Neon Dystopia Reacts to Cyberpunk 2077 E3 Trailer

It has been five years since our last real glimpse of Cyberpunk 2077. The time has come, and now we have a new trailer. A friend pinged this to me in the early morning hours when it came out. My finger hovered over the play button for a moment in the dark as I asked myself if I was ready for this, and the answer is no. I wasn’t. It took me a number of rewatches to really pull out everything I wanted to say about the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer, and then a trove of new information from E3 dropped. Before we dive in too deep, check out the trailer below.

If you are anything like me, then you’ll need to watch that again. Not everyone has been thrilled with the trailer though, William Gibson chief among them:

And the worst part is that he isn’t wrong. Not diving in too deep and ignoring everything else that I know about the development of the game, the trailer makes it look like a Grand Theft Auto-style shoot-em-up. Even before the new details dropped, I felt that this aspect of the trailer would not be truly representative of the game. Mike Pondsmith, the master story craftsman and original creator of Cyberpunk 2020 is directly involved in the creation of game after all. I also agree with Gibson that it does have a ‘generic’ cyberpunk feel, but that is exactly the point. In the late ’80s, there weren’t any roleplaying games that had captured the cyberpunk aesthetic and ethos. Cyberpunk 2020 was the defining cyberpunk roleplaying game, just as Neuromancer defined the genre originally and as Blade Runner defined the genre in film, even to this day. This is readily apparent in the similarities between Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun, the other best-known cyberpunk roleplaying game. What has allowed Shadowrun to outlive Cyberpunk 2020 has been their publisher’s ability to keep the tech up to date with our vision of the cyberpunk future, whereas Cyberpunk 2020 feels quite dated today, despite my everlasting love for it. Cyberpunk 2077 is Cyberpunk 2020 stepping into the current decade’s vision of the cyberpunk future. So yes, it is a generic ’80s inspired cyberpunk game, but it has been updated to reflect current visions of our cyberpunk journey into the future from our current cyberpunk existence. I can’t wait until Talsorian makes a Cyberpunk 2077 tabletop roleplaying game to compliment it and complete the circle.

With that, let’s turn our attention to the trailer and my reaction to it. It’s hard to miss my first point, as it is literally the first thing they drop on the screen. We see an extensive map of Night City, the major setting for Cyberpunk 2020. This gives me real hope that the city will feel immersive, real, and alive, as evidenced further into the trailer. I don’t expect that we will see much city hopping like in the Deus Ex franchise. No global scope here. Just you and the city.

Night City Metro Map from Cyberpunk 2077 Trailer

Along with this initial shot we are introduced to a character giving a narrative about this city, “the city voted worst place to live in America.” From here we get to begin our tour of the denizens of this place. Punks and corporate shills, then a shot out the window of the train car. Notice Arasaka emblazoned on one of the buildings. This is one of the most recognizable megacorporations from Cyberpunk 2020 and very likely one of the major players in the story of Cyberpunk 2077 judging from their front and center representation in the trailer.

Arasaka Board Meeting in Cyberpunk 2077 with Arasaka Description from Cyberpunk 2020

We then get a tour of the many faces of Night City, punks of all kinds. Not surprising given the game’s name, but also very welcome in a landscape that is often dominated with post-cyberpunk fare light on the punk elements.

Punks of Night City from the Cyberpunk 2077 Trailer

Punks, corporates, mercenaries of all stripes, gangers, low-lifes of numerous descriptions, and your iconic edge-runners, netrunners, and more.

We don’t see any VR in this trailer directly, but its effects are well seen. Netrunners burning corporates in board meetings and on planes, a kid playing a game, a netrunner jacking out, and maybe some BTLs (Better Than Life Chips, very addictive) for good measure. The kid stuck in my mind for some reason, and I couldn’t place the image while I flipped through pages of Cyberpunk 2020. Then I found it, in another Talsorian publication – Bubblegum Crisis. I take this a sign that CD Projekt Red isn’t afraid to draw inspiration from other cyberpunk media too.

Virtual Reality Kid vs VR Kid in the Bubblegum Crisis Roleplaying Sourcebook from R. Talisorian Games

One of my favorite lines from the trailer was, “This city’s always got a promise for you. It might be a lie, an illusion, but it’s there, just around the corner.” I felt that this line really captures one of the genre’s most important elements, the post-modern deconstruction of our constructed reality. It’s no accident that cyberpunk media is saturated with advertising, the chief thing that post-modern philosophers have railed against since at least the ’60s.

This is part of the “style over substance” aspect of Cyberpunk 2020. It’s about redefining style to subversively reconstruct society in a different way. Has cyberpunk succeeded in doing this in reality or has it, itself, been subverted? I think the answer to that question is one that is highly debatable with points on both sides.

