The result of more than eight years of development, Cyberpunk 2077 is the kind of video game blockbuster that only comes around a few times in a generation. A fusion of traditional media and interactive play made with the most up-to-date and eye-popping graphical fidelity, it attracts attention far beyond even casual video game enthusiasts to reach lapsed gamers and those with otherwise no interest.
That’s not to say Cyberpunk represents the cutting edge of game design or is revolutionary in its play; in fact ironically given its subject matter it’s arguably a little outdated in a gameplay sense. But it is a culmination of the entire last generation of video games when it comes to marrying traditional linear entertainment forms including cinema with interactive storytelling, and its world and stories are of a scale and scope – and can be interrogated in finer detail – than would be possible in any movie.
Video games are an amalgam of art forms, with many combining aspects of traditional acting, music, film direction and visual art on top of the gameplay mechanics and interactivity specific to the medium. But what nets so-called AAA games like Cyberpunk such broad interest (aside from all the advertising) is how pronounced and familiar those traditional elements are. Yes you’ll absolutely be shooting, driving, hacking, equipping armour and building a character but, if you choose, those parts of the experience can take a back seat to immersing yourself in a synthetic culture.
The massive and detailed six-district city (plus surrounds) you can explore here looks just like a movie but feels like being lost in a foreign town, while the main storyline involves the ghost of a mysterious rockstar / anti-fascist terrorist living in your head, played by Keanu Reeves. If you steal a car you’ll find the interior convincingly rendered and distinct from many others, and if you turn on the radio you might hear brand new music from Refused, Run the Jewels or Grimes – who are given new fictional identities in the game. The city and its inhabitants are a clash of aesthetics from throughout the world’s fictional history (which branches off from our real world history about 1990), giving the whole thing a more comprehensively realised vision of the kinds of futures seen in RoboCop or Judge Dredd.