CD Projekt has finally pulled back the curtain on Cyberpunk 2077, revealing the game to press behind closed doors at E3 this week.
I saw a 50 minute live uncut gameplay demo and was blown away by the level of detail in Night City, the open world in which the game takes place. During the demo, a number of eye-catching features of the game were revealed. Here’s everything I discovered during our Cyberpunk 2077 behind closed doors demo:
Cyberpunk is a first-person role-playing game. You play the game from a first-person perspective, shooting weapons in the traditional FPS style, with dialogue choices appearing on screen.
You play V, an urban mercenary who takes on dangerous jobs for money. You are a cyberpunk, CD Projekt said.
Unlike in The Witcher 3, CD Projekt’s previous game in which you play as Geralt, in Cyberpunk 2077 you create your character, or your version of V. You can choose to play as a male or female, and choose your “life path”, which, alongside your gender, affects your experience within the world. You can customise everything from your haircut to your tattoos. You can also put points into various attributes, such as strength, constitution, intelligence and reflexes.
There’s no character class to pick, however. Cyberpunk 2077 has a fluid class system which lets you customise your own class throughout the gameplay experience. You can become a Solo, Techie or a Netrunner – or a mix of all of them.
Our demo takes place near the beginning of the game. V alongside a friend called Jackie Welles and a netrunner called T-Bug is trying to find a missing person. It turns out Scavengers, one of the various factions in the game, are kidnapping people to harvest implants.
The first-person shooting includes a slow motion “bullet time” effect and a slide move. You can combine the two for dramatic effect.
Damage numbers pop out of enemies as you shoot them (the enemies have life bars).
You can take a reflex booster such as the Kereznikov to enhance your reactions. Drug taking is a part of the game, done via asthma pump-like devices.
Cyberpunk 2077 is a mature game intended for a mature audience, CD Projekt said, and as as a result features full frontal nudity.
Eventually, V finds her missing person: the naked body of a woman in an ice bath. She picks her up in a bid to help her.
Trauma Team is a group described as “high-end medical insurance for rich people”. We see a few of its members arrive via flying car to pick up the missing person’s body.
Cyberpunk isn’t afraid to swear – there were a couple of c-bombs in our demo and plenty of f-words.
You have an apartment and can have one-night stands with people. (We see V wake up from one of these just as her fleeting partner walks out of her apartment.)
You have a variety of quests to choose from (these are listed on-screen).
In her apartment, V takes her pistol and her jacket. The jacket plays an important role in the game. Not only does it look cool, but it also gives you stats, including “street cred”. Street cred is an experience you gain from doing open world bits and bobs, and helps you unlock content throughout the city.
V’s apartment is located in a mega building, a huge building complex that forms a micro-society of its own. Cyberpunk 2077 is an alternate timeline which has seen the development of the euro-dollar as standard currency, which people call eddies.
The city has been designed to be interactive. You can interact with an advert and it will tell you where to buy the product. In our demo, V was pointed to a can of soda, which she bought from a vending machine.
In the year 2077 print media is still going strong – we see newspapers.
Wilson is a local gunsmith. You can use his services to buy and upgrade weapons.
CD Projekt said there are no loading screens in Cyberpunk 2077’s open world. The city is divided up into six unique districts. Our demo took place in Watson.
Night City is packed with people (one section showed scores of computer-controlled people crossing a street. Quests and points of interest are everywhere, and the people who fill the city offer plenty of ambient dialogue. In one street I noticed a crime scene, with holographic recreations of the crime visible behind police lines. Neon is everywhere. And yes, there’s a noodle bar.
V is offered a job she views as her ticket to the mercenary bigtime. She’s asked to retrieve some gear from a local gang. You then have a choice: you can choose to steal the gear from the gang, or call a Militech agent called Meredith Stout who the Scavengers stole the gear from in the first place to arrange a meeting to perhaps play the various factions off of each other.
The city includes “ripper doctors”, specialist vendors who let you implant and upgrade your cyberware for money. V visits a ripper doc she knows called Doctor Victor. (Some ripper docs operate legally, others on the black market and offer illegal implants.) You sit in a chair and browse his wares, and decide to buy an optical scanner and a sub-dermal weapon grip. You pull your eyeball out, place your arm down in a vice and take an anaesthetic before waiting for the ripper doc to carve you up.
The optical scanner lets you take a closer look at things by zooming in. You can also analyse objects to find out their threat level and gang affiliation, among other things. The weapon grip, which is grafted into the palm of V’s hand, lets you see your ammo count, alternate fire modes and adds damage to gun shots.
