It isn’t often that an fps game blows me away. CD Projekt Red played through a 50-minute section of the game at E3 to showcase what the game is about, how players move, shoot and interact with the world and what we have in store and let me tell you that I have seen the future and it is glorious.
In Cyberpunk, you make your own character instead of playing a set character. You choose your gender and assign stats to V, an urban mercenary who lives outside of the rules of corpos and gangs, a true cyberpunk. You also pick a backstory to open conversation opportunities, vendors and quests. You can change how you look and assigning attributes. There are no classes in the game, it is a fluid class system that lets you adapt to the game.
The demo starts with near the beginning of the game. You are in a dingy corridor approaching an apartment in a slum building. Handgun at the ready, T-Bug, your hacker tells you that they are hacking the doors. You make your way into the apartment, which is a scavenger den. There is a body on a dirty counter, naked with the ribcage snapped open and exposed organs and wiring protruding from the gaping chest wound. Scavs kidnap people and harvest their implants, selling the ill-gotten chrome on the black market. You are here to rescue someone with enough money to be worth saving, killing the scavs in the way. V can kill enemies with stealth attacks and can go in guns blazing too. At this point in the demo it looks a lot like Deus Ex with smoother gunplay and no third-person cover sections.
The game gets interesting when you take a huff from something that looks like an asthma pump. This airhypo gives you the ability to slow down time to react better to new threats. As time slows down, bullets slowly crawl through the air and several headshots are lined up before time returns to normal and a bunch of dead scavs litter the floor. A better-equipped enemy starts shooting a heavy weapon straight through a wall, forcing you to find cover. Without any way to target him, V watches from cover as the wall starts to crumble. T-Bug calls in that she can open a window, giving you an opportunity to flank. As you flank your partner, Jackie smashes through the wall, killing the gang leader and taking his gun.
You find your target nearly dead in a bathtub, moments before harvesting. She has a shard installed that prevented her medical insurance alarm from being sent off. You remove the shard from her neck, which looks like a futuristic USB slot. Insurance is called and a flying vehicle approaches the building, taking the target off your hands. The trauma team arrives looking more like a SWAT team than medics and they push you out of the way, weapons trained on you, as they take her away. Getting paid for a good job, your character celebrates and when the player is in control again, it looks like V and her partner are about to hit the big leagues and are getting noticed in the underworld.
Walking around your apartment, V can equip clothing that has resistances and other improvements, and one room is a gun locker with many empty slots for the arsenal you will hopefully own in the future. Stepping out into Night City, I was in awe of the size of the area waiting to be explored. Levels of apartments open up into shopping centres and big adverts flash as you get closer. It reminds me of a Megacity from Dredd with more neon and chrome. Music on the radio is played by Johhny Silverhand, from the lore of Cyberpunk 2020. Night City has six districts and the game has no loading screens.
To get ready for the first real big job you need some better wetware to get through alive. A ripperdoc installs a new eye with a level 1 scanner and a sub-dermal link into your hand that connects with your weapon. These mods allow you to scan objects and people around you to see their stats and weak points, to zoom in on faraway details and your ammo counter and aiming reticle now appear on the screen.
Your first big job tasks you with acquiring a high tech robot that was recently stolen from a corpo, one of the megacorporations that run so much of the world now. Your contact, Dex Deshawn is a large man with gold-plated enhancements who wants you to prove you can handle tough situations and this could get rather nasty. The robot was stolen by a group that believes that machines are pure and the path to enlightenment, people who install extreme enhancement in a city where almost everyone is pretty enhanced.
V can choose how to handle this mission: attacking the gang, working until having enough money to afford the robot or trying to pressure the corpo into accepting some help to get revenge and maybe earning twice for the same score. V picks the third option, arranging a meet with the corpo. You drive to the meetup, and again we see big sections of the city zoom by as we travel to the next objective. When there, we can tell our partner to keep cool or not, changing how they will approach things based on how the player wants to handle the next encounter. The corpo and her bodyguards are well armed and out-level V, meaning a peaceful interaction is probably the best choice. You move in closer and the corpo smack you around and hack you to check if you are lying. They buy your story but are more interested in proof of who the mole is that leaked convoy details than the actual shipment. They give you a cred chip to pay for the robot so your operation can start.
Again once driving there you get a dialogue option to decide how Jackie handles himself. The constant banter between the two of you makes him instantly likeable, a big man with a bigger gun and street smarts. You go on with the deal which has a tense moment when you are accused of being a corpo. Looking around during the dialogue options, a prompt comes up to shoot the guy in the face if you want, or to talk your way out of it. In the middle of their base, it feels like a bad idea to start a firefight, so you convince them your money is good. These guys are something else, with most of their faces above the mouth missing, replaced with an array of optics and lights. As you try to pay, the chip sends out a ping of where they are and a virus starts burning through the base and anyone unlucky enough to be plugged in at the time. A guy in front of you has flames gout from his cybernetics as the virus overloads everything, cooking his brain. As the fight starts you slow down time with a reflex booster to shoot several enemies in the head before grabbing a weapon, a shotgun. The shotgun can be charged up with alternative fire to pierce through cover, one of the many fun ways that you can use your guns to decimate opponents. During a slide you blast a leg off an enemy, their screaming ended as you blow their head off.
The developers then upgrade the player character a bit to show off the combat system. You pick up a smart-weapon, a weapon with a higher rarity than what you have been using up until now. This weapon tracks targets in a large area in front of you, with bullets arcing over cover to your targets. V can make use of slides, quick dodges, double jumps and reflex boosting to dodge, bypass and flank enemies. The gunplay is exquisite to watch, with a punchy shotgun and smooth assault weapon fire. One upgraded ability V gets is being able to see how ricocheting bullets will move, allowing you to shoot at walls to hit enemies in cover. You can also hack enemies that you subdue with stealth, jacking into them and then giving yourself access to the whole linked squad. The hacking system flashes up faster than I can note any details, allowing access to the weapons of the squad. The upgrades given by the devs include the mantis arm implants, which allow you to climb up the walls to find a good vantage point. You hack one guy’s weapon, then land on top of another, your mantis arm spike slamming through his skull. As you get the arm out of the head the other guy panics that his weapon isn’t working, before you decapitate him with a mantis arm attack.
The dealer you tried to screw over is waiting in the next room, strapping himself into an exoskeleton. The exo has a big laser weapon and a shield that moves to block incoming attacks. Your scanner finds a weak point to disable the shield, which lets you start killing the boss. Using double jumps, cover, strafing and reflex boosters you dodge the laser fire while killing the boss. You make your way out and the corpo is waiting for you. You can bitch about being used for bait, or just shrug and carry on with your life, taking the robot to Deshawn.
This was where the gameplay demo ended. Leaving me wondering about what waits in store. Graphics, gunplay, RPG and more all look so stunning and rich that I can feel myself falling into this world and waiting for it to swallow me whole.