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Cyberpunk 2077: 18 new details revealed in the E3 2019 demo

Online, story and mechanics detailed behind closed doors

VGC was the first outlet to see the latest Cyberpunk 2077 E3 demo on Tuesday, and speak to its creators about the ever-impressive action game.

Developer CD Projekt Red revealed a slew of new details on the game’s story, mechanics and yes, Keanu Reeves’ role in the campaign. We’ve detailed the most significant sights from the E3 2019 demo below.

1. Welcome to Pacifica

The latest demo takes place in Pacifica, one of the six districts of Night City. Pacifica was originally intended to be one of the main tourist areas of the Northern California metropolis, with investors pouring in a lot of money to flesh out its buildings. But with the collapse of the global economy, investors pulled their cash mid-construction and now the area is littered with half-finished hotels, shopping malls and rusting Ferris wheels. It’s a very dusty, brown-and-grey location with slums and poverty rampant.

2. The secret of immortality

The demo takes place midway through the game when V (the player character) has levelled up somewhat. With circumstances out of their control, V’s head has been implanted with a Bio Chip which houses the secret to immortality. V’s mission is to learn more about the chip in his (or her) head and to do this V needs the help of secretive hacker gang the Voodoo Boys. During the demo, V is seeking out their leader Brigitte.

3. Keanu Reeves plays “a digital ghost”

During the E3 demo, V’s head is haunted by Johnny Silverhand, a “digital ghost” played by Keanu Reeves. Johnny appears during several scenes, loitering in the background like a ghostly hologram. UI coordinator Alvin Liu said: “The least spoiler-y way I can describe his character is that he’s a ‘digital ghost’ in our system. If you remember in the demo he looks very ‘glitched’… he’s not a normal person and uncovering that story will be part of the fun.”

4. CDPR is still seeking feedback

In every behind-closed-doors session, CD Projekt is providing feedback forms for everyone who watches the latest Cyberpunk 2077 demo to complete. Attendees can rate the demo out of ten and provide positives and negatives. The developer told VGC it’s “a bold company” in terms of listening to user feedback, but it ruled out making any drastic changes to things like the game setting.

5. Online Functionality is in R&D

CD Projekt Red has said in the past that online functionality was part of its plans for Cyberpunk 2077. However, from our conversations with the developer, this doesn’t sound like a certain inclusion. Alvin Liu told VGC: “It’s very important to us and we’re still working on it, but it’s very much in research and development right now. We’re focusing heavily on the single-player experience, but we’re thinking about what it means to be online. We’ll talk about that after we finish the game.

6. Character customisation detailed

The E3 demo offered the most significant look yet at Cyberpunk 2077’s character creator. First players select a Life Path, deciding whether your character grew up on the streets, or left behind a corporate background for example. Your character’s Life Path will affect the dialogue options you have during the game. Visual customisation is extensive, with options for nose, ears, mouth, jaw, beard, surface wiring, hairstyle, skin tone and eye colour. CDPR noted that this was still work in progress. As a fully fledged RPG, players can also set their attributes by selecting stats for body, intelligence, reflexes, technical and cool.

7. A deep dive on inventory and shopping

As part of the mission to hunt down the Voodoo Boys’ leader, V visits an electronic market in the ruins of a hotel. The UI setup for the game’s vendors will look instantly familiar to fans of loot shooters, with rarity indicated with various colours. The shopkeeper in the E3 demo offered clothing (including the iconic Samurai jacket) and a selection of Daemons, a type of malware which unlocks new abilities.

8. Stealth mechanics

In order to reach Brigitte, V is tasked by one of the Voodoo Boys’ lieutenants, Placide, with investigating a mysterious hi-tech surveillance van in a nearby shopping mall. The van is being guarded by a group called the Animals, who have been decked out with military grade gear by an unknown ally.

CDPR showed the mission approached by two different character archetypes. The first was a Netrunner character with high intelligence and cool. The player sneaked beyond patrolling guards, who each seemed to have a routine of sorts, with the enemies in the demo disappearing to investigate loitering goons outside, or collect pizza.

In Cyberpunk 2077, players can play through the entire game without killing, its developer said. In the E3 2019 demo, it showed off a grappling mechanic in which players could sneak up and grapple with enemies, then decide whether to kill, incapacitate or perform an environmental takedown by smashing them against the scenery. One key stealth weapon was on display: the Monowire, which is a sort of futuristic piano wire used to slash enemies or even hack them.

