Why is Everyone Talking About 'Cyberpunk 2077'?

Cyberpunk 2077 game still: man smokes leaning on car in front of city CD Projekt Red

If you’ve been on the Internet in the past year, you’ve read one thing. And that’s not Cyberpunk 2077. But if you’ve read two things … okay, it might not be Cyberpunk either. 2020 is a lot. But if you are even distantly interested in video games, you have heard of it and you might be wondering what the problem is?

The big problem is, it’s been a game in development for almost a decade and has been delayed several times. So there is a lot of anticipation. But it’s more than that: Cyberpunk 2077 is an extension of a long-standing but somewhat niche franchise, it’s being developed by one of the most popular and beloved game developers on the planet, and it promises pretty amazing gameplay.

If you want to get up to speed with the basics in a matter of minutes, read on. This isn’t a review, but it will probably tell you if you could be as excited about Cyberpunk 2077 as everyone else seems.

It’s set in a sci-fi world with decades of history

You may have heard “cyberpunk” before, in a context unrelated to the game just released. “Cyberpunk” is an umbrella term: it’s a sci-fi subgenre, with representative entries in novels, movies, comics, video games and pretty much everything in between.

Cover of Neuromancer, Brazilian edition ALEPH

Arguably the first fully recognizable cyberpunk fiction was Neuromancer by William Gibson, who borrowed elements of the Cold War school of science fiction from writers like Phillip K. Dick. The book features many pillars that you will recognize from later examples: humans enriched with cybernetic hardware and brain-enhancing software, advanced AI capable of “thinking” like a person, huge omnipotent corporations ruling over them. a class of oppressed serfs, a heavy reliance of society on the internet (even before the internet as we know it!), and street crime that uses new technologies.

It was all shrouded in the structures and attitudes of the black fiction that was popular in the mid-20th century. Think Sam Spade is meeting Inspector Gadget. But if you want one idea to point to for cyberpunk, it’s this: What happens when technology advances, and society doesn’t?

Cyberpunk as a subgenre continued to evolve in novel form, with recognizable works like Snow Crash and Altered Carbon included in the mix. But cyberpunk has been even more influential in visual media, with the undisputed star being Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece. Blade runner. Itself based on a new proto-cyberpunk, Blade Runner’s dystopian nightmare of the “future” LA (2019, as imagined in 1982), his story of robots resembling genetically modified humans, his frequent references to bio -engineering and digital memories, and above all, its mind-boggling mix of sci-fi wonder and dark oppressive capitalism has influenced both cyberpunk and science fiction as a whole for decades.

An image from Blade Runner, 1982. An image from Blade Runner, 1982. Warner Bros.

Cyberpunk has been told in comics (Judge Dredd, Ronin, Transmetropolitan), anime and manga (Ghost in the Shell, Battle Angel Alita, Aeon Flux) and many Hollywood movies, from Robocop to Hackers to The Matrix. . Naturally, video games weren’t far behind: Beneath a Steel Sky, Deus Ex, and Final Fantasy VII are all good examples of games that took on the cyberpunk style. Cyberpunk fiction is varied and flexible, but it generally relies on a few common themes: advanced technology that is both good and bad, the mixture of humanity and technology in body and mind, an ubiquitous version and sometimes terrifying of the Internet, and a dystopian. society in which huge corporations rule over most of the city / country / planet.

Cyberpunk Red Starter Kit No BoxCyberpunk pen and paper RPG has been booming for 30 years. R. Talsorian games

Tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, played with paper character sheets, dice, and miniatures, is one way cyberpunk as a genre has taken root. It’s there that the Cyberpunk franchise (note the capital “C”) started in 1988. The first version of Cyberpunk was written and designed by Mike Pondsmith. It carried over conventions from novels and movies and used as part of tabletop role-playing game where Tolkien-style fantasy was the norm.

Cyberpunk, the role-playing game, plays the hits: mega-corporations, cybernetic body augmentation, internet and digital hacking, and grungy black-inspired decor. Like D&D, Cyberpunk has evolved over the decades, with stories and rule changes coming from the publisher, and players creating their own stories and campaigns. There have even been unofficial “clone” games using similar ideas and systems in their own modified settings. There have been several updates and revisions from the publisher, R. Talsorian Games: Cyberpunk 2020 (the most popular version, and usually a shortcut for the series), Cyberpunk 3.0, and this year’s review, Cyberpunk Red.

Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand Keanu Reeves lends his voice and likeness to Cyberpunk 2077. CD Projekt Red

After 30 years of stories set in the Cyberpunk RPG universe, the scenery is finally revived in Cyberpunk 2077. The game borrows from its most remarkable location, Night City, as a playground, and home to many people, locations and factions. of the game directly on the role-playing series. Notably, Hollywood star Keanu Reeves (himself a veteran of the cyberpunk genre in The Matrix, Johnny Mnemonic and A Scanner Darkly) has been cast to play Johnny Silverhand, a major non-player character in the Cyberpunk table world.

It comes from one of the best developers in the world

But the history and its setting rich in traditions are not the only things that have excited the players. Cyberpunk 2077 is developed by CD Projekt Red, a Polish game studio. CDPR has made a name for itself with the games in The Witcher series, especially The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, which is one of the best-selling video games of all time. Players have fallen in love with its fluid combat, deep history, open world, and almost unbelievable levels of quality and visual fidelity.

A screenshot from The Witcher III: Geralt rides his horse through a townCD Projekt Red

The Witcher game series is a role-playing game based on a series of Polish fantasy novels, with an emphasis on dark themes and the subversion of established tropes. The books were popular on their own, but the game series took the franchise’s notoriety to unprecedented heights, culminating in a live-action series on Netflix starring Henry Cavill (DC’s last Superman).

The success of The Witcher propelled CDPR to the top of the game development and publishing worlds in just a few short years. The company has also shaken up the industry: in addition to focusing on production quality rather than quantity, and avoiding modern excesses such as online multiplayer and pay-to-win microtransactions, CDPR is the owner and operator of GOG.com. GOG (formerly Good Old Games) focuses on the distribution and archiving of DRM-free games as a medium and an art form. Today, it is a small but vital and growing sales platform.

Screenshot from GOG.comGOG.com is owned by CDPR and strongly presents its games on its storefront.

An established media franchise, a dark setting, a great sprawling role-playing game… notice the parallels here? The thought among video game gamers and media has been that CDPR is the perfect team to tackle a Cyberpunk adaptation, and it’s a great sci-fi counterpoint to its Witcher series. Kind of like Fallout for his Elder Scrolls, if you will.

It should be noted that, although generally well regarded, CDPR is not without controversy. Former employees say the company’s fanatical dedication to quality has made it an abusive place to work, with excessive overtime and a more or less “crunch” throughout the development of the Witcher series. CDPR has promised that the final months of development on Cyberpunk 2077 will be properly planned, and no forced crunch would be necessary … But then backtracked, saying the developers would forced to work overtime to set the game’s release date.

He makes big promises

If the combination of Cyberpunk RPG world and CD Projekt Red isn’t enough to get you excited, then the game’s ubiquitous marketing could be. Cyberpunk 2077 is a mix of first person shooter and RPG, in the vein of Deus Ex (another staple of the cyberpunk genre) or Fallout. And in itself, this is nothing new. But the game’s promotional materials paint a picture of something that pushes the boundaries of visual fidelity, gameplay design, and interactive storytelling.

Years of promotional videos portray the setting of Night City as an open and vibrant world, where characters and factions dynamically interact with the player and with each other to create unpredictable and fit-to-the-setting situations. The player can choose to focus on combat abilities, stealth, or hacking to achieve their goals, interrupting The Witcher’s more focused action and nodding to the main tabletop RPG archetypes. While there is a linear story, players can walk it or explore Night City for seemingly endless side quests and smaller storylines, or just focus on leveling up their own weapons, skills, and gear.

The graphics of the game are strongly emphasized, and not without justification. Cyberpunk 2077 is gorgeous, at least in its carefully curated trailers, and it’s only helped by the cohesive (albeit derived) visual design of the set and characters. Console gamers will see the game push the limits of their hardware, and PC gamers may need to invest in some upgrades to play it. (Incidentally, this might be a good game to try out on a service like Stadia or GeForce NOW.)

