The mere mention of Cyberpunk 2077’s name is usually met with tremendous hype or, at the very least, an expectation that it will end up being nothing short of extraordinary. We’ve seen what the hype-train can do to a game’s reception, but given CD Projekt RED’s pedigree and standards for the products it delivers, a high amount of trust is in the company’s hands.After watching a hands-off, behind-closed-doors demo, and I can safely say, I was thoroughly impressed.
The presentation was around 50 minutes long and took place over the course of one long mission. The protagonist, known simply as V, was tasked with completing lots of objectives in different locations and via various means. The mission’s main objective was to find a woman named Brigitte, who might be able to assist in finding the whereabouts of a brilliant hacker by the name of Alt Cunningham. Cunningham is said to have invented a program that could make a digital copy of one’s mind on the internet, and Brigitte may know where she is.
To do so, V’s first stop was a club that includes members of a Haitian gang known as the Voodoo Boys, who specialize in hacking. Upon arriving, a member of The Voodoo Boys, known as Placid, told V to go to a nearby mall to find more information. This mall houses another gang, The Animals, who are are obsessed with body modification.
One thing of major significance was the level of choice within the dialogue options. The first section of the demo consisted of conversations with other characters, all of which had multiple options to choose from. Depending on your choices, as you’d might expect, you’ll encounter different reactions and consequences. For example, when interacting with Placid, V has the option of hooking up to a computer that will allow The Voodoo Boys to track you. However, Placid is extremely pushy at this point and is almost forcing you to do so. In fact, if you don’t agree to do so, you’d have to find Brigitte on your own without the help of the gang. It’s later discovered that Placid had ulterior motives for this request, which adds to the tension later on.
When interacting with other NPCs, it was clear that CD Projekt RED was focused on delivering an immersive experience, which was demonstrated by the superb voice acting and vocal performances. One of the main NPCs’ native language is not English, but thanks to an augmentation you have, the language is translated in real time. This is just one of the perks of being so closely entwined with technology.
After leaving The Voodoo Boys’ building, we got a look at the outside world. The city looked like it was full of life, with pedestrians walking around, living their own lives. From here, the player mounted a motorcycle, with the goal of visiting a location to infiltrate a building. This location, as mentioned before, is the mall that contains many members of The Animals.
Cyberpunk 2077 E3 2019 Preview — Player Choice is Everything
There are absolutely no loading screens in the game outside of fast travel, apparently. After arriving at the location, the player was able to sneak into the building via the back entrance. However, this area was littered with enemies. Seeing as how the player was approaching things in a stealthy way, all of the enemies were avoided. But, V could have easily been engaged in combat for a more lethal attack.
During this segment, we finally got a glimpse of the stealth take-downs, which work like you’d expect. You can approach an enemy from behind and either kill or take them out non-lethally. In the demo, the enemy was dropped down a garbage chute, which makes you wonder about the possibilities for other environmental kills throughout the game. In fact, there’s a moment in which the player maneuvered past a goon sparring with a robot, which was hacked to malfunction and obliterate the enemy. This was used as a distraction that was utilized to get by undetected.
While sneaking through the building, many of the player’s augmentations were demonstrated, like the ability to hack cameras to avoid detection. It was also revealed that the entire game could be completed without killing a single enemy. Depending on your skills, you might not be able to hack cameras, but instead use brute force to get through locked doors. In addition to this, the particular skill-set being utilized allowed for a neon glowing wire to be used to whip enemy’s limbs off. Oh yes, pulling someone’s head off will be commonplace in Cyberpunk 2077.
Unlike many RPGs that force you to pick a particular class or build, Cyberpunk allows you to level up a slew of skills that can be used to create a character with almost superhuman abilities. This allows players the freedom to use all the skills the game has to offer without being locked into a particular class.
After the player used a dev-only tool to switch over to a different build, we got a look at how a tank player would perform, which focused more on gunplay. This is obviously more fast paced, but it seemed to be a less immediate way of taking out enemies. The animations shown when an enemy took damage were disturbingly natural, which made killing have so much more weight.
You can hack turrets to fire on their own, while shooting enemies yourself, or pick up giant sledgehammers and decimate through goons. There’s a lot of freedom that isn’t necessarily a new or different concept, but it seems so polished in Cyberpunk.
At one point, we got to see what can only be described as a boss battle with the leader of The Animals, known as Sasquatch. This was unexpected and designed in such a smart way that makes you wonder about more of the possibilities in this game when it comes to enemy encounters.
Sasquatch had a juice pack on her back, which allowed her to absorb damage. This juice pack needed to be destroyed before V could hurt her. But throughout the fight, these thin walls kept popping up out of the ground, which provided cover for both the boss and player. Watching Sasquatch’s movement patterns was essential, as she opened herself up to have her juice pack destroyed after swinging and missing with her sledgehammer.
Cyberpunk is not simply about running around shooting enemies. You can avoid enemies completely or take enemies out in various non-lethal ways. Even after Sasquatch was defeated, you will have the option of sparing her, which seems like could impact the story, much like some of the other decisions made in earlier sections of the demo.
Speaking of which, this demo seemed to have a strong narrative throughout, but without much context, there’s no telling where the game will lead you. You can plug yourself into computers, and technology is such a defining factor, that your sense of reality within the game might be skewed. There’s even a section made it seem like the player had uploaded her consciousness to a cloud. It’s still too early to tell what the main storyline will be like, but the possibilities are seemingly endless.
There was also a part that allowed for V to hack enemies to make them commit suicide. One featured an Animal blowing his brains out with his handgun and another forced an enemy to pull the pin from a grenade while holding it. You can guess what happened next.
But most importantly, the demo had footage of Keanu Reeves, who will act as your sidekick, similar to Jarvis from Iron Man or Cortana from Halo. At least, that’s how he appeared in the demo. Considering how wild the narrative is, it wouldn’t be surprising if he found his way into the story in a major way. And of course, Keanu is absolutely “breathtaking” in his performance. In fact, all of the characters were.
At the end of the day, the demo didn’t show any one thing that blew me away, but rather, a sizable combination of impressive details and mechanics that could add up to a stunning final product. The visuals are beautiful, with their combination of realistically rendered models with a touch of style that gives it a personality. It’s also incredible that there are no loading screens to be found, along with the immersive character interactions. Plus its story seems like it will at least be interesting, if nothing else.
Cyberpunk 2077 seems like one of those “once-in-a-generation” kind of games that has massive potential. That said, it’s important to have realistic expectations. But with the impressive showing at this year’s E3 and the fact that CD Projekt Red cares so much, Cyberpunk will likely be no less than great.