying DLSS settings. Currently, owners of AMD’s new RX 6800 series graphics cards are locked out of ray tracing, but support will come post-launch. The initial version of the game actually let us try to enable ray tracing on AMD’s cards, but enabling RT reflections caused an immediate crash. The other RT effects didn’t necessarily work properly, either. Hopefully this gets addressed quickly post-launch.

Our goal for this preview of Cyberpunk 2077 performance isn’t to show every possible GPU, but rather to look at various tiers of performance. We’ve got the current top GPUs from AMD and Nvidia, and from there we step down to high-end, mainstream, and even budget levels of performance. We’ll flesh out the charts with more cards once the game becomes publicly available.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Our test sequence involves us walking around Night City, following the same path each run. While we only tested one section of the city, performance, in general, is pretty consistent (within about ±20 percent). Indoor areas run a bit faster, but most of the outdoor environments where you’ll spend a lot of time will perform about the same. For example, the plot of the test run from the RTX 3060 Ti at 1080p ultra averaged 77 fps, with a 99th percentile of 61 fps and a 99.9th percentile of 53 fps.

Take that test sequence, and repeat it at different settings and resolutions for each hardware configuration, running each one twice. Because we’re using a manual run (logging frametimes using OCAT) in an open-world game with procedurally-generated crowds and traffic, there’s a bit more variance between runs than normal. Basically, there’s about a 3 percent spread for the test results. Several hundred benchmark runs later gives us the following results. Again, this is early code, so things can and almost certainly will change in the coming days as patches and drivers roll out.

Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

For the charts, we’ve color-coded Nvidia in blue, AMD in red, and Nvidia with ray tracing in green. We also have the simulated i7-7700K in light blue. The ray tracing results shown in the main chart are at native resolution—no DLSS. RTM indicates the use of the Ray Traced Medium preset (basically the same as the ultra preset, but with several ray tracing enhancements turned on), and RTU is for Ray Traced Ultra (nearly maxed out settings, with RT reflections enabled and higher-quality lighting).

For the ultra settings, we have a second chart showing DLSS performance on the RTX GPUs. We didn’t test every GPU at every possible option (DLSS Auto, Quality, Balanced, Performance, and Ultra Performance), but we did run the full suite of options on the RTX 3090 just for fun. Native results are in dark blue, DLSS Quality results are in green, DLSS Balanced in light blue, DLSS Performance in lighter red, and DLSS Ultra Performance in dark red. (DLSS Auto uses Quality mode at 1080p, Balanced mode at 1440p, and Performance mode at 4K, so we didn’t repeat those results in the charts.) At 4K, we also included a few results running without ray tracing—indicated by ‘Rast’ in the label (for rasterization) and in light blue.

Cyberpunk 2077 Performance: Medium Preset

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Starting at the bottom of our test range with the 1080p medium preset, we can clearly see the CPU bottleneck at around 105 fps. Every GPU from the RTX 3060 Ti through the RX 6800 XT lands within a few fps of that mark. The RTX 3090 with our simulated 7700K CPU drops performance by nearly 25 percent, so core counts clearly help when moving from a 4-core/8-thread CPU to an 8-core/16-thread CPU.

If you’re looking for 60 fps, the RX 5600 XT and RTX 2060 and above will suffice. The previous generation GTX 1070 and RX Vega 56 should also manage 60 fps at 1080p medium, though we’ll wait for the release code before testing those cards. Meanwhile, more modest hardware like the GTX 1060 6GB is good for 30-40 fps and not much more.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Bumping up to 1440p medium, only the RTX 3090 maintains the same level of performance, while the RX 6800 XT and RTX 3080 drop about 5 percent each, and the RTX 3060 Ti sees a more significant 30 percent hit. The mainstream GPUs like the RTX 2060 and RX 5600 XT see an even larger 35 percent dip, possibly with 6GB VRAM coming into play. Only the GTX 1060 6GB fails to achieve a playable result, with the RTX 3060 Ti and above still cruising along at more than 60 fps.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Some people prefer higher resolutions to higher graphics quality settings, and if you fall into that camp, you can still get 60 fps at 4K medium … provided you have at least an RTX 3080 or RTX 3090. The CPU bottleneck of the 4-core “7700K” is no longer much of a factor either, so probably any decent 6-core Ryzen or Intel CPU should be fine for running Cyberpunk 2077, provided your graphics card is up to the task. 4K medium is also the first time the RTX 3080 manages to surpass AMD’s RX 6800 XT.