Cyberpunk 2077 screenshot: shooting a man with a hammerCD Projekt Red

But CD Projekt Red does not limit the angle of innovation to game design. From quests to NPCs to custom character creator, Cyberpunk 2077 attempts to cultivate an air of progressive interactive storytelling that pushes the latest trends in Hollywood. This last point has caused some friction even before it was released, and first impressions are less than brilliant.

And it took a really long time to get here

Cyberpunk 2077 was first announced over eight years ago in May 2012. The first time anyone saw it was a visually stunning but uninformative trailer a few months later. Full development appears to have started after CDPR released the latest Witcher III update in 2016, and the hype train has derailed for the past two years after the first gameplay trailers released.

Here’s the original trailer, from January 2013. (Or expressed in game development terms: There are seven Assassin’s Creeds.) It ends with the far-sighted statement, “Coming: when it’s ready.”

Eight years is an eternity in game development, and even more so in game marketing, where players expect new releases from major franchises like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty every year. But on top of that, the game has been delayed no less than four times: it was initially slated for release in April 2020, then postponed to September, then November, and finally December 10, when it made its official debut. .

Gambling delays are extremely common, but the combination of CDPR’s relatively late delays and restless gamers waiting for the COVID pandemic has led the anticipation to a feverish pitch. A marketing blitz is increasing this demand, for better or for worse: Everything from special edition consoles and shoes to official art posters and furniture has been sported in the official colors and logo.

Hilariously, NVIDIA released a Cyberpunk 2077 version of its RTX 2080 graphics card … And the game is coming out long after the new RTX 3080 was released.

Cyberpunk sneakers from adidas Adidas

The fact that you can buy a Cyberpunk branded Xbox and use it as a shelf for your Cyberpunk Funko Pops as you lean back in your Cyberpunk Gaming Chair at sip a Cyberpunk energy drink, and doing it monthly before you can actually play the game, certainly didn’t help to wait for those release delays.

Can Cyberpunk Live Up to the Hype?

So, was the wait worth it? Initial reviews are mixed. While reviews praise the game’s visual fidelity and smooth action, there are said to be plenty of bugs (as with all open-world games) and a streak that could be dangerous for players prone to seizures. The main quest appears to be much less interesting than the frame itself (another staple of open world games!).

Cyberpunk 2077 screenshot: Holding a gun under a cyborg's chinCD Projekt Red

Add to that the all-too-predictable backlash from gamers: Cyberpunk’s loudest pre-fans are already attacking critics for giving the game less than perfect reviews. It was inevitable – a similar childishness is seen for almost all major game releases now – but it puts a damper on what has been an otherwise thrilling game launch.

I was play the game on Stadia (with a review copy provided by the Google public relations team). While I saw a lot of bugs and glitches, some of the most frustrating issues reported by gamers on older consoles and low-power PCs did not materialize. I would call Cyberpunk’s gameplay “Grand Theft Auto with a Deus Ex skin”. It plays pretty well and the game world is huge and interesting, but part of the science fiction innovation is just a way of labeling existing game elements – like an “optical implant” that lets you see the game. radius of a grenade explosion, something I’ve seen in shooters for years.

It is impossible to get an accurate indication of the quality of such a release so soon after its release to the world. But if I had to shield myself from my first impressions, I’d say Cyberpunk 2077 looks like a solid game from a reliable developer who oversold on their innovation. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a single first opinion or impression that says so. But to expect this game to usher in a new chapter in interactive entertainment might be a bit of a stretch.

If you’ve been eagerly awaiting Cyberpunk 2077 for years and hanging on to every word in the press … well, you’re probably not reading this article. You are probably playing the game right now and having a good time. But if you are wondering if you should run out and buy it … maybe?

Cyberpunk 2077 promo art: woman eats noodles in front of motorbike and holographic fishCD Projekt Red

If you are already a fan of open world action games – Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed and in particular The Witcher – you will probably enjoy the gameplay of Cyberpunk 2077. If you like a dirty and grimy take on a corporate future – Fallout, Blade Runner, pretty much everything Neil Blomkamp has done – you’ll probably dig the set and the story.

If you’re not in either of these camps, you can probably afford to wait for a sale or impressions from a friend who plays the game. Because chances are good that you have at least one friend who plays the game. Game.

Cyberpunk 2077 is available on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation, as well as Stadia. It costs $ 60.

Cyberpunk 2077: the most anticipated game of 2020

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