Cyberpunk 2077 E3 2018 Hands Off Preview – A Stunning Mix of Blade Runner and The Witcher 3

CD Projekt RED is no stranger to expansive role playing games with its development of The Witcher series. Creating massive worlds, engaging stories, and fantastic graphics, they always improve and attempt to be at the forefront of the gaming market. Their first jump into a first-person perspective in Cyberpunk 2077 will be no easy task. Adapting the great Cyberpunk pen and paper role playing game by Mike Pondsmith into a new dimension will also be a challenge. After our private and behind-closed-doors demo at E3 2018, however, I am happy to say that it was everything I wanted and more.

The game is akin to the classic book-to-movie adaptation Blade Runner, set in a alternative earth in the year 2070. It features a dystopian future where the world is run by megacorporations, and money is power. People augment their bodies to aid within their day to day lives via cybernetic prosthetics such as limbs, eyes, and even weapons. The world is crowded, dangerous, crime is a common occurrence. You play a street mercenary named “V” as you set out to take jobs and climb the social ladder in order to take on the big jobs as a cyberpunk.

Atmospherically, the game has its own vision and sense of style when it comes to the dystopian future in Night City located within California. Utilizing strong 1980’s inspired overtones, the vibrant use of neon colors intermixed with future technology really catches your eye and demands your attention. From the music playing in the streets from a boombox, the ads placed around you, and even clothing styles, everything felt so familiar of days past and yet so foreign with its advancements of future technology.

Cyberpunk 2077 is greater than almost every other game I have ever seen, even within its pre-alpha state. The world is vast in its detail of the environment, and characters.  The skyscrapers towered above, shadowing the streets while the citizens all went with their daily lives. It was a sight to behold.

At the start of the preview we were introduced to the main character that you will quickly customize into someone unique to you. The customization options you pick include your gender, how you look, character background, and traditional RPG stats as well as one odd trait called “Cool.” The game really wants to bring you into a world as more of a experience than a game. In the hands-off gameplay demonstration we were playing a female character.

At the start of the preview we were placed in a mission to recover a rich woman who has been kidnapped by a gang that harvests body modifications for parts, to sell on the black market. You fight through the scenario with your backup companion Jackie, and a computer hacker named T-bug in the hopes of saving that woman from the gang.

The gameplay is very intense and engaging, even for someone just viewing it. Abilities like utilizing cover, slowing time, or even running and gunning all had me on the edge of my seat. As you take damage in combat, the use of inhalers for both healing and as a stimulant boost to aid in combat were a surprise. They did not stop and cycle through a menu, and it did not take forever to use. The flow and pace all kept up even in troubling situations.

As we progressed, we got shot at through a wall by the gangs boss with a shotgun. Eventually, we found an opening to flank him. Once the gang boss was taken down, you go and find the woman you were set out to find. Unfortunately, she’s piled underneath other kidnapped individuals, completely nude and in a tub filled with ice water. Utilizing a connection from our character to the input port of the woman, we come to find that not only has a virus been installed to block us from rescuing her, she’s just barely alive.

Once the virus is gone, the woman’s implants notified the corporate hospital rescue team that she was in dire need of aid with a rescue window of within three minutes, due to her status as a platinum individual. With the job done you would expect the typical fanfare and praise, however, this was not the case. The rescue team offered no thank you and instead treated us with hostility. We were held at gunpoint, ordered to put her on the stretcher, and got forced away with no thank you or a ride home. As I said before, money is power.

The story of the game was fast forwarded three days and later had strong hints of celebration, mostly involving drinking and sex to prepare the day. Clothing selection not only acts as armor but, along with other actions, helps with Street Cred. To put it simply, Street Cred is reputation that not only is a qualifier of social ranking among the population, it opens up more missions and shops as the game progresses.

The presenter for CD Projekt RED said it best: “Cyberpunk is a mature experience for mature audiences. As such you’ll have a variety of different options to engage with the game, but also its people.” The language, violence, and use of nudity all emphasized they are holding nothing back in this world and are not afraid to use these elements to engage with the player.

As we set out for the day, we pay a visit to the implant doctor and are notified of a new job. After talking to the client first, he says he wants to test us before we take on his big jobs. A remote controlled spider like robot was stolen from a cooperation and he wants it, so it’s our job to get it from the people who stole it.

