How choice , freedom and Keanu Reeves make Cyberpunk 2077 the most exciting game of E3
In the new CGI trailer for Cyberpunk 2077, unveiled at Microsoft’s Xbox E3 Briefing, main character V is having a bad day. His partner, Jackie Welles, is dead. His fixer, Dexter DeShawn, has betrayed him. When he regains consciousness, he’s lying in a garbage dump. “Wake the f*** up samurai,” says a voice. “We have a city to burn.” The source of that voice? It’s Keanu Reeves.
Cue rapturous applause as Reeves appears on stage to talk about his appearance in CD Projekt Red’s next RPG. It was an exciting surprise in an industry event that rarely keeps a secret for long.
But who is Reeves’ character, and why is he so interested in V?
“Keanu Reeves in our game plays the role of Johnny Silverhand,” says PaweÅ‚ Sasko, lead quest designer for Cyberpunk 2077. “Johnny Silverhand is the frontman of Samurai, a chrome rock band from 2020, from the original [pen-and-paper RPG] book. Now, Johnny Silverhand is a primary character in our game, and the player, V, has him on a chip in his head as this digital ghost.”
Johnny will be a presence throughout the game, although it’s not clear what his motivation is for helping V. “The thing is that Johnny Silverhand has his own agenda,” says Sasko. “He used to be a fighter for freedom, but in the eyes of corporations he would probably be called a terrorist.” Sasko characterizes Silverhand as someone with a strong vision of how the world should work, “He’s a true cyberpunk. He’s the guy who goes against the system, against the corporations, and against the city that’s just an embodiment of this.”
Which brings us back to his line in the trailer. Silverhand clearly wants something, and is trying to influence V to help achieve that goal. “It starts this interesting dynamic between them,” says Sasko. “And he has his own role that develops throughout the game. ‘We have a city to burn’. He means something very specific by that.”
The damaged biochip implanted in V’s head does more than just allow him (or her) to commune with a digital ghost. It also supposedly contains the secret to immortality. This is one of the driving plot points of the brand new behind-closed doors E3 demo—a 50 minute developer play through of a never before seen chunk of the game.
To find out more about the chip, V travels to Pacifica. Planned as Night City’s luxury tourist destination, the district sits decrepit and impoverished after the corporations pulled their support. It’s now the home of the Voodoo Boys, an insular, secretive gang obsessed with cyberspace. V wants to meet their leader, Brigitte, in the hope that she can reveal more about the biochip.
The demo starts as V walks up to a mirror—letting CD Projekt Red run through some of the character customization options. As revealed last year, Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t have a defined main character. You can pick their gender, their appearance, and even their origin story. “You start by picking your life path, so Nomad, Corporate, or Street Kid,” explains Sasko.
“That gives you some predefined number of things— your equipment and background and so on.”
Your life path also affects how you interact with characters. Some dialogue choices are locked to a specific life path. Others are locked behind skill proficiency, meaning a character adept at hacking will have different choices to one who’s very good at punching. “That helps out because it opens a new branch in the story. Sometimes it’s a small thing. Fairly often it’s something bigger, because we always try to make sure there’s enough meat that the players are rewarded for investing in it.”
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