Our impressions on the 50 minute hands-off demo we saw at E3.
We were recently showed off a 50 minute hands off demonstration of the much anticipated RPG, Cyberpunk 2077. The preview started off on the character creation screen; with the option to choose a male or female with the pre-selected name V. Like many modern western RPGs, V is fully customizable from facial features, to hair, facial and body mods, to body types. Another important factor is fashion. Clothing plays a large role in how successful V will be throughout the experience. Choosing the right clothing equates to what CDPR calls Street Cred. Being an in-game mercenary, Street Cred will determine V’s level of respect throughout Night City and how difficult retrieving specialized information from other A.I. will be. There are deeper scenarios to go about gaining Street Cred, such as finishing assignments, aligning V with the right people, gaining contacts and so on.
For this presentation, the player chose a male character to show off preset stealth augmentation mechanics. CDPR made it very clear that there are many different character configurations to go about presetting your character with attribute points and skills before you begin (think Fallout’s S.P.E.C.I.A.L. feature). For presentation’s sake the part of the game sequence after character customization that was previewed was quite a way past the beginning.
Cyberpunk 2077 takes place in a location called Night City – a fictional town south of San Francisco, in Northern California. Night City is made up of six distinctly different districts to explore, with each area having its own unique look, flair and style. Night City is a very vertical world where exploring certain open building towers will have its advantages. Like last year, the world of Cyberpunk is dirtier than ever – it’s not exactly the utopia of the future. Decrepit streets run like veins through crumbling towers filled with people trying to live by any means necessary. You never know who you’re going to run in to on these streets, what kind of favors they’ll ask. These ideas were major components for capitalizing on Cyberpunk 2077’s first-person perspective; it’s a visceral experience that forces you to be a part of Night City’s world, where you’re forced to survive.
With an open narrative, V finds himself in search of a contact who has the most important currency in Night City: Information. Information that will help with V’s biochip in his head – a chip that is said to hold the key to immortality.
Afterall, V is a mercenary, more specifically a Net Runner-class hacker and this also brings a certain level of street cred along the way. V eventually finds his contact, the leader of the Voodoo Boys, Placide, in a dilapidated building filled with hordes of people, he methodically works his way through, shuffling between NPCs, hearing conversations between them in the backdrop, and feeling how lively this place really is.
Placide isn’t the sort of man you’d like to get tangled up with. He’s large, covered in muscles and looks like he’s seen a few fights in his day. What augmentations does he have in him? This is just one type of question that raced through my mind, knowing that V could be walking into a trap. It’s that filthy level of uncomfortable-ness that keeps you on the edge of your seat at times. When Placide asks that V be jacked into Placide’s terminal, there’s immense hesitation and second-thoughts of being here. In Cyberpunk, humans are no longer just human, they’re cybernetic. You can trade in your legs or arms or other parts for a more customized character. Depending on your level of skill, these new upgradable parts will determine how challenging gameplay is, as well as how far you can make it – or by helping you find a new path you couldn’t previously attain.
Naturally, one of the biggest rules in the Cyberpunk world is to never allow anyone you don’t know to jack into you. At that point your body and brain become their property and there’s no limit on what they can do to you. However, in order to progress this particular story forward, certain questionable decisions are necessary to accept to get farther in the game. V has no choice and allows Placide’s terminal to jack into his body through a connection port. In doing this Placide uploaded part of himself into V, and is now capable of knowing what V is doing at all times. This added a level of intensity that really made me feel uncomfortable, as though there’s another living parasite crawling around inside me, doing what it wishes.
Moving on, we all know, Keanu Reeves plays what CDPR says is a significant part in Cyberpunk 2077. His character is known as Johnny Silverhand, and he appears to have implanted an AI of sorts inside V’s head. Johnny often stands around in the backdrop lending a few words here and there on V’s travels.
Placide instructs V to make his way to the Grand Imperial Mall, where a gang called the Animals resides and figure out exactly what they’re up to. Outside, V hops on the motorcycle. It’s equipped with a radio station of selectable music – similar to that in the GTA series. The motorcycle’s design looks and feels like something from the world of Akira. This is a dirty world, so it’s not as sleek, colorful or functionable as that found in the manga or anime.
Here, we get to witness Night City for only a short distance and unlike last year’s demo, there are no car chases to be seen, no takeover or enemies to run down. It’s not as flashy or thematic or beautiful because of the nature of the demo. But we do witness the dingy streets therein on a much less vast scale than last year. One of the best highlights of this demo was the way players can traverse the entire city, both in and out of buildings, and along distant locations without a single load screen.
Much of the presentation was setup and designed to showcase how brutal and ruthless, or intense the combat can be throughout the entire experience. Now at the mall with V’s stealth class variation, the player silently takes out the Animals without being caught. We hack into cameras and gym equipment with mini games. Unfortunately, the mini games themselves were a bit underwhelming and bland looking. Hopefully there will be better ones as we progress through the game. One of the funny moments was hacking the bench press and seeing one of the Animals lifting weights then getting crushed when V turned up the weights.
V can choke out enemies, or use his Nanowire – which is a glowing orange whip of sorts used for both hacking or attacking. It’s important to point out that you can play through Cyberpunk 2077 without killing a single person, according to CDPR. Especially as a Net Runner who isn’t as viable as a melee or gun specialist, and doesn’t have the strength. But you can change all that later on; mixing up what attributes you want to use in the game to let it fit your style.
It was at this time CDPR changed characters to a female version of V preset with superhuman strength attributes and augmentations, to give us a feel of how fighting your way through groups of enemies with hostility can totally change the combat’s look and feel. In a really cool sequence, we got to see her rip apart a door to get to the next room, since hacking it open like male V would have done isn’t an option with her chosen attributes. Guns weren’t used much, but what they showed look solid and flexible.
Back to male V. Using the nanowire, the player can hack into enemies and control their actions but to what limit you have the control is still not entire known. It can help turn the tides of battle when you are facing against a horde of enemies. There are also various melee weapons and numerous guns that can change your battle style at a moment’s notice. Just because you choose stealth doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. You can change your abilities later on, as well. For presentation and time, these styles were experienced by going back and forth between the male and female V presets.
Fluidity in battle looked well balanced and plays off of enemies who appear to contain a good amount of intelligence in their programming. This isn’t a “headshot kills” sort of game, but an RPG that allows enemies to take several hits before going down.
Soon after V hacks a few enemies and cracks a few skulls we see a very large woman who is this quest’s boss of sorts. She has incredible strength and massive defense abilities. But she also has a a glowing tank along her back – a weak point. CDPR tells us this device can be used to amp her skills but can be destroyed to make her easier to kill (or not kill).
Overall, the 2019 E3 presentation was spectacular, but it wasn’t as surprising or jaw-dropping as it was last year because we didn’t see much outside of combat and talking with characters. So those moments of sheer excitement of seeing Night City for the first time were held at bay… for now. Nonetheless, I was extremely pleased with what was presented and I can’t wait to go hands on with the final version when Cyberpunk 2077 launches next year.