With the release of the 48-minute gameplay reveal on Monday, we got a further look at Night City, the fictional city Cyberpunk 2077 brings to life. It looks like one of the most complex and detailed cyberpunk cities we have seen in recent years. In this article, I will be looking at how it compares to the cyberpunk cities we have seen in recent pop culture. Though classics such as Fifth Element, Total Recall, and Blade Runner are wonderful examples, I will be sticking largely to examples we have seen over the past few years (Blade Runner 2049, Ghost in the Shell, Altered Carbon, and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided).
Night City – Cyberpunk 2077
We’ve been waiting for the release of Cyberpunk 2077 for years and finally, with the aforementioned gameplay demo, we are finally getting a better look at the game that is now nearing a still-unconfirmed release date. Aside from the impressive gameplay and lore that is shown off in the gameplay walkthrough, we finally get a proper look at Night City, the fictional city in which the game is set.
Late last year, the above concept art was released. Early this year it was realised frame for frame in the E3 2018 Trailer. The art alone was impressive, and seeing it brought to the screen in full fruition is something else entirely. It looks like Cyberpunk 2077 will be leaning greatly into the flashy neon feel of cyberpunk with rampant capitalism plastering each surface in interactive colourful adverts designed to catch the viewers attention. It also looks like the game willfully embrace the unbridled crime, gore, and sex that give the cyberpunk genre such a unique feel.
The gameplay demo also showed us what it feels like to go into the busy intersections of the city. Night City looks like one of – if not the – most lively and intricate cyberpunk cities we have ever seen in a game.
Los Angeles – Blade Runner 2049
While the original Blade Runner created a beautifully constructed L.A. in 1982 (one which predicted cities not similar, on some level, to those we live in today), Denis Villeneuve one-upped the original and created one of the most immensely immersive cyberpunk cities ever seen on film. From huge billboards (seen below), to massive holograms (not an image new to the scene but one well pulled off) and the insane levels of advertising that presumably inspired Cyberpunk 2077 to some extent, BR2049 provided a visually stunning city filled with people of all shapes and sizes. It would also seem that, in relation to the people that populate the post-apocalyptic L.A., each and every background character has their own style, personality, and incredibly detailed costume.
Niihama – Ghost In The Shell
Now for a very different city: Niihama from Ghost in the Shell. Though the original anime was released in 1995, the 2017 remake brought the city of Niihama back to life in a very different fashion. The original anime created one of the most vibrant, bustling cities in animation in beautiful, contemplative montage that immerses the viewer in city life. Though it checks all the classic cyberpunk checkboxes, the animated Niihama is a more realistic city that is just close enough to reality to be grounded but just futuristic enough to pull you in.
The 2017 remake, however, provided a very different city. Though incredibly aesthetically pleasing with impressive holograms, that’s really all it was. The interest of it relied entirely on holograms and it did not capture the grim realism of the original anime. Also, despite the beautiful holographic koi fish swimming through the streets (which is logically strange but that’s a whole other set of issues with that film), the street level interest of the anime is lost entirely as, in the remake, there is next to no street life. On top of this, in an attempt to retain a 12A/PG-13 rating, it rid itself of the brutal crime-soaked streets seen in Cyberpunk 2077 and BR2049, a staple of cyberpunk culture and life.
San Francisco – Altered Carbon
Netflix’s Altered Carbon really went for it when building their futuristic San Francisco. It blends a nice mix of all the tones and stables of cyberpunk while maintaining great production value. Though there are some aspects of the show that are lacking, the city is not one of them (though it is not particularly original). One of the most impressive sequences of the show (the drug sequence early on in the season) relies heavily on the city aesthetics.
The one thing that I would say is a little lacking is a geographical structure. While cities in TV and film tend to struggle with retaining the geographical structure that is required to understand a city. Though Altered Carbon has the ‘higher is higher’ structure to its social hierarchy, little else is explained as to where the places visited in the show are in relation to each other. Also, it wouldn’t be difficult to install such a structure seeing as the geography of SF is already in place and well known.
Prague – Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided takes a very different approach to building a cyberpunk world in that it is much more grounded in today’s reality and it shies away from the flashy holograms and billboards like those seen in the above cities. The game leans more into cyberpunk in the feel of the people and situation as opposed to the cityscape. This does, however, work well as the city feels more tactile and is less distracting. The Prague created in the game, however, does retain the run-down, punk feel with graffiti and posters everywhere.