Cyberpunk 2077: I Saw The Future And It Is Good
Just like those thanksgiving leftovers, there is still plenty to feast on from E3 2019. I realize I am a bit late to the party here, but I was one of the lucky few chosen by CD Projekt Red to get the latest look at Cyberpunk 2077 behind closed doors. It was an hour long presentation and I saw quite a bit! So, I wanted to walk you through everything I saw and give you my thoughts.
Let’s start with a SPOILER WARNING though. The demonstration I watched did reveal some story points from the game. Essentially the 45 minute demo took us through a mission that you’ll have to go on in the game. The presenter also gave us some background on characters and locations.
So, if you’re already sold on this game and want to go in completely blind, then you may want to skip this article.
For good measure, I am going to follow that spoiler alert with a confession.
It can be argued that one of the main reasons why Cyberpunk is such a highly anticipated game is because it is being created by the same team behind The Witcher series. Here’s the thing: I’ve actually never played any of The Witcher games. Yes I know, blasphemy.
I just didn’t know much about the series at the time. Furthermore, medieval-style stories don’t necessarily hook me in.
I am saying this just to make it clear that while I have definitely been interested in Cyberpunk 2077 from the start, I don’t have the same emotional investment in it as Witcher fans may have. Keep that in mind when I am sharing my opinions.
Alright, let’s dig into the demo!
The gameplay sequence picks up where the E3 2019 trailer leaves off. To recap, the main character “V” just watched his friend “Jack” die after narrowly escaping a heist. The stolen item in question is a biochip that contains the secret to immortality. Making matters worse, the buyer for the chip decides they would rather kill V and take the chip. V fights his way out of that situation, then we see the famous Keanu Reeves character “Johnny Silverhand” enter frame, then instant hype!
This is where the Cyberpunk 2077 demonstration begins. First, we learn from the presenter that “V” is very customizable. Despite the fact that the E3 trailer featured a male. Players can choose to make their “V” character a woman. Players can also customize hair, skin tone, body type, some cosmetic cyber body mods, and clothing.
Beyond that players can even choose a back story for their character. There are three choices: “Nomad”, “Street Kid”, and “Corporate.”
These backstories play a role in how V will interact with other personalities in Night City. The example the presenter gave is that if players choose a “Street Kid” back story, V can more easily gain the trust of gangs and others who spend most of their time and business on the street.
There is also a fluid class system. We learned about the “Netrunner” class and the “strong solo” class but there could be more. These classes influence the character’s skill set and combat style. For example Netrunners excel at hacking; even from a distance. Netrunners also prefer stealth and long range combat.
The strong solo class is essentially the opposite. Weaker at hacking but much stronger physically and more effective at close range melee attacks. From what I understand the classes are fluid, meaning they can be changed throughout gameplay.
What comes next is that V decides to take it upon himself to learn more about the chip that he nearly lost his life to steal. The best person to help with this is Brigette, the leader of “Voodoo Boyz,” a Haitian gang. It is here when the presenter tells us that Cyberpunk 2077 takes place in “Night City”. Night City has six districts. The Voodoo Boyz territory is in the district of “Pacifica.”
Pacifica is a failed tourist haven of Night City. Hotels and resorts were built all over the district but due to the economy tanking, the rich investors pulled out, essentially leaving the whole area abandoned. The visuals of this area are a stunning combination of gaudy luxury mixed with urban decay. It was clearly a metaphor that someone smarter than me can articulate much better than I ever could.
The locals of Pacifica are understandably pessimistic and really hate authority. They will even physically attack any law enforcement that enters the area. V visits Pacifica looking for Placide, a member of the Voodoo Boyz who promises an introduction to Brigitte. When you finally meet Placide, he makes it clear that in order to help you, you must help him.
Placide sends V on a mission to explore the Great Imperial Mall, which was the last major Pacifica development to close after the economic crash. It typically remained empty after the closure but recently a rival gang called the “Animals” have taken it over. While the Voodoo Boyz are obsessed with hacking and exploring cyber space as an actual plane of existence, the Animals are obsessed with physical body modifications that increase their strength.
They also use a substance called “juice” that makes them temporarily larger and even stronger. Just imagine if the Batman villain “Bane” started a gang and that is essentially what the Animals are.
Just before V embarks on his mission the presenter gives the audience a quick look at the merchant system. A shop or vendor will not be very difficult to find in populated areas. In the shop players can upgrade V’s hardware and software. Upgraded software allow for better hacking abilities. Increasing V’s “Street Cred” will unlock new items in the shops.
In an effort to preserve more of the story, I won’t say why the Animals have taken over the Imperial Mall but I will say that the mission introduced the audience to the first taste of combat. I think this is the area that will really sell Cyberpunk 2077 to the more casual fans.
The game has some of the most unique combat mechanics I have seen in a long time. This is especially true with the Netrunner class. Because of a Netrunner’s hacking prowess, they can actually hack the cyber-mods of enemies from a distance making their own modifications turn against them. Imagine seeing a guy’s own cybernetic arm beat him to death! Netrunners can also hack century robots and turn them against their owners.
Though, the coolest combat feature of the Netrunner is their default weapon: a laser whip as thin as a sewing thread. This item is generally used for hacking but in a fight can be used to slice through enemies. Watching it in action immediately reminded me of the film Johnny Mnemonic. A film that also happens to star Keanu Reeves.
Further digging into the combat, both the Netrunner and strong solo classes can use stealth and environmental take downs when dealing with enemies. They can also grab enemies and use them as human shields, and smash through doors. Oh, and remember how I mentioned earlier that Netrunners can hack into robot turrets and turn them against their owners? Well, the strong solo type has a much different approach. They simply rip the guns off the turrets and use them as their own weapon!
More skills can be unlocked via a skill tree system. However, players who are not looking to go down the skill tree rabbit hole can choose to have the game auto-populate the tree instead.
I did mention that stealth combat is an option here but it can go even further. During the demonstration the developers revealed that it is possible to go through the entire game without killing a single person. Who V kills and who he/she spares also plays a strong role in how other NPCs interact with him/her.
Making choices play a major part in Cyberpunk 2077 and V’s chosen class determines the choices offered. Seriously, there are layers upon layers here. I imagine that when this game finally releases there will be entire discussion groups talking about the different endings and scenarios they experienced based on all the variables. They will likely also talk about all of Keanu Reeves’ various quips and jokes.
Speaking of Mr. Wick-err Reeves, this demo revealed that the character he plays is something of a cyber “ghost” that lives in your head after you escape the double crossing fence. Reeves plays “Johnny Silverhand” a rock star who died a few decades before the game takes place. To me that suggests that Reeves’ character is likely someone else taking on the form of Silverhand in some way to better connect to V.
Upon successful completion of the mission, V does meet up with Brigitte and begins to help him understand the mysterious digital cargo he holds. Although, that is where the demonstration ended. We’ll have to wait until April 16th, 2020 to find out what happens next.
As far as my overall impression of the game after watching the demo: I admit that I am really intrigued. I have never really played a game with this many narrative layers before and the “Cyberpunk” backdrop of the story is hard for me to ignore. I am a Blade Runner fan so a game like this was always going to get my attention.
It wasn’t all positive though. In my opinion the story moved a bit slow. I would have preferred things to be a bit more fast paced but I have a feeling that such a seemingly dense story is designed to have a slow burn. That is totally alright with me, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice.
Are you excited for Cyberpunk 2077? Did you go to E3 and watch a demonstration? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments or tweet to us at @GameOctane!