After five long years of waiting, the gaming world finally got its first proper look at CD Projekt Red’s upcoming RPG, Cyberpunk 2077. In contrast to the 2013 teaser (or the more recent E3 trailer), what was revealed this week was a 48-minute-long journey through the game’s dystopian (but pretty) Night City, full of awesome sights and gameplay. It’s all work-in-progress and subject to change, but I’m already convinced that this is one title to look out for.
Unfortunately, we don’t know yet when we can actually explore Night City on our own hardware - a document lists the potential release date as being anywhere between 2017 to 2021 (ta, PC Gamer). In the meantime however, here are 5 things you need to know about the wildly ambitious title.
Cyberpunk 2077’s roots extend back to the 90s, when a pen-and-paper RPG called Cyberpunk 2020 was released as the second edition of Cyberpunk 2013. Written by Mike Pondsmith and published by R. Talsorian Games, it took players to a Dark Future (yes, it’s really capitalised) ruled by Megacorporations and their “cyborg assassin” armies, where only the “toughest, smartest and most cybered-up will survive”. Cybered-up? Very 90s-sounding indeed, and this is just a slice of the description.The Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay reveal delivers a less hammy impression, and I’m not sure how much has been tweaked or kept as-is, but it undoubtedly has some of that original Cyberpunk DNA. Night City, located in the Free State of Northern California, was the setting of Cyberpunk 2020 as well, and the video gives us a look at its Megacorporations and cybernetically-enhanced gangs. One of the gangs in the demo, the Maelstrom, can also be found in the pen-and-paper game. What the video game doesn’t quite retain are the classes, but we’ll get to that later.
While we’ve explored the world of the Witcher games with the camera hovering behind Geralt’s back, Cyberpunk 2077 will let us view its world directly from the eyes of the player character, V, instead. I suspect that CD Projekt Red’s involvement led quite a few to believe that this new game would also adopt a similar perspective; a friend of mine and myself noted a quite number of comments that expressed a preference for a third-person viewpoint.
The gameplay demo shows that the driving (oh yes, there’s driving) may be done in third-person, but the rest of the action is first-person. Just as well, seeing as scanning objects and people reveals quite a bit of textual information that would otherwise have to fight V’s body for space. It just feels so immersive to explore the city in first-person too, and I can’t imagine a third-person perspective capturing the same sort of feeling. The combat looks like it was made with first-person in mind as well, with dashes and leaps that lend acrobatic flair whilst looking manageable to pull off in the tight environments. Speaking of combat, the first-person shooting actually looks solid, and not just in a “for an RPG” way.
Okay, this may be a bit of a stretch, seeing as Cyberpunk 2077 and Deus Ex are very different games despite both being cyberpunk RPGs. The fact that Night City doesn’t deliver any Deus Ex vibes despite being another keenly-realized cyberpunk setting speaks for how it possesses its own identity. Nevertheless, there is some room for comparison seeing as both stress player choice and freedom. For instance, in the Cyberpunk 2077 demo, V finds herself (you can make V a male if you so desire) unable to hack a door at her current level. She manages to find another way through however, by disassembling a maintenance panel with her Engineering skills.What we don’t know is how stealthy Cyberpunk 2077 will let us be. Whereas Deus Ex encourages sneaking around, the FPS route seems pretty viable (if you’ve the appropriate level, of course) and unlikely to come with XP penalties in Cyberpunk 2077. Nevertheless, it appears that stealth will be a bona fide option, based on how V has the option to make non-lethal takedowns and pick up bodies. And if a Reddit user is to be believed, the game’s Facebook page revealed some info that suggests how stealth will indeed be a juicy feature:
“Enemies won’t always be aware of the player. The player can utilise this to their advantage by sneaking up on unsuspecting enemies, laying various traps or deploying viruses. The plan of attack is just as important as executing it. We never force players to adopt any particular style of combat, so they’re always free to use what they think is the best possible solution at a given time. From shooting through walls, to bending bullets over corners – stealth tactics are also a part of your repertoire.”
Weird thing to say, I know. But such is the polish of the first-person movement and combat that I sometimes forgot about Cyberpunk 2077 being an RPG, until the RPG elements reminded me that is. An example: the part in the demo where we see that V’s jacket has stats. It’s not just a basic armour value that it offers either. Instead, the display details things like physical resistance, thermal resistance, EMP resistance and chemical resistance, as well as how it increases the leveling rate of something called Street Cred by 5%. Damage numbers (which can be turned off) emerge alongside blood, and enemies have levels attached to them. Cyberware, which are basically cybernetic upgrades, offer players new abilities and also statistical changes at the cost of money and humanity (I’m not joking about that last bit).
Then there’s the start of the demo, where we are given a tease of the character creator. We get to pick V’s gender and backstory, with the latter bearing game-altering effects, the expected appearance-tweaking, and - more interestingly - customise our initial attributes. There’s Strength, Constitution, Intelligence, Reflexes, Tech and Cool (as in calmness); a number of these existed in Cyberpunk 2020 too. What the video game ditches is the concept of fixed character classes that players have to pick; you may instead fluidly modify your class as you play. The demo does allude to Cyberpunk 2020’s Solo class at one point however, so recreating or replicating the original classes with this system seems totally possible.
“We are working hard to make Night City to be a full realized, seamless open world with loading screens,” states the demo’s narrator as V descends from her dingy apartment in an elevator, glimpses of the day-lit city being seen. While I wouldn’t mind the occasional loading screen here and there, the idea of a seamless cyberpunk setting is enticing enough that I hope it does become reality. This is especially after seeing just how well-realized Night City is, being dense in its architecture and bustling with people and chatter. We don’t know yet just how deeply-simulated the NPC routines would be - they’re stated to be “living their lives” throughout the game’s day/night cycle - but even if it’s nothing more than a visual (and audio) illusion, I think this may be one of the most convincing video game urban populations yet. The first-person view help to sell it too.Another important bit: despite the name of the game as well as the city’s moniker, Cyberpunk 2077 won’t always take place in darkness like you’d expect a cyberpunk game too. As the demo makes clear, there will be a lot of day-time action going on. Cyberpunk creator Mike Pondsmith revealed why to GameSpot, explaining that “sometimes you need to have it not just be wet, rainy, cold and totally oppressive”. He elaborated by saying:
“You need to have a lot of variation to make a real world. You don't necessarily have to have that in a Blade Runner, because you're only taking basically a small slice of what's happened day to day in that world. I also think that you need to vary it and change it up a bit because otherwise, people get what they expect and when people get what they expect, they tune it out. They go, "Oh yeah, another cyberpunk thing."
Cyberpunk 2077 will be released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.