Lots of people like boxing in the world of Cyberpunk 2077. It’s on a lot of screens.
You can drive vehicles in the city. In our demo, V drives a sports car. There’s also vehicle combat in the sense that you can lean out of your vehicle and shoot your weapon. (V and Jackie are ambushed at one point by Scavengers and you find yourself in a car chase.) You can drive vehicles in first and third person.
The dialogue system lets you approach encounters in a variety of ways. (V doesn’t recite the line of dialogue you pick, by the way. Cyberpunk uses a system similar to Mass Effect, with V delivering her take on the line you pick.) The meeting with Meredith Stout does not begin well – she has one of her goons hack you and submit you to a lie detector test. You can choose to pull out your gun or fight back. In our demo, V keeps talking, eventually convincing Stout to take up her offer of funding her purchase of the stolen gear from the gang. Desperate to uncover her mole, Stout gives V a cred chip with 50k on it. By meeting with Stout, you open up a non-violent approach to the meeting with the gang. But, as CD Projekt pointed out, you can decide to steal it, anyway.
This stolen gear turns out to be a bot. It’s held by Maelstrom, a group obsessed with body modification and on their way to becoming machines themselves. They’re using the Militech gear they stole to fortify their hideout.
Once you buy the bot, all hell breaks loose. The cred chip had some kind of virus on it, and it kills some of the Maelstrom members. You then fight to escape the lair.
Cyberpunk 2077 has an inspection system that lets you learn about objects and lore and other useful info. You use it to link with the bot. The bot, by the way, looks like it’s your companion throughout the game.
The tech shotgun contains bullets that penetrate cover and even other enemies. In its alternate fire mode, you can charge it up to fire against enemies.
There are various skills in the game that can be used to your advantage. One is engineering. With a high enough engineering skill, you can disassemble panels to open up new paths.
Cyberpunk 2077 has a cool ricochet targeting system that lets you bounce bullets off of walls. You can see the path the bullets will take, Peggle style, when aiming against walls.
You can see enemies who hide behind cover once you’ve scanned them. One useful combo is using the scanner to spot enemies, then blasting through the cover with the tech shotgun.
You can blow people’s legs off and shoot glass out.
The smart rifle has bullets that track and follow your target.
You can customise weapons with mods.
You can hack enemies and add malicious software to their squadmates. After you’ve done this, you can deploy a virus to jam the connection between one of these squadmates and their weapon, preventing them from shooting.
The twin blades we saw in Cyberpunk 2077’s announcement trailer are present and correct. You can use them to slice and dice enemies.
V is a pretty agile character. She can mantle and wallrun. You can use the twin blades mid-wallrun to create a ledge from which you can jump down on enemies, a bit like a cyber ninja.
V escapes the gang lair, defeating the Maelstrom boss at the end of the quest. The job done, your street cred is increased. CD Projekt said this was just one way the quest could have gone. You could have even teamed up with the Maelstrom boss for another twist.
The demo ends with V and Jackie driving away from the scene of the crime. V is buoyant – she’s finally hit the big-time and she has big plans for her future in Night City.
After our Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay demo, I interviewed CD Projekt quest designer Patrick Mills to find out more about the studio’s new game.
Relative to the world of The Witcher 3, how does Night City compare size wise?
Patrick Mills: In terms of specific size, it’s really difficult to tell because Witcher 3 was flat, and our game is very vertical. You’ve got a footprint in Witcher 3 and that’s it. But our game just goes up and up and up and up. So we can put a lot of stuff in there. It’s going to be really dense.
We’ve got six districts. You just saw a little bit of Watson, which is a fallen corporate giant. Each district will feel distinct. There will be a lot to see and a lot to do. It’s very big. It’s very big.
But you’re not putting a size on it?
Patrick Mills: We can’t put a number on it yet. We’re still building it. It’s difficult to say exactly how big it’s going to be and we don’t want to put any numbers on it. But it’s going to be huge.
You can drive a car…
Patrick Mills: Yes. You can drive a car. You can drive a motorcycle and of course you can get around on foot. That’s what we’re willing to talk about right now.
Can you run over pedestrians? How much chaos can you cause?
Patrick Mills: You can cause a decent amount of chaos. We’re not ready to talk about exactly how those systems are going to work, but you can cause chaos. You can run over pedestrians. However, it’s not the game of that. It’s the game of being a mercenary. We’ll have more to share later in that respect.
