E3 is officially over and we've seen and played plenty of games during the week we've been on location in Los Angeles and its Convention Center. One of these games, and perhaps the biggest game of the show once again, was the much-anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, developed by CD Projekt Red. Shown at the Xbox press conference, Cyberpunk 2077 continues to impress the gaming community, and apart from witnessing Keanu Reeves at the conference, we had the pleasure of checking the game out for another 50 minutes during the "behind closed doors" showing in the Cyberpunk 2077 meeting room.
The event in question was similar to that of last year, with us walking into a Cyberpunk-themed lounge/bar before entering the private showing in a dark viewing room where a quality analyst held a controller, ready to play for us all. In the lounge, however, we got the chance to talk to Mike Pondsmith, the creator of the original pen and paper RPG Cyberpunk 2020. During our talk, we found out that Pondsmith was (and still is) working on Cyberpunk Red, a new pen and paper RPG that's going to bridge the gap between Cyberpunk 2020 and Cyberpunk 2077. We also found out that he'll be continuing to work on the series in the future, so if you're struggling to sate your Cyberpunk hunger, you can at least get a taste before the official launch of 2077 in April by trying the source material.
Moving away from the pen and paper RPGs, let's talk about CD Projekt Red's much-anticipated video game. Following last year's presentation, we got to see the many cosmetic customisation options you'll get to play around with when creating your character, make some tough decisions, sit in awe at just how fluid the mantis blade combat was, and witness the insertion of a new ocular implant from Victor. There are various customisation trees, the first one displaying your character's core personality with the three different "life path" options: nomad, street kid, and corporate. These life paths will alter not only your backstory, but the game itself, and we'll get back to this momentarily.
The third major customisation sub-menu is attributes, which lets you build your character's core stats, which are: body, intelligence, reflexes, technical, and cool. These stats will decide what strengths your character will have in and out of combat, and the scope of this is quite vast. Combined with your attributes, your class will truly change the way you play the game and there are plenty of options within the skill tree, like perks, handguns, rifles, blades, hacking, shotguns, two-handed, athletics, melee, engineering, sniper rifles, and assassination - some of which we saw during our hands-off demo session.
Going back to your attributes, we got to see some interesting mechanics, with some clearly coming over from the pen and paper dice roll, such as making use of your attributes in dialogue. In the demo, we were led through a scenario where our V was to track down the leader of the Voodoo Boys, a gang apparently obsessed with cyber-space, to learn more about the chip lodged in the protagonist's head. The setting for the second E3 showing was Pacifica, a district that was originally thought to have become a massive tourist attraction until the buildings were abandoned and left to decay. Here we got to familiarise ourselves with a poor, gang-centred population, and it shows some interesting mechanics linked to street cred and background.
An interesting detail that we noticed during the presentation was the translation mechanic. The broad population of Pacifica seemed to be speaking Creole, and since we don't speak the language, one would naturally think we wouldn't be able to follow a conversation. However, V's chip has special software within, translating non-native languages in real time. We were taken to a church or place of worship in a poor, forgotten part of the city where we got to witness cult-like behaviour for a moment before eventually meeting our contact.
Then we got to see the life path mechanic at play. It was clear from the dialogue options that had we chosen street kid as our path, we could have gotten more information from our anonymous contact in the end. Without it, however, the dialogue option was greyed out and unusable. Apart from life paths, attributes can alter your conversations too. Interestingly enough as well, the number of set points needed is shown on the screen, so you'll know if you messed up and only assigned three points in an attribute that needed four to trigger a specific conversation arc.
After getting enough information from the contact, our V headed to meet with Placide, a big, menacing individual who seemed to be the right-hand man of gang leader Brigitte. On the way we're told about the street cred aspect of the game, which alters what people around V will think of them, unlocking more content to pursue in some cases. It was clear from the start that Placide didn't really trust V and to prove his (our V was switched from male to female and back again throughout the demo) worth and loyalty, Placide sent him out on a mission to hack into a van within the Grand Imperial Mall that had been claimed by an opposing gang called The Animals. Before sending us out, however, Placide ordered V to "jack in", meaning linking V's internal network to Placide's. Here, Keanu Reeves' character - "digital ghost" Johnny Silverhand - appeared, also distrustful, assuring V that it's what he had to do to proceed in order to meet up with Brigitte. Placide asks what ripperdoc (cybernetic implant doctor if you will) V has been going to, adding "is it Victor?" to the question, and if you read our preview from last year, you know that it was indeed Victor. One can only speculate whether or not Placide is intrigued by his work or strictly talking about the chip, but the chip's origin is a mystery.
As Johnny speaks to us through the chip in our head, Placide gives us a mission briefing and we're introduced to yet another dialogue mechanic. As shady stuff seems to be going on in the back room behind Placide, we get the room dialogue option allowing us to start a conversation. These environmental dialogue choices aren't always good to bring up, however, the CD Projekt Red host explained. You might learn more about what's going on without a hitch, or you might anger the dialogue subject, closing you out from further dialogue or losing their trust.
