Announced in 2012 with a reveal trailer shown in 2013, Cyberpunk 2077 has become something of an internet myth, largely due to how invisible the game and the developers have been on promoting content for the game to the public since then. The dystopian Blade Runner inspired game from The Witcher developers CD Projeckt Red has been shown to press twice in 2018, once at E3 and more recently, at Gamescon in August of 2018. Each time though, the public ended up getting denied access to that footage, which both infuriated fans and increased the hype around the game. Now, the Polish studio has pulled the veil back and has given us a 48-minute gameplay demo. The studio has stressed that this isn’t a reflection of the final game and that anything is subject to change, but we now have our first impressions of the game. Here are our thoughts on the game!
And what an impression it is. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt ranks as one of my favourite games of all time, so seeing what that studio was cooking up next instantly put it high on my radar. The game is based on and partly inspired by the pen and paper tabletop game Cyberpunk 2020, only now it’s a first person shooter RPG. But just because it’s a shooter, doesn’t mean this is Call of Duty. By the looks of it, it’s more Deus Ex meets Fallout 4 in terms of handling and presentation, both games which are first-person games set in an RPG mechanic.
Whereas The Witcher followed the exploits of the stoic Geralt of Rivia, Cyberpunk 2077 will follow V, a customizable character with his/her own unique look, stats and backstory-all of which can affect gameplay or story. The demo that was shown featured a female V and briefly went over some of the character creation process, which looks pretty robust.
The devs were publically nervous about showing off gameplay due to potential online backlash over people comparing the demo to the eventual final product. So they watermarked the entire demo with a “work in progress” message and even made the following press statement on their early build:
“What we’re releasing today was recorded from a game deep in development. Since many of the assets and mechanics in the current version of Cyberpunk 2077 are most likely to be modified, we initially decided to show this gameplay only to media. Elements like gunplay (both in terms of visuals and how RPG stats influence it), netrunning, car physics, or the game’s UI — everything’s pretty much still in the playtest phase and we felt uneasy about publicly committing to any particular design. Animation glitches, work-in-progress character facial expressions, early versions of locations — all this made us hesitant to release what you’re about to see. We are also well aware that many of you want to see what the media saw. Although this is probably not the same game you’ll see on your screen when we launch, we still decided to share this 48-minute video with you. This is how Cyberpunk 2077 looks today. Let us know what you think!”
This is one of the many reasons why I respect and admire CD Projeckt Red. They’ve learned from past mistakes and miscalculations and have become extremely transparent with their fanbase, urging them to keep an open mind, be ready for change but to also welcome it should it happen.
While the demo opened up with a hallway gunfight, complete with some innovative and clever moments, such as using a tub of water as a silencer for a stealth takedown and heavily destructible environments. While it was really cool, I must admit that the first moment that really drew me in was when V was leaving her apartment. In something like Grand Theft Auto say, your safehouse acts like a separate room, detached from the overall sandbox. Not so in Cyberpunk 2077, as the apartment building was actually a little city of its own, not unlike the megacities found in Judge Dredd. From the apartment, food, weapons, and training can be accessed, all before you leave the building.
And when you do leave the building, let me just say that the wait was worth it. The apartment building lies on a busy intersection but the amount of activity and detailing going on here is jaw-dropping. Even if the game gets a visual downgrade for release, which is what happened for The Witcher 3 (something that never affected my experience with the game I might add), the number of character models, activity and ambiance make this seems like one of the more realistic cities we’ve seen in a game, and this game’s city, called Night City, looks nothing like anything on Earth-barring some Japanese cities. Hundreds of NPCs lined this block alone, with cars and pedestrians following traffic, a light rail system overhead and towering neon skyscrapers.
The demo also made a point of showcasing what choice is like in the game. In order to get a mission done, the player ends up getting a bunch of options to do the mission, including taking another mission to get the funds or making an alliance to access the primary goal of the mission. Furthermore, the choices aren’t set in stone as you can easily go back on your decision. So if you want to retake that credit chip you used to purchase the bot, you totally can-but at what cost? That streamline freedom vs consequence looks to be a driving factor of the game and I love how dynamic it feels. All of the conversations are now tied to the dialogue tree, with a yellow option highlighting bits that will not only progress the story but perhaps alter it (as multiple yellow options may be available in any response, including the option to pull your gun to change the conversation).
On the topic of driving, I’m 50/50 on that as of right now. When you drive, you can leave the first person perspective and enter third, which may be useful when driving at high speeds. The interior looks highly detailed, with nice futuristic touches and car combat is also a thing as shown in the demo, with a group of thugs abusing V on the road. This is the part of the demo where I felt unsure about, especially not having been given the chance to play the game yet. Whenever you engage in a vehicular shootout, the AI takes over the driving, effectively putting the car “on rails” and letting you focus entirely on shooting. While car combat may be harder in first person, it’s still not impossible. Plus the game gives you a third person perspective and Grand Theft Auto V has proven that being able to simultaneously drive your car and fire a sidearm is easy and intuitive.
The demo also showed off late game combat and man, it looks fun and imaginative. Bullets that ricochet off the walls, homing bullets, mantis blades that not only stick into the walls for extended parkour action but can be used as melee weapons. That’s all coupled with the ability to slow down time and perform acrobatic feats. During combat, there are little damage numbers that fly out and while it didn’t annoy me, I also didn’t see the need for them. Hopefully, this mechanic will be optional (update: it is confirmed to be optional. The player ended up looting a powerful weapon towards the final minutes of the demo, I hope that the developers learned their lesson from The Witcher 3 and use scaling loot this time around. I don’t want to do a high-level area and be rewarded with a low-level weapon that I’m just going to sell, especially since weapons and armour (V’s jacket) all seem to be based on a loot/purchase system and all have stats.
Another cool aspect of the demo was the modifications and a Matrix-esque mechanic of “jacking in” to another person’s network. With the modifications, you can enhance your cybernetic enhancements to get sweet new mechanics. The demo showed off some early stuff, such as the zooming eye, but later stuff includes the mantis blades that can be used to scale buildings. These are inquired by purchasing, but it’s up to the player to go to legal shops or the black market. As for the latter, the player can take a wire and plug into another person to get intel. Not only that, but V can affect the world around her, such as jamming everyone’s guns in the area for a brief amount of time.
So does the gameplay demo live up to the hype surrounding it? I’d say absolutely yes. The Witcher 3 has solidified itself as one of the best games of this console generation and perhaps of all time, and CDPR has become one of the most respected studios working today in the process. The world looks incredibly imaginative and I’m not entirely sure how modern consoles are going to run it. The dense looking city looks packed with things to do and see and the first person perspective, in my opinion, was the right call as it enhances the experience by immersing you into this dystopian city. Gunplay looks imaginative and unique and being able to find new story options, bypass certain sections or create a new option makes the minute-to-minute experience feel dynamic. There are still many unknowns for the game and I for one am very curious how Night City and the surrounding areas compare to The Witcher 3‘s map size (which was massive, in case you didn’t know). There is no release date and it likely won’t be for a while, but for now, we can sit tight and know that the game is in good hands, with people who are working tirelessly to make sure it’s the best experience for us. When it does come out, it’s slated to release on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
What did you think of the Cyberpunk 2077 demo? Are you on the hype train or were you let down? If so, how come? Before you go, check out our latest entry in our 1001 Movies series and our thoughts on the future of online streaming.