This is shaping up so so so nicely
Six hours after my hands-off hour-long demo of Cyberpunk 2077, I finally got a chance to sit down to write out my thoughts. That quarter of a day, those 360 minutes, have done nothing to quell how goddamn fucking excited I am for this game.
It helps a lot that we’ve known next to nothing about Cyberpunk 2077 for years and now we suddenly know a ton about it. There’s an information overload capable of frying circuits — and that’s so perfectly appropriate. I’ll try to coherently convey everything I learned today.
The demo starts with the character creation menu and it’s our first introduction to the many ways that Cyberpunk 2077 is so very big. There’s basic character stuff like hair, skin color, and facial attributes. But other tabs paint a deeper picture of who you play as. There’s birth record, background check, biometric scan, and biostates. Life events like “death of a sibling” and “ran away from home” are said to influence your demeanor and maybe how others perceive you.
The playable protagonist is V, and Cyberpunk 2077 again offers plenty of freedom. V can be either male or female (our demo was played as a woman). Besides all the stuff in the previous paragraph, there are also stat categories for Strength, Constitution, Intelligence, Reflexes, Tech, and Cool. These define who you are, but this role-playing game never asks you to pick a preset class. It’s more fluid, and actions throughout the course of the game seemingly eventually funnel you toward class specializations.
After we exited the menus, there were two near-immediate realizations. First, Cyberpunk 2077 is so stylishly brilliant in the way it addresses everything about its world. This is set in the fictional Night City which is on the coast of the Free State of California. It’s a dire place, where mega corporations have it good and everyone else is left impoverished and desperate. It all feels so futuristic and impossibly fleshed-out and excruciatingly fucked.
The second realization is that the action in this game is unrelentingly quick. Cyberpunk 2077 is a first-person shooter role-playing game, and it seems to take its shooting very seriously. An early mission had V charging through a corridor-laden crackhouse where scavengers were harvesting organs and biometric implants and leaving the victims barely-alive in tubs full of ice. V’s automatic pistol popped off at an insanely quick rate, spraying blood and numbers out of the bad guys. The alternate-history setting affords Cyberpunk the opportunity to get creative with its weaponry (and everything else).
Nary did a minute go by where Cyberpunk 2077 didn’t impress me in some way. There’s the inhaler-based reflex booster that essentially triggers bullet time. There’s the way V jacked into a dying woman’s head to activate her biolocator so a medical emergency team could save her. There’s the augmented-reality interface, and how focusing on an item in the environment will automatically highlight the nearest place to buy it; a can of soda and a close-by vending machine is the easiest example. There’s the moment I heard “I’ll punch you full of holes, you dizzy cunt.” At all times, something in Cyberpunk 2077 is worth paying attention to.
The later half of the demo was meant to showcase how different choices can lead to different outcomes. V was tasked with buying a spider bot from a local organization. An encounter outside their compound led to an agent giving V a currency chip with a lot of money on it. This added a non-violent option to acquiring the bot. Without doing that, it would’ve had to have been guns blazing.
But, because this is supposed to be a high-octane showing, things trended toward violence soon thereafter anyway. There were plenty of creative shooting moments, where V used the environment to change the battlefield. Cyberpunk 2077 gives you options in combat too. However, this is where we saw one of the neater violence mechanics: Stealth takedowns result in V jacking into the enemy’s head and accessing whatever he knows to her benefit. For instance, we got a floor-by-floor overview of the entire compound and were able to take control of the security system. It pays to be prepared.
Some other things worth mentioning that I couldn’t squeeze in elsewhere: There are cars and motorcycles that V drives to get around Night City’s six regions, and this sometimes leads to vehicle-based shootouts; all characters have their own day/night cycles — gangsters, “corporate rats,” vendors — everyone in this world; there’s an alarming amount of advertising, both in the real-world and in augmented reality, and it brilliantly adds to the density of everything; the cyber-augments are super intriguing in the ways they could conceivably change and vary gameplay; there’s a neat Mexican influence to it all because of the California location; at one point in my notes, I just wrote “Goddamn, this city rules.”
I went into this E3 demo as a guy who had seen the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer and thought it looked cool as hell, but with no other real expectations. I came out of the demo as a guy who’s looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077 more than any other video game. I can’t remember the last time I was this optimistic about an upcoming game. Funny how such a bleak setting — with all of its poverty and ultra-violence and depressing/oppressive themes — can have me so fucking jazzed.