June 25, 2019 by Paul Curtin
Last year, CD Projekt Red’s debut of Cyberpunk 2077 behind-closed-doors stole the show by taking us on our first trip through the neon-soaked busy streets of Night City.
Although not as flashy as last year’s demo, this year, CDPR took us to Pacifica, where there was little neon to be found and the less crowded streets were littered with trash.
Riding to the outskirts of Night City was also a little different this year. Instead of jumping in his sporty roadster (which CDPR confirmed you can summon at any time), lead protagonist, V, hopped on an Akira-inspired bike featuring a futuristic open-wheel design.
Like the cars, bikes can also be driven in first or third-person. One nice little touch we noticed was how the heavy-hitting synthwave music was much louder in first-person than when the camera was zoomed further out. And of course, just like other open world games, the radio features multiple genres of music to fit your own futuristic taste.
CDPR’s signature RPG style they used in The Witcher franchise is returning in Cyberpunk, allowing players the freedom to upgrade their character and play however they want. This means if you want to go full John Wick and kill everyone, you can. But the devs also confirmed you can complete the entire game without killing a single person — that is, if you feel like being a cyberpacifist.
Speaking of John Wick, this year’s biggest announcement at E3 was that Keanu Reeves is starring in Cyberpunk 2077. But Reeve’s character isn’t just tagging along for a couple side missions as part of a movie tie-in and the actor has recorded more lines of dialog than any other character besides V.
Once the lead singer of Samurai (a band whose name and logo can be found on V’s jacket), Reeve’s character, Johnny Silverhand, is now believed to be dead. In this year’s second look at gameplay, Silverhand (who wasn’t in last year’s demo), accompanied V in “digital ghost” form — which allows a projection of the action star to constantly make witty remarks that only the player can see and hear in their head.
With the freedom to take on missions however you want, the devs showcased two completely different playstyles in the 45-minute demo that involved infiltrating an abandoned mall and dealing with a gang of juiced-up gym rats known as the “Animals.”
Once entering the Animals’ hideout, V’s cyber-modified HUD teased tons of objects in the environment that could be hacked by the player and turned against enemy gang members. This lead to some hilarious and gruesome deaths similar to the Deus Ex and Watch Dogs franchises.
At one point, we saw one of the Animals sparring with a robot training partner. By initiating a quick hacking minigame, V was able to increase the dummy’s punching power, resulting in a single swing from the bot breaking the big brawler’s jaw and creating a distraction that allowed the player to sneak by the guards.
But that was just one of the many ways the player could get by the guards. CDPR also showed how V’s modified arms can allow him (or her) to pry open alternate passageways for players who are looking to complete missions without killing anyone.
While last year’s demo showcased the game’s deadly blade arm mechanics and futuristic guns that could lock-on and shoot enemies around corners, this year’s focus was a new energy whip weapon (inspired by the original Cyberpunk source material) that the player used to brutally slice apart enemies in a multitude of different ways.
Out of everything new we saw this year, it was the boss fight with the Animals’ beefy female leader, Sasquatch, which stood out as the biggest improvement from last year’s Game of the Show.
Unlike last year’s big fight that involved a bullet-spongey boss who didn’t move much, this year, the player took on a giant hammer-wielding psycho who moved just a quick as V, breaking glass screens that the player tried to hide behind, and even knocking V down.
Once V was down on the ground, the cyber-enhanced boss pounced on top of the player and connected her own cable straight into V’s head. This resulted in a very interesting shift in the gameplay. The tables were turned and the player was now being hacked and forced to play by the boss’ rules before the hack was complete.
We didn’t think that CDPR could do much to improve on what we saw last year and that gamers couldn’t be any more hyped for Cyberpunk 2077, but CDPR proved us wrong this year at E3 by stealing the show once again with their big Keanu reveal and new improvements to gameplay.
After this year’s E3, we still don’t think it’s possible that hype levels can be any higher for CDPR’s upcoming game, but we’re hoping they once again prove us wrong when Cyberpunk 2077 releases on April 16, 2020 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.