A video game that has been a long time coming
The hype for Cyberpunk 2077
has been building for a long time now. Developer CD Projekt Red announced the title as being in development back in 2012, as the follow-up property after The Witcher
As the studio’s next step after the genre-defining action/adventure role-playing game (RPG) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
, Cyberpunk 2077
has big shoes to fill. Teasers, trailers, an intriguing (and beautiful) gameplay demo and industry buzz as it has been built have only increased the sense of anticipation that something truly special is on its way.
The buzz has been set to a fever pitch by way of the trailers and demos walking away with an almost embarrassing number of awards, even before launch - over one hundred awards at E3 2018. They include Best PC Game, Best RPG, Best Game, Best Xbox One Game, People's Choice (IGN), both Best RPG and Game of the Show (Game Informer), Game of the Show (GamesRadar+), and Best of E3 (PC Gamer) 
But it is not just since 2012 that the idea for such a video game has been around. In a way, it is actually 32 years in the making. It’s altogether fitting and perhaps even somewhat poetic that the release date for a Cyberpunk video game has been set for 2020. The Cyberpunk 2077 release date is April 16, 2020, to be specific.
This is because the photo-realistic, CGI graphics, global-network-internet-distributed video game is based on a late 80s tabletop, pen-and-paper roleplaying game, created by Mike Pondsmith, called Cyberpunk 2020. That game imagined our present moment of 2020 as a corporate dystopian future, filled with network computers and cybercrime.
Cyberpunk 2077, which was developed with the tabletop game creator Pondsmith as a story/world-building consultant, puts itself 57 years past the setting of the original, boxed pen-and-paper game, and is released in the actual year imagined as “far off and futuristic” when that game was created. It was not until the present moment - imagined as the far-off future - that such a video game realization of those 1988 ideas could exist.
What was Cyberpunk 2020?
The original pen-and-paper, tabletop roleplaying game (think “Dungeons and Dragons” meets a William Gibson novel) imagined a fictional metropolis called Night City, somewhere between LA and San Francisco. Night City in 2020 existed in a United States that had undergone both socio-economic collapse and a period of martial law and turned to the “mega-corporations” to survive.
The mega-corporations are military, tech, media, petro-chemical, weapons, and industrial companies and conglomerates that vie for dominance and compete to rule the world by any means necessary. Meanwhile, street gangs and black markets also run rampant.
Set against this backdrop, characters take on roles like “Netrunners,” “Med-Techs,” “Nomads,” and “Fixers.” These characters are employed as freelance mercenaries contracted out for industrial sabotage or spying or to take on and take down the plots and machinations of the various mega-corporations.
So what is Cyberpunk 2077?
Cyberpunk 2077 fast forwards 57 years and puts the player in the central and starring role of “V.” Just who this protagonist is, much like a character you might play in a table-top RPG, is up to you, the player.
A good deal of the buzz about Cyberpunk 2077 has to do with how CD Projekt Red has crafted a seamless, cinematic adventure game, complete with cutscenes and dialogue, where the entire look, gender, and even background of the main character are customizable.
You very much determine how your particular experience of the game is going to be by way of the character you craft V to be; your V (and your gameplay) can and will be markedly different than another person’s.
Depending on what gender, hairstyle, clothing, and character background you choose (your V can be either a nomad, a street kid, or corporate in his or her back story), the game and the non-player characters (NPCs) who populate it will react differently to you, and different quests and pathways will open or close.
This extends to romantic and even sexual relationships; Cyberpunk 2077 is specifically a mature-player’s title. Scenes and situations of full nudity exist within it. The idea was to take an adult, serious sci-fi world and make it a video game reality.
What do we know so far about gameplay?
Cyberpunk 2077 is a first-person perspective action RPG, with a similar branching dialogue tree and interaction system that was introduced in The Witcher series. While character classes exist as ideas and archetypes in the game, the progression and building of your particular character is stat-based; how you play and what you focus on building will craft your “V” into his or her own unique instance.
Choosing class paths, item and body mod upgrades, and aesthetics as the story and game unfolds will influence the play style, and the overall story. The stats are:
While it is a story-based RPG, Cyberpunk 2077 has been developed as an open world or sandbox-style game to some extent, where a large variety of possible storyline branches exist, allowing for radically different ways to play through.
This means that one person’s V might be a cybernetically enhanced killing machine with a brutal array of body modifications and built-in-weapons, while another person might play and complete the entire game without ever having to kill a single NPC.
The main quest promises to deal with the themes of transhumanism, or the ability for humanity to move past itself. Individuals determine their own unique definition of who and what they are, as well as the idea of the individual’s struggle against the corporate collective. Pretty heady stuff for a video game where retractable, implanted forearm razor-scythes are an option.
Movement through Night City
Mobility and taking cover seem to be a large part of the gameplay dynamic. Demos thus far have shown gameplay that emphasized running, sliding, and flipping into and out of cover to engage in balletic-level sequences of melee and gunplay; the sprawling, open world of Night City is a playground of different terrains and items to maneuver around.
Being a large sandbox, characters will also be able to buy different apartments and dwellings that act as their base of operations, and own (or commandeer) all manner of vehicles. The vehicle driving engine allows for either first- or third-person perspectives with a toggle, although the main gameplay is all first-person. Cutscenes, however, will revert to third person, showing your particular V’s character design model as it evolves.
