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That's the sound of CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077 looming over everything as one of the biggest games of this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Can CD Projekt Red recreate the stunning success of The Witcher 3 with a brand new sci-fi adventure? Having seen the game today, it's definitely on the right track.
It's important to stress what Cyberpunk 2077 is not. If you expected The Witcher 3 in a dystopian future city, you're out of luck. The main character is V, a mercenary trying to leap into the big time. Though the trailer showed a male character, the game has a full character creator, letting you craft the hacker of your dreams (or nightmares?). The third-person viewpoint of The Witcher has been replaced with a first-person camera. You'll explore the world through "your" eyes, only seeing your created character in menus and some cinematics.
The opening of the demo felt a bit small, taking place in an apartment where V and burly street samurai partner Jackie were attempting to rescue someone. Of course, the folks standing in your way don't take too kindly to your actions and everything gets heated. It's here that Cyberpunk 2077 reveals that it's partially a cover shooter.
Yes, there's a whole layer of choices and consequences that underpin Cyberpunk 2077. There's an excellent dialog system that feels natural and offers interesting moments: in one scene, a security guard for a corporate stooge is jacked into your biomod, forcing you to tell the truth. You can try to lie, stay silent, and even take the chance on wrestling the gun away from the guard. There's a whole host of equipment available to your character, including gear, weapons, and new biomod enhancements.
But when push comes to shove and things get heavy, you point a gun at an enemy and shoot them—most likely from behind cover. Each hit does a certain amount of damage, with headshots doing more. You can slide to reach a safe spot, or make yourself a smaller target for enemies. You'll shoot pistols, shotguns, and even smart guns, which have bullets that track your chosen target. Your furious hail of bullets shreds bodies, random items, and even walls. If you've played 2012's Syndicate, Cyberpunk 2077's combat will look rather familiar to you.
This isn't a problem though, because that FPS combat is still in the service of Cyberpunk 2077's story and how you make your character react to events. In the demo, V meets with Dex, an arms dealer who feels like a mix of T-Pain and Suge Knight with a golden arm. Dex wants V to retrieve a little drone robot that was stolen from Militech.
You could just go get the drone, or you could call the corporate executive who it was stolen from to get some alternate paths forward. The executive wants to find out who stole the drone in the first place, and offers you a credit card to place in the thief's terminal. Another branch appears: keep the card for the credits, or use it as intended.
This winding path in the demo eventually leads V and Jackie to the stomping grounds of the Maelstrom, a gang of people who are pushing the boundaries of body modification. Orange glowing spider eyes, sunken faces, and other alternate looks; it's about evolving, not sticking to classic ideas of what "human" looks like. They die to bullets just like everyone else though.
But you don't have to use bullets either. CD Projekt Red also highlighted the arm-mounted Mantis Blades, which were shown in the first trailer. Not only can the blades be used to slice and dice your enemies, but you can also plant them in walls to stick in place like an insect. Hacking is another way to handle enemies. You can stealth up to foes and then jack directly into their mods. From there, you can look into their local networks, finding map information or hacking their squadmates to make their guns misfire.
In between all the combat, there's a huge world to explore. Cyberpunk 2077 takes place in Night City, a sprawling metropolis in Northern California. The city is split into a total of six districts. The Witcher was flat for the most part, but Night City is all about layering and density.
Out in the city itself you can see huge megabuilding communities in every direction, massive crowds milling about on their own business, and holographic advertisements vying for your attention. Upscale corporate employees go shopping, vendors try to sell their wares, the homeless wait at the mouths of alleyways, and clubs stay open for business at all hours. It's amazingly impressive just to see the city moving without your input.
And then CD Projekt Red introduced the car. I was expecting that Cyberpunk 2077 was like The Witcher 3, with a bunch of sizable maps strung together with a map and loading screens. That's not the case. Cyberpunk 2077 is a full continuous, open world. You can get in a vehicle and just drive around the city to explore. (In first- or third-person.) Seeing this in action legitimately surprised me with what the developer has built here.
Cyberpunk 2077 feels like everything that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided wanted to be. I enjoyed that release, but the city here is much bigger with more interesting regions to explore. The choices and options available to the player look more varied, offering some intriguing outcomes. This look of the future feels like it'll go interesting places. And V is your character, as opposed to the somewhat stoic Adam Jensen. Cyberpunk 2077 at times reminds me of the later Deus Ex games and Syndicate, but it looks like it might succeed where those faltered.
Cyberpunk 2077 is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, but it doesn't have a confirmed release window yet. For everything else we know about the game, you can head right over to our Cyberpunk 2077 hub.
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