Despite the recent announcement of his delay, we have the opportunity to delve into the world that Mike Pondsmith dreamed of for the first time
After a dangerous but successful rescue mission, being hunted down and shot at, or about to be caught by the police, we arrived home wrapped up in the night and exhausted. The views from the impoverished Watson district are surely not the most glamorous in the city, but they are our first great moment with her, with the dream of Night City, a universe of possibilities, a place where you can get everything your soul craves, and also what you did not know you wanted. Power, money, status, sex, fashion, drugs, freedom, creativity … new experiences on every corner and you as the great captain of your destiny in the middle of an ocean of humanity.
To evoke these feelings, the city in a video game has to have the necessary scale. It is not only a question of extension, but also of scale and density. It has to make us feel small, like when we set foot in New York or Tokyo for the first time in our lives. There are not so many virtual cities capable of generating those sensations, and some achieve it more thanks to suggestion, to put landscapes on the horizon that incite us to think about the vastness of the dystopian futuristic city, despite the fact that we will only visit a few scenarios of the same We remember Blade Runner and his fabulous use of the film’s materials to bring our minds to Los Angeles in 2019; we remember Shenmue II and the shocking contrast of passing from the peaceful streets of Yokosuka to the vastness of Hong Kong; or Beneath a Steel Sky and its beautiful futuristic stage illustrations.
But this Night City is for real, there is no trap or cardboard, it is a crazy attempt to transfer that vision of the futuristic dystopian megacity to the video game. We realize it on our first morning being able to freely control our character. We welcome the city, by day, from our window. We walk through the colossal brutalist structure that houses our home, a gigantic block with an interior patio in permanent darkness where the neighbors make all the life they know; children play, some smoke at the edge of the abyss, there are food stalls and other stores in the corridors, as well as areas where large groups of cyber-numbered humans train and fight to get out of the hole with effort, sweat and tears. And when you manage to get to the elevator and go down to the bottom exit, you find a stunning landscape of neon lights, roads at different levels and buildings that rise to our disbelieving eyes as dozens and dozens of passers-by follow their routines. No ghostly semi-empty streets in which there is only the leading role for cars, a city is not only made of concrete and glass, but also of the blood of its inhabitants that flow through its arteries, giving life to the different organs that make it up.
Welcome to Night City
We could have started with any other part of the four-hour demo we were able to play, after all there is a lot to tell after trying the first hours of a long-awaited project like CD Projekt. But these first paragraphs dedicated to Night City seemed necessary to us to understand where is one of the main pillars of this game, and where have those six long years of development gone since it was announced. Our district seemed large, with a complex network of multi-level highways and pedestrian paths full of passers-by; but a glance at the map helped us to realize that we are in front of the aperitif: a three-dimensional hologram showed us the limited space in which we were confined in front of the immensity of the city and its surroundings. All with an architecture and a wealth of elements simply overwhelming. We can be facing the new paradigm of open urban spaces in a video game, free to be explored both on foot and by car, a space that is called to star in rivers of ink when we can truly explore it in a few months.
Creating your “V”
Trying to contain a little our need to continue talking about the city and the feeling of walking its streets in first person with our retro-futuristic car and its overloaded control panel just out of a dream of the 80s, we changed third to talk about the game in yes and what we could play. Honestly, given the situation with the Covid-19, we couldn’t travel anywhere to do it, instead we had to remotely connect to a CD Projekt computer and play it through streaming technology (not Stadia). The experience was reasonably good although not ideal in terms of image quality or lag, but they are the needs of these times and we adapt to them without major problem.
Time with the game allows us to explore the same beginning, from the character editor to our first attributes. Given our limited amount of time, we decided not to invest too much in the editor, just enough to see how complete it is, with a multitude of configuration choices for each of the features, including typical options such as facial features, eye shape, nose , mouth, scars, cyberimplants … And yes, genitals, as promised. It stands out the varied selection of colors that we can adopt individually for each section, being able to choose hair of one color and beard of another, among numerous options, from currents to the strangest and most shocking. We anticipate all kinds of “V” s, the name established for the protagonist, from the most handsome to the most hilarious.
