Expert on the shortcomings of mass transit in Cyberpunk 2077's Night City

Cyberpunk 2077 (reviewed at Boing Boing) was, all told, a mammoth hit and ultimately a polished game. A good game, too, with solid FPS action and an amazing, sprawling, magnificent futuristic city to explore. At Kotaku, Ari Notis intuits something wrong with it and knows who to ask: a transit expert.

Where the system falls short is its multimodality. You see, NCART encompasses just two types of public transit: subways and buses.

Even worse is its coverage. Of the 150 fast-travel spots in Night City, fewer than 20 are transit stations. For a city of 5 million people, that is a pittance. (Berlin, a city of roughly 4 million, has 170 metro stations servicing 10 lines, to say nothing of its many stops for alternate modes. The slightly smaller Paris is serviced by more than 300 stations.) In some centrally located regions of Night City, like the waterfront Watson district, station density is commendable. You never have to venture more than 150 meters to find one—a figure way under than the quarter-mile that transit advocates wanna see. But in the outer reaches, you might find stops situated thousands of meters apart, or more. Not great!

It's a good launching pad for the inevitable response, "but that's just what American cities are like!"

As an aside, Night City is still "game-scaled" in the sense that it is a small model representing something larger. In other games this effect is more obvious (walk across Tamriel in minutes!), but in Cyberpunk 2077 everything makes visual sense as a 1:1 depiction. It's a clever illusion. It takes a while until you do the maths on that depiction—a downtown area with none of the usual rings of urban sprawl or suburbia around it—and realize that Night City's 5m population sign is adding a zero or two for effect. (Even those residential megatowers couldn't reasonably house more than a few tens of thousands each, as depicted.)

Such scaling is necessary in the context of a game that's supposed to be fun as well as impressive, but once you've committed to it, all bets are surely off when it comes to The Simulation. What's the point of modeling mass transit to realistic population densities that aren't even there?

(All the same, Night City works nicely as a suggestion of a doomed neo-feudalist citadel with no sustainable urban context, where everyone is retainer or ronin—which was surely the point of this milieu?)