Witcher 3, we did have Roach. You could ride around on Roach and get from place to place. And he was cool, but he wasn’t as integrated into the world as we want the cars and the motorcycles to be. You saw in the demo, we’ve got that bit where there’s a combat sequence. That stuff was possible in Witcher 3, but we didn’t rely on it very much. It’s going to be a much bigger focus in this game to have this sort of vehicular combat going on. You asked about chaos – the chaos you saw when the Scavengers show up while you’re driving, that’s what we’re looking for.
There are a huge number of dialogue choices in the game, but to what extent can you affect the overarching story?
Patrick Mills: It’s not a linear story. We want to do the same thing we did with Witcher 3, which is have really involved choice and consequence. In terms of the demo you saw, there are several different ways to approach that encounter with Maelstrom to buy the bot. You can go in there guns blazing. You can go and talk to them. There are a few other things we want to save – we don’t want to talk about them, but they will be in the game.
We also want to have those choice and consequences that I think were greatest in Witcher, which were the ones where you make the decision not knowing what the outcome was going to be, and you have to go with your gut and figure out exactly what you want, and then later you see the consequences. We want a lot of that here. And you will be able to affect the main story pretty significantly.
It’s called Night City, but we’ve only seen it in day time. Why show it in that light?
Patrick Mills: The dark city streets, the rain slicked streets, those are great. And those are in our game. We absolutely do have those. There is a day/night cycle. There’s a weather system. All of that.
Thematically, one of the things about this sort of look, this sort of sun-bleached cyberpunk look is the crimes of this world, the worst things that happen, they happen in broad daylight. They happen and everybody knows they happen. You don’t need the cover of darkness to get away with the things people get away with in this world.
Does it have any of the Bladerunner-established cyberpunk tropes, such as eating noodles at night in the rain?
Patrick Mills: That is there for sure. You will see those things, but it’s not the only thing you see. We want to have a little bit more variety. We want to have depth and broaden that out. If you look at our trailer from 2012 and you look at the trailer now, both of those, they’re in the same world. Those are both in the same world. Even though they are different art styles, we’ve gone from that art style and we’ve branched out from there. So we’ve got a lot more variety. We want it to feel like a real city, an international city and a city that’s alive. If it’s dark all the time, I don’t know if I’d believe that.
Would you agree with the suggestion that the game has an 80s vibe to it?
Patrick Mills: There is an 80s influence, for sure. But we don’t limit ourselves to just the 80s. You’ve also got influences from other eras, and of course from other types of sci-fi and cyberpunk. We’ve got lots of influences in there. We really want this city and the people in it to be vibrant and alive. What you’re gonna see in the game is a mix of all sorts of art styles to create almost a wall of culture. It’s like a wall of noise to just blast at you and make you feel like you’re in this alive, vibrant place. It’s also an international place, as I mentioned before. You have a lot of different influences from different cultures all around the world.
When the camera pulled back to show the car in third person, I thought of Grand Theft Auto. Is that a fair comparison for you?
Patrick Mills: It is a comparison that is, on the surface level, really looks like it. GTA 5 took place in California and our game takes place in California as well. You see it and there are similarities. But it’s not the same kind of game. We are an RPG. We’re a non-linear RPG with a character you control and you create. In terms of how we build quests, that’s distinctly us, and you’re going to get that. We would really want you to look more at Witcher 3 in terms of what you’re going to get from this.
Will you get phone calls from people offering you quests?
Patrick Mills: You can expect a variety of things. In the Cyberpunk world there are these people called Fixers. The thing about Fixers is they’re the brokers of the mercenary life. They’re the ones who arrange for mercenaries to be brought in to solve problems. You’re going to get some of those jobs from talking to Fixers.
Sometimes you’ll see things on the street that you want to get involved in. We’ve got a variety of different ways to draw you into quests. We don’t want it to just be, drive to this location or just call this guy and get a quest. We want it to feel alive and immerse you in the world.
The demo showed off an incredible amount of detail in an urban-focused part of the city. Do other areas have a different vibe, perhaps areas that are more out in the open?
Patrick Mills: We have a variety of districts. The one you saw was Watson. But we also have a slums area. We have an area with rich mansions. The districts should all feel distinct. Some of them may feel a little bit more sedate. They aren’t. It’s just hiding. Those places are just as dangerous as everywhere else in Night City, but for different reasons.
We want Night City to feel like one of the characters in the game, and it has different faces it puts on. But that city is always out hunting for you. That scene in the demo where she leaves the mega building – one of the things I like about that scene is you walk out of that and it’s almost like you’re walking into a mouth. It’s like you’re walking into the mouth of the city and it just closes in around you and you find yourself drowning in it. You’ll get different experiences in different districts.
