Developer CD Projekt Red has been keeping in-depth looks at their upcoming open-world RPG Cyberpunk 2077 under lock and key. Opting to only show a gameplay demo at E3 to press and recently again at Gamescom, gamers have anxiously awaited the day they would get a look at what they can expect next from the studio behind The Witcher III. After a mysterious Twitch stream popped up, many speculated that they would finally get what they were waiting for, and fortunately, they were right.
A 48-minute, narrated gameplay walkthrough was previewed to excited gamers who tuned in. You can now peep the gameplay on youtube in 4k if you missed it, or just want to see it again in all its high-tech glory.
Now plug in and let’s dive into it, shall we?
Character is Everything
At the beginning of the demo, we get a look at the character creator. While many RPG’s let you create your own characters, Cyberpunk seems to take a lot (if not all) of its elements from its tabletop roots– even mentioning that a few times in the demo. If you look closely, you’ll notice before you even focus on appearance or take control of the character, you’ll be able to choose vital options that will play into the story. Things like childhood hero, key life events, and your reason for being in Night City all make up your backstory, which will presumably factor into your gameplay experience.
If this is true (we didn’t really get confirmation in footage shown), it will be a step up in terms of character creation. Character customization is often purely for cosmetic purposes, so this level of detail invests you a little more in your character’s personality. If the background options truly impact the game’s scenarios, it will feel like a more immersive, personal experience.
Another point of interest in the character creator lies in the Biostats tab. Fans of the source material, or of various other tabletop roleplaying games, will feel quite at home here. Rather than select a class as a first step, Cyberpunk has you putting points into stats to develop your character in a “fluid class system”. Essentially, this means you can swap classes whenever, depending on the attributes you pick/build up. Personally, this is preferable to avoid creating multiple characters to try out different types of classes and skills.
It’s Not All Neon and Sunshine
The gameplay begins in a shady hallway of an apartment building before our protagonist V stumbles across a woman’s body. She’s partially stripped of components and clothing. Not their target, but this sets us up for what’s to come. This is when we see what Gunplay will be like. After taking a reflex-booster, she uses a slow-motion ability called Kareznakov (that spelling may be totally off but let’s roll with it). In first person, we see each bullets slow impact on their targets, a true matrix-like effect in combination with V’s quick movement/dodge. If you remember on the biostats screen, they made V’s highest skill her reflexes, so whether that ability stems from that remains to be seen. We also get to see at just how destructible environments can be, as bullets easily turn a wall into swiss cheese.
V and Jackie eventually get to a grimy bathroom and find two bodies completely naked in the tub. It’s not that we haven’t seen nudity in a game before, but here in first-person as V drags her target’s pale, near-dead body from a bathtub full of ice and injects her with some form of adrenaline, we know that the world of Night City is going to have a lot of dark nooks and crannies. At this point it’s clear why CD Projekt Red didn’t want to make this game 3rd person–they want us to inhabit our characters and confront the situations head-on.
Wake Up, Night City
Cutting to V’s apartment, there is a small moment where whoever she had over that night is slipping out. As he gets out of bed we see this:
Now before you get too excited, expecting me to point out a secret or a small, insightful detail: there are none. At least I don’t think so. It just showcases how damn good the lighting and graphics are. If there was no watermark at the top, no “Skip B” down in the right-hand corner, I think I could convince some people this was a photo. Look at the creases in the boxers and the way the light coming through the shades lays across them. Look at the veins in his feet. Even the deterioration on the floor tile. This could pass for real life.
This interaction with V also brings up the possibility of romance in the game. I mean this part isn’t particularly romantic, but from the narrator’s vague description at 8:20 in the video, it sounds like you can have one night stands if you want, but how does that work? Can you pursue deeper relationships? If so, I imagine no matter your character, you will be able to be involved with either male or female companions… or both!
