The new (and first) teaser trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 may be light on game details in its CGI sheen, but it compensates with powerful imagery: brutal public massacres; a terrorizing police force; a towering metropolis burdened by social upheaval; bullets crumpling and fragmenting at the touch of skin, the line between human and cybernetic demonstrably shattered.
It was released today by developer CD Projekt Red as a glimpse into what we can expect from the futuristic sci-fi RPG based on the Cyberpunk series of pen-and-paper games from Mike Pondsmith. Cyberpunk 2077 was revealed last May (although the title wasn't finalized until October) as a mature-themed, deeply customizable experience set in the ultramodern, ultracorrupt open-world of Night City. And while the trailer doesn't elaborate much on the initial premise, the CD development team has offered their own version of its chaotic events.
Here's Adam Badowski, head of CD Projekt RED studio, explaining how Night City's "psychos" -- violent humans driven to derision by abusing augmentation technologies -- are captured and recruited by the MAX-TAC (Maximum Force Tactical Division) police force:
“The teaser shows how the Psycho Squad might acquire a new member. The Psycho Squad specializes in combating “psychos” — individuals who overuse implants and substances that boost or otherwise alter the human body. There comes a point when they overdose on these innovations, and their bodies start to rebel against their biological body parts as well as against all things organic around them. Simply put, they start killing people, who they now derisively call 'meatbags.'"
"When a psycho goes on the rampage, strange things can happen. There’s going to be a lot of carnage, so the psycho might be taken down by regular police, but they’re not always able to get the job done. When things spin out of control, they call in MAX-TAC (Maximum Force Tactical Division), popularly called the 'Psycho Squad'. And these guys are exceptional, these guys are crack troops. The fact that they’re proud of that name tells you a bit about their mindset. They wear a badge with their official emblem on their right sleeve, but their left is reserved for their unofficial Psycho Squad emblem. It’s primitively made and the image itself is on the crude side of things. It’s not unlike a badge special force operators might make and wear to distinguish themselves from the ranks of grunts in any theatre of war."
It's gritty stuff -- just the kind of subject material we'd expect from the developer of The Witcher and The Witcher 2. But what is it that drives a society to such fringes, such cybernetic chaos? CD Projekt Red revealed just one of the trendy augmentations enthralling the residents of Night City: braindances. Braindances are digitally recorded memories, streamed into the brain via an implanted "BD player," engaging a full spectrum of the senses: sight, sound, smell... and even touch. As CD explains, they're a mixture of neat and nefarious, and a lynchpin of the augmentation debates swirling around Night City.
"The range of themes of these recordings varies from simple braindances made by megacorporations, which e.g. allow the viewer to feel the full experience of an explorer with all its thrills, sweats, smells, views, sounds and the real feeling of curiosity that pushes men to go beyond the horizon against fear and physical weakness. But there are also more controversial sides of braindance, because some recordings are created illegally in the underground. Entering the mind of a serial killer means not only seeing the monstrosity he performs, but also living his lust to kill and fulfillment.
"...Of course, just like every great new cultural movement, BDs have people who criticize them. Just watch these two guys arguing about this phenomena."
Based upon the release date in the trailer -- "when it's ready" -- and the lack of any platform commitments, we're guessing Cyberpunk 2077 is still in the early phases of development. We're guessing we won't be playing it until the next generation. But with such time comes high hopes. 2011's Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a profound success that brought the sci-fi augmentation RPG to gaming's forefront, and indeed CD Projekt Red has cited it as one of Cyberpunk's main influences (in addition to System Shock). How well the game fuses old inspiration with new innovation across a complex storyline, open-world gameplay, and thorough class and character creation will be something to watch for as we continue to unravel its secrets.
What do you think of the early details regarding Cyberpunk 2077?
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.