E3 2019: Cyberpunk 2077 is a Grim but Beautiful Picture of the Future

Two years in a row, CD Projekt Red has dominated the E3 stage with Cyberpunk 2077 and for a good reason. At E3 2018, the studio showcased their vision of a future society run by technology. They impressed with their vast open-world, character building, decision-making and rousing gunplay. At E3 2019, CD Projekt Red was back and showcased another demo that delved deeper into the world and ways players can engage with it.

The demo followed V, the game’s customizable protagonist and citizen of Night City. The action took place in Pacifica, a region of Night City that, long ago, was destined to be the next hit location. Today, however, it lies in ruin and is one of the poorest regions. The government has completely abandoned it to the Haitian immigrants, who are now led by the Voodoo boys. V needs to find Brigette, one of the gang’s leaders, but first, he needs to do something for them.

To find her, you meet with Placide, a member of the gang who tasks you with eliminating another gang holed up at the Grand Imperial Mall. The Animals, a group of brutes who love to rush their enemies, have mysteriously moved in and the Voodoo Gang want to know why. In Cyberpunk 2077, your decisions matter and affect how missions play out. Placide attempts to jack into your mind so that he may watch you during the mission. As CD points out, allowing this will allow V to proceed with the mission, but opens himself up to who knows what? For the demo’s sake, V accepted.

Following this, V made his way to the Grand Imperial Mall. It was here that CD Projekt Red opted to show two different ways to tackle combat encounters. During the presentation, they freely swapped between Strong Solo and Netrunner builds. The former focused on winning through brute strength, and the latter through stealth and hacking. At this point, the developer was quick to point out that Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t force players into any pre-determined role. Instead, the company intends to allow players to define their strengths and weaknesses to create their own classes. The Strong Solo and Netrunner builds were merely created for demo purposes.

It’s interesting to see how different builds can vastly change how a level plays out. The Strong Solo opted for guns and brute force when facing enemies. Rather than find clever ways around obstacles, Strong Solo would rip things apart. Those poor locked doors didn’t stand much of a chance. As for gunplay, players can use a variety of different guns to take down enemies. As a brute, Strong Solo had additional options for firearms. The Animals had set up an automated turret in the mall, which they likely hoped would give them an edge. Our strong V, however, was able to rip it off its tripod and wield its deadly firepower.

After clearing the mall floor as the Strong Solo, CD switched back to the Netrunner. This build focused more on hacking and utilizing the environment. For example, CD showcased the Netrunner hacking a weight set to crush an Animal’s skull, or using a vending machine to distract passing enemies. Where the Strong Solo tore out the minigun to use as their own personal weapon, the Netrunner hacked it from the safety of the shadows. Of course, that isn’t to say the Netrunner can’t dabble in combat. During a confrontation, V pulled out a slick nano whip capable of severing limbs.

Following a boss fight with the Animal’s leader, we find out the reason why the Animals were at the mall. They were hired by a Netwatch agent intent on gathering Intel on the area and Voodoo Boys. Here, V is faced with another choice. The agent says Placide plans to betray us once the mission is complete. V opts to ignore the agent, who ends up being right. Placide fries the network and kills everyone attached to it. A mysterious biochip in V’s head, however, allows him to survive.

The demo ended with meeting Brigette, who stops us from getting revenge on Placide. She takes V to a place in Cyberspace dubbed the ‘Black Wall,’ an area that no one has returned from, but also holds the answers V seeks.

As for Keanu Reeve’s role in Cyberpunk 2077, it appears that he’ll play a significant part. He’s Johnny Silverhand, a former rocker who seems to be embedded in V’s head. Only V can hear or see him, suggesting that the character might be dead. Either way, he’s an interesting character with some excellent commentary. How he’ll impact the story remains a mystery.

It’s easy to see why Cyberpunk 2077 has garnered so much buzz. CD Projekt Red has done a solid job drip-feeding new info and gameplay for two E3s in a row. The gameplay looks intense, and the different builds suggest that no matter how you choose to play the game, you’re going to have fun with any path you take. It would have been nice to see more of the customization options or get a better sense of how the open-world will work. No matter what, though, Cyberpunk 2077 is shaping up to be another exciting title from CD Projekt Red.

Cyberpunk 2077 is out April 16, 2020 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.