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Cyberpunk 2077 is far more ambitious than you may realize

CD Projekt Red's next major title, Cyberpunk 2077, could still be an RPG, with priority given to choice, but a massive departure from the developer's previous efforts in the The Witcher series. Instead of lush forests, picturesque fields and towering mountains, the developers will create a world in the distant jungle of Northern California. In contrast to many fictions that focus on a darker future, Cyberpunk strives in 2077 to evolve from grimdark to an exuberant but equally cynical vision for a future in which capitalism and technology run rampant.

Inspired and influenced by the original Cyberpunk 2020 Pen and Paper RPG, 2077, it extrapolates many of the themes and iconography while leveraging the developer's ability to create dense and visually rich environments. We saw a nearly one-hour gameplay demo behind the closed doors at the E3 201

8, which showed many of the system's systems and locales, and was impressed by the scope of the ambitious CD Project Red project. But now the gameplay was revealed during the livestream of CD Projekt Red, so everyone can see what the E3 2018 was all about.

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In an alternate 2077 universe, take on the role of V, a rover and hustler, who lives in the bustling night city between SF and LA. You undertake sketchy gigs to finance cybernetic improvements and pay debts from the most unappetizing characters in society, and continue to delve into the shabby underground of the Technopolis and its surroundings – all of fractions and mega-corporations struggling for power. Unlike the previous CD Project Red games, your protagonist V is just what you want. At the beginning of the game, you can create your own character by selecting their gender, character traits and background stories, as well as adjusting certain stats.

The open world of Night City is a massive urban environment encompassing several regions with different warring parties. With no load times (according to the developers), you can explore the city both on foot and by vehicle, even with high-speed shootouts on highways, narrow streets and lanes – leading to some of the more unappetizing parts of the city.

During the demo V traveled to a gang hiding place with her close partner Jackie – an imposing but always happy ally – to find a missing cyborg. Things went swiftly south as the player made a shootout with a gang of scavengers operating a black market harvest. The action looked punchy and haunting. V slipped in and out of cover – with pieces of the environment, including the walls that broke loose from all shots – to make the leap to the bandits. In the case of the RPG Roots, the attack damage numbers appear in real time when attacking enemies, taking into account the statistics of your current loadout. After V and Jackie get the gang out, they bring their target outside and await the pickup from the Trauma Team, a crew of heavily armed paramedics assigned to the super-rich of Night City.

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All of these aspects of cyberpunk history took some getting used to, as terms and locations were often referred to. The core concepts behind them, however, are familiar enough to get them under control. The heavy science-fiction aesthetic, where advanced technology gives people extraordinary abilities, gives them a very familiar feel comparable to CD Project's earlier fantasy games. Seeing the shot in action revealed the great visual style and aesthetics of the game, which feels like a stark contrast to other dark and gloomy cyberpunk fictions like Blade Runner, Altered Carbon, or Johnny Mnemonic. In cyberpunk 2077, there is much more diversity that plays with many familiar tropes of the sub-genre.

Cyberpunk is deeply rooted in its PC RPG roots, and The Witcher developers wanted to lean more heavily on the more adaptive and different styles of storytelling from their past games, with many of your choices strangely changing the course of your character's journey change. 2077 has an integrated dialogue system in which you can make decisions that determine your path to different outcomes. In the dialogue system, you can show different facets of V's personality while lying to other characters in an impressive, inquisitive, or directly opposite way to get what you want. However, certain characters are able to turn the tables and use some similar tricks against you.

During a character interaction – which can be completely avoided if you like – V is captured by a Milicorp agent who has one of them. Bodyguards hack into the main character. This invasive hack made certain dialogue decisions more difficult as the bodyguards were able to tell when the main character was telling the truth or not. After agreeing with the corporate agent on some non-confrontational options, V entered into an engagement with the Maelstrom gang, a group that was upgraded to the appearance of neon-lit ghouls.

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The topic of transhumanism is one of the mainstays of the game and one constantly sees the influence of technology on society, which also plays a role in the development of V. Cyberpunk 2077 has many well-known RPG systems and mechanics, including levels, skill checks, and loot – including some ugly high-tech weapons such as assault rifle bullets – but it has a mostly casual approach to character growth. You do not choose classes – like the Fixer, Techie and Nomad archetypes of Cyberpunk 2020 – but equip your character with new technical enhancements that you need at all times. You can give your character a range of outfits that offer street cred bonuses – reputational experience that opens places in the city – and visit the local RipperDoc to get new parts.

Dropping from Doctor Victors Place in a back alley near V & A's apartment, we saw a few of the improvements you can get. After selecting a new cybernetic eye that has a zoom feature and a target analyzer added, you can see the level and stats of other characters. The following upgrade sequence was gruesome as the RipperDoc pulls out the old eye of V with its still-intact vision – showing a full view of the protagonist in the driver's seat. This upgrade can come in handy as you will occasionally dive into high-level characters that can easily beat up your character. As he explored the hiding place of the Maelstrom, V used a series of bizarre but powerful enhancements and tools – such as a hacking ability that allowed him to steal an enemy's internal memory to steal valuable information, as well as a range of ordnance, the one ball activated time effect. For a moment, V hacked an enemy's weapon to deactivate it remotely, following a series of advanced acrobats to attack the unsuspecting enemies with a set of bowsmen as shown in the game's original teaser trailer

While this section led to some of the action-packed moments of the demo – such as a boss fight that featured cybernetic abilities and some of the game's mightiest weapons, such as the double-barreled shotgun shot through walls – there are obviously many different approaches. The developers emphasized throughout the demo that many of the shown events and sequences were optional and can happen during the shooting in the Maelstrom hideout or deal with the mega companies, they will play very differently due to their choice.

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The E3 2018 demo for Cyberpunk 2077 was overwhelming with all its details, but it gave us the impression that there was a big world with all kinds of systems to explore and screw up. The shot and some gameplay ideas are certainly a great change for CD Project Red, but it also has a bunch of cool and visually stunning details that show an incredibly rich world to jump upside down. The game has taken a long time to come and we look forward to seeing more of it soon, and hopefully not too much later.

For more information on Cyberpunk 2077 from CD Project Red, along with our full interview with the creator of the original Cyberpunk RPG Mike Pondsmith and all the other games we saw during the E3 2018, be sure to visit the E3 Hub Site of GameSpot.

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