The streets are littered with garbage and bodies. Everyone is a commodity. Everything is expendable. Everything is a product. Everything gets tossed… even the player.
Cyberpunk 2077 is dark. It touches on identity crises, PTSD, suicide, murder, assault, gang wars, police brutality, sex, rape, and kidnapping. There is something called cyberpsychosis where people’s brains are being hacked. The line between owning property and owning people becomes very blurred. This game also insults the player based on their gender. If you play as a female, you will be called every derogatory female term that exists, and sex is used as a weapon. The insults thrown at you if you play as a female are aggressive and quite honestly very realistic. All these themes are expressed openly in the game.
In the Cyberpunk universe, corporations are evil. You play as the main character V. Keanu Reeves plays a character named Johnny Silverhand, a sort of rebel rocker from 50 years ago who blew up the headquarters of one of the biggest corporations in Night City and killed thousands of people. Johnny Silverhand is sort of a terrorist and sort of the good guy. And Johnny Silverhand haunts V’s thoughts permanently in the game.
Cyberpunk is by no means a perfect game. There have been a horrific number of glitches and technical difficulties with the much-anticipated game. The tech issues were so bad that the game was removed from the Playstation store. Refunds had to be issued. The whole situation was an absolute mess. Even though there was some extra time taken for development clearly it was not enough.
And all the writing is not amazing. There are stronger and weaker storylines throughout. Still, something about the game stuck with me. The game raises a lot of ethical questions and really made me think. The game is full of crass sexualization and the views on race are in no way nuanced. The game is regressive about sexuality and race and makes no effort to correct that.
V lives as a street-level mercenary in a rape-and-pillage corpo society. V returns home to Night City and seeks glory hoping to become the best mercenary. V befriends Jackie Welles and the pair becomes formidable. The game essentially plays like a creative and emotion-provoking open world set in the future and the controls could be compared to Grand Theft Auto. You choose whether to play as a street kid, a nomad, or a corpo. The dialogue is different, but the storyline remains the same despite what character you decide to play as. Many of the quests lead you to behave as a cyber detective where you sift through braindances, which are detective mode, first-person recordings of people’s lived experiences that you can visit in virtual reality when it is required by the plot. You can scan visual, audio, and heat information from the scene, which delivers clues about whatever crime you’re investigating or preparing to commit.
The game makes you question how much power we are comfortable giving to corporations. It is a jobless world. You either belong to a corporation or you are free, and then you are condemned to litter the streets like the refuse in Night City and you work for a gang on a street. How much of ourselves are we willing to sacrifice in order to make it? In Cyberpunk, you are asked to give up your entire body and identity. The corporations can lease you. The theme is urban decay. The commentary on people’s roles and corporations’ roles in society are striking. Do we want to live in that world that is so free and capitalistic that less than one percent will eventually own everything and everyone? This game makes you ask that question.