By: TheJewphin and Lowfat
CD Projekt Red finally recently released gameplay footage of Cyberpunk 2077, which you can find here. In one of the final frames of the video demo, CD Projekt Red left a message to the gaming community explaining why they waited so long to release the video: the game is still very unfinished and they do not want to set expectations as to the end product. That said, they would love feedback. So, here are a few of our initial thoughts for CD Projekt Red (and anyone else who is interested).
Cyberpunk 2077, like any good cyberpunk piece, is set in a dystopian future where the worst inclinations of humanity combine with the best improvements in technology. In the gameplay demo, we are introduced to smugglers, mob bosses, street gangs, and corrupt officials.
I was most impressed by the beauty of the game’s setting, Night City. Far too often, dystopian science fiction attempts to match the visuals to the motif of the piece, producing dark and gritty visuals that more often than not feel drab and boring. Cyberpunk 2077 demonstrates that some of the most corrupt parts of humanity exist under the guise of beauty, providing us with a beautiful city covered in bright advertisements. Even the mob bosses and corrupt officials have flashy, well-groomed appearances.
The city of Cyberpunk 2077 looks as dystopian as one would expect, but in a dichotomous way: one part of Night City looks ripped from Back to the Future, with clean, busy streets and bright, neon signs hanging from every inch of each building. The other part of Night City, and this includes most hideouts, is grimy and hostile, with trash, wires, and mechanical debris littering the streets beneath deteriorating walls.
The colors were astounding. I loved the various shades of blue, yellow, and green used to brighten up the more utopian areas of the city, and I hope CD Projekt Red makes those colors stand out even more in the final version, to further increase the contrast between the “clean” and the “dirty” boroughs.
One of CD Projekt Red’s main strengths has always been character concepts. The Witcher series featured unique, terrifying monsters with no shortage of things sticking out of places they shouldn’t, oozy bits, and crooked teeth. Cyberpunk 2077 looks to continue that trend, and it is a delight. Many of the people of Night City have undergone extensive cybernetic enhancements. In other games, a simple metal arm or chest armor is about the extent of the upgrades, but not here.
Royce could be a poster child for cybernetics gone too far: his entire face is missing from the nose up. In the space where his eyes and forehead should be, instead there is a large hole. In it sits what looks like a small robot, looking disturbingly similar to Cymothoa exigua: the louse that eats a fish’s tongue, then sits in its mouth like a replacement appendage. Royce is made all the more unsettling because he walks and talks like a normal human, despite the fact that he is missing half of his head. Nicely done, CD Projekt Red. More disturbing strangeness, please!
The exploration looked interesting, and the gunplay – what looks to be the meat and potatoes of Cyberpunk 2077 – looked exciting. The scenes in which V shows off her Deus-Ex-like cybernetic enhancements, in particular, were exhilarating. The vehicle combat looked fun, too. Leaning out the window to fire at moving enemy vehicles looks particularly fun in all its mayhem.
The car driving sequences themselves merely looked adequate. Perhaps not because of any flaw, but because driving sequences in general can be tedious. Car driving is the new underwater level: it can be a jarring experience if not done right, and only serves to frustrate players when done wrong.
Sometimes the vehicle segments are done well, and enhance the gameplay, as in Rage or Saints Row. But if controls are bad, or if difficulty is not properly balanced, like in Arkham Knight or Final Fantasy XV, the gameplay suffers. Hopefully the car driving bits in Cyberpunk 2077 will be polished, or else take a back seat (sorry for the pun) to the combat and exploration.
Cyberpunk 2077 wisely uses its interface as an increasing source of information for the player. The cyberpunk genre has historically been focused on hardware: mechanical upgrades to the body or armor or weaponry. But in today’s age of information, it is becoming increasingly likely that a major source of power will be the ability to gather information faster and more accurately than your opponent.
One of the best things shown in the gameplay video was the integration of the HUD to the increasing strength of the character. The HUD is described as an information overlay seen by the character which can be upgraded in various ways to give the character, and thus the player, more data. In the video, the player purchases optical zoom and scanning upgrades early on. Later in the demo, upgrades show enemies through walls or show ricochet paths for bullets.
I love the idea of HUD-based upgrades. Nier: Automata had a similar system where HUD elements took up upgrade slots, though it lacked the ability to continuously upgrade your HUD. Out of everything in the video, I would like to see more of this in the completed product. For instance, upgrades that allow you to scan faces to identify stress during a conversation could open up new dialogue options, while hacking could be bypassed completely if a fingerprint scanner shows the selected numbers on a door.
The one place where the HUD fails, in my opinion, is by giving too much quest information. Not only is the quest information the only data that thematically does not fit with the HUD design, but detailing the ways a quest can be completed makes the options feel more limited. Mark Brown has a great discussion on this in his video regarding The Witcher 3.
As an example: the quest information for Dex’s first mission include a main objective which directs the player to find the thieves to the All Foods plant, and an optional objective to meet with a corporate agent. Both options are continuously displayed on the screen, with markers identifying their locations.
By both providing this data and narrowing the choices, the display simultaneously robs the player of the chance to figure out how to solve the problem on our own, while also making the number of options feel limited. Additionally, by adding the corporate agent quest as an “optional” quest, the display tells the gamer that either the agent discussion is side content that can be skipped, or conversely, that a completionist route would make the agent quest required gameplay. This diminishes the freedom that is core to the role-playing experience. Hopefully quest objectives in Cyberpunk 2077 can be disabled, or made less pointed, to maintain player immersion.
We are extremely excited for the striking visuals, excellent setting, and interesting upgrade paths depicted in the demo. The HUD’s constant and specific quest display could be tweaked, and the seemingly large focus on vehicular gameplay has us slightly concerned, but CD Projekt Red recent efforts have been astounding, and we eagerly look forward to the next update.
For more information on Cyberpunk 2077, visit CD Projekt Red’s website here.