It is said that in Night City, anyone who has explored the streets and participated in its social life, came out better and happy, and in Cyberpunk 2077 it's just the pinnacle. On the other hand, what could one ever expect from a city to explore, understand and face, in a game world to be experienced amidst suffering, deprivation and continuous disturbances? And what does it really mean to live in the shadow of Arasaka Tower, while everything changes and transforms, drying up and innovating? There is everything we could wish for, in fact, and much more. Streets teeming with life, people with their daily routines, shops illuminated by orange, blue and violet LEDs, and that typical coming and going of someone in a hurry because they are late in getting to their workplace. Perhaps a workplace in the suburbs, far from the hot asphalt of Pacifica, in the neighborhood that recalls the Shibuya of Persona 5, with the only difference that the gangsters on the streets are not satisfied with ruining someone's life, but intend to see the world to burn, hoping that the flames, once spread everywhere, are even capable of enveloping every cubic meter and taking over the neighborhoods and residences of the most unfortunate.
If Cyberpunk: Edgerunners managed to do something, it was to convey exactly these sensations. Cyberpunk 2077, released two years ago now, was the production of discord for many, the most discussed, loved and criticized video game. It is the video game that, after two years, is what everyone hoped for after a period of ups and downs, which everyone knows and it is actually quite useless to repeat. Arrived on the shelves and in the digital libraries of gamers, the effort of CD Projekt RED, thanks to the success of The Witcher, it was supposed to be the arrival point for the Polish developer house, as well as the work that would have made you feel that smell of next gen and innovation that many are waiting for.
"Someday I'll take you to the moon"
In part, especially after the numerous patches and post-launch support to fix the problems, the work of the Warsaw-based team is reborn in a new light. A troubled, slow and complex path, which has projected the player into a city divided between the power of corporations and multinationals and poverty, which in Night City is really everywhere, and not just in its many urban districts. If you look closer, it's even there where we wouldn't think at all: behind all those blinding lights, in reality, there is the real Night City, devastated by power, reduced to a pile of dust, and held up only by personal interests. Lives ruined, lives lost, lives that now, after some time, they count for nothing. They are empty existences, shells of a heartbreaking and devastating past, reduced only to walking the streets of the city with the sole aim of surviving another day.
There's no time to stop, there's no time to look around and there's no time to figure out if someone is in trouble, but the truth, terrible and far more deafening than silence, is that nobody seems interested in asking for a but no. Cyberpunk 2077, to get to arouse these sensations, took two years, and while the patches rearranged an unpleasant situation on the console, instead on PC everything was booming. People got lost everywhere as they followed the story of V and Johnny Silverhand, the man who, despite the weather, it has survived the cruelty and profiteering of Arasaka, even managing to overcome death.
Two years to get to this, two years to materialize a story written with maturity and passion, two years to remind the player how important it is to observe the moon and get lost in those stars that Daniel and Lucy know very well. Two years of criticism, of great work by the Polish team and of a sensitivity that, unexpectedly, had the ability to really make us understand what that city from a thousand and one nights really hides which, however, between ups and downs, has made to hate as much as to love. If Cyberpunk 2077 was released today, it would be exactly the video game that CD Projekt RED has been dreaming of since it began to lay the foundations of the project, immediately after the publication of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. A complex and avant-garde dream which, after so much time, has succeeded, however, not in the way everyone had imagined. Furthermore, everyone still remembers the sumptuous appearance of Keanu Reeves and the famous joke that everyone now remembers with a smile. It was a happy time but no one imagined it, and that was before the pandemic.
That was before Cyberpunk 2077 came out, reviews were posted, and patches were thrown in lavishly. It was before the story of Daniel and Lucy, and it was still that period following the publication of Death Stranding, in which everyone was waiting for nothing but to breathe the air of a genre that was still unexplored at the time. And over the last two years, between one thing and another, Cloudpunk, Ghostrunner and other productions have arrived which, drawing from futuristic settings and directly from the reference genre also taken up by CD Projekt RED, have dealt with Cyberpunk up close, but not as close as many expected. Deus Ex had arrived earlier, but Cyberpunk, since its announcement, was proposed as a different work, cared for and attentive to detail.
One thing that, Nowadays, it's not totally easy to get. As everyone knows, however, it is a half-successful operation, but this does not at all configure it as a negative or totally questionable experience, when in reality it is partially open to criticism in various respects. A video game reborn from the ashes which now, after some time, is the work that many hoped for. Not perfect, because no work really is. Its real history, if we think about it, is not dissimilar from the virtual one. And how long I've lived, now that I've reached the credits, it's magnificent as I never expected. The lights shine in the sky, the silence is broken by the roar of the engines and the voices of the people. It's Night City.
A city, a hope, a new future
Interfacing with Cyberpunk 2077 and its dynamics, I didn't know exactly what to expect: I knew, however, that there was so much to discover and understand. It was an experience that lasted two years waiting for the next gen patch, and I admit that it wasn't the video game I was most eagerly awaiting, despite having known CD Projekt RED since 2007. Lately, however, I completed it and I understood , also thanks to the Netflix animated series, what the proverbial rabbit hole was hiding, facing reality that, one way or another, I admit that they are absolutely relevant now.
