“Cyberpunk 2077” is a first-person shooter with heavy RPG elements. Let’s get that out of the way first. When CD Projekt Red revealed its follow-up to “The Witcher 3” with a January 2013 teaser trailer, fans didn’t know quite what to expect.
Nearly an hour of gameplay shown off at E3 brings the grimy, dystopian future in focus. “Cyberpunk 2077” is based off Mike Pondsmith’s 1988 pen-and-paper RPG “Cyberpunk 2020.” In CD Projekt’s take on a future filled with extreme technological body modification, you’ll play a street merc named “V.”
It’s impossible to avoid comparisons to Square Enix’s recent “Deus Ex” games and Starbreeze’s 2012 “Syndicate.” However, with full customization at your fingertips, “Cyberpunk 2077” is set up to reflect more of the player than those games. At the outset you’ll choose to play as a man or woman, define your life path, and customize everything about your look.
“Cyberpunk 2077” does not feature set classes. Rather, by allocating skill points to traditional role-playing game stats like strength and reflex (and a unique stat called “Cool”), players will define their own play style.
“The only thing that matters to you, as a cyberpunk, is being in control of who you are,” says level designer Miles Tost.
In the first mission CD Projekt showed, V (in this case, a woman) has taken a job to recover a rich client from kidnappers. Unfortunately, for the young captive, she’s been captured by scavengers that want to rip out her body modifications for parts.
After fighting through to rescue her with the assistance of an NPC companion, Jackie, and a hacker named T-Bug monitoring the situation, V finds the woman in a bathtub full of ice, barely alive. CD Projekt isn’t pulling any punches. The first few minutes of the demo include a heavy dose of viscera and full nudity.
“‘Cyberpunk is a mature experience for mature audiences,” Tost says. “As such, you’ll have a variety of different options to engage with the game, but also with its people.”
The also provide a deep look at how people interact in the world of “Cyberpunk 2077.” Every person with modifications has both a jack and a cable. By “logging into” the unconscious captive’s brain, V is able to diagnose her and trigger her top-tier health insurance. In “Cyberpunk’s” Night City (located in California), that takes the form of a rapid dispatch Trauma team that swoops in to cart the woman to safety (not unlike “Shadowrun’s” Doc Wagon).
While the first look is heavy on the action, “Cyberpunk 2077” shifts into full RPG mode quickly. Players can choose different jackets, which serve as armor and confer stat benefits, like enhancing V’s street cred level (separate from traditional level progression). Street cred is built by taking on jobs throughout the world.
“Street cred is a kind of experience you get from completing open-world content,” Tost expalins. “It allows you to unlock content throughout the world.”
Night City is a full, living world players can explore on foot or in a number of different cars. Random encounters can lead to shootouts while driving at high speed.
Throughout the city, players will find a variety of vendors operating above board and in less-legal dark alleys. Some of these are ripper docs that can enhance V’s body with new prosthetics.
The ripper doc scenes aren’t overt, but they might make some players squeamish. CD Projekt showed V getting equipped with a new arm mod that enhances firearm damage and access to locked weapons. The entire process looks like metal and wires being stitched onto her skin. V also opts for a new eye that enables zooming and analysis. While you don’t see her eye being operated on, the perspective does a wonderful job of communicating just what’s happening.
Players will continue to mod their bodys throughout the game, giving V more traversal and combat options. CD Projekt showed off arm-blades (the same ones from the 2013 teaser), which allow players to wall run, and pounce on enemies for instant kills.
As the demo progresses, V is contacted by a street boss named Dexter. Before he’ll work with her, he has a test. He wants a spider bot stolen from a military corporation.
There are a number of ways to play it, based on how you handle the branching dialog. You can contact the military corp the bot was stolen from and convince them to bankroll your acquisition (for a favor, of course). You can also side with the Maelstrom gang that has the tech Dex wants.
Regardless of how you play it, you’re going to come face-to-face with Maelstrom leader Royce, who appears to have replaced most of his skull and brain with tech. The Maelstrom gang pushes the limits of socially acceptable body modifications, showing off “Cyberpunk 2077’s” distinctive style.
As players move through encounters, they’ll also have the opportunities to use their skills. If you’ve built out a hacker, you can get through encryption. But if you’ve focused on engineering instead, you might have to dismantle air vent covers to sneak through.
You’ll also be able to break into enemy networks. Players can wreak all sorts of havoc with different hacks. Once in, you can deploy malicious software on enemies, giving you the upper hand. CD Projekt showed one example, causing a Maelstrom gang member’s gun to jam, before V skewered him with arm blades.
Completing the mission doesn’t earn V any favors from the brusque military corp representative. However, she does get to keep the bot (at least for a little while). The control unit is slotted into V’s head, allowing her to use the crawler remotely.
This first look at what CD Projekt has been working on surpassed expectations. “Cyberpunk 2077” is an ambitious crawl through a seedy future city’s underbelly. It is both unlike anything CD Projekt has ever done and clearly builds on the deep character interactions and storytelling the studio put on display with “The Witcher 3.”