Statistically speaking, you’ve probably played and really enjoyed CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and there’s also a strong possibility that it was the first of CDPR’s games you’ve really delved into; despite it being the third entry in the series, Wild Hunt set new standards in its genre and earned the studio a fair few new fans as a result.
So, loads of people’s eyes are understandably fixed on the ongoing Wild Hunt DLC and the continued adventures of professional sexy beard-grower Geralt. And bloody hell, mates - we keep forgetting that CDPR are still working on something else that could be equally brilliant: Cyberpunk 2077.
I used to play pen-and-paper RPG Cyberpunk 2020 as a teenager. I’d also just started to watch anime, and The Matrix had just come out, so my Cyberpunk character wore a black trenchcoat, wielded two katanas and had blue hair. I also spent his valuable resources on getting cybernetic modifications that made his eyes glow and have a gentle mist emanating from them, conferring no actual gameplay advantage whatsoever. Aye, high school wasn’t easy.
If you’re not familiar with Cyberpunk, it's a bunch of thugs cutting about dirty, neon-lit streets shooting and stabbing each other with dodgy cybernetic implants that allow them to perform superhuman feats. One bit of flavour text in the rulebook mentions a character who got an enhancement to improve his reaction speeds, only to get into a fight and catch an incoming bullet with his bare hand, blowing the whole thing off in the process. But in Cyberpunk, this isn’t a problem - he just gets a new hand, and blags free drinks for the rest of his life telling his bullet-catching story.
The problem with getting modded to fuck is that every time you get a cybernetic enhancement, you run the risk of losing some of your understanding of what it is to be human. If you go too far, you can end up suffering from cyberpsychosis, the symptoms of which range from occasionally forgetting to eat or pissing in your trousers, to going on full-on killing sprees. You might not even necessarily have any murderous intent, it’s just that you’ve forgotten how to shake someone’s hand without snapping the fucking thing off with your giant robot arms.
The disorder is common enough that there’s a special branch of the police kitted out with top-of-the-line gear and trained specifically to deal with those suffering from cyberpsychosis, and it seems like no small coincidence that this could provide the backdrop for a game almost exactly like The Witcher, but with deranged cyborgs instead of monsters.
Imagine playing as a cop - a future cop, no less - tasked with hunting down cyberpsychotics. Analysing a crime scene or the site of a massacre for clues, just like our Geralt. Consulting records to assess which modifications your target has received and having to plan your strategy accordingly, just as Geralt has to suss out exactly what he’s up against before actually confronting the ghost/dragon/human foetus he’s being paid to kill.
Even CDPR’s talent for crafting genuinely heartbreaking stories around the creation of The Witcher’s monsters would fit in perfectly in Cyberpunk, as you find yourself exploring the reasons that your targets went off the deep end and ran the risk of getting so heavily modified in the first place.
God, it could effectively be the Blade Runner game we’ve always dreamed of, rather than the faintly naff point-and-click adventure we got in 1997.
Cyberpunk 2077 still has no firm release date, but when it does finally arrive it’ll be interesting to see if people are put off by the well-worn and decidedly 1980s vision of a neon dystopic future where everything’s run by corporations and life is basically awful. But The Witcher so successfully took a seemingly boilerplate fantasy setting and did so many surprising, interesting and human things with it that there’s real scope for one day being able to say the word ‘cyberpunk’ in front of your mum and dad without feeling embarrassed.
Haha! Only joking. But still.