'Cyberpunk 2077' Gameplay Footage Showcases Brutal, Beautiful Dystopia

Cyberpunk 2077
Courtesy of Bandai Namco Entertainment
CD Projekt Red wowed the crowd at PAX West in Seattle as it showed off 15 minutes of never-before-seen footage from the anticipated upcoming game.

Polish game studio CD Projekt Red brought its upcoming action role-playing game Cyberpunk 2077 to Seattle for the annual PAX West convention on Friday. 

The highly anticipated title made a big stir at this summer's E3 conference in Los Angeles when it was revealed that Keanu Reeves would have a starring role in the title and a release date was finally revealed: April 16, 2020. For the lucky few who managed to secure an invite to a behind-closed-doors, hands-off demo, Projekt Red showed off an hour's worth of new gameplay at E3 (which it also did in 2018, though the footage was different both times).

In Seattle on Friday, the studio offered a briefer glimpse of the same gameplay for a public audience, streaming the footage online. 

Hollie Bennett, head of communication U.K. at CD Projekt Red, introduced the demo, which started with the player character V climbing into an ice bath and jacking into cyberspace. The player then navigated through a bizarre, Matrix-esque version of the “deep net.”

The deep dive video then showcased the game’s distinct approaches to gameplay: solo and netrunner, a brawling play style and stealthier, hacker option, respectively.

The demo focused on a specific mission from “near the middle of the game” set in a derelict section of Night City called Pacifica, a “heap of disappointment” plagued by ongoing gang wars. V is tasked with infiltrating a rundown mall now controlled by a gang called the Animals, as instructed by rival gang Voodoo Boys, who are known for their skill in using the deep net.

V’s objective is acquiring a bit of tech from the Animals, an objective which can be completed in a variety of ways. The game’s customization system not only includes a deep character creation process, but also backstories and skill trees that have an emphasis on creating a play style to the player’s liking.

Showcasing the solo style, the demo shows V manning a current gun and mowing down enemies, grabbing enemies to use as human shields and ripping open doors with their bare hands, before squaring off against the muscle-bound boss Sasquatch, the Animals’ ad-hoc leader.

Showing off the stealthier net runner path, V hacks into tech to dispatch enemies and moves more slowly and thoughtfully through the mall. Using the nanowire ability, net runners can hack enemies and items from a distance. Doing anything in the net, however, comes with dangers, as V never knows who may be watching.

Emphasized throughout the video is the amount of options available to the player. Choose to kill or spare Sasquatch? Hack a corporate NetWatch agent? Betray the Voodoo Boys? All are up to the player’s discretion.

Of course, the demo also showed off Reeves’ Johnny Silverhands character, who lives inside V’s mind. “That’s a story for another time,” the narrator said, by ways of teasing the full reveal of Reeves’ character’s involvement in the story.

Following the demo video, developers Miles Jost, Pawel Sasko and Philipp Weber sat down to discuss the game. “From a level design point of view, it’s important to create these districts to be as different as possible yet still be believable,” said Jost, noting that Cyberpunk 2077 will have six separate districts of Night City for players to explore. He also compared the work on the new game to the studio’s previous titles, The Witcher series.

On designing levels that cater to the game’s non-linear approach to narrative, Jost noted the process was complex. “The whole philosophy of the game is freedom,” said Sasko. “You build the character the way you want and you play the way you want.” That includes playing the entire game non-lethally without killing any enemies, said Weber.

Though not seen much in the demo, Weber did mention the game will have a variety of vehicles for the player to traverse Night City, from luxury vehicles to utilitarian transports to “surprise” vehicles and the possibility of riding in flying cars. Witcher fans can even name their car Roach, Weber joked, Geralt or Rivia's trusty steed.

Speaking of the game’s three separate backstory options for V (nomad, street kid or corporate), Sasko visibly got excited to discuss Cyberpunk’s offerings. “Each of them defines the beginning of the story for the player. You start in a completely different way than other life paths. What is important with that is that we take that through the whole game,” he said.

"You're not bound to stick with the street kids or the corporate," added Weber. "But, as always, this can have consequences for you."