Once our appearance has been chosen, we go on to define our main attributes, which determine the basis of our protagonist’s abilities: Body, which marks our resistance and constitution; Intelligence that determines our capacity. to learn and assimilate information; Reflexes, which determines our reaction time and general agility; Tech, which marks our degree of knowledge about technology in general; and last but not least, Cool, our ability to stay cool and cool at all times. Each attribute has a series of effects both in combat and when interacting with others, opening new options for dialogue and possibilities for solving missions.
With your character creation complete, one of the most important start-of-game decisions comes: your origins. Cyberpunk is an open class game, there are no classes as such or limitations on how to develop your skills, but it has introduced three origins that will somewhat define your character, where he comes from and what his previous knowledge of the world is in move. Similar to Dragon Age: Origins, this choice opens up a different playable starting portion before entering the main plot that is common, though there will be elements in the story and in our dialogues that will point to the selected origin. Although in the original Cyberpunk 2020 there were different archetypes, such as Media, Techies, Solos … by 2077 they have been consolidated into three: Corpo, Nomad and Street Kid. The game leaves out more complicated options on which to build an action game, such as that of a lawyer or an executive, and has focused the options rather on making the origins diverse and emotionally binding us to certain parts of Night City.
If we start as Nomad, we will do it in the badlands, the wastelands around Night City, like a lonely nomad away from the communal life of this role. As a Corpo, we will be an agent with the latest military technology at the service of a mid-level executive in the powerful Arasaka Corporation, in the very heart of the city. If we choose the Street Kid life, our origins will be in Heywood and its dangerous gangs. Each one offers us to start in a very different place to the prologue district, Watson, which allows us to appreciate very early the visual diversity that we will find in the city. Each origin will also open up specific dialogue options throughout the adventure, a way to reinforce our role and bond a little more with the character and his environment. Once the prologue is complete, the three archetypes will depart from the same place and will have Jackie as a comrade-in-arms, a former Valentino with whom we will make our way through our new life as a free agent.
Cyberpunk in action
When it comes time to get behind the wheel, our first glimpse is of our character looking in the mirror. There have always been and will be many doubts with the choice of the first person as the fixed perspective of the game, especially coming from The Witcher, but from CD Projekt it was ensured that there will be ample opportunities to see our character and that the equipment and customization we choose have a constant presence in the game, we assume this shot is a statement of intent. Once we start moving, it is a pure and hard first-person game, with real-time action, but with enough nuances not to be confused with one more shooter.
That said, as FPS it doesn’t look like Cyberpunk 2077 is going to go unarmed. The combats are carried out in real time, the aim is precise and the weapons seem to have different behaviors in the damage they do, recoil, range, fragmentation … Aiming carefully we will get headshots and we will see at all times the damage we do in numerical data at every impact. We will also have grenades and other elements, although the same can be said of the enemies. In our game we found that even in the initial games, the frontal assault was not an easy thing to do: there are many rivals, they quickly seek to surround you or make you get out of cover and, without specific equipment, we do not endure much in the face of exposure to fire enemy.
However, the possibilities are broader. We can disable enemies by surprising them from behind to knock them out or kill them, being able to take the body to leave it in a place that does not attract attention. We can also manipulate electronic objects to confuse the guards and make them move from their position, and we can also hack the enemies themselves, depending on their equipment. Hacking works in Cyberpunk 2077 as a kind of magic, by activating the system time will slow down and we can scan objects and people looking for accesses that give us an advantage. With enough level we will be able to deactivate or take control of defensive turrets, circumvent cameras or make part of an enemy’s body jump into flames. In the advanced tutorial there is a situation that we especially liked: two robot guards were guarding in separate areas. We use an infiltration program to activate one’s functions and we make an alarm signal to attract your partner; once together, we remotely activate one of the grenades and the two come apart in pieces for the price of one.
And another facet is the melee, in which we can use our fists, increased equipment such as blades in our arms or weapons such as katanas. The idea of the cyber-ninja is very established in cyberpunk. A game born in the heat of Japanese culture and martial arts, so the idea of being a silent and lethal assassin with the help of technology is more than present. We were able to play very little hand-to-hand combat, but what was seen seemed a little difficult, especially when it came to dodging, in which the result was somewhat dizzying, although we did not rule out that the lag of playing remotely had something what to see. As an additional note, highlight the large number of objects and stage damage that we can do in combat, with chunks of wall that jump when shot and multiple objects that can fly off, something that gives dynamism and immersion to these tense situations.
