The cyberpunk branch of fiction has been a popular setting for all forms of media for a long time. Ever since Neuromancer hit the scene in 1984, a number of media forms began to adopt this fantasy setting of a futuristic dystopia. Movies such as Bladerunner and Dredd are considered pioneers of the genre when it comes to films, and there’s been no shortage of the usage of such themes in the video games industry.
Early games like Hideo Kojima’s Policenauts flirted with the possibilities of exploring a futuristic dystopia back in the day but were severely hindered by the technological limitations of the time. Of course, that’s now changed – and there’s a litany of games and studios that have the technological resources to achieve a pristine level of detail in their environments using modern lighting techniques and faithful art direction.
2021 is looking to be the year of Cyberpunk games, with 2020’s Cyberpunk 2077 constantly reaching the top of news headlines at the beginning of this year (apparently, for all the wrong reasons but let’s not talk about that). Neon Giant’s The Ascent was also released in July this year to great critical and commercial acclaim and is already shaping up to be one of the year’s best. BlueTwelve’s cat-cyberpunk adventure Stray is still slated for a vague 2021 release. Finally, there’s Envoidant’s VIGILANCE 2099 that’s still relatively shrouded in mystery, which begs the question – what exactly is it?
VIGILANCE 2099 is a single-player action-adventure game set in a cyberpunk future. The game swaps between the first-person and third-person perspective, and is set in a city the game refers to as “Prey City.” As an unnamed protagonist, you embark on a quest as a bounty hunter, to well, take down several targets present in the seemingly dark and dingy environments of Prey City.
Details on the story front are scant for now, although that isn’t surprising considering the game is still in early development. VIGILANCE 2099 is both Envoidant Studios and publisher Behemoth Interactive’s debut title – which is certainly an interesting point worth noting.
The studio might be small, but VIGILANCE 2099 is looking to be a big project. A fully explorable open-world with state-of-the-art graphics technology – it’s certainly a big undertaking for a debut project. It remains to be seen what the studio makes out of this opportunity, but the premise is definitely an interesting one and hopefully, will bear fruit in the near future.
VIGILANCE 2099’s gameplay revolves around three core tenants – the shooting, hand-to-hand combat, and exploration. It’s looking a bit rough around the edges with animations that feel clunky and environments that feel empty for a bustling city, but development is actively being done on the game. Following in the footsteps of games like The Coalition’s upcoming Gears of War 6 and Game Science’s Black Myth Wukong, VIGILANCE 2099 will be utilizing Unreal Engine 5 now. The visuals are looking great, but this choice might hinder the development pace since the engine itself is still in early access.
Coming back to the gameplay side of things, players will have two main options to fight with foes. The first is shooting – which switches the character to the first-person perspective. It looks nothing spectacular with little in the name of visual and audio feedback, but that’s to be expected considering the game’s current development status. This feeling continues over to the fighting as well, with melee brawling being an integral part of the game. One certain sequence in the trailer showcases an enemy with a shield that blocks bullets, which forces the character to get into close quarters for a killing blow.
Prey City is a fully explorable space, and players are free to choose their means of commute across the various areas. There’s of course, walking – which players can resort to if they want to explore the city at a laid-back pace. The trailer also showcases the protagonist scaling rooftops using ledges – hinting at a parkour system. Considering the fact that wall-running was cut from Cyberpunk 2077 during development, a fleshed-out parkour system would be a great way to give players a bit more freedom in how they want to explore the world.
Then there are cars – which because it’s a futuristic dystopia – can fly. This is looking to be one of the more interesting parts of the game since flying cars are one of the most intriguing elements of science fiction and cyberpunk. CD Projekt Red’s take on the source material didn’t feature such flying cars, nor did any other cyberpunk game in recent memory with the exception of Cloudpunk.
VIGILANCE 2099 is an action RPG at heart, so a fair bit of progression is to be expected. Not a lot of details are known as of yet, but fans should expect the levelling up mechanic using XP, investing points in stats, and filling up skill trees – as is customary with most action RPGs. The game will also feature cybernetic gear and weapons – hinting at a similar system to Cyberpunk 2077’s cyberdecks and implants.
Envoidant has crafted its levels and missions in a flexible manner – and players can either gun their way to their bounty, or use the information on the target and interrogate your target to carry out the task in a more creative fashion. Then there are stealth options – and the developer says it’s possible to carry out an assassination without arousing any suspicion. This is reminiscent of Deus Ex in many ways, which is a great inspiration for the developer to look into for sandbox level design.
The art direction is one of the biggest attractions of VIGILANCE 2099. The game flaunts its high-resolution textures and lighting with an abundance of reflective surfaces – which creates a charming, neon-soaked Prey City. Although not yet confirmed, VIGILANCE 2099 would probably feature ray-tracing options as well – given it is using Unreal Engine 5. The Bladerunner influences are in abundance, with a holographic lady being an advertisement model plus, the design of flying cars. All in all, there’s a ton of little details that Envoidant has managed to get right that makes Prey City so endearing – but the whole picture will be revealed on release, of course.
Details on the release date are non-existent, and fans shouldn’t expect to be playing VIGILANCE 2099 anytime soon. Considering the fact that the game is being developed on Unreal Engine 5 means that it could arrive sometime in the ballpark of 2023 or later, depending on how much time is required by the developers.
VIGILANCE 2099 is one of the many interesting single-player games from relatively lesser-known studios that are entering the AA to AAA space – just like Faith of Danschant: Hereafter and Black Myth: Wukong being two recent examples. Envoidant’s development budgets aren’t as high as say a 2021 AAA game, but the team is devoting those resources in an efficient manner. For instance, most denizens of Prey City seem to be robots, which are arguably easy to animate and create rather than uncanny human NPCs. All in all, VIGILANCE 2099 is shaping up to be an interesting game, and might be worth keeping an eye out for.
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