In a cyberpunk future, I always picture two things: nearly obsolete technology and no bullshit attitude. Like Spike Spiegel being confused about a VHS player in a world with easy space travel, or a William Gibson anti-hero hacking something from a dinky proto-laptop. In the new debut trailer for CD Projekt Red's hotly anticipated follow-up to The Witcher 3, that familiar sensibility is in full force. And somehow, Cyberpunk 2077 both adheres to and shies away from the genre conventions we're used to in cyberpunk; sometimes in the same breath.
Cyberpunk 2077 was first revealed years ago, before The Witcher 3 had even graced the world. It was a short teaser, one that hyped up the world before quietly disappearing again. CD Projekt Red would mention it on occasion across interviews over the years—in The Witcher 3, the character Ciri even describes visiting a world that sounds an awful lot like what Cyberpunk 2077 would take place in—but other than that, it's been shrouded in silence and mystery. Until earlier this year when its Twitter updated, rumors swirled about, and then a shiny new trailer closed out Microsoft's giant E3 2018 showcase.
It's a damn good trailer too, even if it is just a flashy cinematic. It has the tired familiar Hot Topic-y pop-punk fashion we've seen ad nauseum over history, but positions it aside a bright colorful world. In cyberpunk, we're used to rain drenched alleys and neon-lit food stalls; almost as if a Rick Deckard can be loitering about, slurping noodles on a corner. Instead, Cyberpunk 2077 shows a city that's bustling and lets the sun shine upon it. People have mohawks and tech-body modifications, because it's the future baby. The Asian exotification that's plagued the genre's history doesn't appear to be prevalent at all, at least not nauseatingly so. The trailer overall feels familiar, but manages to slightly sidestep around a fair amount of the genre's expectations.
Frame by frame, it's easy to get a sense of the world this new future lies in, which is apparently in America according to a slyly hidden glitched out dossier. In one shot, we see someone pry out an eyeball in what seems like a nod to the film adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story "The Minority Report." Elsewhere, an android is seen doing her mascara, as the camera pans back to show that the lower half of her face isn't put on yet—it's resting on the desk by her high-tech mirror. (Or is it a computer monitor?) Between all the shooting and car chases are the teensiest glimpses at the game's world—the good stuff, the type of small shit that made The Witcher 3 resonate with so many players.
From what we know so far, we know it's a true single-player RPG in a similar vein as The Witcher 3. We know it has character creation, so don't expect another protagonist centered hero's journey like Geralt's. In cyberpunk, breaking away from corporate, nefarious entities remains a genre staple: and with a create-your-own-character foothold, Cyberpunk 2077 is remaining true to the genre, and more importantly to the tabletop RPG it's based on.
That very series of tabletop RPGs with the "Cyberpunk" moniker are lively compared to the entire genre's biggest hits, as it's heavily inspired by the likes of anime. In an interview with Rolling Stone last year, the game's original creator Mike Pondsmith alluded to working closely with CD Projekt Red on the project, including going to the offices in Poland to spitball ideas. Among his tabletop career's features is character creation: a big aspect for him. It began with his mech RPG Mekton. "I wanted you to be able to sculpt an interesting character," Pondsmith told Rolling Stone. "Nowadays, it seems like everybody does that—lifepath is everywhere." It'll even be in the video game adaptation of his most famous tabletop outing, fittingly.
In today's era of games, every open world RPG-esque game is chasing The Witcher 3's success. From Horizon Zero Dawn to Assassin's Creed Origins, games are lightly lifting The Witcher 3's winning formula to varying degrees of success. This trailer doesn't lend much credence to what we can expect gameplay wise, but it inspires confidence in the minor details and stories of its grimy (and sometimes not so grimy) world. Nonetheless, coming off of one of arguably the best games of this current generation, CD Projekt Red has some big shoes to fill. Its own, and the legacy of a genre and tabletop legend on top of that.