Cyberpunk 2077 blew us away at E3. The awesome in-engine trailer shown on Microsoft’s stage sent our hype flying through the roof, and then the behind-closed-doors (BCD) demo confirmed that CDPR’s next project is on course to completely reset the benchmark for open world RPGs. If you’ve read our preview, one of the key takeaways was just how ambitious the design looks to be. Cyberpunk appears to be ditching many of the tropes we’ve become accustomed to in the genre and striving to create something much more immersive.
No surprises, then, that despite our massive enthusiasm for the project, we’re a little skeptical about a few aspects of its design. Having watched 50 minutes of the alpha footage showcased at E3, we’re reviewing some of those concerns below.
Even though the demo that we saw at E3 2018 was an alpha build of Cyberpunk 2077, it looked extremely polished. But before you go thinking that means the game is right around the corner, it’s worth pointing out that BCD demos are hardly ever scenes pulled from the main development of the game. Instead, they’re a polished vertical slice honed specifically for presentation.
That makes analyzing demo footage problematic. On the one hand, there’s every reason to expect improvements in the final release. On the other, what we’re being shown is almost representative of an idyllic version of the game; in other words, exactly what the developer hopes the entire game turns out to look like. And if the latter is the case here, the driving in Cyberpunk 2077 has us a little worried. Everything we saw during the gameplay demo impressed us except for the vehicular traversal. It looked amateurish compared to open world games such as GTAV and Watch Dogs.
Indeed, the controls seemed rather stiff in terms of the physics that dictated the car’s movement and maneuverability. Driving appeared very much as “this is how you move from point A to point B,” rather than actually being exciting to handle. And the car noise itself sounded more like a tin-can than a grunty V8—a minor detail for some, perhaps, but for our money, there’s nothing that spoils immersion than hearing a car cycle through 100 gears to the generic hum of “any old engine,” which was exactly the case during the demo.
One other thing that did catch our eye was the way in which areas were interconnected via freeways. These were more like set tracks, and the game didn’t seem to allow for players to drive anywhere they pleased. Perhaps that will change in time, but it also may be the case that CDPR has considered the extent to which driving would have to play in designing the open world if that level of freedom was granted to the player. Night City just didn’t look like the sort of place you could tear around in a car; as if designing that into the game wouldn’t suit the level of detail and clutter it presents. That might disappoint some players, but it also might prove a suitable omission to better convey the context of the environment: do you really want to be running pedestrians over and doing high-speed jumps in the gritty dystopia of Night City?
Ultimately, we’ll just have to see as to whether driving in Cyberpunk 2077 ends up being a laborious necessity or something that’s actually exciting to undertake.