9. Metroid Prime style scanning

Another key mechanic for sneaky players is the Metroid Prime-style scanning mechanic. As in Retro’s game, Cyberpunk players can scan the scenery to highlight weaknesses and useful data. In the latest demo, CDPR scanned an active security camera to highlight its activation panel in the environment, which could then be hacked (via a mini-game) and shut down.

Further along, the player used the scanning mechanic to hack a boxing robot in the middle of a sparring session with an Animal goon, in order to have it aggressively attack the enemy and create a distraction for V to sneak past. Next, V hacked a set of futuristic gym weights, which promptly crushed the enemy lifting them.

10. Strong Solo character demoed

At this point in the demo CDPR switched to a female Strong Solo character, with high body and technical ability stats. The developer was able to demonstrate how instead of sneaking and hacking her way through the Mall, V could physically smash open doors to open new paths, enabling her to flank enemies or bypass them entirely. Actually, she ends up battering the baddies she encounters with a knife and broken bottle, then later using them as human shields and blasting them to mush with a turret ripped up with her bare hands.

11. Skill Trees

At this point we get a detailed look at Cybepunk’s character skill trees, revealing upgrade paths (and the ability to level up abilities) for rifles, hand guns, blades, hacking, shotguns, two handed, assassination, cold blood, sniper rifles, engineering, melee and athletics. For the demo, CDPR upgrades its handgun damage.

12. Exercising your Daemons

During combat players can use the various Daemons they’ve purchased against enemies, making them pull the pin on a grenade they’re holding or brutally execute themselves.

13. Boss Fight

Eventually V encounters Sasquatch, the leader of the Animals gang. Players can choose to sneak past, but CDPR opts for the action approach and engages. Sasquatch is a real bullet sponge, with hit numbers flying off of her in an encounter reminiscent of loot shooters like Borderlands. V scans her opponent to highlight a glowing weak point on her back, which seemed to add some strategy to an otherwise straightforward battle of attrition.

14. A twist encounter

Once the player reaches the target surveillance van, it’s revealed that the group behind it is government agency NetWatch, which is gathering data in the area to locate the Voodoo Boys. Your quest giver Placide naturally isn’t pleased to discover this and orders you to locate the NetWatch agent nearby and eliminate him. The agent is hiding out in a moody cinema playing an old Western. V approaches and in a scene reminiscent of immersive sims such as BioShock, decides what to do with him.

The agent claims V has been used by the Voodoo Boys to eliminate the NetWatch threat and that once the player has done their dirty work, they intend to dispose of us. The player then has to choose from a number of dialogue options, either siding with NetWatch or incapacitating and hacking the agent. However, something seems to go wrong, with V blacking out before being awoken by Keanu Reeves’ Johnny.

15. Welcome to Cyberspace

At the end of the demo V finally encounters Brigitte, the character keen to investigate more about the chip in his or her head. In return, V insists on being introduced to Alt Cunningham, a legendary netrunner who was first to become a fully digitised consciousness on the net 50 years ago. Brigitte leads V to the heart of the Voodoo Boys hideout. Here, V is ordered into a tub of ice water hooked up to rows of machinery. Slipping below the ice, V is transported to the digital world of Cyberspace, a visually stunning environment of light and colour.

16. Xbox One X and PS4 Pro ‘won’t do anything special’

Alvin Liu tells VGC: “With Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, we’re not doing anything special. We’re not turning features on or off. We’re going to make sure that the core experience is strong and then if there is additional performance available it will be used to enhance rather than turn things off or on. We’re not focusing on a texture pack or anything.”

17. Next-gen sounds nailed on

The original creator of Cyberpunk, Mike Pondsmith says he expects Cyberpunk 2077 to eventually release for next-gen consoles such as Xbox Scarlett and PlayStation 5. “Frankly, nobody wants to wait to see this game coming on new systems,” Pondsmith said. “But to be honest, [CD Projekt Red] will upgrade the path. It’s already got elements probably built into it. I’ve not seen the code, but my assumption is that there are elements that can move forward to the next versions.”

In a separate interview, the game’s UI coordinator Alvin Liu said he thinks the studio will be “very fair” with whatever it decides to do in regards to a potential next-gen version. “We’re focusing on delivering a really good experience on current-gen consoles. When the next generation happens we’ll assess and figure out the best way forward,” he said.

“I would say that we are not a greedy company, so fans should expect a very fair offering with whatever we decided to do [with next-gen]. Currently we’re expecting to nail our current-gen productions.”

18. Are there other Hollywood actors in the game?

“No comment.”