What do we know about Cyberpunk 2077 so far?
The Witcher 3 was a triumph, so what can we expect from CD Projekt Red’s next big release?
Being the favourite game of Red Bull readers last year, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s follow up will have to be a spectacular affair to reach the same heights as CD Projekt Red’s action RPG magnum opus. An indie developer at heart that works on its own terms, the company has been very clear that Cyberpunk 2077 will be released when it’s ready and not a moment before.
Set in the near future, this new title will mix the high tech future with low life aspects of society, and just as how Bioware switch between Dragon Age and Mass Effect, Polish developer CDPR are looking for success by taking a jump into the future. Given the information we’ve actually had so far, we think it’s time to round up the facts, and perhaps see if we can discern anything more, and work out just when we’ll be able to get our hands on what’ll certainly be a game of the year contender – whichever year that ends up being.
The teaser trailer actually reveals a fair amount about the universe Cyberpunk 2077 will take place in. For starters, it looks as though humans are augmented in a similar way to that of Deus Ex. Diverting from the real-time swordplay featured in The Witcher, here we see guns: standard bullets aren’t enough to take down people, and will ricochet off them, merely pulling away at the protective or armoured skin that encases them. As a captive female is on her knees, with a gun to her head, we suddenly cut to a police van, with a shaven headed female looking across at the man who we saw holding the woman at gunpoint. As she dons the same headgear he’s wearing, it seems clear that, if not entirely shady, these gun toting officers are not necessarily the good guys in 2077.
But that’s not all: CDPR have released information that fleshes out the world we’ll inhabit in CyberPunk 2077 – and it might just be as vast as that of The Witcher 3, which took many players nearly a hundred hours to get through. Called “Braindance”, there’s a new form of media in this late 21st Century, which is a digital recording that can be streamed directly into people’s brains, and consists of a person’s experiences. The idea is that these braindances allow users to feel the emotion and brain processes, but crucially, also the muscle movements of the person who recorded them: they feel like these things are happening to them. It’s a bit like the magic dreams that feature in The Witcher 3, but with nano-machines and microprocessors instead of sorcery.
It’s headache-inducing stuff, really, but evidently these braindances are made by megacorporations as a form of entertainment to let users see and feel things they otherwise couldn’t. As you’d expect, there’s an illegal, underground side to this media (Rule 34 is still a thing 60 years from now, it seems), and the literature provided to journalists so far indicates that they are used for a more nefarious means. It specifically mentions that you could step into “the mind of a serial killer”, and suggests that braindances not only let you see the horrors that come with that mind, but that you can also live out the “lust to kill and the fulfilment of that desire”.
It sounds horrible, like some weird VR format gone haywire, but CD Projekt Red is known for nothing if not its excellent narrative and scripts (The Bloody Baron quest alone in The Witcher 3 could have won GOTY awards) , and we’re betting this is intrinsic to the story. Perhaps these braindances can corrupt minds with prolonged or repeated use. Take this conceit, combined with the teaser trailer that suggests armed police have no problem murdering an augmented person in the middle of a street, and you have the basis of a “take down the government” story, right there.
However, if you think deeper about it, it’s maybe less heinous than you might initially think. The quick cut between the woman on her knees and the woman in the van are interesting. The music behind the trailer suddenly transforming to that sound you’d hear wearing headphones may suggest that, actually, the police are using these braindances themselves to capture criminals. Maybe these two women aren’t the same person, and instead the woman featured initially is a criminal who has recorded a braindance for the underground, and these armed police are from the megacorporations trying to shut them down. It’s all rather cryptic at this stage, but it certainly gets the mind racing like Roach with rockets strapped to his legs, doesn’t it?
Whatever is going on, it’s very clear that braindances aren’t a popular form of entertainment with everyone. There’s a clear divide in the media between those that love it, and those that think it’s dangerous. Two characters within the world of Cyberpunk 2077, Santiago Jones and Hasan J. McDermitt, are on opposing sides of the fence. One appears to be a journalist, and the other more of a hippy type. Jones thinks those who use braindances are “chumps”, but the really fascinating thing is how he zones in on the marketing for braindances suggesting they feel better than reality – he’s concerned about the aberrant underground braindance scene. McDermitt, on the other hand, praises loading times and thinks that people like Jones are “retrobores”. Leading with this kind of material, when we’ve seen so little of the game at this stage, really does hammer home that braindances are a key part of the narrative.
What we do know for certain is that CDPR say “technology has become the salvation and the curse of humanity”, and that the story will be “multi-thread” and “nonlinear”. It will definitely be an open world game, and you’ll be able to visit places from pen and paper RPG Cyberpunk 2020, which was written by Mike Pondsmith, and is what Cyberpunk 2077 is based on. There will definitely be a “combat zone completely taken over by gangs”, as well as the “Afterlife joint” and a place called “Forlorn Hope”, and we’ll be visiting Night City, just as we did in Cyberpunk 2020.
This all adds up to suggest the game will be a heavily combat-focused RPG (with all the associated levelling up and stat points, and so forth), in an open world, and interestingly, it looks it might be the first time CDPR shy away from the more melee-based combat, instead offering up guns and, well, goodness knows what else. It all points to a deep, involving game that is very exciting just to think about: it’s a neon glowing megatropolis with the rich and poor; the hip and the square. It’s a world that Mike Pondsmith says will be “about the Cyberpunk you thought you knew, scaled up: bigger, badder, stranger.” It’ll talk about the “fourth corporate war” where “we’re looking at the same mucking, nasty Night City that you were in before [in Cyberpunk 2020], just a lot bigger and probably a lot more dangerous and with a lot of players you don’t know about yet”.
But the important question is simple: when will we be able to buy it? Looking at CDPR’s history, it announced The Witcher 2: Assassin’s of Kings (albeit initially via a leak in 2009) for PC in 2010 and it came out in 2011, though it was a single format game, with the Xbox 360 version coming later in 2012.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was announced in February 2013 and released in May 2015, giving over two years between announcement and release. Obviously there will have been plenty of development before an official announcement, but the trouble here is that Cyberpunk 2077 was announced once in 2012, and then properly in 2015. Given that the game is “done when it’s done”, it’s very hard to put a date to when it’ll be released, but with nobody having played it, or even seen it in action, and knowing that we’ve had nothing bar a teaser trailer, 2017 seems a fair bet, especially if you think about the fact they can market the game with the angle that “this is 60 years into the future”. That’s a nice round number. You know what isn’t? 59.
There are huge questions hanging over this game still: we don’t know who the protagonist is, and we’ve not seen anything markedly new for ages. Regardless, it looks as though Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that we must keep a close eye on. CD Projekt RED has earned that much, through the constant delivery of terrific games in The Witcher series, and arguably even better DLC. Diverging away from melee combat (we think) towards a dystopian cyberpunk future is an exciting direction to see them go in, and we can’t wait to learn more – and once again show Bethesda how it’s done. Let’s just hope our 2017 prediction is spot on, right?