Before V leaves the apartment, she grabs some weaponry and we can see the name of the gun in Blue. Then we can see that her Jacket’s name is in green, and a gun later in the demo is in purple. This should clue us into the color-coded rarity system, which should be familiar to many gamers. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, amirite?
As V walks out of her apartment complex and into the bustling city, we get a better sense of the street life. It’s also mentioned that there will be no loading screens, something that still blows my mind after playing the recent God of War. In a bigger and more directly open-world game where streets are filled with NPC’s this is even more impressive. The team is really doing all they can to create as much immersion as possible.
Players of Night City
Touching base with Jackie, V meets up with a seemingly prominent figure of Night City named Dexter Deshaun–who kind of reminds me of a cybernetic Rick Ross. Where his quests may lead, it’s hard to say, but his smooth-talkin’ laid-back demeanor is a vibe I’d feel semi-comfortable working under, at least in comparison to another character we soon meet.
We then take a trip to the RipperDoc named Victor. Calm yet sarcastic, he’ll be helping us to enhance our character with body mods, such as an optical scanner and a subdermal weapon grip. These seem like just a glimpse of the kind of helpful tech we can implant, enhancing our characters to fit out particular play style.
After leaving the RipperDoc, V takes the wheel of Jackie’s car. The gameplay shows off a few cool things. We’ll be able to have our passenger take the wheel if we ever get attacked, making for some very visceral car chases. It reminded me of the opening scene to the movie Dredd in the best way. We also won’t be forced to drive in first person, you can switch over to the more comfortable third-person driving perspective. Knowing we have the option to switch between them like in the more recent versions of GTA V just feels right.
Eventually, V and Jackie arrive at what appears to be some sort of industrial plant to meet up with a group of high-level Corpos. If you look up in the corner at this point in the video you’ll notice it says that this route is entirely optional. You don’t need to do this to complete Deshauns mission, but it does allow you some more options. Walking up to this “Corporate agent” with slicked back hair who knocks you to the ground and spouts F-bombs, immediately sets you on alert. It surprises me that she doesn’t have a name, as she seems like she would be a reoccurring character in any other game–but maybe that’s only because the person running the demo chooses to take the diplomatic approach in handling this quest. If you were higher level or had better gear, you’re seemingly able to take them all down right here. Jackie has eagle eyes over the situation, so we can assume he would jump in to help if things got messy. Regardless, after they pick your brain (literally) you somehow talk your way out of this short-tempered woman’s vicinity, credit in hand, and get back to the real task: Obtaining a bot.
Sometimes, You’ll Have to Improvise (and that’s fun)
Arriving at another point, it becomes pretty clear to us now if it hasn’t already–that quests will not always be a simple task. They may have multiple parts and involve many different faces. This is an easy way to get you familiar with the factions and types of people in the game and it makes quests feel substantial and important to your journey rather than just a way to gain XP (which is something not covered in the demo, we’ll have to wait on that).
Before entering into the heavily body-modded Maelstrom gangs warehouse, it’s important to note that the duo decides they will try once again to take a peaceful route in obtaining the robot. It’s also hard not to stop and wonder what the other gangs of Night City are like; if they all have some sort of defining a philosophy that sets them apart. On their way through, we notice it is guarded by turrets and mines, one of which V scans with her Optical Scanner. While that green once is unarmed, we notice some red (armed) ones on the way through and unfortunately, we don’t see what the process of disarming looks like, but that is undoubtedly a feature.
Led to a room with a few gang members, some tension arises as the gang makes sure you’re not trying to play them. After telling Jackie to chill and sit, A gang member named Dum Dum (why not?) offers V a whiff of some sort of drug. You can take it, pass, or say “what is this shit?” which is what I actually do want to know. I imagine it’s not the same stuff V was taking earlier in the demo, but more along the lines of an illegal street drug. It’s hard to tell how it affects V because outside of the exposure of her vision changing for a moment, no other visual cues to imply what it could be. He then shows off the neat spider bot, of which the movement animation is creepily realistic and buttery smooth. Will we be able to see through its eyes like the gangster here? or potentially get a bio-mod that lets us do that? Anyways, The transaction seems to be going great–until it’s not. A bigger brute of a gang member named Royce gets up, barrels in, and points his gun in V’s face. Dammit.
