The year 2020 in a bike ride, and why we haven't reviewed Cyberpunk 2077 yet

Breathtaking. Truly breathtaking.

Harsh Pareek December 24, 2020 10:23:21 IST
The year 2020 in a bike ride, and why we haven't reviewed Cyberpunk 2077 yet

Representational image of the author following the said bike ride. Via WikimediaCommons

Like a kid who tells you they have been hanging out with some invisible “friends”, then starts murdering small animals/birds, and soon enough begins a staring competition every time you find yourself standing at the edge of a balcony or holding an unnecessarily large kitchen knife; the signs were there for some time, I just chose to ignore them. Putting my faith (quite firmly, yet knowing fully well the potential consequences of my wilful ignorance) in the possibility that somehow the issues would miraculously resolve themselves. That the inevitable wasn’t going to come to pass, and everyone would live happily ever after. But even in hindsight, one couldn’t have predicted the sheer extent of the spectacular fiasco.

It was early December and the temperature had dropped into single digits (Celsius) over the past couple of days. I had, in turn, restricted myself to the now-way-way-too-familiar indoors in the hopes that the worst of the seasonal shifts would pass soon and temperatures settle down a bit. But patience was constantly being tested. That progressively worsening twitchiness, all-too-familiar to addicts across the spectrum, was setting in. I had to get on my bike, like yesterday.

And because it’s a well-established fact that I’m a baller, I went ahead and did just that. On a particularly extra-blessed morning, I got up early as usual, put on my cycling gear and was out before 6 am. Remember that scene in The Exorcist where Lankester Merrin is standing outside the MacNeil residence in the dark as light pours out through the window and you know nothing good could come of this? Well, that’s basically how that this non-morning decided to unfold.

The fog made the light towers in the power station glow like warning signs from outer space, while the 100 kilometres per hour chilly headwind stung like a thousand ice needles. Never before had I felt more motivated, and prouder of my life-choices. But hey, at least it was playable right now I was riding my bike. Quick tip for the young ones here — always do a bike check before you hit the road. No matter how long you’ve had the saddle between your goofy legs, I mean always.

Anyway, here I was, minding my own business, suffering for my own sins, when some government no-gooder decided it was not challenging enough for the hard-working, tax paying population to navigate the treacherous conditions of our country’s roads at 6° Celsius, and decided to cut the street lights. It felt like being kicked into a black hole by a high-school bully, or what I assume it feels like when someone attempts to murder you by smothering you with a pillow. Moreover, I had not put on my glasses this fine morning because in conditions like these, and with the mask on, there is no way for them to not fog up. At this point, I was practically crying as I tried to keep my eyes Looney Tunes-style wide open in the cold so I wouldn’t trip over a pothole.

I didn’t. Although I did hit a road bump that sent my water bottle flying somewhere into the void. Now I had to grope around for it in the middle of the road hoping not to get hit by one of those overly enthusiastic morning drivers or being bitten by a sneaky psycho street dog.

I should have perhaps turned around at this point. That would be what any smart person, or let’s say, a company (although I don’t know why I would say that), would do, right? Wrong. A smart one, maybe. But one who possesses the Supreme Intelligence? Never. So, I trudged along in this on-the-fly 4D chess game that was afoot now.

One of the many things you learn to live with rather quickly when riding a bike in India (and I’m assuming other countries as well, to a greater or lesser degree) is tackling the alarming number of people coming at you on the wrong side of the road, so they can avoid going 10 meters extra to take a proper U-turn. While most of these schmucks can be avoided with minimal effort, some you gotta deal with. So, here came Laurel and Hardy (of course without masks and helmets), just as I was getting my bearings back, swinging and singing from the wrong direction like it's nobody’s business. I try my best to, well, do nothing and let them pass, but we inevitably come a bit too close to comfort.

Hardy mutters something under his breath, to which I respond in the most reasonable and instinctive manner – by flipping him off. But just as I raise my hand to perform the older-than-time-itself manoeuvre, somehow my fingers betray me at the last second and now I’m waving all four of them in his face. Everyone is pretty confused and pissed off at this point. The duo come to a halt to “sort it out”, so do I. The thing with stray dogs chasing you and idiots on the streets is once you stop and confront them, 9/10 times they don’t know what to do. It’s like social media on the road. Laurel tells Hardy to get a move along, and they retreat, but now I have more adrenaline pumping in my system than blood.

I try to take it out on the road and push extra hard. My legs burn and then stop burning. The sweet relief takes over as I “send it”. Oh, the joy of being on a bike. But of course, just as I’m about to skip onto the next level of consciousness, I can feel something is wrong. Actually, I had been feeling it since I left, but never zeroed in on to what it might have been. A sharp turn and a slight climb later, the chain comes off. Now, if you have been riding a bike even for a little while, you know it’s not a big deal. If the chain has simply come off, it takes seconds to put it back on. Oh, but not today. Today was not the day.

Here I was, sitting on the side of one of the city’s busiest (even for this hour of the day) intersections, freezing my ass off, as I struggled to put the chain back in place with my hands all covered in oil and grease, while the traffic zoomed past me – too far away from home to walk it, too proud to call in for help. Fellow bike riders would slow down and look disapprovingly at my sorry self, but reluctant (and rightly so) to offer assistance in this plague-ridden world. After struggling for what felt like an eternity, the bike Gods relented. The thing got back on and I promptly turned homewards.

But the ordeal was not yet done with. Now I had to ride gingerly with all my senses on high alert, lest the thing undid itself again at some tricky section of the road and I got mowed over by an SUV blasting Punjabi songs. That would have been the most unfortunate way to end this ride.

The chain did come off once again on a climb, but by this point I was beyond caring for anything. All I wanted was a warm shower and enough food to feed a dozen hungry and “large” teenagers.

Anyway.

Soon after I got back home and recovered a bit, I booted up the review copy of Cyberpunk 2077 on my PlayStation 4.

The bike ride turned out to be the best part of my day.

Editor's note: We will not be reviewing Cyberpunk 2077 in its present state. Instead, we will be withholding comment on the game until it is in a condition whereby it can be judged on its actual merits rather than its potential.  

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