“The only thing that matters to you as a cyberpunk is being in control of who you are,“ the CD Projekt developer noted.

As you get presented with dialog options to communicate with the new client, like other games, the player is enabled to use a selection of dialog options. Surprisingly, none of the dialog exchanges felt overly scripted, rather the chatter felt more natural as how a typical exchange with a new but uneasy acquaintance should go.

Getting new implants with the doctor was also filled with amazing detail. With your arm strapped down and a machine weaving a new implant into your hand, you unlock more options with your weapons. We also got a new eye implanted that included a new zoom feature. It was interesting to see our sight cut off, only to see the new eye taken from a calibration machine and inserted into your socket – all from the new eyes perspective. As this is going on you hear the buzzing sounds and moving of the machine working on the hand.

We then contact the individual to discuss the stolen robot, and get a location to meet with them. Driving the car in first person had a strong 1980’s vision of future, complete with a holographic dashboard. During our progress, however, we are attacked by some remaining individuals from the previous gang. We gunned them down while our companion took the wheel, a last minute reaction to secure the path to our current goal. For those worried about first person perspective driving, we also caught a glimpse of driving in third person as well.

Reaching our new location we were greeted again with hostility, under suspicion we were a part of the individuals (gang members??). Held at gunpoint, we were forced to answer questions while being connected to them with a lie detection application. In giving one cocky lie that we were alone, the interrogators were surprised that we told the truth that we had nothing to do with the theft. We negotiated 50,000 of game currency, loaded on a card, to get it back. They did not care about the stolen robot – they just wanted revenge for the theft.

We progressed to the location where the robot was being held, and negotiated. This is where a new gang is introduced, featuring members who threw their humanity away – opting for massive amounts of cybernetic modifications.

They looked grotesque, even to the point where areas of the face had new cybernetic face plates covering the eyes, complete with open sores and irritated skin around augmented locations. Despite our best attempts to remain cordial, we were still greeted with hostility and suspicion during the transaction. As expect, it turns into a standoff until the deal goes wrong – due to the card we previously received having a tracking virus.

Despite being set up, with robot in hand our new goal was to fight our way out. We were introduced to a handful of the many weapons, as well as new mechanics being implemented into the game. From high powered rifles, shotguns that charge for more power, or even the standout gun with bullets that track enemies in a unique way, the excitement I had continued to rise with new ways to involve myself in combat.

Interestingly at one point we were able to hack the building we were in and gather information about the environment. By scanning enemies to get more information on weaknesses and difficulty information over time, it allowed us to gain an advantage while still offering a challenge. To my surprise, a new cybernetic was shown to us, dubbed the “Mantis Blades.” This was shown in the original CG trailer. The blades allowed us not only to do melee attacks but allowed us to latch onto walls. Looking down on two enemies below us, we hacked a gun of one enemy so it would not fire only to quickly leap from our location to kill the other enemy.

To the end of this mission we were greeted with a boss battle with the gangs leader. Utilising our information gathering from previously hacking the building, we were able to identify the weak points we needed to attack. While weak points usually make battles such as these easy, we were still given a challenge to just get to the point that was most efficient to hit. The boss was sweeping the area with high damaging laser attacks, changing focus on our partner and ourselves. However, despite the struggle we were able to take him down.

In the end we were greeted again by the military forces of the corporation. Impressed we were able to survive, they offered us a chance to come work with them. The tense uneasiness at the situation made us turn down the offer in an aggressive manner. We then contacted the person who originally gave us the job, to confirm the mission was complete. In the end, even with all the excitement, it was just one more step on the social ladder for a cyberpunk.

Cyberpunk 2077 gave me a strong feeling of excitement and left me wanting more. Everything that I had the pleasure of seeing just felt right and never out of place. During the entire time I had with the preview, not a single moment felt off putting and my anticipation to play the full game only grew. While it may somewhat bold of me to say, this game is clearly the top contender for my game of the year whenever it releases. Expect more information and a release date in the future.

Rory Hutchings

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Niche Gamer sys admin, server admin, writer, cynical nihilist, lifelong gamer and tech enthusiast. Also an all-around programmer.