I am referring, in addition to the actual experience, to its themes. The team's opera, drawing lessons from The Witcher and the plots written by Andrzej Sapkowski, he proposed situations which, if examined carefully, are much deeper than we imagine. Corporations, led by capitalist systems that exploit labor and do not guarantee a comfortable life for the poorest, are increasingly devastating the planet, disintegrating it. Of the context, once I reached a certain point of the experience, I then discovered that the next step is space, now a safe destination for anyone crazy enough to want to reach it, going far beyond infinity and its ramifications. There is a future that has yet to be written and to think about, there is a city to be saved, even if it is now irrecoverable, and there is a policy of exploitation that drains the lives of those who are unable to make ends meet . Cyberpunk: Edgerunners' references, similar in lore to those of the Cyberpunk 2077 experience, uniquely capture the realities outside the virtual world of Night City. Dealing with delicate situations, the story of Daniel and Lucy is similar to that of V and Johnny, and the beauty of Cyberpunk 2077 focuses precisely on the narrative construction and writing of the characters, missions and situations that are configured within the experience , that changes and entertains, leaving you speechless.
This kind of approach, in addition to being didactic and detailed, combines the first point of the question: the city. Night City is huge, with skyscrapers caressing the clouds and plasma screens showcasing a skimpy model's latest haircut. However, it is a free city, but not as free as one thinks, although one can live one's sexuality carefree. Sexual awareness, another theme inserted into the narrative with intelligence and sensitivity, therefore outlines a society without dictates, where the importance is being yourself. How can this, however, coexist with the interests of multinationals such as Arasaka, who doesn't care about people's lives?
V, who can be customized as you prefer, is a protagonist who can choose who to be, what to do and how to interface with the people of his choice. In this sense, this is certainly the most interesting part of the production, but in Night City, there's never too much room to be yourself. It is a society, in fact, analogous to the real one, with its hypocrisies. Night City promises sexual freedom, simple love and money, and high-paying jobs, but whoever runs it doesn't really think about the people. As I walked around the city, wondering where everyone was going and what they were doing with their lives, I realized that everything was already pre-established from the beginning.
On the streets, the police were everywhere, in charge of stopping any cyberpsychopaths and other characters of this caliber, ready to do anything to stop them. And yes, even to kill them. Night City is littered with checkpoints and old roads that, a time, they were used by other people in an era other than 2077. And maybe you also loved differently and you were really afraid of being yourself. There was hope for a better future. There was the will to change, there was the will to fight and there were those who supported anyone. It was another time, perhaps, but in reality it wasn't so different from the current one: there was always the powerful on duty, and the only real thing was love. Today's Night City, between perdition and desire, is however freer and better in many respects, yet nothing has changed: Corporations hold the life and death of the people, their downfall and their joy.
In a boundless cruelty, however, a future full of unknowns is hidden, which I discovered by advancing in the game experience, exploring every place, talking to strangers and starting missions of all kinds. I chose who to love, I chose who to help and in the meantime I chose what to become. The future, in Cyberpunk 2077, is the focal point of the gaming experience, because every action has consequences and the ending can be different depending on the player's choices. In the course of experience, however, one decides who to be and who to love, and this represents a point of salvation that should not be underestimated at all, considering the style adopted to talk about the future in a different way. As I mentioned before, Night City is a complex city, difficult to contemplate and absorb, but it is it that captures important elements, it is it that manages to offer something unique and it is it, once again, to be the real protagonist of this world.
The present of Cyberpunk 2077
Between its busy streets, its sidewalks full of people, its shops of all kinds, its scaffolding and its neon lights, there is something that hides incredible stories. That of V, who writes the player and, above all, that of Johnny Silverhand, a romantic tragedy which, moreover, involves characters, the whole city and the paradigms of a society that tries to be innovative and different from the past, but is actually still worse, taken to the extreme and devastated. V and Johnny, two souls in the same body, are the incredible protagonists who, in one way or another, it is impossible to let go, because they are existences of that city so tormented and devastated, that it finds itself having to deal with the its past, its present and its future, forced to change, to improve and change skin.
Johnny, on the other hand, wouldn't exist without V, and V wouldn't exist without Johnny. In fact, each of their close relationships with other people contains their personalities, between ghosts of the past, certainties of the present and certainties of the future. If nothing else, Keanu Reeves' character remembers never making the same mistakes he did. Despite trying hard not to admit it, Johnny Silverhand loves V, and cares about his future more than anyone. The nuances of Cyberpunk 2077, come to this, they are multiple and each theme can only be explored by making correlations between the two protagonists of the work, although there is a third. Nighy City is fascination, damnation, fear and terror. It's death and blood, it's loneliness and despair. But it is also wonder, amazement, rebellion and love. It is all this because, after all, it is the true protagonist of a finally complete video game.