Cloudpunk Review – PlayStation 4

Set in a sprawling futuristic cityscape, Cloudpunk has you playing as Rania, a woman with a mysterious past who is just starting her first shift driving for Cloudpunk, a no-questions-asked delivery service.  Things start off simple enough as you pick-up a few packages and deliver them to their destination, but the more deliveries you make and the more people you meet the more your world is about to get turned upside down.

Perhaps the biggest feature of Cloudpunk is the city itself, sprawling into numerous sectors and spanning more than a thousand vertical miles, which means plenty of real estate for you to explore both on foot and while driving around.  The core loop of the game is completing the various delivery tasks given to you by your boss via the video coms on your dashboard, but there is still plenty of time to visit and decorate your apartment, grab a cup of coffee, check out a nightclub, grab some sushi, or purchase some illicit drugs.  There are also numerous collectibles scattered about the world waiting to be found.

There is a pretty interesting story cooking behind the scenes that slowly gets revealed as you progress through the main delivery missions.  Hackers, a rogue AI and even a big corporate conspiracy will come into play as you work the nightshift in the massive metropolis, Nivalis.  The game even allows for a bit of story branching when it presents you with choices in the form of delivery destinations.  In one early mission you deliver a car part to a street racer and are told to return the defective part to the garage as partial payment for the new part.  You can choose to either return the part or sell it and keep the cash.

Even though the game takes place over the course of a single night you will meet a lot of people, all fully voice acted with unique portraits in the com window.  Your interactions with many of these characters can often lead to side missions and the discovery of hidden locations and additional story content.  You’ll spend almost as much time walking around as you will flying, and the PS4 version of Cloudpunk thankfully has all the latest updates that the PC has been receiving these past few month.  By default exploring the world on foot is played from a distant external view that makes moving around a bit clumsy but now you can switch to an over-the-shoulder camera or even a first-person view that makes the game infinitely more fun to play and lets you appreciate the unique art style used to create this game.

Cloudpunk is a 3D pixel art game and when viewed up close you can really see how the entire world and its inhabitants are created from tiny cubes yet retain impressive amounts of detail.   This detail does come at a cost though and that is where the PS4 (even the Pro version) stumbles during the presentation.  Having played the game on a powerful PC I know how good Cloudpunk can look, and if you have the option of PC versus console I encourage you to go with PC.   The PS4 version has a very limited draw distance with a thick fog that obscures most of the horizon, plus the bustling Fifth Element traffic of the PC is now reduced to 3-5 cars making the freeway tubes look abandoned.

There is a lot of stuttering in the game, especially when driving that seems triggered by any voice communication, almost as if the game can’t load the graphics and the sound simultaneously, and finally the load times.  They are insufferably long and frequent.  Every time you enter a transport tube to a new sector there is a black loading screen with a bar that shoots to 20% then sits there for 40+ seconds before jumping to 90% for another 10-20 seconds before loading.  This totally ruins the momentum of the game since most missions having you traveling across multiple sectors.  I also discovered a glitched mission – the one with the racer I mentioned earlier.  After returning the part to the mechanic I spoke with him again and it tried to reset that same mission only none of the objectives reset so I couldn’t redo the mission and had that delivery on my mission list until the end of the game – very annoying.

The music and sound effects are awesome and the voice acting ranges from good to average.  It seems the bigger characters got better actors while some of the secondary NPC’s were voiced by the guys in accounting.  Rania has a cool delivery of her dialogue where you can almost see (in your mind) the facial expression she is making when talking.  Control, the guy who gives you your missions is also really well done and the voice for Camus, the dog/car AI is delightful.

While I enjoyed Cloudpunk as a game I did not enjoy playing it on the PS4, and even those of you that don’t have the choice of the PC might want to wait and see if this game gets optimized or patched for better performance.  The game will be playable on the PS5, so hopefully that fast SSD can work some magic and iron out some of these issues.  Until then I can only make a cautious recommendation to those with infinite patience.

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