Take a look at our post-Gamescom 2019 Cyberpunk 2077 impressions. This is after viewing the hour long demo shown behind closed-doors at the event. You can read the video transcript or watch the video version.
CDPR showcased the same E3 2019 Cyberpunk 2077 demo at Gamescom this year. Whilst I was very excited to finally see the game up-close and personal, I came away from the hour long demo with some mixed feelings. I think there is potentially a lot of self-inflicted hype surrounding this game but then again, CDPR are riding that wave for obvious reasons. In part though, there is a sense that some of the hype is justified. They are one of several Polish based developers pushing Cyberpunk themes into the mainstream which in itself you can view as either a positive or negative. So that’s a good start in my view.
I love cyberpunk themes and perhaps whilst I’m not as invested as the most die-hard individuals, I feel I have a decent grasp of what it represents. I have delved into the William Gibson novels and kept up-to-speed on various cyberpunk movie and video games. Interestingly, Speaking with the developers of another cyberpunk themed game in development, we laughed in respectful agreement that Polish developers seemingly lead the cyberpunk charge at this current time. Now some might scoff and suggest ever since CDPR revealed their game, smaller studios and developers look like they are cashing-in on the current wave. From an outside standpoint it might look that way but when you delve beneath the surface you will notice some developers seem keen to explore alternative cyberpunk themed avenues which is positively welcomed in my book.
Onto the Cyberpunk 2077 demo then. Before I venture too deeply into any specifics I’ll describe how I felt after the rather scripted and well-rehearsed presentation. Not necessarily swayed by the cool and well-sought-after Cyberpunk 2077 jacket they gave to all in attendance, but pleasantly surprised all the same. The press-only booth operators were running a tight-ship rather successfully as far as I could ascertain.
Initially, I had mixed feelings about the gameplay which to me sided on the somewhat generic and expected rather than anything ground-breaking or inspiring. I found the pacing of this particular demo forced and painfully slow. Lots of walking and overly-long conversations which although players have some control over making choices which affect the outcome, the demo didn’t sell it to me very well. The dialogue felt a little dull and drawn-out with no-nonsense sounding voice acting. To be critical, most of the demo aside from a rather simple shoot the back of the character to weaken the boss , nothing much of interest happens. I wasn’t wowed by anything in particular despite the premise that given a free-reign some things should turn out to be very cool indeed. It was a demo in the literal sense, to show-off features and quirks such as multiple approaches depending on character traits rather than anything overtly cool and perhaps deliberately avoiding too many spoilers. As mentioned, an expansion of content already seen in the trailers and screenshots. I guess that’s a given considering CDPR look like they are deliberately holding-off from showing cool stuff for obvious reasons. Well I hope they are.
Rather than jumping for joy or left speechless in awe, I resided on the side of caution, keeping my expectations firmly in-check. I think that’s going to be prudent moving forwards as far as I am concerned. That said, if CDPR were playing a poker game, and using a cleverly deceptive poker-face here – which part of me suspects – then fair play to them.
All that aside though, Cyberpunk 2077 looks great, that much is obvious for anyone to see – in an open-world way that is. The new location impressed me, which offered a desolate or dilapidated environment in stark contrast to the colourful neon lit streets of last year’s gameplay reveal. A lot of the screenshots we’ve seen feature in the demo as you would expect, such as the guy playing the guitar and the ruined structure. So no real surprises there and somewhat familiar looking.
With Mike Pondsmith and an obviously dedicated and well-versed team of artists and researchers, the distinct concepts, visual style and art-direction is of a high-standard as far as I could tell. I felt in-tune with the alternate reality possibility towards the end of the demo where your character heads into cyberspace post-freezing in a bath of ice cold water. Hopefully this theme expands further as is suggested.
From a technical standpoint I noticed canned animations from NPCs and scripted actions but that is a given in an open-world game such as this. Interestingly, Night City hasn’t showcased its after-dark nightlife yet aside from brief glimpses in the reveal trailer and the E3 CGI. I suspect that moment will reveal itself closer to release. The brightly lit streets radiate a different vibe then as a result in my view. Perhaps from a visual standpoint a darker flavour presents unseen dangers as the freaks come out at night. The particular daytime mission in the demo felt structured in a way to simply highlight how a quest or story mission works in practice. We saw the character riding a motorcycle, a touch on the character customization options and some twists or turns of who you side with. The hour long demo served its purpose. For me the 48 minute video from last year set the scene, the trailer laid the foundations for the story and this demo rounded-off the gameplay features not touched upon in last year’s action scenes.
Cyberpunk 2077 is in an interesting place right now. It has the makings of a really great game oozing a coolness that basks in style. However, if its structure rests solely on the cyberpunk visual elements to carry it through and veers towards over-familar gameplay tropes then it might not receive the glowing praise across the board. For me, I’m still excited, perhaps less-so than before, but then again accepting of the fact I’ve not actually played the game and CDPR look like adopting a very careful approach in how they present their offering. I think in some ways, their current method works for and against them in equal measure. That said, I can agree with the condensed 15 minute stream. I suspect if the hour-long demo released publicly, the Internet would simply explode in a sea of polarised opinions. Either way, Cyberpunk 2077 releases in April next year and like a child on Xmas eve part of me still possess an unhealthy dose of child-like excitement.