We’ll get to the DLSS results in a moment, but it’s worth mentioning that you don’t have to have RT enabled to use DLSS. For example, the RTX 2060 managed a respectable 55 fps average at 4K medium with DLSS Performance mode. Sure, that’s upscaling 1080p to 4K using an AI algorithm, but the end result is actually quite good—better than native 1080p, probably comparable to 1440p. A 130 percent bump in performance while keeping the crisp UI elements is certainly worth a thought. (You can use non-DLSS upscaling as well, if you want, though the results definitely lose some detail.)

Cyberpunk 2077 Performance: Ultra Preset

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Crank the settings up to ultra, and most of the GPUs take a significant hit to performance—though the RTX 3080/3090 and RX 6800 XT are still within spitting distance of their 1080p medium results, though the 3080 now comes in ahead of the 6800 XT. For native rendering, you now need at least something close to the RTX 3060 Ti level of performance to break 60 fps, so probably the RTX 2070 Super and above will suffice. Turning on ray tracing, on the other hand…

We’re only showing native resolution ray tracing results here, and the RTX 3090 at RT Ultra settings just barely clears 60 fps while the 3080 falls behind by 12 percent. That’s right in line with the performance difference we usually see between those two GPUs. Time constraints meant we skipped further RT testing, though the RT medium preset does boost performance by over 20 percent. The thing is, ray tracing makes the most visible difference in Cyberpunk 2077 when you enable RT reflections, which is one of the main changes between RT medium and RT ultra. The good news is that DLSS does a lot to improve the situation.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Here are the 1080p ultra results with and without DLSS enabled, using varying modes of DLSS. The RTX 3060 Ti still came up just short of 60 fps using DLSS Quality mode, and the RTX 2060 only managed to get to 38 fps when using DLSS Performance mode. That’s still playable but the 2060 definitely struggled with the RT Ultra preset. Interestingly, the CPU appears to be an even bigger limiting factor now, with the “7700K” and 3090 actually falling behind the 9900K and 3060 Ti. Both are close to 60 fps, but even with a higher performance DLSS mode, the 4-core CPU will be a bottleneck.

For the 3090, even the 9900K appears to limit performance to around 80-ish fps. The higher quality DLSS modes perform slightly faster than the higher performance modes here, presumably because the Tensor cores have to do a bit more work to upscale lower resolutions. Either way, RTX 3070 and above (which should include RTX 2080 Ti) can break 60 fps with DLSS Quality at 1080p.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

More pixels create more work for the GPU, and 1440p ultra basically needs one of the three fastest graphics cards to break 60 fps now. RTX 3080/3090 get there, as does the RX 6800 XT, but everything else comes up short. The RTX 3090 zips along at a decent 85 fps, but that’s only without turning on ray tracing. Once ray tracing is enabled, even with the lesser RT Medium preset, not even the 3090 can break 60 fps—at least at native rendering.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

DLSS comes to the rescue once more, though you’ll actually need to drop to the Balanced or Performance mode to break 60 fps on anything below the 3090. Actually, with the RT Ultra preset, we’re not even sure the RTX 3070 can get 60 fps even with Performance mode. That’s typically about 40 percent faster than DLSS Quality mode (at best), so the RTX 3060 Ti comes up a bit short, and the 3070 and 2080 Ti will likely be right around 60 fps.

As mentioned already, all of these results are without the planned day-0 patch, so things could still improve. We wouldn’t expect much more than a 10-15 percent boost in performance from further code optimizations, but we’ll see soon enough.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Given what we’ve seen so far, the fact that none of the cards could hit 60 fps at native 4K ultra shouldn’t come as a shock. 4K performance in GPU limited situations is normally around 45 percent lower than 1440p performance, and that’s basically what we get from Cyberpunk 2077. The RTX 3090 managed 46 fps, and the RTX 3080 plugged along at a decent 41 fps. The only other GPU to break 30 fps is the RX 6800 XT—which means the upcoming RX 6900 XT will manage that as well. Turning on ray tracing at native 4K is just asking for pain and suffering. RT Medium gets 27 fps with the 3090, and RT Ultra drops to 20 fps. So let’s see what DLSS can do.

