Eight years have passed since the announcement and five years since The Witcher 3. Fans of Cyberpunk 2077 and CD Projekt Red are already used to long waiting. As it recently turned out, the waiting time for what is probably the most longed for game of 2020 will be extended by another two months. On November 19, it should finally be ready. With this second postponement, Cyberpunk 2077 is in good company with The Witcher 3, which has also been postponed twice. That can only be a good omen, because the witcher adventure has become one of the most outstanding role-playing games ever.
The expectations are also correspondingly high, but if fans trust a studio to fulfill them, it is most likely CD Projekt Red. The extensive gameplay presentations, which were initially held behind closed doors around E3 2018 and 2019, triggered a lot of enthusiasm and later shown to the general public. So far, however, we were only passive spectators at the first glimpse into the world of Night City. That has now changed. As part of a play-off event, we had the opportunity to do our first attempts as a V for more than four hours.
The developers don't throw us into the cold water somewhere in the middle of the game, but let us experience role-playing from the start. In addition to designing your own character in the editor, which we did not spend long on, for example, a central decision is at the beginning – that of our origin. Whether protagonist V is a child of the street, was a nomad or comes from the ranks of the ruling companies influences the start of the game. With each of these three starting positions we experience a completely different opening story.
This is roughly comparable to the Origin Stories in Dragon Age: Origins, even if the introductory stories in Cyberpunk are not that long. After about 15-20 minutes of play each story of origin is concluded with a cutscene and from this point on the game is the same for everyone. However, Vs Background continues to affect details. So you can bring your origins to bear in discussions with special answers or give missions a completely different approach. In dialogue with NPCs from the world of corporations, a V with a corporate background, for example, behaves very differently from a Streetkid-V. Thus, a decision about the origin at the beginning of the game should influence the experience again and again and create unique situations.
The distribution of the first attribute points before the start is also not unimportant. These are invested in the five character values body, reflexes, intelligence, technical skills and cool. What sounds like manageable options at first glance quickly turns out to be a fallacy. At the latest after we have reached our first step up, we will become aware of the complexity and depth of the role-playing system from Cyberpunk 2077 (buy now for € 59.99) formally slain. Each of the five attributes mentioned has two or three own perk trees. So if we earn a skill point at level-up, we are spoiled for choice in which of the myriad skills and passive effects we invest.
Source: CD Projekt Red
Good for those who already know exactly which style of play they want to develop their character for. Focus on hand-to-hand combat or would you prefer to use firearms? Expansion of hacking skills that support us in stealth, or rather offensive, technical skills? The possibilities are diverse and with the limitless class system, all possible styles can be wildly combined with each other. Especially since the expansion of attributes and perks is far from the end of character development. For example, there are also passive skills that we simply increase through "learning by doing". We often use a gun? Then over time we will get better at using handguns.
In addition to increasing experience points for level upgrades, we also earn so-called street credits through all possible actions, i.e. a progress system that illustrates our reputation on the streets of Night City. With increasing Street Cred we unlock new traders, access to better, more individual weapons and occasionally certain quests. Of course, it would not be a cyberpunk game without the opportunity to improve its character with cyberware. V can have an artificial eye with scanner and an artificial palm for better weapon hold implanted at the beginning of the game. How much you want to turn your character into a machine is entirely up to you.
Last but not least, there is of course a lot of loot in the form of weapons, clothing and mods, which are equipped with different values and provide different bonuses. The higher the quality of the items, the more modification slots they can have, which in turn results in more options for further personalizing your own playing style. All of this together, attributes, perks, learning skills, street cred, cyberware and items create an incredible depth in the character system, which we could not comprehend in its entirety in the four hours of our approach demo. The potential for creative builds is huge here, but also the danger of becoming hopelessly overkill. But don't worry, there should be opportunities in the game to re-skillet your character.
