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E3 2018: Playing Cyberpunk 2077 lives up to every expectation

Contributed by
Jun 14, 2018

CD Projekt Red has built itself a devout following after the success the developer had with The Witcher game series. The Polish team has shown a pedigree for delivering some of the best role-playing games of the last decade, but to this point has primarily stuck to the fantasy realm. That all changes with Cyberpunk 2077. Based on the classic pen-and-paper RPG, CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077 takes everything you loved about The Witcher, Fallout, Deus Ex, and Netrunner, throws it into a blender, and creates a game with the potential to blow all its inspirations away.

The demo kicked off with a quick glance at character creation for the main protagonist, V. Players can select either a male or female version of V, and then build their unique take on the character from there. We didn't get to see a great deal of the customization options, but CDPR hinted at robust model details, all of which could be altered to your specifications. Beyond that, there's also the matter of crafting a backstory, including things like your family history. All these elements go toward giving your V a unique spin that others likely won't replicate exactly.

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Credit: CD Projekt Red

Once we were through with all that, it was time to actually jump into a mission. To get things started, V and her partner Jackie were tasked with recovering a kidnapped girl from a gang of scrappers. Though cutscenes are rendered in third person, allowing us to see V's avatar, the remainder of Cyberpunk 2077 is in first person. Yes, CDPR crafted a first-person action RPG. Immediately, the resemblances to Human Revolution or Fallout are apparent in the HUD, but that doesn't mean CDPR doesn't improvements to make to the familiar viewpoint.

Extracting the missing girl is relatively easy, as the scrappers aren't much of a match for V's and Jackie's teamwork, even though the bad guys might have superior firepower. V's ocular implants allow her to get a view on different pathways and target threats, giving players an immediate advantage when entering the room. This ability can be improved later on with upgraded equipment and can allow players even to spot weak points in enemy armor or machinery. Later in the game, military upgrades might become available, giving V a hefty advantage over anyone who gets in her way.

Where CD Projekt Red's take on the open-world, the first-person RPG starts to show the company's strengths is in the world-building. Not only will all of Night City be available to explore, but there are six different districts, and each will have its own perks and personality. The day/night cycle will also affect these areas, though we only got to see what daytime was like during the demo. Even in just this slice, Night City was more alive than just about any other RPG town we've visited over the years. Streets are crowded, not just with people, but with massive neon advertisements, shops, cars (which will be drivable), and a whole lot more. Almost none of it is window dressing either, as you can even interact with ads to find out where the item being hyped is sold, with a waypoint being added to your HUD instantly. Allegedly, all the regular citizens will have their own routines too, making each day slightly different from the last.

The streets are also home to new business partners, like Dex, who will give you jobs around the city to build up your cred and earn some "eddies," short of Euro Dollars, which is the currency in Cyberpunk's world. For this demo, Dex asked us to recover some stolen military gear from a gang obsessed with becoming more machine than man. There's also the matter of the company woman interested in finding out how this gang found out about the shipment, and how you can help her find the mole.

As in any good RPG, there will be multiple layers to all of Cyberpunk's quests, and players will be able to pursue their own agendas however they see fit. You can go ahead and do the deal for Dex straight up; you can start a firefight with the company people if you don't like their attitude; or you can just flip on everyone to the Maelstrom gang. How you want to look and live in this world is entirely up to you. These choices will have consequences, however, so you just better be prepared for living with your decisions.

Combat will also play a big part in Cyberpunk 2077, and watching V in action during the demo had us excited to try out all the possibilities ourselves. Regular pistols and shotguns will be included, but there's rare and legendary loot to find that can turn you into a one-woman army if needed. Some guns offer bullets that will chase down their target, and others give you the ability to shoot through the destructible environments. That's not even mentioning the upgrades you can make to V's body, including the Mantis blades that spring from her forearms and rip enemies to shreds with little effort. And all this was just a small percentile of what Cyberpunk 2077 will offer when it's finally done.

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Credit: CD Projekt Red

Did we mention hacking? You can't have a Cyberpunk game without hacking, and CDPR was sure to include that major element in the demo. It was a little hard to grasp just how hacking will work from a player perspective, but in-game V will be able to slice into an enemy's mind to gain an advantage over any others unlucky enough to cross her. The brief example in the demo showed V hacking a Maelstrom goon to locate other members in the vicinity, and even opened up options like weapon braking, which could prevent foes from firing at you in tight corridors. There's likely a lot more to hacking too, but in the interests of time, we didn't get to see much else beyond that simple trick.

Five years after the first trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 was released, the developers arrived at E3 with the first lengthy gameplay demo. The wait was so worth it. It's a visual dynamo that explodes across your eyes each and every second, and it has the deep customization and exploration options fans of CDPR crave. Even if CD Projekt Red is only able to deliver on a fraction of the elements shown in the hour-long footage, Cyberpunk 2077 could exceed just about every fan's expectations.