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SYFY WIRE Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077: Critics dig Keanu Reeves’ rockin’ role in Night City’s dystopian RPG world

By Benjamin Bullard
Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077

It’s been eight years since fans got their first tantalizing tease of Cyberpunk 2077, the neon-lit RPG adventure that game studio CD Projeckt RED has been planning as a followup to The Witcher 3 — itself one of the most successful games (and bankable crossover franchises) ever to grace gaming consoles.

Now, after a handful of delays and more anticipation than you can wave a bladed cyborg arm at, Cyberpunk 2077 is nearly here in all its gritty glory, ready to unleash a futuristic tale of dystopian street survival when it finally arrives on Dec. 10. Keanu Reeves has more or less become the semi-official Cyberpunk 2077 spokesperson ever since surprising fans at last year’s E3 with a breathtaking stage walk-on to reveal his role as Johnny Silverhand in the game. And early reviews are zeroing in on just how big a mood Reeves brings to the table as the AI-enabled rocker, an ever-present NPC who seems to have just the right quip for every occasion.

Reeves’ voice performance and overall character likeness isn’t the only thing critics say they love about Cyberpunk 2077, which is already sitting at a sizzling 91 percent Metacritic rating (among 43 reviews) as of Monday afternoon. Some reviewers even had a hard time liking Johnny Silverhand in the early going, but most agree that Reeves brought his A game to 2077’s RPG tale of working your way up through the sleazy underworld of Night City — a Blade Runner-like urban jungle of the future where technology’s embedded in every part of life…for better and worse.

With only days to go before the rest of the world finally gets to dive in and see what these long years of fuss have really been about, here’s a sampling — in roughly descending order of praise — of what the critics are saying:

“The narrative hits its stride when [protagonist] V meets Johnny Silverhand, a former terrorist who is now a digital construct that lives in V’s mind… The biggest allure of Silverhand is how he’s brought to life by actor Keanu Reeves, who looks and sounds as awesome in the role as he does in any film on the silver screen. Given how wonderful some of the other characters are (with their own long and fantastic arcs), Reeves doesn’t steal the show – but Silverhand is a constant throughout most of the game and helps save V from being too overbearing.” — Andrew Reiner, Game Informer

“Played by Keanu Reeves, Silverhand is your constant companion, commenting on your escapades and the decisions you'll make at every opportunity. He's a bizarre presence, and not always a welcome one, but the rockerboy never fails to add something to a situation. Love him or hate him by the end, there's no doubt you won't have appreciated the rollercoaster that Silverhand provides as you watch the credits scroll…Cyberpunk 2077 is a paragon of open-world gaming, offering the kind of freedom to explore and define your character that provides a new pinnacle for the genre.” — Sam Loveridge, GamesRadar+

“Almost as much of a protagonist as V, Keanu Reeves’ aggressively cool ex-Terrorist is a relic of a bygone era, a legendary name in Night City, and the catalyst for much of what you do and is done to you. After a brush with death, the cyber imprint of Johnny Silverhand becomes tied to V, their fates entwined, and he’ll turn up regularly to comment on the world, offer advice, and generally piss off V. The relationship between the two of them is the backbone of the storytelling, but the writing is so consistently incredible that even seemingly minor characters feel fully fleshed-out, layered and interesting.” — Mick Fraser, God is a Geek

Cyberpunk 2077 kicks you into its beautiful and dazzlingly dense cityscape with few restrictions. It offers a staggering amount of choice in how to build your character, approach quests, and confront enemies, and your decisions can have a tangible and natural-feeling impact on both the world around you and the stories of the people who inhabit it… The main quest may be shorter than expected when taken on its own and it’s not always clear what you need to do to make meaningful changes to its finale, but the multitude of side quests available almost from the start can have a surprisingly powerful effect on the options you have when you get there." — Tom Marks, IGN

"Cyberpunk 2077's narrative concerns are established early, as V attempts to puzzle out a solution to a unique life-or-death situation related to the construct of Johnny Silverhand (played by a very charismatic Keanu Reeves) that inhabits their head. Early hours in Cyberpunk 2077 also establish the different ways the game can be played, and it's here that its inspirations become clear. Clunky run-and-gun approaches feel similar to Mass Effect in a way, though gunplay does get tighter as players unlock more attribute points and perks. Hacking and stealth feel like the best parts of Deus Ex combined with an absolutely breath-taking environmental design, so that each completed mission feels like it had four other ways to get the job done." — Cody Gravelle, Screen Rant

“Another easy comparison is with Fallout 4. You’ve got a created but fully-voiced character brushing shoulders with different factions, each struggling for power within a city state that is almost a character in itself. A lot of your role play is coming from the equipment and clothes that you collect, and you explore the wackier side of dystopia in lighter side missions… It’s easy to see CDPR took the adoration of The Witcher 3’s side quests seriously, and there’s loads of easter eggs to hunt down across the gleaming high-rises and dark alleys of Night City.” — James Billcliffe, VG24/7

“Once Silverhand is in your head, he is your permanent sidekick. V has visions of and can converse with him, and Reeves has seemingly recorded more dialogue here than I’ve seen from major Hollywood talent in any video game. Silverhand has something to say about everything - story quests, side quests, the occasional random NPC interaction. He’ll pop up and pass commentary or advice in the back seat of the car as you drive to a quest objective, or behind the bar as you meet a quest-giver over a beer. Silverhand’s presence enriches the experience and gives V somebody to bounce off even when working alone.” — Alex Donaldson, RPG Site

Cyberpunk 2077 releases on Dec. 10 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and PC. An enhanced version for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S is also planned for sometime next year, coming as a cost-free upgrade for anyone who’s already bought a copy of the PS4 or Xbox One versions of the game.