‘Cyberpunk 2077’ preview

The epic sci-fi sprawl of ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ feels like the future of gaming

Cyberpunk 2077 should be at the top of your wish list.
Cyberpunk 2077 should be at the top of your wish list.
Cyberpunk 2077 should be at the top of your wish list.

Highs

  • Incredible visuals
  • Great dialogue
  • Character progression looks promising
  • Incredible amount player choice

Lows

  • No release date

Cyberpunk 2077 looks like the future.

That seems obvious, given the name – but I’m not talking about the setting. The future I see in Cyberpunk 2077, the upcoming first-person shooter-RPG from The Witcher series developer CD Projekt RED, is an unprecedented level of choice and consequence in RPGs.

Cyberpunk cultivates an open-world experience where every small detail is perfectly curated to immerse you in a dirty neon city. It helps quite a bit that, even within a highly structured demo, it feels as if Cyberpunk imposes very few limits. You can approach every conversation and scenario however you’d like and perhaps, more importantly, it seems as if every system — from driving to dialogue to hacking to shooting — is well-considered and polished.

Simply put, Cyberpunk 2077 feels like a larger, more complete simulation than any game I’ve ever seen. If the game works half as well as its E3 2018 hands-off demo suggests, it should be at the top of your wish list.

Welcome to Night City

In Cyberpunk 2077 you control V, a cyborg mercenary living in the futuristic metropolis, Night City. While the game’s story hasn’t been revealed, it’ll certainly place you in the world’s very active, extra-legal underbelly. You’re the person people call when they need to break rules and get things done.

Cyberpunk 2077 feels like a larger, more complete simulation than any game I’ve ever seen.

Though your name can’t be changed, everything else about your version of V is customizable. At the start of the game you set the character’s stats, fine-tune their appearance, and create their backstory. As in many RPGs, that customization does not end when the game starts. V will be able to acquire clothes that not only change your look, but also boosts your stats.

Looking cool is synonymous with being powerful in Cyberpunk’s worldview — your character level reflects your “street cred,” and every action you take in the world feels like a maneuver, which makes sense considering that CD Projekt Red claims every dialogue choice you make will have an impact on narrative and gameplay.

More importantly, since you’re a cyborg, you can upgrade your “spec,” the cybernetic enhancements that provide a wide array of active and passive abilities. Some enhancements are as simple as showing additional HUD information, like ammo count. Other enhancements, like extendable blades that jut out from your arms, have more practical applications. Though we didn’t see any mechanical upgrades that changed V’s physical appearance, based on other characters in the world, such upgrades may exist.

It certainly looks the part

Night City is a classic cyberpunk neo-noir world. Giant companies called “megacorporations” hold all the legitimate power, and turn a blind eye to poor communities, allowing organized crime syndicates to become legitimate power brokers.

If you’ve ever watched, read, or played any stories that fall under the genre — Blade Runner, Neuromancer, Deus Ex, and the recent Netflix series Altered Carbon all come to mind — you’ll have a feel for the world right off the bat. If you haven’t, we think you’ll pick up on how the world works in a few minutes.

Even the smallest details, like the slang — shopkeepers who upgrade you cybernetic enhancements are called “ripperdocs” — helps establish a deeply developed world. One detailed I loved: Every consumable, from drugs to health recovery, is an inhaler. Use one, and the effect is immediate, with a bit of a kick. It feels efficient and brutal, like every aspect of this game.

What does it mean to be in control?

CD Projekt Red team says Cyberpunk 2077 is a game about control, and the fight to keep it. Though you have the freedom to act however you’d like, the game’s many systems and factions all apply pressure on you and try to force you to act the way they’d like.

Cyberpunk 2077 makes you feel like you can do whatever you want, but adds systemic and social pressures to restrict you.

A large section of the hands-off demo revolved around an early story mission to secure a high-tech military drone, which has been stolen from Militech, a weapons manufacturing megacorporation, by a gang of body-modifying addicts called the Maelstrom. V’s commissioned to get the bot by Dex DeShawn, an underworld “fixer” who facilitates crime. He doesn’t care how you get it, just that you do, but he suggests V work through a Militech agent tasked with finding whoever stole the bot.

V chooses to pursue that option in the demo, which we’re told right off the bat is a risky maneuver because, upon arranging a meeting and surveilling the situation, the agent and her bodyguards are much higher level than V — she probably won’t be able to shoot her way out of this. Immediately the corporation puts the screws to V.

