I’ve rarely been as excited as I was during the 40-minute wait for the «Cyberpunk 2077» demo. Press events usually start on time, but the boys and girls from CD Projekt Red must have been struggling with technical issues. The wait was made bearable thanks to the futuristically designed waiting room at Gamescom and its open bar. When level designer Miles Tost did eventually open the doors, my gamer heart was beating like a drum.
One hour later, I leave the demo with a buzzing head and a broad grin. «Cyberpunk 2077» is going to be ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Why am I so pumped? I’ll tell you why:
The E3 trailer already gave us a rough idea of what «Cyberpunk 2077» would look like. But seeing actual gameplay in first-person perspective on the big screen was way more impressive. The Polish studio already proved that it is very capable of creating fascinating worlds with «The Witcher 3». «Cyberpunk 2077» has taken things even further. Each and every scene is jam-packed with details. The graphics might not boast the pixel masterpiece that is «Star Citizen», but the overall look is still absolutely breathtaking and, in my opinion, outshines the epic space simulator game.
During the demo, we’re playing with character V – a petty crook who’s trying to make it in the gangster world (unlike at the E3 demo, we got to be a man). To advance his criminal career, V does jobs for shady characters who lead him and his partners through different districts of Night City. It’s a raw, pulsating city ruled by a handful of megacorporations just like the rest of the world.
During the game, V approaches an intersection and the demo audience gasps. Personally, I’ve never seen anything quite as vibrant. Countless people, none of them alike, bustling about, each doing their own thing. Brightly lit neon lights advertising questionable implants or virtual sexcapades. The most impressive part is how coherent this world feels. It reminded me of «GTA» with the difference that «Cyberpunk 2077» hasn’t simply copied an existing metropolis but has created its very own world that follows its own rules. Although the tabletop game «Cyberpunk 2020» provided the backdrop for the game, this wouldn't have had much influence on the design.
After crossing the intersection, V turns off into a side street to get a new upgrade from a ripper doc. The scene is like something out of «Blade Runner» or «Altered Carbon». Depending on your upgrade, V’s interface registers many interaction opportunities with people. I would love to have further explored them.
The day-night-cycle makes for impressive light effects. By day, this place looks relatively friendly, sober and a bit colourless. At night, however, you’re blinded by neon lights under which the city comes to life – it beats any drugs. Speaking of which, drugs are definitely part of the game. Combine this aspect with an HDR monitor and there’s no guarantee you won’t feel a bit high in real life.
This game comes to life not only because of the setting but mainly because of its characters. Relatively little is known about the main character V. However, CD Projekt Red did reveal that you will be free to select your appearance and sex and be able to influence the background story. To this end, we get to know V’s friends and foes a little better.
Take Jackie, for example. He wants to join the big league of gangsterdom. This takes us to Dexter Deshwan, a fixer who has his fingers in every criminal pie imaginable. Think Marsellus Wallace from «Pulp Fiction» with a golden arm. Then there’s Meredith Stout, an agent for a megacorporation who never seems to clock off work. Towards the end of the demo, we meet street gang boss Royce. He’s etched in my mind because of his impressive face and glowing eyes but mainly because of his behaviour. All the people we encounter feel like they play a key role in the story, but they're probably just minor characters. If their impressive depth of character is anything to go by, I can’t wait to discover who else I’ll meet.
To be honest, even if these characters had the personality of a glass of water, I’d still enjoy interacting with them. This is thanks to the design. Every person I met was totally unique. Naturally, the cyberpunk universe does come with a lot of handy accessories. Your average citizen of Night City is made up of more metal and electronics than you’d find at a Swiss recycling point.
My anticipation continued to grow throughout the demo. CD Projekt Red knows how to put on a good show. «Cyberpunk 2077» is an action RPG. As «The Witcher 3» proved, you can expect incredibly versatile gameplay. One aspect is the dialogues. The characters don’t just stand there rooted to the spot and reel off their dialogue. They move, make faces and occasionally bang their fists on the table. You can generally choose between two or three answers. Like in «Mass Effect», some situations allow you to actively intervene and steal somebody’s weapon, for example. I’m pretty sure that won’t always go well.
I was also impressed by the many decisions you can take. On several occasions, the journalists at the demo get to vote on what they want V to do next: Make a deal with the arrogant megacorporation agent Meredith Stout, try to bump her off or just back out of the situation altogether? The studio already proved in the «The Witcher 3» that decisions can have far-reaching consequences. This also appears to be the case for «Cyberpunk 2077». The game leads us to a gang. Our options are to negotiate (peacefully or at gunpoint) or to rat out Stout. The latter would cause her story to end unexpectedly.
The more active parts of the game bring out the best in «Cyberpunk 2077». You can shoot yourself through most of the missions if that’s your style. But maybe you prefer subtle moves and are relying on your hacking skills. At the demo, we’re shown a bit of everything. This involved wacky weapons such as a smartgun that can shoot around corners. Close combat fighters can opt for the katana and chop their enemies' legs off («Cyberpunk 2077» does not hold back with violence). It can also create a shield. You can hack gun turrets and human beings and thereby reveal their weaknesses. A further collective «whoaaa» echoed through the demo when V revealed two metal claws and started clambering along a wall. If you’ve seen the very first trailer, you know what I’m talking about. This verticality adds another layer to your flexibility.
Overall, the gameplay with all its skills felt extremely fluid. We didn’t get to experience much creeping or hacking but hopefully they feel just as convincing.
I’m trying hard to remember the last time a demo left me so buzzed. I really can’t think of one. Being a massive fan of cyberpunk worlds such as «Blade Runner», I’m biased. However, what CD Projekt Red has done here is create a lively, fascinating world that blew my mind. The countless possibilities to interact with your surroundings, the futuristic weapons, cleverly integrated upgrades that are far more than a mere skill tree, great freedom of choice, countless oddball characters and not to mention Night City… heavens above, that city really got me.
I’ve rarely experienced such a complete demo. Sure, the game is still under development and one wrong turn could have caused a crash. Nonetheless, judging by what we saw, there’s a chance this game is coming out this year. But it’s more likely to be early 2020 or even later. Maybe it was «Deus Ex» that last had me this excited about a game. I remember marvelling at that yellow and black screenshot. And the first «Deus Ex» is what «Cyberpunk 2077» regularly reminded me of. The former also offered players countless possibilities. I can’t wait for «Cyberpunk 2077» to reach gold status and for me to get lost in Night City.
You're not connected to the Internet. Please check that your connection is enabled to keep browsing the site.