How Cy­ber­punk 2077 stole our hearts, and cy­ber­net­i­cally re­placed them with ones made of steel, chrome and neon

XBox: The Official Magazine - - START CONTENTS - Adam bryant

We’ve waited so long for this mo­ment. When CD Pro­jekt Red an­nounced back in 2012 that it was work­ing on a Cy­ber­punk game based on Mike Pond­smith’s pop­u­lar pen and pa­per role-play­ing game, and that it was work­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the man him­self, our imag­i­na­tions ran wild just think­ing about how this game would look when brought to life. Af­ter all, for years the world of Cy­ber­punk had only lived in­side our heads. That was un­til early the fol­low­ing year when we got our first glimpse with a short pre-ren­dered teaser trailer. And what a tease it was.

There were a few nods to the Cy­ber­punk uni­verse, with Dy­nalar Tech­nolo­gies, the Kiroshi cor­po­ra­tion, Militech and Max Tac agents, but that was it. It ended with the ag­o­nis­ing words “Coming: when it’s ready” let­ting us know that they’d be work­ing on the game for quite some time be­fore we’d see more. Fast for­ward five years to Mi­crosoft’s 2018 E3 con­fer­ence and we get an­other pre-ren­dered trailer. This time go­ing into much more depth than be­fore, with a sweep­ing shot of Night City, its peo­ple go­ing about their lives, one of the ve­hi­cles you’ll be able to drive and even a ver­sion of the main char­ac­ter. But we wanted more. Luck­ily for us, we re­ceived an in­vite to get an ex­clu­sive look at the game.

We must ad­mit, as we made our way to the CD Pro­jekt Red pre­sen­ta­tion booth at E3 and into the cy­ber­punk themed bar that they’d set up espe­cially for the event, with its neon lights and huge back­lit poster of Night City stretched across the wall, we were a lit­tle ner­vous. Then came the mo­ment where we were ush­ered into the dark room to await the pre­sen­ta­tion. All that ner­vous­ness soon evap­o­rated to be re­placed with pure ex­cite­ment. Af­ter wait­ing six years, you would think we were pre­pared… but what we saw dur­ing the hands-off demo that con­sisted of 50 min­utes of un­in­ter­rupted game­play blew us away.

Cy­ber­punk 2077 puts you in the role of ‘V’, a wo­man, or man de­pend­ing on your pref­er­ence. For our game­play, V is fe­male, a skilled ur­ban mer­ce­nary who threads the line be­tween the cor­rupt mega-cor­po­ra­tions and the or­gan­ised crime that rules the streets in or­der to carve her own path in a ruth­less tech­no­log­i­cal world, and lives only by the rules that she sets.

The game takes ad­van­tage of an ex­ten­sive char­ac­ter cus­tomi­sa­tion sys­tem, which al­lows you to cre­ate pretty much any char­ac­ter you can dream of. Body shape, size, gen­der, hair­style, skin colour, tat­toos, you name it. You can ad­just, mod­ify or re­colour every­thing. And that’s just ap­pear­ance. In true role-play­ing fash­ion you’ll also cre­ate your own back­story and as­sign skill at­tributes, both of which will open up dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tion op­tions, ven­dor avail­abil­i­ties and so­cial­is­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties through­out the game. There are no char­ac­ter classes to choose from; in­stead you’ll have a range of dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties that fall into three skill trees, Netrun­ner, Solo or Techie. This fluid sys­tem will al­low you to adapt your char­ac­ter to your par­tic­u­lar play style.

_ re­al­i­ty_ check

The big­gest sur­prise for some is the fact that the game is played from a first-per­son per­spec­tive. The rea­son for this de­sign choice, how­ever, is im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent at the be­gin­ning of the demo as we slowly ap­proach a door in a di­lap­i­dated apart­ment hall­way. We can’t quite put our finger on it but there ap­pears to be some­thing more go­ing on than

sim­ply plac­ing the cam­era be­hind the char­ac­ter’s eyes. Whether it’s the dis­tance be­tween the walls, the height of the ceil­ing or just the field of view, we feel more im­mersed and a part of the in-game world than with any other first-per­son game we’ve played. CD Pro­jekt Red has been metic­u­lous in craft­ing its en­vi­ron­ments so that they look and feel like real lived-in spa­ces.

If that didn’t con­vince us that first-per­son is the way to go then the mo­ment we set our eyes on Night City does. The whole place is bustling with ac­tiv­ity. Peo­ple and their con­ver­sa­tions, neon signs plas­tered ev­ery­where, ve­hi­cles driv­ing past at street level and fly­ing across the cityscape. It’s a strug­gle to take it all in. This is a liv­ing, breath­ing world with a full day and night cy­cle and a dy­namic weather sys­tem where ev­ery NPC lives out their lives in a re­al­is­tic and be­liev­able way. An im­por­tant part of Cy­ber­punk

2077 is ex­plo­ration and the apart­ment in which V lives, sit­u­ated in­side one of the many megabuild­ings within Night City, is just one ex­am­ple of this. This huge mega­com­plex con­sists of many floors, each one filled with se­crets and res­i­dents that of­fer po­ten­tial side quests and other op­por­tu­ni­ties.

