Cyberpunk 2077 Patch 1.3 was touted as another round of bug fixes and performance improvements, as well as giving players a new outfit and car. But some players quickly noticed other changes. Puddles seemed fewer and farther between. The roads were less slick and reflective. In general, the game’s sprawling sci-fi world seemed less wet than it had been, and players wanted to know why.
CD Projekt Red released Patch 1.3 on August 18, and almost instantly reports started to appear on the game’s subreddit about something being up with the roads. They seemed too flat. Too dry. The update contained a long list of changes ranging from general quality-of-life improvements like cheaper skill respec-ing to hyper-specific stuff like, “Fixed an issue where the Monowire could slightly dislocate male V’s arms and clip through clothes.” But there was nothing specifically mentioned about the game’s wet surfaces. Was this Marvel’s Spider-Man puddle-gate all over again?
“No wet streets effect in patch 1.3?” read one post on the subreddit. “Previously, they were very mirror-like (which was a bit artificial but impressive). Now there are only small puddles…” Others were similarly perplexed. “I’ve been driving around for about an hour now just looking at how lighting behaves and I feel it’s a noticeable decrease,” wrote a particularly committed puddle sleuth.
Some players zeroed-in on two seconds right at the beginning of a brief comparison trailer for the update CDPR shared on YouTube. Their close-readings focused on timestamp 0:03 to 0:05 wherein V’s car looks shinier in Cyberpunk 2077 version 1.23. “The car in 1.23 is much more ‘wet’ and in 1.3 it’s more like a satin or matte finish,” wrote one fan breaking it down. “This change appears to occur everywhere, not only on vehicles.”
Some players reported improved frame rates with this new look and wondered if it was an intentional visual downgrade to improve performance. Others were conflicted about just how across the board the change was and whether it affected every reflective surface in the game or just the main roads. A few wondered if the previously perpetually slick surfaces in the game were themselves due to an unintentional bug.
Maybe it was a specific problem with Screen Space Reflections (SSR)? A popular mod for Cyberpunk 2077 from earlier in the year had sought to fix its “grainy” SSR feature, and with patch 1.3 CDPR addressed it with an official fix of its own. “Improved the Screen Space Reflections effect so that it looks less grainy on consoles and on lower visual settings qualities on the PC,” read the patch notes.
But an improvement this was not, as comparison after comparison has shown, and CDPR has taken note. While it didn’t confirm the specific cause of the reduced wet surface reflections, or the extent of its impact, a spokesperson for the studio told Kotaku it’s aware of the issue. “We looked into it and have confirmed [wetness] will be returning in a future update,” they wrote in an email. Mystery solved. Sort of.
Players have a sixth sense for finding the most arbitrary aspects of a game to hone in on and dissect with a laser-thin internet scalpel. They did it with Spider-Man’s puddles three years ago when scenes in the finished game deferred from the glitzed-up E3 trailer. Insomniac Games later added a puddle sticker to the game’s photo mode as a loving middle-finger to those who had raised such a stink about it.
It’s not new to CDPR either. Even before people were picking apart Cyberpunk 2077, fans were up in arms when The Witcher 3 was visually downgraded from its initial trailers, despite going on to be one of the defining games of the PS4/Xbox One era. Often these instincts lead to asshole-fueled shitstorms. But sometimes, as in this case, it simply leads players to question their own perceptions of a game that’s being furiously repaired before their eyes. At least now they know it wasn’t just all in their heads.
Update, 9/14/21, 10:58 a.m. ET: Cyberpunk 2077's puddles are getting buffed again. Patch 1.31 went live today, fixing, among other things, the game’s recently overly dry roadways.
“Fixed an issue where roads after rain did not look wet, which was the result of ongoing work on the Wet Surfaces System,” read part of the notes for today’s update. “In 1.31 wet surfaces should look more detailed than they did even before the issue occurred.”
Wet bandits across Night City are reportedly celebrating.