Sunday, June 10th, 2018. Microsoft’s conference. I was already ecstatic due to the Devil May Cry 5, Forza Horizon 4, and Battletoads announcements, but one game reveal wowed me like none other. Cyberpunk 2077‘s teaser trailer dropped from out of nowhere and stole the show. It left everyone either speechless or screaming like a teenager meeting Justin Bieber in person, mostly because a lot of these people (myself included) were press members who had scheduled appointments to watch actual live footage of this game in action a few days later.
I had my appointment at CD Projekt Red’s (extremely stylish) booth on the second day of E3 proper. Sitting one chair behind me, Steven Jason Williams, also known as Boogie2988. A few moments later, the gameplay demonstration would begin. I was in for a memorable ride. Let me get this out of the way: Cyberpunk 2077 was by far the best game I saw at E3 2018. The hype is real!
First things first, you have to create your character. CDPR didn’t talk a lot about it in the closed doors session, as they wanted to focus on the gameplay proper, but they did mention the customization process will be extremely deep and detailed. You may be wondering what is the point of making such a detailed customization mode for your character if the game is set in a first-person perspective, but there is a point: important cutscenes are rendered in third-person, allowing you to appreciate your character like a fine work of art. Cyberpunk 2077 masterfully blends the immersion provided by a first-person perspective with the cinematic quality that only a third-person perspective can provide.
It didn’t take long for the developers to showcase your character in action. The game’s combat isn’t just your generic FPS gunplay. Granted, there is a ton of shooting, there’s a huge emphasis on taking cover, and there is an ADS aiming button, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. During the first skirmish, I could see elements from Black (destroying certain walls by constantly shooting at them), for instance. I could also see blatant RPG elements, such as enemies having health bars and defined levels.
Cyberpunk 2077 is still an RPG above anything else, with some gameplay elements borrowed straight from The Witcher games. Interacting with other characters, the conversation patterns, as well as one character stat that increases the amount of charisma and dialogue options the higher it is (aptly named “Cool”). The map is huge, the plot progression is non-linear, and there are multiple ways to tackle missions. You can either blatantly ignore superior commands and leave with the money they’ve paid upfront if you want to, but every action generates a reaction. You’ll most likely face the consequences later on.
The developers showcased another mission, this time around set in a warehouse far away from our apartment. The “journey” towards the mission was as exciting as the mission itself, as we were able to witness how rich and dense Cyberpunk‘s “Night City, North California” setting is. The verticality is impressive: every single building is full of rooms, houses and NPCs. Each NPC has his or her own routine: the best way I can describe it is by comparing it to Majora’s Mask, times a billion. The world feels alive like no other game world I’ve ever seen before. There were so many NPCs and elements onscreen that I was wondering what kind of sorcery would be necessary to port a game like this to current console hardware, since CDPR had previously stated the game will be released for Xbox One and PS4.
On our way to our mission, our character made a stop at a local ripperdoc. Ripperdocs are best described as cyberpunk physicians who sell and upgrade body parts. Want a new arm? You can buy one from them. Want to buy a new eye with scanning technology? As long as you have the cash, they can hook you up with one. Unlike other cyberpunk settings such as Deus Ex, the people in North California embrace implants as a means of being “more human than human”, just like the premise of Ghost in the Shell. After buying a new eye for our character, we got into our car and drove all the way to the mission.
The driving section is the only actual gameplay moment in which you can choose between a first-person and third-person perspective. You don’t need to drive like in Far Cry, you can drive your vehicle just like in any other third-person action adventure game, if you prefer. That’s a very welcoming addition. It doesn’t hurt that your car is an absolute beauty: being able to look at it at all times while driving is a nice bonus!
Said mission included moments of treason, tension, and a bit of humor. The combat started not long after our arrival at the warehouse and we were greeted to a vast array of options on how to murder everyone in sight in the coolest way possible.
Other weapons were introduced: the smart rifle is an automatic assault rifle in which every single bullet has homing capabilities. Another weapon featured “ricochet shots”, which basically meant that I could aim diagonally at a wall and make my bullet ricochet in order to hit an enemy taking cover behind a nearby structure. I could carefully calculate the trajectory of my bullet thanks to some implants. You think that’s it? Just wait, there’s more!
I can briefly slow down time in order to improve my aiming. I can target specific enemy limbs in order to incapacitate them (well, I’m basically REMOVING their limbs in a gruesome and awesome fashion). I can use a pair of blades implanted into my arms in order to climb walls and walk around like a ninja version of Spider-Man 2099. I can hide from enemies this way, as well as perform stealth takedowns from above. I can run on walls just like in Titanfall 2. I can also hack into enemies after taking them down: by plugging into their neck terminals, I can download their memories, information on nearby items, the location of said enemy’s allies, and much more. Dare I say, the brief hacking moments showcased in Cyberpunk 2077‘s presentation looked a lot cooler than Watch Dogs as a whole.
As you can notice, there are lots of ways to kill your enemies in the game. Did I care that the game isn’t a literal RPG in every sense of the word? Not at all. Even though the game showcased tons of possibilities for exploration, deep dialogue options and tons of customization, it was the combat that impressed me the most. I am pretty sure I may have missed a detail or two, as it was hard to write notes in my computer while paying attention to the barrage of information being thrown at me during this game’s presentation. I’m sure other colleagues have stated the same in their articles. There was just too much stuff happening onscreen.
So this was Cyberpunk 2077‘s presentation. CD Projekt Red has managed to impress me in a way few companies have ever achieved. They have managed to showcase a game that not only looked fun as heck, but also set the standard to what the next generation of gaming will be. If that’s the case, the future of gaming is going to be as bright and shiny as a young sun. Cyberpunk 2077 was the most impressive game I saw at E3 2018 and I can safely say, it will be a strong contender for Game of the Year whenever the heck it comes out. I don’t want CDPR to rush. Take as much time as you need, guys. The Sistine Chapel’s ceiling wasn’t painted in a day either.