She gets hacked, forced to take a lie detector test, and then pressured to handle the Maelstrom in a very specific way. Militech gives you a credit chip for 50,000 Eddies (the game’s cash) and asks you to pay them with it. On the one hand, that gives you a way to make a deal and pay for the bot, which seems helpful. As it turns out, however, the chip has a virus, and using it will force you to fight your way out of the facility.

This is where we talk about the shooting. Cyberpunk’s combat looks incredibly sharp. Obviously, we can’t say for certain how it feels, but the gunplay seemed far more accurate and snappy than you’d expect from a game of this size and scope. It’s closer to Call of Duty than Fallout or Deus Ex.

V can stealthily attack unsuspecting enemies, killing them or hacking them by plugging a wire from their arm into their neck. Depending on the context, that may give you access to several tactical options. In the demo, V was able to unlock a door in the Maelstrom hideout by hacking one of the gang members.

There’s also a “loot” component to Cyberpunk. Guns and gear do have stats attached and fall into loot tiers. We saw an “epic” submachine gun, which had an added ability called ricochet targeting, that showed a UI guide that allows V to bounce bullets off walls.

Be prepared for consequences

Cyberpunk 2077 makes you feel that you can do whatever you like, but adds systemic and, dare we say, social pressures to restrict you. There’s a clear give and take. For every bit of help you get, the mission becomes a little more specific, a little harder.

You could ignore Militech entirely, but then you’d have to just walk in and engage the gang head-on. You can also break your word. If you talk to Militech, but don’t use the chip, we imagine the corporation will either come after you or, at the very least, be more inclined to shoot you in your next run-in.

Everything eventually works out in the demo. You get to keep the bot in the end to sell to DeShawn, but as we said, it appears to be a very early mission. It’s safe to say jobs won’t always go so well.

There’s currently no release date for Cyberpunk 2077.

Product Review

Oculus Touch buoys the Rift, but there's still work to be done

Oculus inspired the new generation of virtual reality headsets with its incredibly successful Kickstarter. Is the original the standard, or have its imitators surpassed it? Let's take a look at how the Rift stacks up.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.
Home Theater

TV calibration 101: Here's how to tune up the picture of your new TV

You’ve got your new TV out of the box, but now what? Our TV picture adjustment guide takes you through the simple steps to get the best picture from your brand new TV so you can set it and forget it.
Gaming

You're not a true Nintendo fan without these Nintendo Switch exclusives

Who doesn't love a good Nintendo game? If you're looking for great first-party titles for your Nintendo Switch, take a look at our list of the very best exclusives available right now.
Gaming

How to pre-order your PlayStation Classic before it's too late

Sony's PlayStation Classic comes with 20 pre-loaded games and two wired controllers for $100. While we don't know the full list of games yet, you can already pre-order the console. Here's how to snag one early.
Gaming

‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ online mode gallops into open beta in November

Red Dead Redemption 2's online mode, Red Dead Online, won't be available when the game launches October 26, but you won't have to wait long. Red Dead Online, which takes cues from Grand Theft Auto Online, enters open beta in November.
Product Review

'FIFA 19' still nails soccer, but don’t expect any surprises

FIFA 19 is still a great way to play virtual soccer, but the changes made in this year’s game don’t push the series forward, and The Journey's story mode stumbles in its final installment.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Deals

The best Nintendo Switch deals and bundles for September 2018

Looking to score Nintendo's latest hybrid console? We've smoked out the best Nintendo Switch deals right here, including some discounts on stand-alone consoles as well as a few bundles that feature games like Fortnite.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. is designing retro video games — and they’re surprisingly good

Researchers from Georgia Tech have demonstrated how artificial intelligence can be used to create brand-new video games after being shown hours of classic 8-bit gaming action for inspiration.
Gaming

Gamers are already hacking the Nintendo Switch Online NES emulator

Players have already managed to hack the NES emulator included with the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service, allowing them to load the system up with additional ROMs of classic games.
Gaming

Box-office buster: Spider-Man’ on PS4 tops ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ with big debut

Insomniac Games' new PlayStation 4 exclusive Spider-Man managed to set records for the fastest-selling exclusive on the system, and it even outperformed the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming film.
Gaming

Find all Fortnite's puzzle pieces in our week 10 challenge guide

The Fortnite 'search for jigsaw puzzle pieces in basements' is one of the hardest challenges in the week 10 challenges this week. We go over how and where to find these puzzle pieces, and how to get all seven of them in total.
Gaming

These are the best Xbox One games out right now

More than four years into its lifespan, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.