Much more than fighting
Although it is clear that we are going to spend a lot of time fighting, from a CD Projekt game today we expect much more than that and what we saw indicates that we will not be disappointed. The first major mission of the main plot was a branched plot with different parts communicating with each other where fighting was just a possibility. In order to carry out a bold, almost suicidal robbery, we need two things: access to a special military prototype in the hands of a group of technological geeks, whose previous leader had agreed to sell it before being deposed by the second-in-command, with whom we will have to negotiate now. And second, to access a recording made in braindance (mental dance) of the room where what we want is.
The concept of braindance in Cyberpunk has been superbly brought to the video game. The idea is that in this future we can not only record images or video, but the complete sensory experience, the entire mental and chemical process of the person who recorded the scene at the time. With a device we will be able to visualize tapes that contain the experiences, as they were lived, of anyone with the appropriate equipment to record them. On the most innocent side, this technology allows 99% of the population to live a life that they cannot afford, to the point that there are those who become addicted and do not return to their real life, but it is not necessary to be very poorly thought to find that porn is still a buoyant industry in 2077 thanks to this technology. On the black market you can also find much more sinister recordings. Do you want to put yourself in the shoes of a murderer? Or how about that of a victim? Everything is possible, but this technology is also a treasure for researchers. When we enter edit mode, we can rewind, move the camera at any angle at a certain distance from the one that is recording, we can visualize our entire environment and access voices and sounds that were too weak to be heard by the person, but are registered and are audible with the corresponding edition.
Moving back and forth, searching and alternating between different spectra we will be able to find many necessary or useful details of the recorded environments for braindance. Carrying out one of these investigations we feel like real detectives, in a much more credible way than the investigative moments in The Witcher. It is somewhat more elaborate than the classic “detective mode”, it requires a little more work, but it is much more satisfying, especially when we meet all the optional objectives.
The other part prior to the great robbery, that of obtaining the experimental system of the band that had agreed to sell it, we could not do it, since the sub-plot of the braindance took us a long time and went through a good number of dialogues. But we do know that he had multiple solutions, some through combat, others through ingenuity, and some through diplomacy. From our time with a single mission we can assure that those who adored the way in which the Polish studio raised the bar of missions in The Witcher 3 have little to fear in the face of Cyberpunk, everything indicates that we are in good hands again narratively speaking.
Right after the first mission, when we return home in the middle of the night as a co-pilot, we feel an immersive impact. There is a first person view inside the vehicle that allows us to enjoy the ornate and detailed panels as the city lights pass by. It seems unbelievable that it is not a cinematic sequence and that the next day we will be able to do the same route taking control of our vehicle. And it is true that it is possible, but it must be said, in honor of the truth and so that it is not all about blooming, that once we are the ones who drive, the effect is lost enough by a somewhat rough driving – again there is It must be emphasized that when playing remotely the lag is not the same. From CD Projekt we were assured that they are actively working on improving this section, so it is clear that it is not an exclusively our problem; We don’t know exactly what the problem is, apart from the first person there are two other external cameras to have more control of the vehicle and its environment, but there is a palpable difference between what it is to drive any vehicle in, for example, GTA V and do it. in the current version of Cyberpunk, so we are confident that you will find it with the key (a permanent or taxi co-pilot option would not be too bad to enjoy the atmosphere).
An even longer wait
The expectation for a video game is generated as a result of certain elements, not always easy to quantify. There are some elements that are easily identifiable: sequel to a successful game, new work from a recognized studio … It is clear that the new work of the creators of a game as important and successful as The Witcher 3 is going to attract attention, but it is anything else. It may be all these years that have passed since it was first announced, perhaps it’s the fact that futuristic RPG lovers haven’t been as well served as medieval or post-apocalyptic fantasy lovers, or maybe it’s for the nostalgic and evocative aroma given off by the original work of Mike Pondsmith. But for whatever it is, or for the sum of all these factors, Cyberpunk 2077 seems like a really special, massive game, perhaps a point and apart for open world games. It seems so huge that it scares, as if it were a tower so high that it seems impossible that it would not crumble under its own weight. What we have seen is very solid, very settled and colossally promising. The wait has now become even longer after the last delay to November 19, 2020, but we will face it with delight in the hope that the result deserves all these dreams that developers and users have poured into this project throughout all these years.