After jacking into Placide's personal chip, we were off to the grand imperial mall to disable the van for the mission. Placide, who updated V's chip, now has a direct link to his network and talks through a communications channel, guiding him along the way. We get on a Yaiba Kusanagi bike and once again we can confirm that vehicles let the players switch between first and third person, allowing players to see their personalised V in action. We're told there will be no loading screens when speeding through the in-game world and that the game will offer a large variety of songs to play when in a vehicle to make traversal more interesting.
Once at the Imperial Mall, V uses an optic implant to check his surroundings for hostiles and sneaks inside without anyone noticing. We're told that V can go about completing the mission in different ways depending on the player's preferred play style, and at the start of it, V is a netrunner; a master hacker who is able to manipulate his or her surroundings by overtaking or overriding various pieces of tech. V sneaks around, hacking doors to get past enemies, turning off cameras from afar, using quick hacks and hacking vending machines to distract enemies or, you know, grab a free drink.
When hacking, you'll be able to complete bonus objectives that grant code. The code you acquire can then be used for crafting, however, we didn't get to see the crafting mechanic in action or learn more about the acquisition of code. Hacking can be used for more things than sneaky traversal though, and in the demo, we got to see V enter a digitalised gym where a group of animals were training. One was sparring with a robot that V managed to hack, increasing its difficulty, and the other was lifting heavy weights which we made heavier, making the weights in question come crashing down on the gang members' neck, killing him instantly.
We also got to see the nanowires in action. These were garottes of sorts, resembling a laser wire that could both be used as an actual garrote, a laser whip able to slice your enemies in half, and a hacking tool to hack into enemies' networks, subduing them in the process or manipulating them from the inside. Apart from hacking defensively, you can also hack turrets and various weaponry on the battlefield.
An interesting aspect of the game worth noting is also the fact that you can go through the entirety of the game without killing anyone, offering a completely different experience using non-lethal takedowns and stealth. If you're going for a non-lethal approach, eavesdropping on your oblivious foes may be a good way for you to gather some intel that you can use to your advantage, and of course, this applies to V as well. If you'd rather fight your way through the game, you can do that, as we've seen before, and you can use your environment to your advantage too.
As our V was sneaking through the gym and towards the chamber in which pack leader Sasquatch would be waiting, we received information regarding the presence of another netrunner, and as we hacked into the van we found out that that same netrunner was working for Netwatch, a government network fighting cyber crimes. They were stalking our every move and we had to stop them. Through hacking the van, we quickly learned why Placide wanted V to hack it in the first place; the network was mapping Pacifica out to find the Voodoo Boys and take them out. The question in need of an answer from this point on was why the netrunner was lurking and why they'd want the Voodoo Boys gone. To get to the mysterious figure, however, we had to go through Sasquatch, which turned out to be a tough task.
Our V was at this point a very strong female, kicking ass and taking names, but Sasquatch had internal cybernetic implants, an infuser on her back pumping her full of boosters strengthening her offensive abilities as well as her defence, not to mention a supposed netrunner helper. After facing her wrath in full force, we got her down by destroying her infuser and unleashing our cybernetically-enhanced blows. With Sasquatch lying injured on the floor, we had the option to execute her or to let her live and, naturally, the woman had to die.
Sasquatch laying dead on the floor gave us the strength we needed to track down the netrunner and after passing through a massive, seemingly empty cinema, we found him in the projector room. He introduced himself as Bryce Mosley and instantly wanted to bargain for his life, telling us that the Voodoo Boys would kill us if we shut him down. The plot thickens. Here, V had the option to either trust the stranger, tell him to back his claim up, or not put any trust in his words at all. Shortly thereafter the netrunner was dead and our network was shut down. Placide fried the brain of everyone in the van network.
As V wakes up, a very agitated Johnny appears, telling us we're lucky to be alive and we're off to confront Placide. Placide can't believe what he's seeing. V should be dead but she's made it from the mall back to the gang base in Pacifica despite having her circuits fried. Brigitte steps in and tells us she'll help us and she seems increasingly interested in the chip lodged inside V's head. To get the answers V's looking for, she has to delve deep into cyberspace and in she goes.
V is transported into a digitalised realm called the deep net where there "are no borders". We learn about a legendary netrunner called Alt Cunningham who is supposedly fully digitalised in cyberspace, and we're hoping V doesn't reach quite that far out of her actual physical body. The demo ends with V moving towards "the black wall", as Brigitte can be heard saying "none have returned, she will be our first".
Cyberpunk 2077 keeps getting more and more intriguing with every new piece of information shared and from what we've seen so far, we couldn't be more excited to see what the game will bring when it launches on April 16 next year.
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