“Style Over Substance” on display in Cyberpunk 2077 Trailer and on the cover of Cyberpunk 2020 Sourcebook Chromebook

Something that really stands out in the trailer is the depiction of everyday life in Night City. A guy practicing boxing with a robot, basketball, pool in a local bar, hanging out on a street corner, using public transportation, and even putting on makeup. All of these things add up to a city that feels real. I wonder how many mini-game style aspects of the game there are going to be?

Then there are some of these strange, familiar characters – the classic tough guy eating ramen, backwater hicks, and corporate stooges. It all adds to the massive diversity of the city, again bringing a feeling of realism to everything.

One of the most exciting scenes for me is the scene with the obvious runner-crew. It felt so iconic in so many ways, just a party getting ready for their next run.

Edgerunner Crew in Cyberpunk 2077 Trailer

Then there is the Trauma Team, a classic staple of the cyberpunk roleplaying game. They are a medical insurance provider that will actively extract and revive you from or during a violent exchange. Those more familiar with Shadowrun will know them as Doc Wagon. I suspect this will play a role in recovering from battles in the game.

Trauma Team in Cyberpunk 2077 Trailer

The action does look exciting, and I do hope that it doesn’t overshadow the more important aspects of the game. On the other hand, combat systems have always been defining aspects of games because combat is inherently complex, and Cyberpunk 2020 is famous for how realistic and brutal its combat system is. I wonder how realistic the combat in 2077 is going to be?

And then there is THAT car. Man, it is a thing a beauty – style over substance, indeed. I must say that I am excited to take that for a drive in the game.

Cyberpunk Car in Cyberpunk 2077 Trailer

Now, since the release of the trailer we’ve learned a few things. The game is going to be first-person perspective, which I have to say I am excited about as FPSs have always been my favorite games.

The protagonist’s name is going to simply be “V.” Anyone else getting a V for Vendetta vibe off that? Even so, it is a gender neutral name which works well with the character creation system that is going to be very customizable, complete with a version of Cyberpunk 2020‘s Lifepath system for background generation, ability to choose a character class, statistics drawn from the original game, and a ton of appearance options.

This is probably why we see our narrator in the trailer wearing the same jacket as a girl later – probably actually the same protagonist with a different build. Your character will be able to get apartments, where they can change clothes, and be able to drive cars.

In response to criticism that the game set in Night City seems to be mostly in broad daylight, CD Projekt Red said,

“The story is very noir in how it works, the feeling, the missions and the different characters you interact with. It definitely has that noir vibe, so if anybody’s worried that we’re not going to have that Blade Runner noir feeling, it’s definitely going to be there. The game has a full day-night cycle with weather systems so you’ll definitely experience both daytime and nighttime. And, for sure, it’s going to have that neon cityscape that people are really craving for.”

Probably one of the most exciting parts, though, is that the traits that you choose for your character will affect the narrative, as will all of the choices that you make, which will add a lot of replay value to this strongly narrative single player game.

Going back to the trailer for a moment, CD Projekt Red has done a fantastic job of hiding things in the trailer. They gave away free copies of Witcher 3, for instance. But more exciting than that, they published an open letter to the community making promises that make my cyberpunk heart sing from a cyber-ethics perspective.

Cyberpunk Letter Hidden in Cyberpunk 2077 Trailer

Most important, CD Projekt Red confirmed that the Cyberpunk 2077 will NOT have microtransactions, will be completely free of DRM on PC, and will have free DLC and expansions like they did with The Witcher 3.

Needless to say, I am excited for Cyberpunk 2077. I think it is going to be well worth the wait and it will be supremely cyberpunk as its namesake suggests. What do you guys think?

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Veritas is a cyberpunk and writer who enjoys all aspects of the cyberpunk genre and subculture. He also journeys deeply into the recesses of the dissonance exploring his nihilistic existence. If you'd like to contact Isaac L. Wheeler (Veritas), the founder and editor-in-chief of Neon Dystopia, you can do so here:
  1. I haven’t been this excited for a game since hearing about PlanetSide. I think it’s going to be outstanding!

    And on the trailer daylight issue, Mike had a great riposte to that on Reddit…

    • I love the way Mike Pondsmith talks, he just has a very compelling way of driving home his points.

  2. I’m waiting for it badly, but unfortunately it looks like there won’t be a Linux version, so I will not be able to play it, unless using wine, dxvk and expecting issues and probably bad performances…

    • I’m in a similar position. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see a native port, in part because of relative market share and in part because CD Projekt Red had a bad experience with the Linux port of the Witcher 2. However, if dxvk continues to mature, that may be a viable option.

