This is going to be a big E3 for Cyberpunk 2077. Here’s why we’re excited.
Way back in early 2013, CD Projekt dropped Cyberpunk’s first trailer, promising to be a triple-A adaptation of the classic pen-and-paper roleplaying game. At the time, CDPR hadn’t yet released The Witcher 3, so they weren’t quite as highly regarded as they are now. Cyberpunk’s first trailer was CGI, so its gameplay remained a mystery, and the release date of “when it’s ready” didn’t exactly have people reaching for their wallets, but the aesthetic? Ooh, they nailed it.
Cyberpunk is a tricky genre to pull off because it’s a moving target. We basically live in a post-post-cyberpunk dystopia now, and concepts that were once total science fiction have since become things we deal with on a daily basis, so trying to realize the vision of a futuristic dystopia from 35 years ago without borrowing too heavily from the dystopia that we actually have today is a fine line to walk.
That year, CD Projekt Red had a cozy meeting room decked out with The Witcher 3 – which of course, came out in 2015 – and Cyberpunk 2077 signage. While all they had on display from Cyberpunk was a replica of a futuristic machine gun, behind closed doors they were showing The Witcher 3 in action. To this day, that’s still one of the most impressive E3 demos I’ve ever seen, and as anyone who’s played The Witcher 3 can attest, it wasn’t just bullshit marketing.
Sadly, we didn’t see another glimpse of Cyberpunk 2077 until last year, but good things are worth the wait. After dropping a gorgeous, grimy, neon-lit CGI trailer during Microsoft’s press conference that seemed way too good to be true, CD Projekt Red took attendees on an almost forty-minute tour of Cyberpunk 2077. As promising as The Witcher 3 demo was in 2013, CD Projekt Red had once again raised the bar. This was another game where it was impossible to see the bottom.
The thing that’s staggering about CD Projekt Red is how exponentially the scale and fidelity of their games has progressed game on game. Compared to The Witcher, which was running in a modified version of the Neverwinter Nights engine, The Witcher 2 was leaps and bounds more impressive. The Witcher 3, meanwhile, practically added another dimension. Cyberpunk looks to add yet another one.
Still, I have no idea when Cyberpunk 2077 is going to come out. There are games that spend close to a decade in development hell, and there are games that spend close to a decade actually being developed. Cyberpunk 2077 definitely seems like the latter. It’s been in the works since at least three years before The Witcher 3 was released, CD Projekt’s hesitation to ever give it a release date other than “when it’s ready” bodes well.
But while CD Projekt Red had an uphill battle adapting The Witcher into a video game – adapting a series of novels tied to fixed lore is tough – Cyperpunk 2077 is already a game, and has been for decades. Not a video game, mind you, but from the ground up, the lore of Cyberpunk is all designed for players to interact with, and there’s an existing framework of roleplaying systems. Compared to the static, crystalized narrative nature of The Witcher’s novels, turning a pen-and-paper game into a video game must offer a lot more freedom. Plus, not only does this game have creator Mike Pondsmith’s blessing, he’s been a part of the project since day one.
Of everything Cyberpunk 2077 offers, the promise of creating my very own “V” protagonist in is immensely appealing. While I grew to love Geralt like an old friend, the choices he made in The Witcher 3 always felt like a compromise between me and his existing character. While my choices could determine if he was kind and charming, or a bloodthirsty, rude idiot, at the end of the day he was still Geralt of Rivia, a reluctant hero. On the other hand, with V… we’ve all got carte-blanche, from picking our appearance, sexual preferences, right on down to childhood hero.
Presumably, this level of freedom will carry over into the moment-to-moment decisions the player makes.
As for the gameplay itself, there’s been much ado about the game’s first-person perspective, which nobody expected, based on CDPR’s previous games or the CGI trailer. Admittedly, it was an odd hiccup for my high expectations, but I also don’t disagree with the studio’s reasoning for its necessity.
From the sound of things, many of the HUD elements we take for granted when playing a video game are incorporated into Cyberpunk’s narrative. Health bars and ammo counters don’t exist in real life, but what if they were cybernetic enhancements? In first-person, that’s a cool immersive narrative device. In third, it’s just video game UI.
Plenty of people have griped about the first-person perspective, and their complaints are valid. Controlling a first-person game is second nature for plenty of gamers, but there’s a certain learning curve there, and the perspective causes motion sickness for plenty of folks. That said, given CD Projekt’s dedication to giving players the best experience possible, it’s still possible they’ll patch in a third-person mode, though it clearly seems like this is a game build from the ground-up in first person.
When is Cyberpunk 2077 coming out? I can’t help feel like maybe there’s been a hint in front of us the whole time. The first edition of the original Cyberpunk roleplaying game is often referred to as “Cyberpunk 2013,” whereas the second edition was “Cyberpunk 2020.” Is it possible CD Projekt Red’s been shooting for a 2020 release date since the game’s first teaser trailer dropped in 2013?
It’s important not to let one’s expectations for a video game to get unrealistically high, seems very likely Cyberpunk 2077 will be another watershed game, whenever it finally comes out. In the meantime, I’m dying to see some more gameplay at E3 this year.