Night City is the setting for the upcoming game from CD Projekt Red, Cyberpunk 2077. The game is based on the tabletop role-playing games Cyberpunk and Cyberpunk 2020 by Mike Pondsmith
Once shrouded in mystery but still able to garner a ton of hype, we finally have a concrete vision of CD Projekt Red's latest IP, Cyberpunk 2077.
This past August, CD Projekt Red released a much-anticipated gameplay reveal trailer. The trailer generously showed a 48-minute walkthrough of early-story content. This same content (likely with some differences) made its debut earlier for a select crowd at E3 2018. I got a first-hand look at this hype when I was able to snag one of the coveted spots to see this much talked about footage. Cyberpunk 2077 easily had the biggest hype behind it during E3. Press, industry, and gamers crowded the long halls leading to the private showing area just for the mere chance to be squeezed in for one of the nearly 50-minute gameplay demos. The CD Projekt Red team, hoping to spare disappointment and save time, came out periodically to tell those hopefuls that they were overbooked. I stood in that line for about two and a half hours, fighting off waves of hopelessness and persevering through pure stubbornness. About three people were let in every hour, and sometimes less. One developer came out and firmly said that absolutely no extra spots were available while another said he'd see what he can do. With a bit of luck, I managed to get in, and oh man, was all that angst worth it.
Level Designer Miles Tost served as our guide through the demo. We entered the character creator first. Tost formally introduced us to a mercenary named V, our fully customizable protagonist who made a brief appearance in the official E3 trailer. V can be either female or male and has various cosmetic settings to go through; the usual sliders and color options one might expect. The class system, however, had me interested since it offered a fluid experience that changes as you play the game. The different classes aren't meant to be set in stone, allowing the player to switch between them. V can then adapt to each player's individualized playstyle while progressing through the game.
For the live demo, the team chose a female V. After setting up, it was time to get immersed in Night City.
Jackie Wells is a fellow assassin that accompanies V during the course of the 50-minute demo shown at E3
Located in coastal California, Night City contains six seamless districts. The city reminded me of a hybrid between Blade Runner (but with sunshine) and Fifth Element. My not-so-bold prediction pins Night City as the main setting for the majority of the game. Towering mega-buildings scatter the landscape. In one of these giant structures, we met the aforementioned V and her mercenary partner Jackie Welles. The duo work as freelance guns-for-hire, taking jobs and recognizing opportunity when it presents itself.
The demo began with the duo on a mission to retrieve a high priority target, the victim of kidnapping and implant harvesting. Obtaining implants, no matter how grisly the method of acquisition, proves a lucrative business in the dark future of Cyberpunk. With this introduction to Night City, V got a bit of action hunting down organ scavengers in a cramped and dingy apartment complex. They made their way through rooms, taking out enemies until stumbling upon the female target unconscious alongside another body in an iced tub.
As you've most likely read/heard by now, Cyberpunk 2077's gameplay takes place from a first-person viewpoint. This fact seemed to generate some degree of frustration from fans of CD Projekt RED who have been accustomed to The Witcher series' third-person perspective. Personally, that didn't impair the experience as a viewer. Actually, the way combat functions, first-person seems to be the optimal way to play. Combat lets the player use a combo of high-tech weapons, cybernetic abilities, stealth, good ol' fashioned head bashing, and I'm sure loads more that we haven't seen yet. It definitely ventures away from what we've seen in the Witcher series.
Upon securing the iced and unconscious woman, V and Jackie pointedly ignored the other person. They'd only been hired to save one life that day.
V inserted an implant behind the woman’s ear to get a reading on her vitals. Twitching and iced over, the woman clung to life. The two mercenaries quickly moved outside of the apartment to a balcony. The exterior of the tiny complex exposed a massive but crowded world. Across from the giant building that V and Jackie find themselves in stands another equally massive construction. Apparently, a lot of buildings in Night City share this form and, since they're so massive, function almost like their own cities.
No good deed goes unpunished, and our two heroes quickly found themselves surrounded by aggressive armed people in matching blue uniforms with a red symbol. The interlopers demanded that the two mercenaries hand over the woman. V explained that they are hired help, but these soldiers weren’t the listening types. As quickly as they had arrived, they disappeared with the woman in a helicopter. From what Tost told us, these soldiers represent a high-end medical company. Think of them as insurance for rich people. The icy, dying woman V and Jackie retrieved happens to be a client of theirs. In the world of Cyberpunk 2077, corporations run everything and this merc'ed up medical company is just another one of them.
These soldiers represent a medical corporation
The stress of the job proved to be worth the trouble for V, her paycheck earning her enough to go off on a three-day bender off-screen. The action resumed with an NSFW scene featuring a half-naked V in bed next to an equally half-naked stranger. Tost jumped in to say that this game contains mature content, definitely not a first for CD Projekt Red. He also revealed that Night City contains many inhabitants, a large amount of which V can interact with. These types of interactions could vary between random encounters with enemies to new partners with which V can bring on missions and likely a lot of things in-between.
After her wild series of days, V needed to get back to work. Luckily, Jackie called with an exciting lead: A new client that could launch their careers into the stratosphere. The client, Dexter DeShaw, had a request for the two mercenaries, the details relayed via a shard that V plugged into her head. After downloading the mission info, V and Jackie left to prepare for the job.
V followed Jackie through the streets of Night City. At street level, the space seemed overwhelming. The cityscape loomed overhead with skyscrapers taking up every scrap of sky. Life kept moving around V as she walked with Jackie. NPC's interacted with each other apparently leading their own lives, according to the devs, within Cyberpunk 2077. This makes the fact that V can interact with all of the NPCs that she dodged around certainly impressive. The NPCs themselves all had labels above their heads, giving a bit more characterization to the world. Pressing on through the mass of humanity, V and Jackie entered into the lair of the ripperdoc, a purveyor of especially interesting technological artifacts.
