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E3 2018 Preview: Cyberpunk 2077 is Futuristic Neo-Noir Choice and Consequence

Anticipation for Cyberpunk 2077 has been high since CD Projekt RED announced it about a hundred years ago (okay, so it was five years ago). In fact, we knew about Cyberpunk 2077 before we knew about the PlayStation 4 console, so many thought it would be an amazing game for the studio to show off with the power of this new system. Since that time, we’ve had The Witcher 3 and multiple expansions release. We’ve had Gwent: The Witcher Card Game release in early access. Two years ago, I was invited to an E3 appointment with CD Projekt RED that I was sure was going to be Cyberpunk 2077, but it turned out to be the reveal of Gwent. Gwent ended up being one 0f my games of show that year, but I was still wondering when we would hear about Cyberpunk 2077 again.

This year’s E3 fared a lot better. An invitation to CD Projekt RED’s private meeting room (which was awesomely set up like a neo-futuristic bar) turned out to be the first ever gameplay reveal for Cyberpunk 2077. The fifty minute live gameplay presentation started off with customization of our character, V. While we didn’t get a chance to go too in-depth, they indicated that the character would be fully customizable in stats, cosmetics, and background. The background you choose for your character will actually have an impact on story points and interactions, really pulling from the Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop RPG.

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Customization will continue well beyond this initial character setup. Clothing offers different boosts, but one of the big callbacks to the tabletop RPG is the the Street Cred that different pieces of apparel will net you. One of the core pillars of the original game was that you can be mediocre at anything as long as you look good doing it, and Cyberpunk 2077 oozes with a style unlike any other game out there. Of course, CD Projekt RED is ensuring that they are doing a hell of a lot more than just looking good.

Additional customization and upgrades are available for V in the form of cybernetic enhancements. V is a cyborg after all, just like most of the people in Night City. These enhancements offer gameplay abilities, and one of the first objectives we completed in the early demonstration was getting a couple of upgrades from the local ripperdoc. Our hand was enahnced for increased bullet damage and a brand new eye got installed so that we could scan the environment around us. Both of these seemed like they fit into some kind of main story (assuming the final game retains the same narrative structure as the demo), but there are certain to be a number of optional enhancements beyond these two.

Neo-Noir in First-Person

Perhaps not such a surprise now–but certainly a shock to those in attendance those first couple of days–Cyberpunk 2077 is a first-person game. Many had assumed it would take on the same form as The Witcher, offering a third-person look at this gritty neon world of the future. It didn’t take long to realize that first-person is definitely the best way to experience the world of Cyberpunk 2077. Night City is full of details that just beg for the up-close and personal touch of a first-person camera. It also sets itself apart from just being “futuristic Witcher” by taking place from a completely different view.

I was in awe at the detail present in every single moment of the hour-long demonstration. Night City is incredibly rich with life and tiny little details that make the world not seem possible on the current generation of hardware. CD Projekt RED says they are targeting the current-gen for release, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one slip to the PS5 or whatever Sony’s next console is. It is easily the most vivid and detailed game world I’ve ever seen. CDPR says that it’s all an open world with no loading screens throughout the city, which they proved by driving around in a pretty sweet car for a portion of the demo. Even Rockstar would have trouble keeping up with this one.

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The world of Cyberpunk 2077 simply feels alive. Every single actor on this stage feels like they’ve got a story to tell, somewhere they’ve been, and somewhere they’ve got to be. The details in the world tell stories themselves. One part of the demo was rescuing a woman from a bunch of scavengers–people who take cybernetic enhancements from other people’s bodies to sell on the black market. There’s a disturbing and dark economy present in the game, and the player gets to navigate the treacherous pathways between the megcorporations and the people just trying to survive. Take any gritty neo-futuristic film and you’ll have a pretty good sense for the world. Minority Report, Altered Carbon, The Fifth Element, and plenty more have built this playground before. CDPR is now allowing us to play in it.

Navigating that underworld isn’t easy, and one of the final missions we had the opportunity to see was V attempting to get a special drone that had been stolen from Militech (one of the megacorporations) by a gang of cyborg addicts. This group is addicted to modding out their bodies–more so than the usual citizen of Night City–and poses an extreme danger, but then again, so does Militech and the man who hired you to do the job. V is stuck between these three parties and can choose to tackle the situation in any way he or she wants.

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We tried to take the diplomatic route at first, but obviously that didn’t end up going too well. The Militech agent ends up screwing us over and creating a massive firefight through the gang’s base of operations. Combat is really clean, something I worry quite a bit about in first-person shooter RPGs. Deus Ex immediately springs to mind, which wasn’t exactly known for it’s stellar gunplay. Unfortunately we didn’t get hands-on with the game ourselves, so there’s no telling how the shooting actually feels.

Other options were shown here, such as the ability to jack into modded enemies and use them to do certain things. V networked with some of the other gang members and gained the ability to lock their guns, opening up a couple of them to stealth kills and melee takedowns when their weapons jammed. It seems like Cyberpunk 2077 could offer a wealth of options for players of any play style. Guns blazing will be just as feasible as a clever and tactical approach, which will be adjacent to the diplomatic solutions. Often you’ll find everything combining, however. Diplomacy won’t carry you all the way through to the end, but neither will a “kill everything in sight” guns blazing approach. V will have to adapt to his or her situation. You’re free to play how you want to, but the game won’t always be so nice as to let you get away with whatever you want.

Cyberpunk 2077 is an RPG, and as such will have loot to earn. The demo showed an epic tier gun drop at one point with a special ability to ricochet bullets. Not much of the loot system was shown off, but CDPR still has plenty of time to reveal additional details about the game. For now, we’ve gotten an amazing first look at Cyberpunk 2077, the game that seems to embody what we want all games to be. IF CD Projekt RED can deliver on the promises they’ve already revealed with this gameplay demo, Cyberpunk 2077 could easily be lauded as one of the greatest games of all time. There’s not even a release window for the game yet, but take all the time you need CDPR. We can wait.

Don’t miss all of our E3 2018 coverage.