Cyberpunk 2077 preview – the game of the (subsequent) generation
GameCentral reviews again from a 50 minute demo of the new game from the makers of The Witcher 3 – and it’s even higher than you’d think about.
Cyberpunk 2077 may be the best video game ever made. That may seem like a meaningless statement considering it’s nowhere near release yet, but what we saw of the game at E3 is probably the single most impressive preview we’ve ever been witness to. Cyberpunk 2077 is the new title from the makers of The Witcher 3 and while both games are action role-players there are few other direct comparisons between the two. Especially as there seems a very good chance that Cyberpunk will be an even better game.
Based on a tabletop role-playing game of the same name (whose creator is also helping out with the video game adaptation) Cyberpunk 2077 is set in an alternative future that is heavily influenced by Blade Runner and the work of author William Gibson. Night City is a high-tech dystopia, ruled by all-powerful corporations and plagued by myriad criminal gangs.
Although there was no hands-on for the demo we were able to watch developer CD Projekt RED play through 50 minutes of a mission from early on in the game’s story. This started with the character creation tool, which allows you to pick either a male or female and customise not just their appearance and stats but also their backstory.
Unlike The Witcher, Cyberpunk is a first person game – which immediately invites comparisons with Deus Ex. But the graphics and underlying systems are far beyond anything seen in Square Enix’s games. And while Deus Ex often felt merely like a stealth game with knobs on Cyberpunk’s scope seems almost infinite. As indeed does the city in which the game takes place, which is rendered in a staggering amount of detail that bears comparison with even the most expensive sci-fi movies.
For whatever reason, CD Projekt hasn’t made any video footage available beyond the trailer from the Xbox media briefing and there are barely even any official screenshots. That’s probably in part due to the fact that the game doesn’t have a release date, but also because it’s pretty blatantly being designed as a next gen title.
CD Projekt has alluded to the fact before and trying to clarify exactly what formats the game will be released on involved a series of nervous questions between CD Projekt staff, unsure of what exactly they should be saying. Eventually we got them to admit it would be coming out on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, with a nervous little laugh making it clear that also appearing on next gen consoles was very much the plan (which also gives a hint as to when the game will be released).
The demo was running on the sort of PC that would make SkyNet blush but the fact that it was running at all, on any hardware that currently exists, was frankly astonishing. The demo started with the main custom character, a woman named ‘V’, taking on a job with her partner Jackie. They were attempting to rescue a girl that had been kidnapped for her cyborg parts, which leads them to a gang hideout filled with the remains of similar victim.
At this point the game seems like a relatively straightforward first person shooter, as V makes use of a short term buff, taken via an asthma inhaler style device, and uses a slow motion effect to get a drop on the fairly ordinary-seeming bad guys. Although their leader did have a minigun, and so V had to hack a side window in order to flank him and find the girl. It turns out she’d been trying to remotely contact a medical evacuation team the whole time and once you remove the block stopping her a heavily armed hovercar suddenly arrives outside.
This is the first proper look we get at the city, a mixture between Blade Runner’s L.A., New York City from The Fifth Element, and Star Wars’ Coruscant. It’s stunning, not just in terms of size and detail but the number of ordinary people wandering around, all apparently with their own identity and purpose.
V’s success rescuing the girl brings her to the attention of an underworld kingpin who offers her a job working opposite one of the major corporations. The job is going to be difficult though, so V takes a trip to see a doctor friend, who is able to give her some new cybernetic parts on credit. This includes a new eye that can zoom in and scan objects and a special grip on her hand that makes guns more efficient.
Every interaction has a different dialogue choice, but while the ones for the doctor seem relatively trivial negotiating with the corporation representative is a lot more dangerous. You can try an aggressive response but the more sensible option seems to be to play along and talk them into loaning you the money to buy a spiderbot – which you have to acquire from a different, and much more dangerous, criminal gang.
Or you could, as CD Projekt point out, just pocket the money yourself and forget about the mission completely, or try to earn the money on your own, or tell the corporation everything and try and get in with them that way. Almost every encounter has multiple options and solutions, as you see when you try and buy the spiderbot and the gang boss doesn’t like the look of you.
But thanks to a double cross by the corporation everything ends in a gunfight anyway, as you end up fighting an exoskeleton in a garage, where Jackie uses cars as shields and all the background detail appears to be fully destructible.
We’re trying to remember everything of note we saw in the 50 minutes, but we feel we’re only scratching the surface. We haven’t even mentioned Jackie’s car and the road ambush from the initial gang, which all plays out in first person and looks absolutely stunning. Or there’s the brief third person interlude after the first mission, that hints at the game’s promise of far more explicit sexual content than is normal for a video game.
There’s also the hacking mini-game, should you choose to learn those skills, the optional mantis claws that let you dig into walls (and enemy heads), or the variety of sci-fi guns that include everything from ricochet shots to smart bullets that chase enemies about on their own.
We’ve no idea what Cyberpunk 2077 will look like on current gen consoles but even if it’s a significant downgrade the underlying mechanics of gameplay and narrative choice are still hugely impressive. The demo alone was one of the most entertaining video game experiences of the year and we weren’t even playing it.
From everything we’ve seen of Cyberpunk 2077 it seems like the hype is not only real but if anything understated. We’ve got an interview scheduled with the creators tomorrow, which we probably won’t have time to transcribe until we get back from E3, but at this point they’re going to have to be the ones convincing us this isn’t the most exciting video game of the generation(s), not the other way around.
Formats: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and….
Publisher: CD Projekt
Developer: CD Projekt RED
Release Date: TBA