Source: CD Projekt Red
The gameplay is very linear at the beginning. After the chosen "Origin Story", V and his / her friend Jackie Welles embark on a mission to rescue a kidnapped client. CD Projekt Red already demonstrated this mission during E3 2018 and made it accessible to the public in full a while later. When we played this section ourselves, it became clear how far the developers were, at least in this quest, with their vision of the game. Not much has changed until today. Only the cut scenes, in which you can see your protagonist from the outside, are unfortunately a thing of the past.
However, we are much more interested in what happens after this mission. After a night in our own apartment, the game releases us into the open game world for the first time. We're still in the game's prologue at this point. This mainly takes place in a district of Night City called Watson. This part of the city is also known as the "bad neighborhood" and is mainly populated by low-income people. The developers compare the time we will spend in a row during the prologue in Watson with the prologue from The Witcher 3 in Weißgarten. With the difference that Watson is not separated from the rest of the game like Weißgarten and is visited again and again in the later course of the game.
Source: CD Projekt Red
Overall, the game world consists of six different districts of Night City and the Badlands surrounding the city. A look at the map shows us which small part of the metropolis we are just scratching during our play session. However, we also notice that the map of the game seems rather confusing. At first glance, it was at least not so easy for us to find our way around. However, what we could see were various symbols in the immediate vicinity, which pointed us to places such as retailers, important locations and other establishments. The first excursion into the open game world exposes us to a sensory overload.
There is something going on everywhere on the streets. Passers-by go their way, alcohol corpses or homeless people lie in the corners, a gunfight can be heard in the distance, presumably hostile gangs or an argument with the police. Even as we soak up the scenery, V is contacted by messenger from various so-called fixers who request our services for various tasks. For side quests and other optional tasks, everything in Cyberpunk 2077 often runs through the fixers. They either contact us directly after we have entered a certain area, or we visit them personally.
In addition to the main story, there will be a lot to do again. It is also worthwhile to deal with these orders, because in this way urgently needed money and street credits are earned. As already known from The Witcher 3, side stories should again be closely linked to the main events of the game. The smooth transition between main and side quests, such as the notorious Baron quest line, will again be part of the narrative structure.
Source: CD Projekt Red
However, the playful freedom is significantly different than in the Witcher, also when it comes to the approach to Quest. The best example of this was again the mission called "The Pickup" in our sample demo. This was also shown during the presentation at E3 2018. With our hands on the controller, however, we experience even more precisely what diverse options are always open to us. In the quest it is our job to get a military spider bot from the Maelstrom gang. Our client has already paid for the goods and we should only pick up the robot. However, the leadership of the gang has changed and it is not certain whether the new leader will keep the agreement.
Now we could just walk into Maelstrom's hideaway and hope for the best, but that would be somehow too easy if everything worked out so easily. Therefore, we can optionally meet in advance with Meredith Stout, a Militech agent whose equipment was stolen by Maelstrom. She offers us to pay for the Spider-Bot if we use a credit chip provided by her. Now it depends on our chosen background. As a V with a company past, we recognize Meredith's plan to infiltrate a virus into the gang systems using the credit chip. Alternatively, we can detect the virus with sufficient hacking skills.
At the base of Maelstrom we finally meet Royce, the new leader of the gang. As expected, he doesn't care that the robot has already been paid to its predecessor. We now have various options. Either we pay for the bot with our own money and leave the premises peacefully, we pay with the Militechs chip, which inevitably leads to a fight with the gang, or we end the negotiations directly with a bullet in Royce's head, which also leads to Fight with the gang leads, but saves us a boss fight. If we have discovered the virus on the Militech chip, we can alternatively warn the gang, which of course we are grateful for. However, we probably messed up with a powerful corporation.
We decide to fight, because we want to know what the game feels like in a gun battle. Due to the first-person perspective, of course, it shoots in the best shooter manner. However, we are in an RPG in which you run around wildly and shoot at everything that moves not far. To avoid damage, we can crouch and seek shelter behind objects. Here, first-person is more of a hindrance, because of course it doesn't play as well as in a third-person cover shooter. In addition to the character and equipment values, a certain playful skill is absolutely necessary. Aiming with our standard pistol over sight and grain and landing critical hits does not happen automatically.