Experience points (XP) are gained from moving along and achieving milestones from the main story quests. As in most RPGs, experience points are the fuel to level up the characters’ abilities - in this case, to increase stats. Finding and engaging in side quests, however, results in an increase in a separate score called Street Cred. Leveling up Street Cred is the way to unlock skills, and open up previously unavailable item vendors, access to new places by way of being let in due to reputation, and additional quests.
From what we know, Cyberpunk 2077 will offer gamers a kind of fusion between the storyline, the main-avatar style play of The Witcher 3, and the open world, sandbox-style experience of Grand Theft Auto. The makers stress it is more RPG than Grand Theft Auto, however; decisions that a player makes about their character’s build and actions will influence the ultimate path and outcome of their experience of the game.
Everything’s cooler with Keanu
A big surprise at Microsoft’s E3 2019 briefing was Keanu Reeves appearing to announce that he will co-star in the game as a motion-captured, digitized NPC character named Johnny Silverhand.
Within the established Cyberpunk RPG lore, the character of Johnny Silverhand is a large figure; he was the lead singer in a band called the Samurai who became a kind of cult-hero and anti-establishment rebel. Think “David Bowie Meets Bruce Springsteen, but with a Cybernetic Arm.”
Who else but Keanu Reeves could pull off that much cool? Cool, too, in that Keanu Reeves has been the face of many different sci-fi, cyber-punk, and speculative fiction heroes onscreen in his career.
While the most well-known is his turn as Neo in The Matrix, he also starred in the cult-classic 1995 cyberpunk-genre film Johnny Mnemonic, based on a William Gibson novel. He was in the 2006 Richard Linklater film A Scanner Darkly, based on another dystopian, speculative future novel by the legendary author Philip K. Dick. You may remember him as the author of Blade Runner.
It is a fitting progression that, in 2019, Reeves is now starring in an interactive piece of cyberpunk fiction, this time based on a tabletop roleplaying game that allows players to craft their own “novels” by way gaming sessions. As it turns out, Keanu has been the secret celebrity champion of the genre for decades.
With the dynamic storytelling engine of the game and so much left to the player’s choices in building their own approach, just exactly what role the legendary Johnny Silverhand plays is malleable. When asked about the function his character serves, and how the players will interact with him, Reeves says:
"[In the game] I’m kind of a guide, but also… You have to do something, but Johnny wants to do something too, so there’s this…Am I your friend? Am I a foe? Am I really helping you? Am I not helping you? Are you in my way?
What I thought was really cool is, you’re not only getting what your character looks like with clothing or gender. You also can choose different kind of directions of character. And also you get to express that.
Are you a hacker? Do you want to go more physical, more intellectual? More problem solving? You can adjust all these things and you can play the game in all those different ways, and the game is changing to you. Your list of decisions and every scene that you’ve come up with, you’re really kind of like choosing the path that you want to go on." 
Will Cyberpunk 2077 have multiplayer?
In this day and age, the multiplayer option seems a prerequisite for major game releases. However, the type of game that Cyberpunk 2077 seeks to be is very much about the individual’s experience. Crafting that type of gameplay experience was the main goal for the developers. As such, at launch at least, it is a single-player game.
CD Projekt Red has not ruled out an expansion rollout some time afterwards, however, to introduce multiplayer modes and elements. Post-launch downloadable content (DLC) packages might see some form of multiplayer game play, but the emphasis is on “might.”
In an interview with Eurogamer, lead quest designer Pawel Sasko has said, "We’re not really working on multiplayer, our sole focus is single-player. We’ll do that, then we’ll see. We’re not saying no [to multiplayer options] but we’re not saying yes. If something does happen it will definitely be post-launch and that’s as much as I can say right now. I mean we’re known for good stories, amazing characters, choices, and consequences. So this is something for sure we’d be going with, if anything happened regarding that. We’d avoid anything that’s not that. If we do it, it’ll be our style.” 
So, long story short: the answer is “no, but maybe later.”
What will the system requirements be for Cyberpunk 2077?
Seeing that the release date is set for next year, the final word on what the system specs for running Cyberpunk 2077 are not yet known. We can, however, tell you that the spectacular demo footage shown so far was actually running in the game engine. And those graphics were achieved with this powerful setup:
- CCPU: Intel i7-8700K at 3.70 GHz
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-I GAMING
- RAM: G.Skill Ripjaws V, 2x16GB, 3000 MHz, CL15
- GPU: GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
- SSD: Samsung 960 Pro 512 GB M.2 PCIe
- Power supply unit: Corsair SF600 600W
Can I pre-order Cyberpunk 2077, and what are the pre-order bonuses?
The game is available for pre-order for PC, Xbox One, and PS4 platforms at Amazon, Best Buy, and GameStop. Different tiers of pre-orders exist, and retailers are offering their own exclusive perks and collectors’ items for pre-orders.
At the high end, for the gaming consoles, a $249 bundle includes a collector’s edition box, a character statue, embroidered patches, metal pins, and all manner of different physical items. As of June 2019, while a physical media collector’s edition for PC has been announced, no pre-orders are yet available.
About the Author: Jolene Dobbin is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Jolene is an East Coast-based writer with experience creating strategic messaging, marketing, and sales content for companies in the high-tech industry.