Cyberpunk 2077 - Hands off demo impressions

Published: 11:16, 18 November 2019
CD Projekt Red
Key art for Cyberpunk 2077, featuring the main character "V".
I want this jacket so much.

Cyberpunk 2077 continues to elicit palpable excitement and levels of hype reserved for only the most anticipated of titles. We got the chance to watch a brand new 40 minute hands off gameplay demo at EGX 2019 earlier this year

Fresh off a well-deserved nod at the 2019 Golden Joystick Awards (for "Most Wanted Game"), Cyberpunk's meteoric rise seems to be expanding without limit. The pedigree of its developer may have a little something to do with that; CD Projekt Red are coming off of The Witcher 3, one of the most highly regarded (and well supported) games of this generation.

At the same time, you could be forgiven for thinking that the hype train would eventually be derailed by some theoretical accusation of downgrading, or some abhorrent micro transactions. But here we are, a few months out from launch, and the game is looking better than ever, without a micro transaction in sight.

Our demo is presented as a literal deep dive, digging into the weeds of the UI and showing everything from character customisation, to the skill tree and inventory management. Everything is centred on player choice, with an impressive amount of options that allow you to specify areas that speak to your play style. One big takeaway is that attributes can be mixed and matched depending on what takes your fancy, and the categories themselves are taken from the original table top role playing game, including intelligence, reflexes, and cool.

After a couple of "for the sake of time" skips, we jumped in to an infiltration mission. The focus here was on showcasing different approaches to the same scenario, and for us, it was an opportunity to take note of some interesting design flourishes. In combat, enemies visibly react to each bullet hit, which gave each confrontation added weight. The destructible scenery was also impressive, but this isn't Bad Company 2; pillars will crumble and bullet holes persist, but you won't be bringing down skyscrapers.

CD Projekt Red A fight club in the world of Cyberpunk 2077. You can hack the robot to "accidentally" kill the other dude.

Some of the most interesting tools at your disposal came in the form of augmented hacking abilities, which gave us major Deus Ex vibes. Camera's and turrets can be turned against your foes, but the gnarliest examples came during a heated exchange with a group of mercenaries. After another "for the sake of time" switch up, a different class was introduced, which focused more on tech.

During a firefight, the player character hacked one mercenaries synthetic arm, made him draw his pistol, and shoot himself in the head, while another was forced to pull the pin on his own grenade... while it was still attached to his belt. 

These are just two examples in a sequence rife with alternate choices. This extends to the dialogue as well, with every part of each interaction always providing a minimum of two to three forks in the road to change the end result of a conversation. Keanu Reeves' character, Johnny Silverhand, even pops up in the background (as a projection visible only to the player character) and regularly throws in little nuggets to help steer the story a certain way. Or, you can just do your own thing, and see how it all plays out.  

We haven't even mentioned the seamless transition between open world and interior environments, or different perks opening up new routes through the same area. There's a futuristic Indiana Jones style whip that doubles up as a melee weapon and long range hacking tool. You can complete the game without killing (including the bosses). There was so much to unpack, and we feel like we're only scratching the surface. 

CD Projekt Red One of the many factions in Cyberpunk 2077, discussing their robotic products. Like a modern day Watto. Look at my evil death machine!

A huge thank you to Hollie Bennett and the lovely promotional team at CD Projekt Red for giving us access to the demo presentation. Cyberpunk 2077 launches on 16th April 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. 

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