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Not even DLSS can work miracles, at least in its higher quality modes. DLSS Quality improves performance by 90 percent, which is great to see. Except, when your starting point is 20 fps, that still only gets you into the high 30s. DLSS Balanced pushes the 3090 up to 44 fps, and DLSS Performance mode is over 2.5 times faster than native rendering—but that’s still only 53 fps. Only Ultra Performance mode gets the 3090 above 60 fps, but there’s definitely a loss in image fidelity at that point. (Ultra Performance mode is mostly intended for 8K gaming, or so the story goes—which means all 0.00001 percent of gamers with an 8K display can give it a shot.)

There are other alternatives to maxed out settings, of course. Turning off RT but leaving DLSS Quality mode enabled gets both the 3080 and 3090 over the 60 fps threshold. You could maybe try enabling just RT reflections and leave off the shadows and lighting to improve performance while still getting some of the benefits of ray tracing. Or, you know, just not run at 4K.

Cyberpunk 2077 Performance: Image Quality Comparisons

With the preliminary benchmarks out of the way, you’re probably wondering how the game actually looks at the various settings. We have some screenshots, but we can’t post any videos yet. If you’re wondering whether ray tracing makes the game look better, we’d say the answer is an unequivocal yes. Is it worth the performance hit, though? That’s a bit more difficult. Here’s a gallery of screenshots taken with various settings.

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra Preset

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Medium Preset

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Ultra Preset

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Ultra Preset (no RT/DLSS)

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra (no DLSS)

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Quality

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Balanced

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Performance

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Ultra Performance

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Ultra Preset (no RT or DLSS)

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra Preset

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Ultra Performance

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Performance

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Balanced

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Quality

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra (no DLSS)

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Quality

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Balanced

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Performance

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Ultra Performance

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Medium with DLSS Quality

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Ultra Preset (no RT or DLSS)

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Ultra Preset (no RT or DLSS)

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra Preset (no DLSS)

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Ultra Performance

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra with DLSS Quality

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Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

RT Ultra (no DLSS)

There’s a lot to sort through, but reflections can be very noticeable in some scenes and not matter at all in others. Stand next to a car, and the presence or lack of reflections on the windows is definitely apparent—and I miss them when they’re gone! Walk a few meters away from the car, however, and it’s not nearly as noticeable. On the other hand, some rooms and buildings have reflective walls, and after walking around a club called Clouds with RT enabled, turning RT off made the place feel completely different. All the mirrored surfaces turn into dark walls instead.

Of course, there are other oddities with reflections, like the fact that V doesn’t cast a reflection. We found this to be very weird, particularly for a game that allows you to play dress-up with all sorts of articles of clothing. Want to see how V looks? Either go into your inventory, or enter photo mode, or go to a bathroom mirror and press F. Yeah, we’re not sure why or how the mirror turns off, but it does.

Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Perhaps V actually stands for Vampire, and that’s why the player character doesn’t cast a reflection? Running around Control and seeing Jesse in the reflective surfaces was great, and we’ve seen the same thing in Battlefield V, Wolfenstein Youngblood, and Watch Dogs Legion. But even in third-person perspective sitting on a motorcycle, V is missing from reflections. This omission feels like something that needs to be patched because currently the RT reflections just feel wrong with the lack of V.

What about the RT shadows and lighting? Here, the differences between rasterization and ray tracing aren’t nearly as apparent. Yes, the shadows look better with RT, and you get the blended penumbra at the edges compared to a hard edge with shadow mapping. But even the RT shadows and lighting don’t get everything right—vehicle headlight projections sometimes show up where they shouldn’t be visible. You can also get some weird results if you stray from the presets, like, for example, turning on RT reflections but leaving RT shadows and lighting off can end up looking completely different (and wrong) compared to just using rasterization.