Does it have that Witcher thing of, if you can see it you can go to it?
Patrick Mills: Yeah. Obviously every game has an end, but yes. I don’t want to mislead you into thinking you can go into every building. We want to concentrate on that hand-crafted detail. We’re not using proceedural generation. But we want to make sure that if you see some place interesting, you can go there and experience it. We don’t intend to put up any kind of artificial barriers to prevent you from moving around the city. It’s very much like The Witcher.
Is Cyberpunk 2077 a purely single-player game?
Patrick Mills: Yes, it is.
So there’s no multiplayer whatsoever?
Patrick Mills: We have multiplayer in R&D, but the game we’re shipping to you, the game you’re going to buy is the single-player experience. That’s really what we’re concentrating on now, the single-player RPG experience. That’s what we want to nail down before we start looking at any of these other things.
So when you say you’ve got multiplayer in R&D, do you mean in relation to Cyberpunk 2077, or just generally at the studio?
Patrick Mills: In relation to Cyberpunk as well as just generally at the studio.
So maybe multiplayer will come post-launch?
Patrick Mills: Maybe, no promises. Nothing at launch. At launch we’re concentrating on the single-player game. That’s what we want to give you.
Your partner in crime, Jackie, is an impressive AI partner who at one point picks up a car and uses it as a shield. Is he your constant companion throughout the game?
Patrick Mills: For most of this game – I don’t know exactly what the ratios are going to be – you are a solo player. You’re a single mercenary who goes and does mercenary jobs. You will be joined on many of those jobs with other people, but it’s not a game where you have like a party or anything like that.
So he’s not your constant partner?
Patrick Mills: He’s not your constant partner. Of course, he’s there for certain story parts, like you saw in Maelstrom. We’ll have many sequences like that, but we are concentrating on the solo experience.
We saw V’s apartment. Is that your home base you can return to?
Patrick Mills: That is your home base at the beginning of the game. Across the course of the game you will be able to purchase additional locations you can use as your home base. It’s too early to talk about too many details about that system, but we do plan on having that.
We got a glimpse at what you’re able to do in your apartment.
Patrick Mills: You can suit up, check your computer. In the demo the quest log up in the corner says, get your gun, get your katana, check your email.
It looks like a place for you to take people back for some fun.
Patrick Mills: Certainly. Certainly that. There are definitely romantic encounters in the game, both long-lasting romantic situations and also one-night stands, as you saw in the demo.
You can play as a man or a woman. Does the game play significantly differently depending on whether your V is a man or a woman? Is the story significantly different? Are the romances different?
Patrick Mills: Certainly the romances will be different. While many of the characters you can romance in our game are bisexual, not all of them are. They have preferences as well. We want them to feel like living people with histories.
In terms of how the story changes, we don’t want to reveal too many story details, but there will be differences.
V looks pretty agile, with a mantle and a wallrun. How far do her movement powers go?
Patrick Mills: We’re not doing anything superhero level, but the cyberware will give you superhuman abilities. You saw a few of those. There will be a lot more. What you saw in the demo was a fast solo style gameplay. In this universe, a combat character is known as a solo. We have a couple of different varieties of how to do that particular thing. What you were seeing there was a bit of that very agile combat, but we also have the strong solo who can knuckle down. Jackie, for example, would be considered a strong solo.
Can you pick a class, eventually?
Patrick Mills: It’s a fluid class system. In the original 2020 there were many classes. We went into the 2020 book and we pulled out three we thought would fit really well with our game. But, unlike with the original 2020 where you’re locked into one of those things and then could pick and choose a bit, in ours we want you to be able to pick and choose very fluidly and freely to play the way you want to play.
What were the three?
Patrick Mills: Solo, Techie, which concentrates on gadgets and machinery, and Netrunner. In the demo you saw T-Bug – she was just in the corner – but she’s a Netrunner. They’re the ones who plug into the network. There was a bit of Netrunner gameplay in the demo where she grabbed the Maelstrom guy and jacked into his head. Those three.
You appear to be able to talk your way through a lot of tense situations. There are engineering and hacking skill checks. Is speech also a skill check?
Patrick Mills: We don’t want to gate speech behind particular classes or anything like that. We want that to be about the story and about your choices in the story.
What platforms will Cyberpunk come out on?
Patrick Mills: The game will be coming out on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. At the moment.
Have you guys settled on a year you want to release the game?
Patrick Mills: Not that I could give you. When it’s done!