Cyberpunk 2077 full review
For a long time we had nothing but teasers and speculation to go on, but from the debut trailer that closed Microsoft’s E3 conference to the behind-closed-doors developer gameplay demo shown to press (which was subsequently released by CD Projekt Red), all of a sudden we know an awful lot more about what 2077 has in store.
We checked out the exclusive demo at E3, then went back for more at Gamescom to try and glean yet more hints about what the future holds - check out our updated preview for everything we learned from watching two different playthroughs of the branching narrative.
Cyberpunk 2077 release date and platforms
As of yet we still don’t have any release date at all for Cyberpunk, so it’s a safe bet that this will come out in 2019 at the earliest, and we wouldn’t be shocked if it slipped to 2020.
We do at least know which platforms to expect the game on. It will release on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, which is at least one good reason to expect the game next year: if it’s delayed to 2020 you’d think it might appear on the next-gen consoles we’re all expecting to turn up around then.
Cyberpunk 2077 preview
From the hour of gameplay footage that we saw CD Projekt’s devs play in each session, the first thing that hits you about Cyberpunk 2077 is the size and scale of the world, adapted loosely from the tabletop roleplaying game Cyberpunk 2020.
It’s there in the first moment the player character - V - leaves their apartment megaplex and steps out into Night City, a massive Californian metropolis which you'll be able to explore fairly freely, with 'hundreds' of cars, bikes and other vehicles around - a clear nod to a GTA influence. As you step outside for the first time there’s a disorienting bloom of light, which slowly gives way to a sea of people and a sky pulsing with neon billboards.
It’s immediately overwhelming, and you suspect intentionally so. The UI pops up to tell you who everyone is, with names ranging from the specific, like Wilson, your friendly neighborhood gun dealer, to the generic, like ‘mallrat’ or ‘dirtboy’.
In case you couldn’t guess from the name, this is a dystopian future in the vein of Neuromancer or Blade Runner, complete with massive mega-corporations, sleazy streets, and ubiquitous cybernetic implants.
Those implants are one of the many progression systems baked into Cyberpunk, and you can visit one of many ‘ripperdocs’ to swap out your eyes for a new set that will let you zoom and scan enemies, or fit yourself with a subdermal grip that offers an in-universe explanation for the UI’s ammo counter.
Character customisation goes way beyond that though. From the get-go you pick not only your gender and physical appearance (with a bewildering array of sliders and settings), but also character beats like who your childhood hero was, and stats ranging from RPG staples including Strength and Constitution through to the slightly more nebulous ‘Cool’.
That sort of naming makes more sense when you consider that the main XP system is dubbed 'Street Cred', which you can boost not only by completing missions and defeating enemies, but - quite appropriately - by just picking the right outfit to wear. There are even separate level systems for your clothes and implants.
CD Projekt Red hasn’t revealed much of the skill progression system, but the developers were at pains to point out that the class system is fluid, and that while you can build the sort of super-lethal assassin they decided to show off, you can also work towards a more strategic hacker archetype.
The focus of the E3 demo was more on a spot of the ol’ ultraviolence though, and violent it certainly is. From shooting people’s legs off with shotgun shells to severing arteries with extendable ‘Mantis’ arm blades, you can do a great deal of violence as you go about Night City.
CD Projekt describes the game as a “mature experience for a mature audience,” but that’s clearly in the ‘M for Mature’ sense of the word. Alongside the arterial splatters you’ll find full-frontal nudity, lingering shots of bums, and swear words littered about like punctuation.
In a one-hour demo it feels gratuitous at best and downright unpleasant at worst, but we’re cautiously optimistic that in the context of the game it will make more sense, and that the studio is going to actually engage with all that sex and violence in interesting ways, not just throw it in for shock value.
The game does at least already appear to be open to more than just the heteronormative. Not only are the other denizens of Night City impressively varied - right down to a muscly guy strutting about in pink short shorts - but at Gamescom the devs revealed that your character can have same-sex relationships - or at least hook-ups.
The mature tone also pays off in the combat systems, which prove the studio knew what it was doing when it made the switch to first-person. There’s an inventiveness on display throughout, from guns that can ricochet shots off walls or shoot straight through cover, to hacking abilities that let you directly jack into opponents and in turn use their network access to remotely hack their mates.
Animations are fluid throughout, and do a great job of placing you in the world. As you slide across the floor or reach out to catch a thrown object the camera tracks your character’s eyeline, while stealth kills include contextual animations like plunging an enemy’s head into nearby water to kill them more discreetly.
The result is a combat system that seems to give you as many different options and approaches as the branching dialogue and mission systems do. The mission we saw played out including multiple branching points, with the chance to approach peacefully or guns blazing, to ally yourself with different in-game factions, and to con people or keep things honest, each supposedly with lasting effects on the game world.
Seeing the game played through once, it's hard to get a sense of how the branching works. But watching the demo for a second time we saw the devs make different choices, forming allegiances with different in-game groups as they negotiated corporate in-fighting, a crime kingpin, and a 'psycho gang' in a single mission to acquire a military robot.
Just as important as all the branching options, while both sessions we saw descended into violence in the gang's headquarters - mostly as an excuse to show off, no doubt - at Gamescom it became more clear that at least the mission we saw could be completed entirely non-violently, opening up a lot more role-playing possibilities for savvy players who are happy to play the various factions against one another.
To get a better understanding of what's in store, take a look at the fresh 48-minute Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay demo we saw at the shows.