Basically, ray tracing in Cyberpunk 2077 feels like something that’s all or nothing. If you have a sufficiently fast graphics card—RTX 30-series, or maybe 2080 Super—you can run with the RT Ultra preset and DLSS and get a pleasing result. RT Medium is okay as well, but not as visually striking. But if you don’t have a high-end RTX card, including AMD’s RX 6000 GPUs, for now, it looks like you’ll be better off running without ray tracing.

Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Cyberpunk 2077 Initial Impressions

What about the game, though? Is Cyberpunk 2077 actually good? I’m probably too biased to deliver a clean verdict, as this sort of game tickles all the rights spots in my brain. There are always lots of jobs and side missions vying for attention, and plenty of other activities as well. Running around this futuristic dystopian city feels great. At the same time, the game can quickly venture into the realm of too much stuff going on.

It’s like many other open world games in that respect. Open the map and there are dozens of points of interest to visit, many just repeats of stuff you’ve already done a dozen times. Some side missions have you running around the various Night City zones looking for specific items, vehicles, or even graffiti. And every new part of town, you’ll immediately get a call the first time you enter from the local fixer. “Hey, V, come on by because I’ve got a job for you!” Yeah, you and everyone else. Well, not everyone.

Most of the people of Night City are procedurally generated. Superficially, it looks and feels reasonable. People walk along sidewalks, stop at crosswalks, grumble when you bump into them, have conversations, and more. But the vast majority are just cardboard props. You can scan them for a name and details, but they’re not persistent—scan someone, save your game, and then load the save, and you may find the person you just scanned has disappeared. Focus too much on any one denizen walking the streets and you can also run into problems. Sometimes they behave erratically, sometimes they teleport around a bit, and sometimes they just disappear (or pop into existence).

Also, hopefully, you like clones. There’s enough randomization that you don’t immediately notice the repeated people, but after a few hours you’ll start to see the same models pop up again and again. Sometimes you’ll run into a crowd where you’ll see the same model repeated three or four times, hanging out and having a little party. Or maybe they’re triplets or quadruplets that all wore the same outfit that day? Anyway, it’s not bad as such, but most of the people aren’t unique individuals with a schedule that they follow.

Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

What I’ve played of the story so far is good, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together. Compared to The Witcher 3, though, the story and writing don’t feel as strong. Maybe things will pick up down the line, maybe I’ll come to appreciate V as a character more. Maybe Johnny won’t be such a jerk. It’s also nice to have V be my version of the character, whether that’s a Streetkid brawler or a Corp technical. Except, in letting players craft their own V, he/she/it/they becomes less of a focus point for the story.

There are plenty of glitches and technical problems, unfortunately—bugs like guns or other objects floating in the air instead of dropping to the ground, people and vehicles popping into existence at the wrong time, missions failing to progress and requiring a reload. In one scene, manning a minigun in a helicopter, I had to clear out all the enemies before we could land. Except, I did that and we just kept circling for several minutes before I had to reload and try again.

At least full-blown crashes were rare, and the few times they happened tended to be after I changed settings (for the fifth or sixth time). That’s with a very much high-end PC, however, running a relatively clean Windows 10 installation. If you have an older rig with tons of other junk running in the background, your experience might be worse.

Performance so far is generally good, provided you’re willing to run at less than maxed-out settings. Midrange hardware from several years back may struggle at times, but a modern $230 GPU like the GTX 1660 Super or $270 RX 5600 XT should be more than sufficient. We’d also recommend at least a 6-core/12-thread CPU, SSD storage, and 16GB of RAM (possibly 32GB). I’ve heard from at least one person that they had more glitches than me, but they also had a lower-spec’d PC.

If you’re itching to jump into Night City and Cyberpunk 2077, I have no reservations in recommending it. You might want to hold off a few more weeks, or maybe even months, depending on how upset you get about glitches. I can live with them, but others may find them off-putting. Also, this is very much an M-rated game, so if language, violence, or sex in games offend you, you’re best steering clear. For everyone else, there’s plenty to do, and I can see myself spending many more hours here—and not just running benchmarks! Which I still have plenty left to do, once the release version of the game arrives in a few days.

We’ll be back with additional testing in the coming days, once we have the public release and updated drivers in hand. We plan on doing additional CPU and RAM testing, plus looking at more GPUs at various settings. Stay tuned.

Cyberpunk 2077 screen shots and image quality comparisons

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

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