Cyberpunk 2077 has grand ideas, but some sloppy execution

Hold your breath.

If you spent any time at E3 this year, it would have been immediately clear that Cyberpunk 2077 was biggest game at the show. The huge, gaudy booth on the show-floor had lines of people spilling out of it every day, eager to get a glimpse at the upcoming CD Project Red title. Make your way up to the discreet meeting room area with hallways of unassuming doors and basic signs displaying the name of each company, and you’ll run into a massive Cyberpunk poster surrounded by huddled fans and media people waiting for their turn at an extended hands-off demo viewing.

Cyberpunk 2077 has promised to be a lot of things, and fans across the world are itching to see and play one of the most ambitious games of this generation. As someone who saw this 45-minute gameplay demo, allow me to say that you should temper your expectations.

Our Cyberpunk demo begins with V, the protagonist of Cyberpunk 2077, discovering the chip in his head has some massive secrets held within. He’s given a mission to track down more info about it, and is ready to go track down his informant. First, though, we need to customize our V. Many times throughout the demo, there’s a bizarre disconnect between what is explained to us by our developer guide, and what actually happens in the game. This is the first of those instances.

We see a character customisation screen open up with a variety of options and sliders, and our developer guide promises that in Cyberpunk 2077, you can customise V to look any way you want with a huge variety of options. Additionally, with body modification and cybernetic enhancements being such a huge part of the game, you can have a V that looks truly inhuman if you so desire. As they say this, the second developer toggles a couple of sliders that make the shape of V’s nose slightly kinda-sorta different, and then calls it a day. We walk out of the customisation screen with a generic, white as rice, square-jawed V that fails to show off the breadth of customisation we were just promised.

As we walk away, Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Silverhands leans against a wall and takes a drag off a (cyber?) cigarette, before telling us to pick up the pace and disappearing off-frame. It’s confirmed later in the demo that the character that Johnny is a cyber-ghost stuck inside the head of our protagonist. Throughout the demo he pops up and makes snide, one-sided comments on the things that V is doing, only being addressed directly at the very end of the demo. It’ll be interesting to see just how involved with the story his character is in the final release, and whether he’s a main player or just a fun series of cameos.

Eventually, V found their way to Pacifica, a corporation-funded island city intended to serve as a tourist paradise, right up until the very corporations who built it abandoned it as the economy collapsed around them.  The government followed suit, and now this lawless, decrepit ghost town is home to refugees and street criminals. Literally all of these refugees in the demo were specifically of Haitian descent, which is… weird. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with Pacifica being a slum city occupied exclusively by Haitians, but it certainly sends an awkward message. The sloppiness of that message is only amplified by further uncomfortable missteps, like the subtitles for Haitian dialogue going out of their way to replace words like “the” and “they” with “de” and “dey”.

Another moment that had me muttering “yikes” under my breath, where our protagonist mocks their Haitian informant, Placide, by mockingly asking “and who are dey?” Maybe V’s just a scummy lead character, but the further along this demo went, the more I was sure that it would end with a tasteless Ugandan Knuckles meme and my eyes rolling directly out of their sockets.

After this weird racial bullshit, V is mind-linked with Placide via a link-cable that everyone in the world is implanted with, and given his mission: sneak into the abandoned museum across town that’s the hideout for a rival gang, the Animals. V hops on a motorcycle, puts on some cyber-music and arrives at the hideout in next to no time. Our protagonist in this demo had skills focused on hacking, and so he does just that. We hack environmental items like robot sparring-machines and weight racks to distract enemies, and infiltrate the network of the facility to unlock some doors in our way that lead to the main atrium.

At this point, the demo pauses and the developer playing it decides to switch to an alternate V, a female version of the character we saw in last year’s E3 demo. We’re instantly transported back to the beginning of this break-in, but with a new set of abilities focused on raw strength. This V rips open the doors blocking the way and drops right into the atrium, ripping and tearing into the Animals occupying the space with brutal melee attacks and plenty of bullets. Shooting looks a bit improved in this demo, but the weight of the shots and the subdued way they land in enemy bodies still leaves a bit to be desired.

Swapping back to our Netrunner hacking-focused V, and transitioning once more back to the beginning of this atrium brawl, we’re shown how this V can use hacking abilities directly on enemies, taking control of their cybernetics to make them draw the pins on their grenades, hold their guns up to their own heads and pull the trigger, or even immobilising them by overloading their circuits. Combined with the use of our wrist-mounted link-cable as a molten slicing wire to mow down enemies, the playstyle of this V seems a little more inventive and downright fun than the raw brawn of our other V.

The demo soon ends with our protagonist encountering the leader of the Voodoo Boys, who tasks V with diving into the cyberspace in order to track down the truth behind the chip in their head. Much like Cyberpunk 2077, we don’t know a whole lot about cyberspace, but it sure is pretty. Pretty isn’t the only thing that matters in a game, though, especially not a game of this scope. CD Project Red has promised a lot with this title, but between the two demos I’ve seen of it so far, it’s shaping up to be a kind of cool open-world shooter with some light RPG elements. Keanu Reeves is certainly breathtaking, but it’s hard to say the same about Cyberpunk 2077.

