Cyberpunk 2077: What we learned in the most mind-blowing game demo we’ve ever seen

“In 2077, we’re in a different timeline. America lies in pieces. Megacorporations control every aspect of life while the streets are run by organized crime. In between is where sex, decadence, and pop culture mixes with extreme poverty, violence, and the unattainable promise of the American Dream.”

That’s how CD Projekt, the studio behind The Witcher series, opened our presentation of Cyberpunk 2077 at E3 2018, and…well yeah. So far, so Cyberpunk. And yet while the tropes may feel familiar, it quickly became clear to me that the game itself is anything but.

Straight up: Cyberpunk 2077 is the most impressive game demo I’ve ever seen.

No, seriously.

Our demo was strictly hands-off, but in typical CD Projekt fashion was also very meaty—almost an hour of the game, played for us by one of the developers. We couldn’t record it, so we’ve embedded the trailer above.

There’s a lot to cover, but first I’d like to dig into why I found Cyberpunk 2077 so impressive: The city. Night City, to be exact, a sprawling dystopia set somewhere in future Northern California. Around 20 minutes into the demo, our character—a mercenary named V, who you create from scratch—walked out of her apartment and onto the streets of Night City for the first time, and…

cyberpunk 2077 4 CD Projekt Red

Listen, I’ve played a lot of video games in my life. Almost 30 years of them at this point. I know what a “city” looks like in video games, and I’ve watched that definition evolve over the years. I remember when Morrowind’s towns seemed bustling, and Oblivion after that. I remember watching a trailer for the original Assassin’s Creed and being stunned how large and crowded it was. I remember driving around Grand Theft Auto V and being in awe of the traffic and the number of unique pedestrians.

So I’m deadly serious when I say: I didn’t think Night City was possible. Not yet, at least. I literally didn’t think the technology existed. What I saw during CD Projekt’s demo was astounding.

At this point, I should probably mention that Cyberpunk 2077 is played in first-person. That means it’s even harder to convey a sense of scale to the player. As we walked out of that apartment, I was stunned as we looked up at towering skyscrapers, dozens of them stretching off into the distance and dotted with billboards and storefronts and all sorts of other signs of life. It felt like an actual city street, something from Manhattan or downtown Los Angeles or Tokyo or some other urban megacomplex.

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