In our first hands-on preview of Cyberpunk 2077, Tamoor Hussain lamented the relative lack of humanity he witnessed in the game’s main questline as he played through the opening hours as a street kid. After all, in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the most impactful stories were often the smaller, more intimate ones. He eventually found a glimpse of that in a sidequest involving two monk brothers and their vow of non-violence, which complicated a rescue mission with grey decisions.
With the benefit of this knowledge and my own Cyberpunk 2077 demo to play, I went in with the express purpose of trying to find more of those glimpses. Above and beyond CD Projekt Red’s proven ability to create complex, humane storytelling, the cyberpunk genre itself is attractive because of its portrayal of its people and communities in an extreme future. As David Rayfield wrote back in 2018 (around the time when CD Projekt began to tease Cyberpunk’s resurfacing after a long silence), cyberpunk media draws us in with its cool-as-hell aesthetic, but the best cyberpunk stories “reveal to us modern society’s worst tendencies and offenders.”
And so I went into the opening hours of Cyberpunk 2077 with these questions in my head: How does 2077 use and play with cyberpunk conventions? What stories does 2077 want to tell outside its grandiose main questline? Does 2077 actually feel like a cyberpunk world beyond its flashy tech and neon-soaked Asian-inspired aesthetic? The results were… a little mixed.