Sitting down to watch Cyberpunk 2077 at E3 2018 it was unclear what to expect. Developer CD Projekt Red had only just recently shown the first “footage” of the game and that was in a self-contained trailer. So when the devs said they were simply going to play the game, it was an impressive revelation in itself.
The world of Cyberpunk 2077 is dense and packed with detail from top to bottom. Our E3 2018 demo started out in an apartment complex, where a group of thugs were hiding an android woman. Our character, V, infiltrated the apartment with her (V can be female or male) close friend Jackie and made quick work of the thugs via energetic and fast-paced FPS combat.
It's a First Person Shooter
It may come as a surprise that CD Projekt Red is working on a first person shooter, but there are still multiple layers of RPG wrapped around the familiar combat style. As V, players will be able to customize their playstyle through a variety of stats, like the Cool stat, and their modifications. Some examples seen in the demo included a new eye that let V do everything from scan enemies to see their vulnerabilities (high resistance to electric damage, for example) or hack hardware, or a modified palm surface that helped with weapon stability.
Gunplay in Cyberpunk 2077 offers players a lot of options, but at its core, the game is a futuristic first person shooter. Players will be using familiar archetypes like pistols, assault rifles, and shotguns, only with futuristic twists. One assault rifle featured smart bullets, which allow V to hit a target even if not directly aiming at them. And one shotgun featured an alternate fire that penetrates surfaces.
The combat is fast-paced with options to run on walls, dash in any direction, and even slow down time (if the ability is unlocked). While The Witcher 3’s combat was focused on planning and deliberate actions, Cyberpunk 2077’s shooting is more chaotic. There are still opportunities to plan ahead, by hacking an enemy to jam all nearby weapons, for example. But once the shooting starts, the focus turns to laying waste to every enemy as quickly as possible.
Night City Comes Alive
Although we were only shown a small slice of Night City, what CD Projekt Red was willing to reveal had a lot of personality. The world of Cyberpunk 2077 falls in line with the dense, overpopulated mega structures seen in films like Blade Runner. Apartment buildings, back alleys, and factory settings were all wildly detailed with appropriate pops of neon color. It’s staggering how each environment felt alive and lived in, which makes sense considering the developers have been working on the game for close to 4 years.
But what was most impressive were the open areas, where masses of people were simply milling about. Open world games try to give that sense of a populated area through NPC foot traffic, but Cyberpunk 2077 is on another level. Every NPC was uniquely designed, had their own pathing, and there were a ton of them. CD Projekt Red is going to get a lot of accolades for this demo, but the one thing that stood out to me was how they made Night City feel like a real place through its people.
Exploring Night City is sure to be a treat as well, as players meet the colorful cast of characters that inhabit this world. Everything feels connected too, highlighted by the fact that players can walk up to an ad on the street and then gain directions to a vendor.
In our demo, V takes Jackie’s car for a drive through a part of Night City. Yes, there is driving in Cyberpunk 2077 but there was no flying cars or anything like that. This is driving as you would expect to see in an overpopulated metropolis in the year 2077. Roads and highways are very narrow and confined, a byproduct of the immense growth of urban areas. In truth, driving seemed to be a form of transportation rather than exploration. However, there was a combat sequence on a highway, so driving won’t simply be about getting from point A to point B. Still, it was surprising, and to be honest, refreshing to see driving depicted as it would exist in this world.
Branching Narratives at Every Turn
The FPS element may throw players off but make no mistake; Cyberpunk 2077 is a deep RPG in the CD Projekt Red style. Players can customize V in a variety of ways including deciding the character’s backstory and upbringing. There are dialogue options that can unlock different paths in quests, and a variety of ways that certain quests can be completed. Almost every encounter seemed to have a choice and that choice could lead somewhere different.
In the demo, CD Projekt Red only shows one path through a quest, which saw V collecting a spider robot from a group of thugs, but they promised that there were a variety of ways that they could complete the objective. For example, the path we saw had V procuring money to buy the robot from a corporate agent but players could acquire the money elsewhere and cut the corporate agent out of the equation. V also didn’t need to buy the robot she could have simply taken it by force – a much more difficult option but a viable one nonetheless.
If there was any concern with the FPS element that Cyberpunk 2077 was not going to be a deep RPG rest assured CD Projekt Red is making sure that branching narratives and player choice exist throughout the game. It also says a lot that we came away from Cyberpunk 2077 with a ton of information about the game and very few details about the main story. That CD Projekt can show a side quest and it has enough care and detail to bolster a 50-minute gameplay demo, and a most impressive one at that.
Cyberpunk 2077 has no release date but is targeting current-gen platforms.