From the moment you start playing Cyberpunk 2077, it's your story. From the size of your nipples to your choice of life path, V is immediately yours to shape. While CD Projekt Red had us besotted with the growly charm of Geralt for years, with Cyberpunk 2077 the developer is handing the storytelling reins to you and asking you to forge your own tale in Night City. After spending 16 hours with the game, I've only just hit Act 2, and only just started writing V's story, but the journey so far has been intoxicating. Anyone worried that Cyberpunk 2077 may be disappointing shouldn't be; this is a game that will surely surpass expectations.
The last time I previewed Cyberpunk 2077, I opted for the Corpo Life Path – a glimpse into the high-flying lifestyle of the corporate world filled with money and power. But this time around, I opted for Street Kid. Like the game says, if you want to know the streets of Night City, you've got to live them. Fixers, gang leaders, and pushers are your neighbours, and you're known around town by name. You're a local in Night City, and the choices and opportunities available to you in the game will reflect that – as they do with each of the three Life Path choices.
But this initial decision is just the beginning. From here, V's life will play out according to the decisions you make, the conversations you have, and the consequences you set in motion. Even after almost two full days with Cyberpunk 2077 it's been difficult to grasp just how far the web spreads from a single conversation, from one answer to another. It doesn't help that there's often a subtlety in the difference between the answers you can give. Some, of course, are much more definitive – clearly leading you down very different paths according to where you place your allegiances – but others are much less clear cut. An optional objective in a mission may involve setting up an alternative meeting, or simply involve calling another character to check-in, but all of these have the potential to send objectives spinning in a widely different direction or uncover a hidden subplot that could influence your future choices. And it's here, deep in the grey between, that the real intrigue into Cyberpunk 2077's branching narrative gets into your psyche like the biochips that fuel these cybernetically-enhanced individuals.
I'm being deliberately vague here, because from the outset even hinting about Cyberpunk's storyline would be wading waist-deep into spoiler town. Even the opening six or so hours of this game – pre-credit roll I might add – deliver the kind of story beats you'd expect to find much further into the narrative. CD Projekt Red isn't afraid to surprise you, to deal out actions and consequences like an expertly concealed poker player – not a tell in sight. But it's always worth remembering that your decisions are literally everything in this game.
Joytoys and fixers
A lot of these choices will come from the conversations that you'll have with the cast of characters that you'll meet in Night City. I've only met a few of them so far, the notorious fixer Dex and braindance editor Judy, to the disgustingly horrific ripperdoc Fingers and a mysterious fixer known as Mr. Hands. From those you only interact with via your phone to those that will no doubt become more permanent fixtures in V's life, each are meaningful additions to the cast. They're all stunningly animated, fully fleshed out but simultaneously couched in mystery. There's no Rolodex of character bios to flick through, if you want to know more you'll have to find it for yourself.
Of course, CD Projekt Red isn't a stranger to creating living worlds filled with memorable characters. But the first-person nature of Cyberpunk 2077, combined with the sheer level of layers to every decision that's on offer, makes this feel like a much more personal journey than any we've had with Geralt and co. It helps that Cyberpunk 2077 offers the most organic gameplay I've possibly ever experienced, the closest to real human interaction. If you want to talk to someone, just go up to them. Gone is the "Press X to Interact" prompt for the residents of NC; instead you're just given options for your openers and then you're in. It's very limited in terms of cutscenes too, instead focusing on offering up interactive conversations that you can still freely control, opting to pick up on something happening elsewhere in the room mid-conversation if you so wish.
One particular moment has stuck with me too, so simple but also just another element of the organic dialogue in the game. I'd spent some time talking to the aforementioned Judy – currently among my top tier of favourites in the game – and when the conversation had wrapped up I turned to leave the room. I was halfway out the door when she called me back with a simple "Hey, V". I wasn't pulled back into narrative choices, I could have chosen to carry on walking up the stairs and into the cool air of Night City's neon-soaked streets. Of course, I didn't, I turned back to find out more and the rest will go down in V's history.
The city that never sleeps
It's moments like this that continuously bring Night City to life. But, as cliche as it sounds, your actions are just as important as your words in Cyberpunk 2077. After the opening missions of the game, which vary according to the Life Path you choose, Night City folds out before you like an overenthusiastic pop-up book, aglow with billboards and noisy with the urban chaos of this problem-filled city. It's hard to over-exaggerate just how full this world is either; the map is a candy store of opportunities, whether it's live crimes in progress, rides to buy, gigs to pick up, side quests to explore, a bit of shopping, or indulging in one of the local joytoys, there's almost too much to do in Night City.
But what you do and in what order also matters. I delayed picking up the payment for one of the game's first missions from a fixer called Wakako, and later on in a core mission I was able to bring up my missing eddies as part of an entirely separate conversation. It's a small thing, but a huge part of how this world is created to feel utterly realistic and always reactive to V's actions.
That's not an easy feat, especially in a world that's so densely packed with decisions and distractions as this. After 16 hours, I (reluctantly) left Night City with some 30-odd side quests and gigs cluttering up my journal, having spent plenty of time diving into the core campaign and a little too long listening in on the conversations of each passersby. Night City is utterly absorbing, and utterly beautiful.
Cyberpunk 2077 is clearly a huge undertaking. The density of the game's systems is a testament to that, with me only feeling partly comfortable understanding the complexities of the weaponry loadouts, huge skill tree, perks, or my future in cyber enhancements – just to name a few. But that scale does come with some concerns, and while Cyberpunk 2077 didn't present me with any game-breaking bugs, the visual bugs were plentiful – although CDPR says that it's aware of them. I'm hesitant to suggest that they'll all be fixed by the time we all get our hands on the full game come December 10, but with a game this ambitious – and frighteningly huge – I'm in the mind to forgive a few unintentional quirks. This is one hell of a game, a neon-soaked seduction from the first second.