Another entry several years in the making here to make a big splash at E3 2019 is CD Projekt Red’s much anticipated Cyberpunk 2077. For a game that’s shown only a little to the public thus far, there is an amazing amount of enthusiasm for what this game promises to be. The info known about the title promises ultra buzzy things like “RPG skill tree” and a “vast open world” set in a futuristic “sci-fi dystopia.” Like many things in the world of video games though, when there is this much smoke, it’s usually because there’s a fair degree of fire behind it.
The world of Cyberpunk 2077 is insanely detailed. While mostly a first-person affair, the game shifts to third-person when the main character V rides a vehicle (in this case a motorcycle). Unlike many first-person shooter games, traversing the broken world of Night City is a smooth ride, almost like riding in an old-school Lincoln Town Car. There’s no shaky twitch in maneuvering through the environment, and there is a dizzying array of detail in the world in front of you and in the greater distance. Everything looks oddly beautiful, in a broken, gray, overcrowded metropolitan sort of way. As V traverses the city (in this first look at the game, it’s the Netrunner/hacker class the character in the demo is utilizing) there is the requisite overheard conversation from passersby citizens and not-so-well off denizens of Night City, but even if they don’t speak English, V has an implant that live translates pretty much any language. You hear and see it in light blue text on the screen by where the NPC is stationed.
The demo here shows that the character’s class dictates certain RPG-style elements of level upgrade that can be attained. The Netrunner formulation allows for live hacking of almost any digital device imaginable. It’s not a simple on-off switch, and a small in-game mini codebreaker mechanic is used to attain control over a device. The further the character’s progression, eventually wild features like literally hacking an enemy’s mind (apparently in the world of Cyberpunk 2077, nearly everyone has cerebral implants) become available and you can disable opponents or force them to commit suicide.
The portion of the story we are shown here involves V trying to ingratiate himself with a Haitian Creole gang called the Voodoo Boys led by an ominous man of few words named Placide. V can understand something of distress going on behind Placide in his compound, but the developer’s angle the demo to not have V press his luck and continue to try to win their favor. Placide insists on scanning V’s mind, which V reluctantly agrees to. As soon as that happens, Keanu Reeves’ character Johnny Silverhand appears in the background of V’s vision as a sort-of digital ghost, apparently to comment on things and guide V. It’s not explained, but this mechanic appears to be something of a stalker ghost that nobody else can see or hear, kind of like Batman’s delusions of The Joker in Batman: Arkham Knight. While Placide details the job he’s pondering hiring V for–infiltrating a hideout of a rival gang called the Animals to obtain access to a citywide network of data/mapping–the demo shows off something of a multiple choice series of dialog choices. Kind of like a digitized version of the now defunct Telltale Games’ line of games or Square Enix’s Life is Strange.
Placide is live linked into V’s brain and now can see everything V can and communicate with him cerebrally in real time. V sets off on his bike through the squalid conditions of one of Night City’s many main boroughs, Pacifica. The city looks alive with activity, like a pristinely rendered Grand Theft Auto cityscape only where the city is all but destroyed by gang activity and extreme poverty. V arrives at his destination and then proceeds to try to infiltrate the hideout. The demo shown here today largely focused on how the player could opt to achieve the mission’s stealth-like without running and gunning through the affair. At close to Metal Gear Solid levels, but not quite that level of oppressive realism, the player can slowly tiptoe, hack enemies minds, turn robots against them as distractions or even force weightlifting devices to malfunction crushing the enemy. V can take over cameras to further his path, but also learns that there are other Netrunners that can detect his presence and use his intrusion against him.
The demo here briefly switched to a female version of V, with a character class tailored for melee fighting. She crushes doors open with cybernetic hands and deftly runs and guns through a horde of enemy minions. She can use enemies as human shields and can brutally shoot or disfigure opponents using knives or even broken bottles. The demo shifts back to Netrunner to show use a sort of laser whip to take over a mini boss’ mind, disabling him so he can hack into his objective.
The developers’ aim in this demo is to show how many different ways, just in one mission the player the can choose to achieve their goals. It’s nothing short of staggering. With the info sparsely revealed thus far, this borough is apparently only one of six in the world to explore. What “open worlds” truly means in the modern video game market is a highly debatable thing, but given this one side mission could easily have been an hour of gameplay, Cyberpunk 2077 promises a jaw-dropping level of scale. That might be it’s only setback, at least on paper. Usually things with this much detail somehow manage to make for a failure in terms of cohesive experience. It stands to reason: the more you ladle into something, the harder it is to make it a perfect confection. At least by what’s shown thus far here though, this has the makings of genre-blending winner.