So we’re finally here, in Night City.
CD Projekt’s massively ambitious role-playing game has entered a swirling vortex of excitement and controversy almost a decade after its initial announcement, suiting its salacious, histrionic atmosphere.
Cyberpunk 2077, like the technological MacGuffin at the core of the story, is advanced and ingenious, but also flawed and reckless. By taking infiltration and assassination jobs for the gangs that have carved up the criminal underworld, you play as V, a cybernetically enhanced street hustler trying to make a name for himself on the gritty, violent streets. You implant it in your own brain and unintentionally infect yourself with the digital mind of dead rocker and anarchist Johnny Silverhand in an effort to steal a state-of-the-art biochip from a wealthy organization (Keanu Reeves, essentially playing the asshole brother of Theodore “Ted” Logan).
If you don’t delete him from your head, both of you are going to die…. It is a fast-paced joyride through the city of cyberpunk tropes from here on out. There are shady businesses, raincoat hackers and robot sex workers; there are futuristic penthouses for stealing and infiltrating hi-tech facilities.
You can bounce off a complex plot full of fascinating characters in the main missions – hitmen, backwater cyber-surgeons, unscrupulous club owners – and there are truly moving moments along the way as you create relationships with allies and enemies alike. As a stealth game, you will play Cyberpunk 2077, keeping conflict to a minimum by hacking cameras and safety droids.
But that would be a shame, because the arsenal of guns is delicious, ranging from old-school revolvers to clever weapons, and the gunplay is great. A scene set around an impressive dashi parade with giant holographic fish looks like a sci-fi assassination film by Christopher Nolan. In another scene, set far out in the dusty wasteland, to cause an ECM pulse to bring down a passing plane, you raid a power plant.
You chase it to the crash site as the plane loses speed, racing cross-country on motorcycles – a fast-paced chase that contrasts beautifully with the town’s claustrophobic atmosphere. The game is heavily based on Mike Pondsmith’s cyberpunk tabletop game, but the writers also took every possible idea from The Fifth Feature, Strange Days, Neuromancer, Robocop and, of course, Blade Runner, which, for architectural and existential themes, was really cannibalized.
Elements of the genre-defining cyberpunk role-playing game Deus Ex still exist.
Cyberpunk 2077 relies on a vast network of character upgrades and customization choices that unfold over the course of the game, much like that classic. Unfortunately, given how much time you spend on these screens, it’s a tragedy to actually use them.
The menus are cluttered and frustrating, and it is often only a job that is best done rather than a pleasure to compare weapons or figure out cybernetic reinforcements.
There is no reason for such bland architecture in a period where Battle Royale and collectible card games have made inventory management intuitive, smooth, and enjoyable. Night City itself is a vivid, seductive neon hellscape, part Mos Eisley, part of the hyper-real parody of abandoned urban housing projects of the 1960s.
From the fetid streets, concrete and steel megastructures rise, their exterior sparkling with soccer field-sized billboards.
The masses live in techno shantytowns under these corporate monoliths, where neon-lit smog hangs in the greasy air and in every alley a war or business is afoot.
It’s difficult to communicate with objects, for example, to pick up items or hunt for downed enemies, but it’s a compelling and stressful environment, so well thought out and thick with activity that you sometimes feel like you’re really there. This world is an exceptional feat that has taken as much time, commitment and sheer will as the construction of a medieval cathedral. God knows what that means for the workers who have worked overtime to finish the game for much of 2020. There are several disturbing things in the midst of the excitement. How original the writers are to postulate that the misogynistic commercialization of female bodies with technological dystopia will eventually include