Cyberpunk 2077 has always been a game full of surprises. From its initial debut, to the trailer that showed completely destructible environments, to Microsoft’s press conference that had Keanu Reeves on-stage to talk about the game – Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the strangest, most interesting games we’ve seen in the last few years.
And it’s about to get even weirder.
At E3 2019 we got the chance to see a closed-door demo of the game in which Keanu’s character, Johnny Silverhand, got a full explanation. The weirdest part of this? Keanu may in fact be the key to immortality. Yes, you read that correctly.
Insane in the membrane
It’s not any stretch of the imagination to say that Silverhand is integral to the plot of Cyberpunk – in fact, as far as we can tell, he is the plot.
In Cyberpunk 2077 you play as a mercenary named V in Night City, a fictional metropolis in Northern California. What makes V special and Silverhand so important is that the two become linked early in the game through a biochip, a piece of hardware that can interface with your brain. The chip is planted inside V's head against his (or her, if you play a female character) will. Inside this chip is Silverhand’s consciousness – and, quite possibly, the key to immortality.
Over the course of the game you’ll be fending off hackers who want to jack into your brain, ruthless gang leaders who want to use you and throw you away, and a covert government agency called NetWatch whose motives will remain a mystery until the game comes out next year.
In order to unlock the secrets to the biochip, what basically becomes the main thread of the game, you’ll have to meet up with Alt Cunningham, the most legendary net runner of all-time. The only problem? She’s dead.
But her consciousness lives on the web and you’ll need to do whatever it takes to track her down – including, but not limited to, befriending or eliminating leaders of the biggest gangs in Night City.
Meet the Voodoo Boys
The main focus of our hands off demo was the sub-city of Pacifica, the southern-most part of Night City. Inside, two gangs – The Animals and The Voodoo Boys – are fighting for supremacy.
In order to meet Bridgitte, the head of the Voodoo Boys, you'll have to first deal with her lieutenant Placide, who wants you to infiltrate The Animals' hideout. Your goal, at least you're told, is to find a high-tech van that's monitoring all the network traffic in Pacifica.
In order to get to this van, you'll have to make your way past The Animals' crew. The reason they're called The Animals, it turns out, is because they take a drug that enhances their muscle mass. To get through them you'll either need to fight your way through – a risky proposition – or sneak your way into the hideout.
Tabletops eat your heart out
Missions like these, plus the journey to track down the Cunningham and unlock the secrets of the biochip, are the main threads that hold Cyberpunk 2077 together, but they’re far from the only objectives in Night City. From what we’ve seen there’s a fair amount to explore, gangs to impress/piss off and an Altered Carbon-esque city bursting at the seams with side content.
While exploring all that content you’ll be able to play the game your way: You’ll customize your character’s look; you’ll customize their backstory; you’ll customize their base skills and you’ll give them perks that make them who they are. If you want a ninja samurai who came from the streets and is skilled in firearms and hand-to-hand combat, you can make that. If you want a net runner super hacker that can take over turrets and jack into enemies, you can make that, too.
The choices are vast, and while they're not completely limitless, CD Projekt Red doesn’t want to confine you to a single play style or set path.
The reasoning behind that, it seems, is to better mirror the game’s source material – a 30-year-old tabletop role playing game called Cyberpunk (however, there was also a later edition called Cyberpunk 2020).
Behind all of the hacking and gunplay lies a fairly complex RPG – the perks screen we saw during our demo had more than 20 perks to choose from and level up. These perks impact how your character plays, but can also impact what choices you have in conversations with the world’s NPCs.
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Before we wrap this up, a word of caution: putting CD Projekt Red's game on a pedestal probably isn't the wisest move right now. What we saw this year was different than what audiences saw last year and in developer diaries: we didn't see environments get destroyed in our demo, for example, the game still required loading screens when fast-traveling and Cyberpunk's 'beautiful next-gen graphics' didn't shock and awe the same way they did a year ago.
Now, these are things that could be fixed before the game's release. Maybe the destructible environments only work in a few spots right now, and fast-traveling without loading screens isn't feasible with current hard drive limitations.
So much could change before the game comes out – and while we're sure that this is one of the best games here at E3 2019, we're not going to hype it up too much without seeing a bit more before the game comes out on April 11, 2020.
E3 2019 is the biggest gaming event of the year. TechRadar is reporting live from LA, telling you all about the biggest announcements of the week, from epic game trailers to shocking release date reveals. Follow our expert analysis of the keynotes and what we see on the E3 show floor.
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Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.