It’s no surprise that Cyberpunk 2077 dominated the conversation at this year’s E3. While I came away largely impressed by what I saw, my time with the game convinced me that it isn’t going to be as revolutionary as some media outlets have claimed it to be. The options available to players certainly seem dense and varied, but CD Projekt Red’s latest creation probably won’t redefine the RPG genre.
My presentation immediately introduced me to Placide, a well-respected gang leader within the Voodoo Boys. The Haitian man ordered main character V to plug his personal link into a console so that he may enter his consciousness and follow him on a mission through Night City’s Pacifica neighborhood. As Placide entered V’s mind, a virtual ghost of Keanu Reeve’s Johnny Silverhand remarked how the player doesn’t need another voice stuck inside his head. It seemed as though the gangster couldn’t read Silverhand’s presence, thus making him the Cyberpunk equivalent of Cortana.
After the link with Placide was established, V headed outside and hopped on top of a motorcycle. The presenter switched to a third-person perspective so that I can witness the sun set on this dilapidated, impoverished area of Night City. There weren’t many NPCs ambling the streets, though I was told that this part of town was home to plenty of rival gangs. The player switches the perspective back to first-person, parks his car in a lot, and enters through the mall’s back entrance. I was told that the building was overrun by a drug-addicted gang called the Animals.
Here I learned how classes approached combat differently. The first Netrunner ability allowed V to hack into an Animal surveillance system to turn it offline. As he moved into a room where Animals were sparring with a robot, V commanded the automaton to dish out a lethal blow. As the player made his way around, he overrode a bench press and a had a massive weight drop on an unsuspecting goon.
The presenter then switched to the combat-focused Solo class. Instead of hacking into the surveillance system, the player used her brawn to rip open a metallic door and enter inside. This version of V pushed her way through the facility by force, smashing enemy heads in when their backs were turned and breaking through barriers like they were made out of paper. At one point, the Animals caught on to the player’s presence and activated their defense system. A turret appeared from the ground and pelted V with bullets before she sprinted her way to it, ripped the gun from its base, and used it against the Animals feverishly running toward her.
This scenario was repeated with the Netrunner class, the likes of which was able to take over the turret, command the Animals to shoot themselves in the head, and instruct a few gang members to set off their grenades. The few Animals that managed to come in close were quickly dispatched with V’s nanowire, which serves as both a melee weapon and a means of hacking terminals at a distance.
The demo ended when the player fell victim to a trap and was confronted by a large hammer-wielding boss. As I exited the theater, I couldn’t help but wonder how players would actually approach this mission. Because abilities can be equipped regardless of one’s class, a real playthrough would most likely incorporate elements from both scenes I witnessed. This isn’t something the industry hasn’t seen before, as franchises like Fallout and Deus Ex both incorporate a similar degree of gameplay flexibility. Neither is as fluid as Cyberpunk is (especially when it comes to shooting and melee combat), but presentation is really all that sets CD Projekt Red’s product apart.
Of course, there’s a good chance that Night City will further differentiate Cyberpunk 2077 from the games it clearly takes inspiration from. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing just how immersive the world will be until fans finally get their hands on the title in 2020. Until then, there’s plenty of time for them to brush up on Johnny Mnemonic lore.