Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 11, 2013
I was pretty amazed when I saw this teaser for the Cyberpunk 2077 game. But when I still think about it hours later, I figure it’s made an impression. Warning – if you haven’t seen it, it’s… dark. Disturbing. CD Projekt Red offers the commentary, “The teaser shows how the Psycho Squad might acquire a new member.”
Okay, now in this case, the teaser trailer is more of a statement of vision and direction. And if you freeze in high-resolution to read the single frame of hidden text at the end, you can see it’s also a recruiting video. It’s not gameplay footage, and it could be meaningless in terms of the actual game. But I believe it does reveal what kind of game the developers think they are making.
As I’ve said before, I was a big fan of the original game back in the early 90s. And the whole genre. I forget how many times I’ve read Neuromancer or seen Blade Runner, but if you fuse those together with a dose of hard science and modern trends, you got a pretty good taste of both the genre and the RPG. Mike Pondsmith had a pretty compelling vision, borrowing heavily from some of the popular fiction but injecting what I thought was a lot of his own creativity to the tropes of the genre. When he wasn’t trying too hard to compete with Shadowrun, he did a pretty good job.
I really like the CD Projekt Red guys, and so when they announced they were working on a CRPG based on this license, I was thrilled. I expected they’d do a good job. You don’t license something like Cyberpunk… which really isn’t a “hot product” today… unless you REALLY love the license. You aren’t going to “cash in” on it… this game (if done right) will probably make far more money all by itself than the entire game system over the course of multiple editions and sourcebooks ever made.
This teaser shows – I think – the style and flavor of the game they are intent on creating.
In my opinion – they nailed it. It’s shocking in its slow-mo reveal of what’s going on, but it incorporates so many elements of the original game that made it compelling:
#1 – The look of the world. This is Night City, the west-coast ‘sprawl’. Lacking horizontal space, they’ve built upwards. The city has a Blade Runner feel to it, which is exactly what most Cyberpunk fans envisioned when they played the pen-and-paper game.
#2 – Artificial beauty. This is one of the central themes of the Cyberpunk game, actually – a dystopian vision of modern stratification of society. You had the corporate arcologies that were built with gleaming modern splendor – and ruled with totalitarian effectiveness, constructed Metropolis-like on a foundation of impoverished masses of humanity, kept partly in check by bread and circuses. Those with enough money could take that on a personal level, too, replacing imperfect flesh with artificial parts. Often proudly displaying their brand names.
#3 – The ads in the background were taken right out of the original manuals. Awesome! So much of the flavor of the original games – for me – came from the art, some of which was Patrick Nagel-inspired with an infusion of sci-fi technology.
#4 – Cyberpsychosis. This was the powerful limiting factor of the game, a precursor to how the White Wolf games did a similar thing with supernatural powers. People were… upgradable. But the more of your body you replaced with soulless machinery, the more of an impact it had on your humanity – or soul, if you will. While much of the time these changes were pretty subtle, having merely a cumulative negative modifier to your empathy score – a major theme of the game was how dehumanizing technology could be if allowed to run rampant, and how this would lead to sociopathy – or psychopathy. As a character’s humanity / empathy dropped, the chance of them suddenly going on a psychopathic killing spree increased… especially when accompanied (or catalyzed) by drug use. In our campaigns, this was never a serious concern for player characters – you had to really build a “tank” character (or start with Empathy as a dump stat, and then ‘borg up) for that to be a big risk, and our group never played that way. But it was a popular McGuffin for plotlines. And it was a key theme of the game – trading your humanity for cool toys.
#5 – Heavily militarized police forces. One other dystopian key element of the Cyberpunk setting. After all, only the biggest and most powerful governments of the world exceeded the power and reach of the most powerful mega-corporations. There’s some very serious detail going into those guns, too. And then there’s the “Psycho Squad,” specialists often on the verge of psychosis themselves who are anti-borg SWAT teams.
#6 – Flying cars. Hey, it’s Blade Runner-inspired, you HAVE to have flying cars!
#7 – Brand names. Corporate logos.
#8 – Mature content – this is interesting to me a LOT. I’ve often cried out for a desire for games with mature themes, and railed against developers who conflate mature content with puerile, gratuitous application of sex, violence, and vulgarity. It’s interesting to me that in this case, there are no close-ups on the carnage that just took place. And the cyborg responds to deadly force with mechanical dispassion – until the very end (of the flashback?). In some ways, it’s made more disturbing – and poignant – by what is not seen. The impression is almost like a person just waking in the middle of an emergency – only to discover that they – while sleeping / not in control – ARE the emergency.
Now, maybe it is because this is a character (an NPC?) in the game with a dark history that the audience is supposed to – at some point – have some sympathy towards, and it’s hard to do that if you see too graphically what she has done. I mean, I quit watching the TV show Heroes when they tried to make Sylar a good guy – after a certain point, after seeing so much, there’s just no way you can emotionally accept a character’s redemption.
But my hope is that this does set the standard for the rest of the game – the dripping blood, the discarded shoe, the crumpled figures in the background and in fuzzy long-distance, the dripping blood on blades and clothing – communicates all that is necessary without wallowing in gore. And then there’s bullets shattering metal and plastic… with imagination supplying what WOULD have happened against flesh. This is the kind of “adult storytelling” I’m interested in. We’ll see how the real game comes out. The Witcher series would be my model, which wasn’t too shy (in the expanded editions) about the sex and gore (pushing my own tolerance). So… we’ll see. But sometimes things really are better left to the imagination.
So anyway – there’s a list of things that impressed me about the video. Again, there’s not a whole lot that a non-gameplay teaser like this can show, other than, “This is the the direction we are currently trying to go.” But in my mind, they nailed the look and feel that I would personally expect from the game. If their aim remains true, they will do justice to the setting and it will be dripping with the dark-future flavor I’d want. It’s enough to make me MORE excited about this game, which is actually a big deal.
UPDATE: And for more information, here’s a post-teaser-release interview with project lead Mateusz Kanik at GameTrailers
Filed Under: Game Announcements, Mainstream Games - Comments: 5 Comments to Read