Cyberpunk 2077 E3 Preview: Raunchier, Darker, and Cooler Than We Could Have Hoped

Down a lonely, unassuming hallway in the LA Convention center, CD Projekt Red set up its base of operations to show off Cyberpunk 2077. The room was dark, swanky, and bathed in neon; I was trying hard not to act impressed. I thought I knew what to expect. I thought I was doing the right thing by keeping my expectations in very sober check.

I was wrong. Cyberpunk 2077 blew me away, and when you guys get to see everything that I saw, I think that you're going to be blown away, too.

I'll say this straight away: Cyberpunk 2077 honors CD Projekt Red's legacy of creating uncompromising, mature gaming experiences. In the opening minutes of the gameplay demo we beheld frontal nudity, heard plenty of F-bombs, and watched our protagonist violently dispatch a handful of thugs. The main character, "V," is an independent mercenary who plays by her (or his) own rules, and in a place like Night City, a little violence and a lot of street smarts will take you far.

Night City itself is beautiful. It's massive, and packed with life and color. There is so much happening at all times, and so many NPCs living out their lives with apparent autonomy; it's like a futuristic version of what I thought Shenmue was going to be as a kid.

Shop-keepers argue with patrons as you walk by, and at busy crossings you'll see crowds waiting patiently for the walk-signs to change. Cars are whirring by, elevators are scaling impossibly high towers, and everywhere you'll see video billboards projecting their wares in bright lights. Night City is alive, and dangerous. It's also seamless. I didn't see a single loading screen in the roughly 45-minute gameplay demo.

Cyberpunk 2077 is an RPG, first and foremost. You'll be able to create your own male or female protagonist at the beginning of the game, tweaking your appearance, and distributing stats. Your "class" will change as you progress through the game, adapting to the situation at hand.

During intense first-person firefights you'll see damage counters rolling through the air. Toward the end of the quest we found a unique smart-rifle, color-coded in purple, that our host pointed out as an "epic" weapon. Gear tiers are definitely a thing here, and the few pieces of gear that we saw in the demo had extensive stat and perk notes. This is an RPG-lover's RPG, which was really encouraging to see.

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Presentation and production value were absolutely over the top. Cyberpunk is so damn cool. I've heard editors and authors of note point out that Cyberpunk 2077 isn't truly "cyberpunk" because it doesn't look like this movie, or that comic, and after I saw the game in action I thought to myself, "You're f#*king right it doesn't look like those other things!"

It's its own thing. CDPR has put its own twist on this genre and aesthetic, and it's coming together brilliantly. Night City feels like a real place. It feels lived-in, with volatile power dynamics and struggles that, at times, seem more fact than fiction. When the presentation came to a close, I remember thinking to myself that this is the new standard to which future "cyberpunk" projects will be compared.

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Cyberpunk 2077 seems like the total package, and that makes me nervous. I wanted beautiful visuals, compelling characters, a believable world, player-choice, and tight gunplay, but I was willing to concede one or two of those things in the spirit of compromise.

Instead, I saw all of these things in spades. If what I saw at E3 is representative of what you'll play when Cyberpunk 2077 finally hits the shelves, I think it's safe to say that CD Projekt Red has another genre-defining hit on its hands.