      • I mostly use Linux these days, but I have a Windows machine too, for this very reason. Maybe with Microsoft getting so into Linux we’ll see more platform cross-compatibility?

    • upgrade to PC 😉

    • Maybe I’m out of the loop here, but is part of cyberpunk being against MS/Windows? If you know how to use Linux you can easily dual boot into Windows.

  3. Personally loving the 80s aesthetic. It is after all, a computer game based on a role-playing game from the late 80s, to state the incredibly obvious – if it hadn’t looked like the source material, they’d have been doing it an injustice, in my opinion.

    Also, and to my surprise, I’m loving the sun bleached look of the trailer. Of course there will be night time scenes as well, but I love the stylistic choice of doing day time cyberpunk, it’s a real statement of intent. There’s an underlying sense of (almost) optimism as well which is unusual, but in keeping with the source material – in some ways it reminds me of early Dark Angel, and therefore of The Bridge Trilogy.

    Very excited.

  4. Just wanted to post to join in the hand waving 🙂
    Love cyberpunk, ever since I red Neuromancer as a kid. Played 2013 and 2020 and love me some ‘punk 🙂

  5. Gah, spelling! How do I edit my post?

    • There should be a pencil in the upper right hand corner of the comment, so you can edit your comment.

      • Not for me. I guess I’ve not posted enough to get edit privileges yet.

        • Not for me. I guess I’ve not posted enough to get edit privileges yet.

  6. The girl doing her makeup has eyebrows like Sombra. I never played 2020. Should I go back, start from there? Before moving on to 2077?

    • If you enjoy Pen & Paper RPG’s, yea go for it.

    • Cyberpunk 2020 can be a bit hard to play these days, but the lore is fantastic. I’d suggest reading through some of the books, and the game can be fun to play, but you have to commit to updating the technology and maybe even making some house rules.

      • I found a good replacement in Interface Zero 2.0 for Savage Worlds.

  7. I’m so excited for this game in lack of a Deus Ex sequel even being on the drawing board. Its made by the same people who made the Witcher series… how could it be bad?

  8. Been following this game since it was announced way back. Wasn’t too keen on it being first person only at first but after reading CDPR’s explanation about their vision for the game I can see it now and have no worries that they will deliver.

  9. I am also huge fan of anything Neon scifi noir scifi cyberpunk etc.

    my . 2 cents.

  10. Please tell me it will have SovOil and rough, tough and cheap enough S0/\I3T cyberware (always laughed at how they mangle the language and Cyrillic letters in the movies). And Husqvarna ChainRipp (you look it up!). And Honda Goldwing 1500 with that 80’s design to complement the DeLorean/Trans Am in the trailer. Pleasepleaseplease…

    Seriously though, it’s about damn time and the right way to go. Deus Ex’s weak spot is that it feels very constrained, so GTA-style sandbox with quests and dialogues is precisely what we need. And speaking of games full of suggestive content as their core plot premise, I give no particular damn about the rating, the availability (although I may be exaggerating, I mean look at half the Steam store these days! Ugh…) or whatevs, for this game I would go to my local electronics market to buy the disk as I used to do, like, 15 years ago, in order to do this thing justice. The Witcher (the game AND the book) had this exactly right, so there is hope for them to say exactly what needs to be said.

  11. I’m probably alone on this, but I was really disappointed. The game has a strongly defined aesthetic and design (first-person is the right call for it, for sure) and it obviously has specific influences to draw on and honor, but to me, it ultimately looked boring, which is not how I expected to react to it.

    It has the same “go here, shoot this” gameplay that every other action-RPG has, including the “but first, do this” content padding, along with the exact same metric ton of needless customization options, upgrade trees, submenus, and various items and stuff which only hides how superficial the core gameplay really is (see: Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty). The weapons do seem to promise a level of creativity you’d expect from an Insomniac game, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of proof that they were living up to that promise.

    The dialog system also seemed really promising (as the narrator talked it up), but in the demo it didn’t seem to amount to anything at all. I hope that’s something they’re working on and show off more effectively in future demo videos.

    The worst part for me, though, was that it has the same lazy story beats and worldbuilding that you can see in any knock-off SciFi original movie. Doing “jobs” for eccentric/morally-suspect quest-givers? The corporate contact who double-crosses the player? The gruff sidekick who is always smirking though his dialog? And hey, here’s a bunch of loudmouthed “gang members” that came direct from every other game you’ve ever played. The atmosphere was just so cheap and familiar (no different from a GTA game, for example).

    And if the game has the same rate of “mature” (read: pre-teen) content and language, there’s no way I will be able to take it seriously.

    Someone please tell me I’m not alone…


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