Gamescom 2018: Cyberpunk 2077 is Gorgeous, Violent and a Bit Sweary

August 23, 2018

I’ve come to trust that CD Projekt RED bring their A-game to behind closed doors presentations, from years seeing The Witcher 3 and Gwent take shape in some truly impressive sessions at E3. However, their demo for Cyberpunk 2077 at Gamescom blows all of them out of the water. The 50-minute demo showcased to Gamescom attendees is by all accounts, the same as the one at E3 a couple of months ago, but it does a great job of showing off the many, many reasons you’ll want to play Cyberpunk 2077.

Like The Witcher series, Cyberpunk 2077 is an open world RPG, although this time shifting the setting into the near-future. Character creation and customisation was touched on in the presentation, as you’re able to create the protagonist ‘V’ to be either male or female (female in our demo), with a range of options – most interestingly giving them their own backstory, reminiscent of Mass Effect, which like that game could influence aspects of the story and dialogue options. Unlike Mass Effect, or most RPGs, you don’t pick a class at the outset, instead the game has a ‘Fluid’ Class system that lets you adapt to the game’s systems in a way that suits your playstyle. Like the tabletop RPG it’s based off Cyberpunk 2077 will have three classes you can pick and move between, Netrunner (hackers who can disrupt enemy networks), Solo (soldiers with enhanced senses) and Techie (able to craft traps and sabotage).

Visually, the demo, played live on PC hardware using a controller, was stunning. The world of Cyberpunk 2077 draws upon the vast catalogue of other existing cyberpunk-fiction out there, but still feels like its own entity. There are street markets that are reminiscent of Blade Runner, but Cyberpunk feels brighter and uninterested in the film-noir aesthetic. V lives inside a megabuilding, much like those seen in Judge Dredd, but this one looks like it could really be its own independent sub-society, not only with homes but shops and businesses and its own districts as well. There’s also its own brand of satire as well – at one point V calls in a high-end private health insurance company, which in the future has become a paramilitary ‘trauma team’ that extracts the patient like a hostage situation, brandishing assault rifles with itchy trigger fingers.

Cyberpunk 2077 actually seems to draw upon games like Grand Theft Auto to an extent, as V is a mercenary who is trying to establish themselves in the criminal underworld. In the demo, they take on a job for the blinged-out cyborg mob boss Dexter DeShawn, who rolls around in a velour limousine and rocks a solid gold robotic arm. Of course, the setting of Cyberpunk 2077 allows its gangs to be far more extreme than any seen in in GTA. The main enemy gang featured in the demo are dedicated to making themselves more machine than man, scooping out parts of their skulls to fit in as many cybernetic cameras as possible. It’s also a world where every character seems to feel the need to drop the C-word more times than old mate at the pub after you haven’t seen him in yonks.

Cyberpunk 2077 is first person, a change of pace from CDPR’s Witcher series, although the camera does swing out to third-person for driving sections and in cutscenes. Speaking of driving, while we only saw a couple of small sections it will be an integral part of the experience, not just allowing you to get from one point of the map to the other with motorcycles, cars and trucks, but also with on-the-road combat. The first person shooting mechanics look creative and fun. By taking a drug before getting into a battle, you can gain the ability to slow down time on command, perfect for literally sliding along the ground past baddies while kneecapping them, or just charging head-on while dodging bullets. V can wall-run, and a ricochet-shot system allows you to see the trajectory of bullets as you fire them at walls, to hit otherwise un-targetable enemies. A ‘smart’ gun straight out of Fifth Element lets you just fire homing bullets as well, to chase down enemies behind cover.

I haven’t even touched on the potentially huge hacking mechanic, which not only applies to larger systems but to individual enemies as well. Sneaking up behind an enemy and incapacitating them allows you to hack into their local network, which could include squad mates, and which could let you perform actions like locking them out from their guns, making for an easy run for you through the next section of the level.

The melee options, however, are where the real carnage starts to unfold. V can be equipped with ‘mantis’ blades that emerge from their arms, much like the praying mantis mascot seen in promotional material, and boy are they sharp. In just a couple of slices, you’re able to decapitate unarmored foes, but if that isn’t enough for you, you may want to check out Cyberpunk 2077‘s version of a katana. A giant, electromagnetic sword creates a shield that can deflect bullets, while swinging it is enough to cut the legs out from under anyone unfortunate enough to get in the way.

As I mentioned, the Gamescom demo’s events are the same as the E3 presentation. Opening on a mission to rescue a woman from an organ harvesting den, we’re introduced to V and their partner as they tear through the gang responsible. After a successful mission, spending the money earned on someone to warm the bed with you, V gets a lead on a job from Dexter DeShawn, and an opportunity to increase their ‘Street Cred’ (an in-game form of currency, which is acquired through side-missions and will unlock different vendors). DeShawn needs the pair to acquire a hi-tech robot, so to prepare for the job, V visits a ‘ripperdoc’ to get a few painful-looking cybernetic upgrades, including a new eyeball with a zoom capability and scanner, and a pistol grip built into their hand, which adds ammo to the HUD and provides a damage boost. More interesting and extreme upgrades will be available in the full game, at more ‘illegal’ ripperdocs.

In transit, a woman from one of the mega corporations holds V at gunpoint and gives her a chip with the money to purchase the robot from the gang who has it – however, her pretty violent manner indicates that she may not be telling the whole truth. Upon reaching the gang with the robot, V can make a choice – to pay for the robot with the chip, to alert the gang to the danger the chip may pose (which it indeed does, it has a virus that would wipe out their entire system) or just kill everyone there. In our presentation, the player decided to alert the gang to the chip’s virus before extracting the currency, which earned their trust allowing the transaction to take place. Then, on the way out one of the gang members just had to insult V’s jacket – prompting the player to decide to turn around and get into a massive firefight, which took up the rest of the demo. Player decisions like this were emphasised as key to the Cyberpunk 2077 experience.

There’s a lot to break down and analyse in those 50 minutes, and I almost feel like I need to see it a few more times to let it all sink in. With six unique districts in an open world, with no loading screens but an insane amount of detail within each one, Cyberpunk 2077 promises to be a huge experience, that I can’t wait to get another glimpse of.