After Cyberpunk 2077, it's harder than ever to guess which of these big games will meet expectations

In a year or so, I’m sure some critics will reappraise Cyberpunk 2077, highlighting its strengths without years of pent-up hype coloring their perspective—it’ll get the Mass Effect Andromeda treatment, in other words. But I doubt that Cyberpunk 2077 will ever be looked at as a landmark open world RPG in the way The Witcher 3 is. It’s just a decent sci-fi RPG that had a buggy launch.

That’s alright—an ambitious open world game didn’t need to be a masterpiece to succeed in certain respects—but the muted response is remarkable when compared to the level of excitement that followed Cyberpunk 2077 from announcement to release. Many expected it to be groundbreaking, but just two months later we’re more interested in talking about an Early Access Viking survival game.

Meanwhile, one of the games that was supposed to be a huge deal in 2020, Halo Infinite, didn’t even make it to release. It was jeered so thoroughly after its big gameplay reveal that it was delayed a year. For contrast, there’s recently been some nostalgic conversation about the 2004 reveal of Halo 2, where a simple demonstration of dual wielding elicited “oohs” and whistles from an audience. How times have changed!

As we look ahead to the other ‘big’ singleplayer-focused games on the way—that is, games from established studios that fans expect to be transformative—it feels clearer than ever that nothing is a given. Ambition alone gets no applause, and neither does the ability to hold two guns at the same time (although dual wielding is still cool). It feels likelier than ever that a surprise hit such as Disco Elysium, our 2019 Game of the Year, will overshadow any of these big studio productions, at least from a critical perspective.

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