As a lover of ultrawide PC games, I’ve been chomping at the bit to see what Cyberpunk 2077‘s Night City looks like in 21:9. I’ve had to refrain from doing so for the last week as I put together my Cyberpunk 2077 best settings and ray tracing performance guides, but now those are complete I’ve finally found some time to swap out my regular 16:9 monitor for my trusty ultrawide Asus screen.
And the results are… fine, I guess? It didn’t blow me away as much as I thought it would, but hey, at least I made some GIFs so you can see what it looks like yourself.
As Alice Bee described earlier in the week, Night City is a place best admired when looking up, and the same holds true for playing the game in ultrawide. Night City is a huge, monstrous place with towering skyscrapers, glaring advert reels that draw your eyes skyward and more crisscrossing highways than a bowl of spaghetti. All that looks wondrous in ultrawide, and the sheer visual density of the world around you makes it very easy to just sit and stare at it for a while so you can drink in the details.
In these quieter moments, Night City feels like the bustling metropolis (megatropolis? megalopolopolis?) you could really lose yourself in – if it weren’t for the catastrophically stupid AI ruining the façade, of course. An ultrawide monitor is a great tool for people-watching, to be fair, but more for watching them blunder about this city like drunken, brain-washed toddlers who cannot even comprehend the concept of a flight of stairs than stroking your chin and making soft cooing noises over such finely-crafted virtual denizens.
I mean, just look at this joker almost plough into a pedestrian as he crosses the road on the left. The pedestrian seems unperturbed that he almost got mowed down by a van, and he simply wiggles his way around it and everyone carries on like nothing happened at all (although I do like to imagine the tiny, red-haired kid on the pavement opposite is looking on in horror, his statuesque stance a symbol of his soul exiting his body in shock and disgust).
That said, there is still some pleasure to be found in the sport of Night City NPC-watching, if only to appreciate everyone’s vastly different walking speeds. Look closely and you’ll see the familiar commuter-style power walkers striding forth through the crowd like their life depended on it, as well as the chilled out amblers who are just enjoying a bit of a jaunt around town. Finally, there are what I call the dirge walkers, who frankly seemed to have lost the will to live as they shuffle snail-like from one foot to the other. Try and spot them in the GIF below.
I want to know more about these sad, lifeless people who seem to be the sole cause of every human collision in Cyberpunk 2077. How did they get like this, and more importantly, are they actually walking slowly on purpose to mess with everyone else? It is a mystery we will never solve.
Aside from NPC-watching, though, I wouldn’t say that ground-level Night City benefits much from being played on an ultrawide screen. At least not on a tight field of view. Open it up to its maximum setting of 100 and the world feels a bit more expansive, but several streets feel so hemmed in by the buildings around you that there’s really not as much to see or appreciate when you’re travelling from one place to another. If you like staring at concrete, great, but it’s a far cry from the stunning natural vistas of Death Stranding, Horizon Zero Dawn and Microsoft Flight Simulator, to be sure.
To its credit, while Cyberpunk 2077’s menu and loading screens don’t stretch to ultrawide proportions, at least all of its character conversations and first-person ‘cutscenes’, so to speak, make full use of the 21:9 aspect ratio rather than shrinking back down to 16:9 Red Dead Redemption-style. However, when many of your first-person conversations just focus on a single person a lot of the time, the whole scene ends up looking a bit flat when there’s so much empty space in your peripheral vision. Instead, characters such as the Burning Desire man with his malfunctioning… implant below just begin to look awkward and unimpressive as they squirm about in a big empty plaza.
On a more practical level, though, there’s currently no way to adjust the position of the HUD in the game’s menu settings, so you’re pretty much stuck with the mini-map in the upper most right-hand corner of the screen, and your various contextual button prompts hugging the outer edges of it. This is just about manageable on a 21:9 monitor (although I still had to deliberately move my head every now and again to remind myself of some of its many, many key bindings), but I’d imagine that 32:9 display owners will be forever craning their neck to find what they need. I know I encountered similar woes in Red Dead Redemption 2 on the enormous Samsung CRG9, for example, and I can see Cyberpunk 2077 falling into similar problems here as well.
There’s also the matter of having a powerful enough graphics card to render Night City at an ultrawide resolution, as most of the GPUs I’ve tested so far have been struggling to run the game at 1920×1080, let alone 3440×1440. And if you want to experience Cyberpunk 2077 with ultrawide ray tracing switched on, well, good luck with that. So far I’ve found that both of AMD’s new Radeon RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT are quite capable of running the game on Ultra at 3440×1440 (although given that AMD’s Adrenalin software doesn’t recognise my GOG copy as an actual game, I can’t say for sure what frame rate it’s actually running at), but its RX 5000 cards will struggle to play it on higher quality settings.
As for Nvidia GPU owners, I’d recommend you have at least an RTX 2070 Super in your PC, although ideally you’ll want an RTX 2080 Super or RTX 3070 to play it on a decent quality setting. And if you want to play the game with ray tracing switched on? It’s pretty much an RTX 3080 or bust.
As such, I won’t be racing to stick Cyberpunk 2077 in my list of the best ultrawide PC games just yet, although it definitely has potential to become a great ultrawide game if and when CD Projekt Red sort out their immersion-breaking NPC AI. After all, the city itself looks stunning in 21:9, and there are moments where you really feel the benefit of that extra screen space. More often than not, though, the game is simply too claustrophobic to really let rip on the old aspect ratio. I should note, of course, that I haven’t got to the Badlands yet, and I can imagine that Nomad lifepathers might have a much better impression of its ultrawide-ness due to being plonked in that huge, vast desert right from the start. But for Street Kids and Corpos like myself, there’s still a lot of work to be done in Night City itself before it can really shine in 21:9.