With the possible exception of The Last of Us Part II, nothing got tongues wagging at E3 quite like Cyberpunk 2077 - and that's despite the fact all Joe public got to see was a 90-second cinematic trailer (albeit an obscenely stylish one).
Certain members of the press, however, were invited to a much longer behind closed doors gameplay demonstration sometime thereafter, during which developer CD Projekt Red offered up a veritable treasure trove of additional information. We're talking combat, NPC interactions, the Cyberpunk 2077 story quests, and even a deeper look at the world of Night City itself.
And all of it, from the minutest detail to the very largest, makes it easy to see why Cyberpunk 2077 has got the gaming community so excited.
Cyberpunk 2077: Night City
“The world is broken” reads the story synopsis. “MegaCorps manage every aspect of life from the top floors of their sky-scraping fortresses. Down below, the streets are run by drug pushing gangs, tech hustlers, and illegal braindance slingers. The in-between is where decadence, sex and pop culture mix with violent crime, extreme poverty and the unattainable promise of the American Dream”.
Channelling everything from Blade Runner and Altered Carbon to Deus Ex, Night City - Cyberpunk 2077's bustling, overcrowded metropolis - is more than just a setting, according to CDPR, but a character in and of itself.
A vast, continuous open world that tends more towards the vertical than the horizontal (think 2012's Dredd), abject poverty, crime, violence, and corruption abound in Night City, providing players with plenty of sights to see and things to do across its six distinctive districts.
There’re interactive advertisements that direct players toward the products in question, various factions to work with or against, relationships to cultivate, seemingly emergent events to get involved in, quests to pick up, and a wonderfully complex story to get lost in.
The key feature of Night City, however, is that its seedy underbelly isn't cloaked in darkness, by which I mean crime and suffering occur in broad daylight (as the E3 trailer showcased so stylishly and effectively) earlier this week. There is a day/night cycle, of course, so players can expect to see plenty of rain-slick streets and steaming manholes when they finally get their hands on the game. It's just that, such instances of violence are so commonplace, the presiding government is almost powerless to do anything about it; while the inhabitants simply accept it as a fundamental part of life in Night City.
Cyberpunk 2077 story
In Cyberpunk 2077, players take the role of V; an urban mercenary or ‘Cyberpunk' with dreams of making it big in Night City's bubbling cauldron of iniquity.
V's gender is optional, which is always a bonus to any RPG, however, rather interestingly, CDPR has hinted that the player's choice of sex might actually affect the game's story in certain ways. Though we don't know how or to what extent at this stage.
Players will also have a greater level of control as to how V's personality changes over the course of the game, unlike Geralt of Rivia whose character was largely set in stone. Aside from being a welcome addition to the game - I mean, who doesn't love an RPG that lets the player put their own stamp on the protagonist? - it makes sense in the context of Cyberpunk 2077 which is, after all, described as a non-linear story that affords plenty of narrative freedom.
When approaching any major quest or interaction, V will be able to resolve the situation in a number of different ways using the tried-and-tested dialogue wheel, among other things: adopting an aggressive attitude in an effort to frighten a potential informant into giving up sensitive information, perhaps, or opting for a more persuasive tone of voice hoping that charm will succeed where coercion failed. Opening up new paths while closing others, winning over one faction while making an enemy out of another, helping one NPC turn their life around while consigning their neighbour to the gutter.
Most importantly of all, at least as far as some players are concerned, V can engage in various relationships as he/she ventures through the concrete jungle of Night City. That includes both one-night stands and more permanent arrangements, and yes; there will be full frontal nudity too.
An RPG with FPS elements
On the gameplay side of things, the first thing CDPR wanted to stress immediately after its E3 presentation was that, although Cyberpunk 2077 is presented from the first-person perspective, it is very much an RPG at heart, with FPS elements dotted here and there (bullet time, ricochet effects, slide and wallrun mechanics - that kind of thing).
There's a fluid class system for starters, letting the player mix and match abilities from any of the game's three separate disciplines - Netrunner, Techie, and Solo - to combine them in whatever way they see fit. Along with the standard suite of upgradable character stats: intelligence, reflexes, strength, and Street Cred, for example.
V can also improve his/her ‘Cyberware' - a system of upgrades including the ‘Mantis Blades' we saw in the original 2013 trailer that sound a lot like Deus Ex's ‘Augments' - by visiting ‘Rippers'; take drugs to acquire temporary ability boosts prior to initiating combat, in much the same way as Geralt would chug potions before commencing his next hunt; upgrade the game's various weapons with mods and different types of ammunition; and traverse the sprawling metropolis of Nighty City using one of the game's futuristic vehicles.
Finally, as we've alluded to already, like all modern RPGs, the story of Cyberpunk 2077 is non-linear.
Encounters can thus be approached in a variety of different ways. Impatient players might send V in all guns blazing, for instance, while more methodical individuals might prefer to utilise his/her hacking ability instead or even attempt Night City's equivalent of diplomacy via the game's dialogue system.
It all sounds very reminiscent of The Witcher 3 whilst remaining markedly different in some key areas, suggesting Cyberpunk 2077 will be very much its own beast when it launches.
Speaking of which, Cyberpunk 2077 doesn't have a confirmed release window at the moment, let alone an exact date. However, one thing we do know is that it is scheduled to release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC - this generation of hardware, in other words.