Once V tells him that Deshaun sent her, the guy lets his guard down and laughs–as a “Draw Weapon” Prompt pops up as he turns. This shows us that players will have moments of opportunity to turn the tide if they are on alert. After the gang member hesitantly takes her credit, and things go even further to shit thanks to the corpo agent, V and Jackie now have to shoot their way out of here. It just goes to show, not all your plans may go as expected in Night City…and that’s okay because what follows is perhaps the coolest segment of gameplay shown.
Tools of the Future
Next up, we learn that depending on where you allocate your skills, there may be multiple paths to take. You could hack this door OR you could use your engineering to access a maintenance box and find another way onward. Players will probably not regret their choice of skills if they will all allow for the same flexibility as they show here. It’s after this obstacle that the demo goes off the walls (once again, literally) by unlocking some of the higher level abilities and weapon mods. One of them is a ricochet targeting system which looks insane in action. We have seen ricocheting bullets in other games, but I don’t think we’ve seen guns that function quite like this, allowing us to see where the bullet will go, bounce, and hit before firing, allowing for some insane potential here. I can already see the numerous youtube compilations: “CRAZIEST CYBERPUNK SHOTS YOU WON’T BELIEVE”. The second mod we see goes a step further, with actual homing bullets, allowing you to only have to be semi-accurate, hip-firing, and still take down targets. Since it’s an extremely rare weapon, don’t expect to see this kind of thing just hanging around often. Finally, we get a look at higher level skills, one of which allows the player to jack into enemies they have taken down non-lethally and use their connected neural network to hack in and sabotage enemies in the same group. This will prove very satisfying after stealthily taking down a squad with this method. On top of that, we get to peep the Mantis blades that were featured in the very first trailer for Cyberpunk 2077, allowing for some brutal takedowns. The narrator also mentions better jumping ability, and to bounce off of walls. Not sure if those abilities are connected to the blades exactly or it may be tied to the reflex skill.
The last real piece of the demo worth talking about is the boss fight. V sees Royce from earlier except this time he is outfitted in a big exo-suit functioning as armor. As the fight begins, Jackie steps down into the room with you, taking the car in the room and flipping it up to act as a shield–showing once again, just how helpful a companion he can be and also how adept the AI actually is. You also really get a sense just how agile you could build your character. V slides and hops around the room, dodging blasts with ease–eventually destroying his shield and putting an end to him.
The pair walks out to meet the corpo agent for one last word–before the quest wraps up and they head to The Afterlife, some sort of club we can imagine. Cue the rock music and a solid end to the demo.
Now, there were a lot of choices to be made through dialogue in this mission, so who knows just how many branching paths it could have. Now when we think of the bigger picture, if Cyberpunk 2077 is going to feature so many decisions, it’s really going to be a matter of how much they impact the overarching story. Again, this is our first look so there’s still a lot to see and learn about the game, but overall impressions are incredibly positive.
Some people online have taken issue with the language here, criticizing it for being overkill in some areas. I didn’t find too much issue with it upon first viewing, but I understood what they meant when I watched it through again. I get it, you don’t need to say F**k every sentence to have a character get their point across, but I feel like this was one mission. Things are subject to change, and I’m sure not every character you meet talks like the corpo woman–but hey, maybe V stands for Vulgar?
When will we see Cyberpunk 2077? That is still unclear. I’m going to guess 2020 (as it would be appropriate given the original tabletop’s name) but no matter when we see it, the future is looking good for gamers.
Plus, Pizza is $1 a slice, so that’s as good a sign as any.