This is a Ripperdoc - specializing in cyberwear, some docs deal in legal upgrades, but some supply less than legal tech
The ripperdoc sells mechanical upgrades. In a corner of his shop, for example, the mantis blades from Cyberpunk's original teaser trailer can be seen. Shortly after her arrival, V settled into the doc's chair. He then proceeded to surgically remove her eyes, rendering our protagonist sightless. Darkness for a few seconds and then light. Those same eyes began transmitting images again, and V can see herself across the room for a short, surreal moment. The upgrade V had installed allows her to zoom in her vision to scan objects, useful for analyzing threats and concocting strategies. Some docs provide legal upgrades, others, not so much. The upgrades that V equips throughout the game depend on your playstyle. This leaves a ton of room to customize the game even further.
After V finished getting fancy with new tech, Jackie returned with a vehicle in tow. Shady characters hung out by Jackie’s new baby, definitely looking ready to start some trouble. This understandably sounded some alarms for our mercenary friends. At this point, Tost jumped in to say that in this living world, random encounters can happen at any time. V and Jackie read the danger of their situation and took off in their ride, triggering a car chase. Speaking of vehicles, I only saw a few during the demo, but Tost said that a variety more exist in the game.
2077 is dominated by corporations and Meredith Stout is a top executive of one of them. In the demo, she uses V and Jackie to get what she wants.
After some tense shooting and gadgetry take care of their pursuers, V and Jackie arrived at the rendezvous point to find a corporate woman waiting for them surrounded by armed guards and vehicles. It turns out she's Meredith Stout, a higher-up with the megacorporation Militech. Stout explained that she feels as if there are hidden schemes going on at Militech and wants in on the mysterious plans. She believes that V and Jackie are in on some key details that she needs. As a sassy, tough as nails mercenary, V won't willingly hand over all of the answers that Stout wants. Fully prepared for this scenario, the ruthless businesswoman hacked into V’s mind, forcing lie detector tech into her subconscious.
In this future, not even your thoughts are safe.
Through this interaction, branching narrative paths form that affect not only the upcoming gameplay, but the story overall. V could decide to try to fight her way out or comply with various dialogue options. After shaping the situation to her liking, Stout released V to complete the job by stealing a specialized piece of military hardware currently in the possession of a ruthless gang.
This last act really got into the meat of Cyberpunk’s combat. The mission focused on retrieving a spider-like mech guarded by a well-armed gang holed up within an abandoned meat fortress.
The newly acquired eye enhancements came in handy, as V used her techno peepers to spot nearby targets and plan her assault. Players can decide to go in guns and cyberwear blazing or sneak around the compound performing stealth takedowns. Or perhaps a more diplomatic solution could be reached? In the demo I saw, V negotiated for the prize.
One of the fine people that V and Jackie are sent to negotiate within a fortified gang fortress. Their target this time is the piece of tech beside him.
In Cyberpunk 2077, it’s not uncommon to see mechanical pieces on people. Some of these enhancements featured pretty prominently n the E3 trailer. The members of this gang don't mind the metal and wires; some have completely swapped their fleshy faces for a full-tech look. V met up with one such person to see the highly sought-after piece of military-grade equipment. The drone resembled a spider with all its limbs. Many in dangerous lines of work value its adaptive and versatile nature in all sorts of combat situations.
Payment for this metallic creature resided on one of the chips seen throughout the demo. One of the gang members inserted this into their bases’ system and things go immediately awry. The woman from Millitech sabotaged the system with a virus. Bullets began to fly.
V then hacked into one of the fallen enemies to gain access to the layout of the building, gaining an immediate advantage and a plan to get out.
Pictured is the female V, very closely resembling how she looked in the demo. Her jacket not only looks rad, but it's also a key piece of gear called the samurai jacket that is connected to a street cred system.
Combat in Cyberpunk contains both smooth movements and chaotic destruction. V slid around corners to catch targets unaware, bounced bullets off of walls to catch those hidden around corners, and utilized slow-mo to jump and shoot. It all looked fun as hell, and from what I saw and heard, the CD Projekt Red team hopes that their combat system will form around each individual players style. Escaping the fortress signaled the end of the demo.
Coming out of seeing Cyberpunk 2077 firsthand, I felt a surge of enthusiasm. Night City included so many elements that I wanted to explore and questions I wanted to answer. What do interactions with NPCs really look like? What will the different game styles play like? Will the story form around this world, or around V? Will I like V? Am I supposed to? How sick will those cybernetic upgrades feel? Why do I feel so much hype from this game?
Then the gameplay trailer launched to the public, and the hype grew even more. The reaction seemed fitting since we have had to wait six years since the game's announcement in 2012.
Even now, we only saw the tip of the iceberg in the hour demo. It included enough to fuel my fascination with the game. However, the skeptic in me knows that some caution is healthy. Hype this big can be dangerous. Cyberpunk 2077 will either hugely benefit from following the Witcher 3 or it could lead to undeserved expectations. We saw this with Mass Effect: Andromeda which followed the hugely acclaimed Mass Effect Trilogy. The game needed to pretty much reach a level of perfection for its fans that it inevitably fell under the pressure and rushed development cycles.
However, CD Projekt Red has a different way of doing things. The studio has built a rapport with its fans that we don't see very often. Fans trust the company completely as it has delivered time and time again on ever increasing expectations.
CD Projekt Red has not given us a timeline for the game. Cyberpunk is available on Amazon for pre-order with a placeholder release date of December 28, 2018. Even so, it's likely we won't see the game's release this or even next year. Whenever it does reach the public, it will be playable on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.
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