It’s fair to say that Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most-anticipated games in the world right now. After The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt catapulted CD Projekt Red into the mainstream eye, fans and newcomers alike have been curious about their newest upcoming title.
If you somehow haven’t seen the E3 2019 presentation for Cyberpunk 2077 yet, I encourage you to do so. After a new trailer which featured the breathtaking reveal of Keanu Reeves, Keanu himself confirmed the release date. Keanu is playing Johnny Silverhand, a rockstar long thought to be dead. He’s a major character in the game and actually has the second-most amount of lines, just behind V, the main character you’ll play as.
At E3 2019, I got a chance to take a look at a behind closed-doors media demo, lasting almost an hour. Here’s what it featured.
Cyberpunk 2077 E3 2019 Preview
The demo opened with CD Projekt Red giving us a look at character customization, which normally takes place at the beginning of the game. You character is named V and you can choose your gender and physical appearance as well as your background. Your choice of background will affect your dialogue options and some of your possible paths in the game. A character with ties to the high-up corporate world will understand that cutthroat environment, while a street-smart V might be recognized by a fellow survivor of the slums.
After we pick a default male Netrunner (or hacker) type character, we dive into a mission, with V tracking down Bridgette, leader of the Voodoo Boyz, a gang of skilled Netrunners. V wants answers on the mysterious biochip in his head and along with Johnny Silverhand (who only V can see or hear) V heads out. After questioning some locals and grabbing some new gear (you can customize the clothing or armor that V wears) we manage to find Placide, second-in-command of the Voodoo Boyz.
Running on the new REDEngine 4, the world of Cyberpunk 2077 is, just as Keanu said it would be, breathtaking. There’s no loading screens at any point and the level of visual detail is incredible, in spite of the countless NPCs going about their day-to-day business. Night City is divided into six distinct districts, with a different theme and types of residents and activities in each.
A new feature showcased in this demo was the impressive inclusion of real-time translation. When you hear others speaking, they will at first sound (and the subtitles will show) their native language. After a short time, the subtitles and audio will be translated so you can understand them. This kind of feature adds an entirely new layer of insane immersion to an already-beautiful, lived-in and populated world.
Placide agrees to help us, in exchange for us wiping out another gang, called the Animals, who have taken up residence at a nearby mall. There are timed decisions in which you’ll have to think very quickly, such as choosing whether or not to let Placide access your cybernetics. The developer playing pointed out that instead of allowing Placide to hack in so he can monitor your progress, you could just walk away completely and find another path.
CD Projekt Red released 48 minutes of gameplay last year:
Using a motorcycle to navigate the streets, the developers pointed out that V can actually own a whole fleet of vehicles including cars or motorcycles. When using a vehicle, you can be in first or third-person mode. When we arrive at the mall, there are multiple approaches we can use: we can infiltrate, going stealthy through the back door, or we can smash the front door open and smash everything in our way.
The Animals are so named because they use bio-mechanical enhancements to boost their muscle growth, making them into an army of meatheads. Since we were playing as a physically weaker hacker-type character, the developer playing opted to take a stealthy route. At this point, I was getting serious Deus Ex vibes. As a Netrunner, you can take advantage of the fact that everything is connected and come up with some creative kills beyond the usual boring chokehold. Guy looks like he’s struggling with his set of heavy weights? Hack them and crush his neck. Weak security on everyone’s programming? Hack them and force them to commit suicide. The developers did note that you can beat the game without killing anyone, though it may be very difficult at points.
CD Projekt Red began to flip back and forth between two different versions of V, the male Netrunner we’d been seeing and a female Strong Solo, who is basically an enhanced brawler with combat, strength and endurance modifications. Seeing this difference in approaches highlighted was pretty awesome: The male V hacked an autoturret to gun down the Animals while sneaking through. The female V simply ripped the machine gun out of place and used it to mow down the room. The male played cat-and-mouse via hacking with a Netwatch agent (an enemy hacker). The female was never noticed and thus didn’t have to worry about it but also couldn’t take advantage of hacking the environment.
The combat and gunplay both look great. Electric wire rips enemy limbs off while heavy rounds throw even the stoutest foes across the room. I’m curious about the exact variety of weapons available but what we saw here looked slick and satisfying. It was during this section that I also saw a lot of immersive sim elements that wouldn’t be out of place in Dishonored. You can eat any food or drink you find, choke out or spare enemies you sneak up on and more.
Eventually, V runs into Sasquatch, the leader of the Animals, who is nearly invulnerable to gunfire and wields a massive warhammer, all thanks to a large strength-enhancer installed in her back. At the same time, you can’t take all day to wear her down, as the enemy Netwatch agent begins hacking your systems, introducing a timer and visual/audio glitches for you to deal with.
After V destroys the implant, the fight becomes far more manageable and Sasquatch is disposed of. The Netwatch hacker is then tracked down. He cuts Placide out, insisting to V that Placide intends to dispose of them after wiping out the Netwatch agents in this district and that V would be better off working for Netwatch.
V chose to go against the agent and complete the job they were hired for by Placide. Placide takes control of the local network and the Netwatch agents are eliminated – and so is V. After being revived by the aforementioned biochip, V goes to talk with Placide and find out just what happened. Impressed that V has somehow survived, Bridgette makes herself known and offers to help V in finding what they are looking for beyond the reaches of the web.
That’s where our demo ended.
The footage shown off last year by CD Projekt Red already looked great but I am truly blown away by what is on offer here. This is easily the most ambitious, most genre-pushing game I’ve ever seen. The level of attention to detail and care in quite literally everything is incredible and the idea that there are multiple paths and endings for every scenario is insane. Everyone and everything feels like it has a purpose not yet fully explored. The game is almost finished with development and it’s mostly polishing work from here on out.
Cyberpunk 2077 releases on April 20th, 2020 for Xbox One, PC and PlayStation 4. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
If you’d like to read my other E3 2019 coverage, you can check out the links below: