‘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.

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