Missions do not always depend on martial arts or dialogue skills. In a further mission demo demo, we experience for the first time what the so-called brain dance is all about. It is a very popular form of entertainment in the year
Source: CD Projekt Red
2077, which reminds a little of VR. However, users experience the emotions and memories of other people that were previously recorded and edited. The most popular products are of course the experiences and emotions of stars and starlets. V can use this technology at some points in the game to get important information.
So we plan a robbery during the prologue and to find the target, we use a specially prepared brain dance. We use the record of a contact person while he was at the destination. Within the memory we can now fast forward and rewind the events as desired. Through the actions and conversations of the people on site, for example, we become aware of certain features of the environment that provide us with further information. We can also switch between different scan levels such as audio and infrared to examine the scene in all spectra for information. In this way we spy on the security measures at the planned crime scene and locate the target object. The whole thing reminded us a little of the memory feature from Remember Me, only that in Cyberpunk we are only observers and make no changes. However, the detective investigation was a very welcome change and also fits perfectly into the futuristic setting of the game.
Between the missions, we also had a little opportunity to move through the streets of Night City with a mobile base. The controls of the car are fine, but also a little getting used to. So we had the feeling that the brakes reacted a little too strongly and we often lost too much speed when braking on a bend and almost stopped. That left
Source: CD Projekt Red
our driving tests seem a little awkward. Now Cyberpunk certainly does not want to be a racing game with perfect vehicle control, but maybe there is still some fine tuning in it. In any case, caution is required wherever you go. Passersby are not magically protected, but can become victims of rowdy driving. However, this calls the cops on the scene. We have not yet been able to see exactly how the police system works, as it was not yet active in the demo.
We played with the controller, with which the rest of the controls went very well. Some key assignments may be a little strange at first, but this is partly due to the game systems. For example, we have to select dialog options with the D-Pad, because the game's free conversation system still allows you to move and rotate the camera during the conversation, which is why the two sticks are needed. Design decisions, such as the fact that two different buttons are used to get in and out of a car, are a matter of taste. For this we are excited to see how diverse key assignments can also be adapted for controllers.
Nothing can be said about the customization options of the graphics either. The developers let us of course enjoy the game in the most beautiful splendor on a very potent computer. We especially liked the different lighting moods, depending on where you are in Night City or the time of day. The much too friendly, bright day atmosphere was criticized for the E3 trailer. But when you're in shabby neighborhoods like Watson, the game sprays a dark mood in the right places in the middle of the day. What remains after our intro session is the feeling of scratching the surface of what Cyberpunk 2077 has to offer, even after more than four hours. The game definitely has bugs and optimization potential. Therefore, we see the five-month waiting period positively and look forward to entering this incredibly lively world in November without errors.
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It is overwhelming what is released here on the player.
The previous gameplay presentations for Cyberpunk 2077 gave me a rough idea of what to expect in this game. Especially since many of the game sections publicly shown so far were also part of the scoring demo. Steering V yourself through the streets of Night City and the missions was another experience. What really impressed me was the incredible overstimulation that overwhelms you. Especially when you are released into the open game world for the first time and have a vibrant metropolis in front of you with something interesting to see on every corner. I was also impressed by the depth of the character and role-playing system with the various possibilities for progress and development, even if I have by no means grasped all facets of it. The Witcher 3 looks like a simple action adventure with RPG elements. I still don't get quite warm with the first-person view. It makes sense for the gameplay and immersion and works wonderfully. But I would have liked to see my character from the outside more often. Unfortunately, the cutscenes with the protagonist previously shown were rejected from the outside. All of the other little niches that I could possibly add fade to the sheer fantastic atmosphere of the game.
Cyberpunk 2077 in the hands-on preview. (1) (Source: CD Projekt Red)
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