_ High_ Tech_ Low_ Life

Driv­ing is dif­fi­cult to get right in videogames and will be es­sen­tial for mak­ing your way around Night City. It’s a good job then that the ex­pe­ri­ence seems like a blast. There are a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cles for you to choose from but the one used in the demo is the same su­per­car from the trailer. This car seems to zip along the roads and in be­tween traf­fic with ease. You can switch be­tween two views while driv­ing, ei­ther be­hind the ve­hi­cle or in­side. Dur­ing the driv­ing sec­tion of the demo we’re at­tacked by a local gang. V’s com­pan­ion, Jackie, is given con­trol of the wheel while V shoots from the car win­dow to take them down. That spe­cific sce­nario is used to il­lus­trate how pre­vi­ous ac­tions can trig­ger ran­dom events. It’s pos­si­ble then for this en­counter to never take place if dif­fer­ent de­ci­sions were made ear­lier in the game.

Out­side of the ve­hic­u­lar va­ri­ety there are two ex­am­ples of com­bat that we ex­pe­ri­ence. The first plays out in much the same way as any other shooter but in­tro­duces us to re­flex boost­ers. One whiff of this abil­ity-en­hanc­ing in­haler and you can ac­ti­vate a bul­let-time ef­fect and take out your en­e­mies. The other com­bat we ex­pe­ri­ence to­wards the end of our time with the game, and re­veals

“One weapon can track and fol­low en­e­mies to send bul­lets around cor­ners”

more de­tails. You’ll find a range of dif­fer­ent weapons through­out the game that have many func­tions. One weapon has the abil­ity to track and fol­low en­e­mies to send bul­lets around cor­ners. You’ll also get to ma­nip­u­late your en­e­mies by hack­ing into their net­works. Do­ing this will not only re­veal en­emy lo­ca­tions but you can cheek­ily turn on the safety lock on all their weapons. An­other way to fight is to use your cy­ber­ware. Equipped with man­tis blades you can scale walls and pounce on un­sus­pect­ing en­e­mies.

“Ev­ery de­ci­sion you make will have an ef­fect on the game in some shape or form”

Every­one within Night City re­lies on these cy­ber­netic en­hance­ments and V is no dif­fer­ent. Rip­per­docs are spe­cial­ist ven­dors that can patch you up and sup­ply you with new gear. Some are bet­ter than oth­ers how­ever, and their wares range from ba­sic up­grades to high-grade mil­i­tary cy­ber­ware. The one we meet dur­ing the demo, Dr Vec­tor, seems like a nice enough chap and hooks us up with two en­hance­ments, a Kiroshi Op­ti­cal Scan­ner, which en­hances our vi­sion with a zoom but also al­lows us to scan ob­jects and peo­ple to re­veal in­for­ma­tion about them, and a sub­der­mal grip for our hand that al­lows weapons to dis­play the ammo count and any al­ter­na­tive fir­ing modes they may have. _ Elec­tric_ dreams Ev­ery de­ci­sion you make will have an ef­fect on the game in some shape or form. Dur­ing the demo, V gets a job to take back some equip­ment from a local gang that was stolen from the Militech cor­po­ra­tion. When meet­ing up with the Militech agent who com­mis­sioned the job you strike a deal that al­lows you to walk away with some hi-tech gear. The agent gives V a chip with 50k Eurodol­lars to pur­chase said equip­ment from the gang. We take the chip and head to the gang’s hide­out. Once in­side V man­ages to con­vince the leader to go through with the deal but it turns out the money chip has a virus on it and once it ac­ti­vates it causes a lock­down… forc­ing us to shoot our way out. This could have gone down in mul­ti­ple ways: we could have kept the 50k for our­selves, or we could have gone into the gang’s hide­out, guns blaz­ing with­out any in­ten­tion of ne­go­ti­at­ing. The game gives you the free­dom to do what­ever you want.

We can’t over­state how much we en­joyed see­ing the game in the flesh and if The Witcher se­ries is any­thing to go by, with each game of­fer­ing up rich con­tent and hun­dreds of hours of game­play, and if CDPR can de­liver on its prom­ise of ab­so­lute free­dom, then

Cy­ber­punk 2077 has the po­ten­tial to go down as one of the best sci-fi RPGs ever made. No pres­sure. ■

main When driv­ing you will be able to switch be­tween two views, be­hind the car and from in­side.

top The Trauma Team are armed and ar­moured paramedics. That’s how rough Night City is…

main Brain­dances let you ex­pe­ri­ence the lives of oth­ers through neu­ral stim­uli.

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