Written by
I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.

14 Comments

  1. Outside of the gunplay sounded a bit average, I fail to see how the complaints raised are relevant to whether Cyberpunk 2077 will be a great game or not.
    Firstly the author seems to have a problem with V been white. If they wanted to see more of the character creator then fair enough, though who wants to watch 10 minutes of that in a 50 minute demo. But to unnecessarly bring race into it by saying “generic, white as rice” makes the article gives the impression that had a bit of an agenda before viewing.
    This is compounded even more the article straight up accuses the game of racisim because they took offence to a group of Haitians living in a slum as well the way one of the game’s auguments translates their language without once considering that this may well be consistent with the lore behind the pen and paper RPG the game is based on. Plus the idea of minorities living in impoverished parts of major cities is hardly an original concept.
    I’m sorry SixthAxis but the article gives the impression it was written by somebody with an axe to grind which is unprofessional.

    • Well said

    • It’s all about how things are framed. In the demo they promise vast customisation possibilities (which they’ve done before), but don’t even have a few examples to flick between before settling on a default. They could have done, because they have later save with a female version of V, but they didn’t.

      The Voodoo Boys are predominantly white in the pen and paper RPG, from what I understand. CDPR are changing that for 2077, and you could argue that this is an attempt to have more representation in the game, which is a good thing, but at the very least this demo has come across as ham-fisted in its use of stereotypes.

      • The fact that you yourself are speaking without actually following the history nor the creator of 2020 and making assumptions to defend the article is a joke, I have the books and the game itself and have played it in my youth, it has been stated by the creator that the reason why they were predominantly white was due to culture appropriation, From the time between 2020 and 2077 Haitians took it back and the group is now more of a religious group then they were prior. It should also be noted that CD Project red and the Creator of 2020 have been working hand in hand with Haitian representatives so as to not offend that group and they are pleased that they are being represented as they are IRL. but no people still jump on a bandwagon trying to “defend” a group they are not apart of as though they have some right and assume before researching. Sad…

      • Maybe CDPR thought (rightly) that people wanted to see the actual gameplay instead of getting bogged down in it’s menus.

  2. What a racist hypocrite you are Miguel. You compare a white person to the color of rice and then in the same breath you call out the devs for be their “racist bullshit”. Imagine an article where I casually refer to someone of color as “brown as beans”. Wouldn’t go over to well. Consider yourself rebuked.

  3. “After this weird racial bullshit” is a very strange line to read. I feel like it says more about the writer than the game.

    However, fingers crossed the game turns out to be an absolute beauty either way.

    • For me the line “generic, white as rice” is at least on the same level of “weird racial bullshit” as everything the game gets accused of in this kind of weird article…

      • I wrote a long rebottle to your article. But I had to delete it and start over. Trying to make this much more simple.

        The only game related talking points you had where very short. I would have loved to hear more about that.

        Everything is customizable for the character. Do you even play video games? Do you know depending on how customizable your character is, you can spend an hour doing that! getting them to look just how you want to.

        Oh and thanks for complaining about racial issues. But white as rice, na that’s fine. Nice racist slur.

        Complain about Haitian dialect in subtitles, then called out a fictional character for having mocking sarcastic remarks about that dialect. Wow.

  4. The Witcher 3 was mediocre at its best so I expected nothing less from this.

  5. Someone needs to fire this dude bruh, You soy boys get offended by everything and do little research. Mike fucking pondsmith the african american creator of the original pen and paper rpg game said he was excited by the direction CDPR where taking the voodoo boys and said that actual people from trinidad and haiti appreciated the representation. shut yo dumb ass up before you make assumptions about what people should be offended about when you know absolutely nothing about the actual cultures u claim to be defending. bet ur ass lives in staten island too with all the other sjws

  6. Lol, made an account just to say this. Haitian people speak like that, the “de” and “dey” are a part of their dialect. You wanna know what happens when people get offended for an ethnic they are not a part of? They demonstrate how utterly incompetent they are and show just how little they actually know. Imagine being a Haitian and imagine being genuinely happy that a big AAA game if finally representing you correctly, now imagine shitheels like this “game journalist” telling people to be offended for you.

  7. Fucking hell. Now this site is going down the same route as IGN and Kotaku? Can you far left bigots just stop being racist and regressive? No wonder YouTube is killing these sites.

  8. Man, I wish I’d actually learned more about the game while reading this. I want to know whether the Cyberpunk vision CD Project Red is working on is loyal to the tabletop game or not. I want to know whether there are any gameplay elements that I might recognise from the tabletop version. I want to know how the atmosphere of the game comes across, what the graphics are like when you’re playing and the quality of the sound. You know, things you can pick up when you’re watching a bit of gameplay and can absorb a bit of the world.

    What the story is like remains to be seen, why the dialogue is presented a certain way – and why it might make sense in this universe/for this character. – remains to be seen. Perhaps the player can choose to play a nasty person. Maybe there are more dialogue options and subtle powerplays and relationships between factions at work than we know. It’d be nice to not base your opinion on your assumptions before you get on the Trigglypuff train to Ree-ville, that’s all I’m trying to say.

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