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