The future is…soon. I mean, that’s pretty obvious; but, the more specific future of 2077 is set to roll around slightly before the calendar indicates. So, what the heck am I talking about? Why, Cyberpunk 2077, of course. You know, that game that’s been driving people into a tizzy since 2012. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then have I got some news and/or trailers for you; also, what is the address of the rock you’ve been living under for the past eight years? So I know where to send the information.
To cut a long story short, Cyberpunk 2077 is a game set in one of those dystopian futures that humans so often find themselves creating. Lawlessness reigns, and therein lies but one hope of a more glorious life: Night City. A megalopolis—fancy talk for “really big place with a freakin’ bunch of buildings”—Night City is overcrowded, technologically advanced, and home to every vice and sin you could imagine (plus a few you couldn’t). Think of it like reality with the sliders turned way up; you live the high life or you die in the gutter. It sounds scary, I know, but it is still a video game, so we can experience the full gamut of future livin’ without the mortal peril of reality. Unless the game is so revolutionary that it somehow transcends fiction, in which case…run. Or outfit yourself with a dope arm cannon that lets you blaze a trail of freedom into whatever desert happens to be nearest you—there’s a desert in the game, that’s why I brought it up, but feel free to escape to your preferred biome of choice.
Speaking of transcending, did y’all know that Keanu Reeves is a tech-ghost in this game? I sort of knew, but the recent trailer focusing on his character—Johnny Silverhand—really shows to what extent his presence is felt. Spoiler: his presence is felt a lot. According to what we know (and can see in the trailer), ol’ Silverhand’s spirit/echo lives in V’s head after a bungled robbery—V being the protagonist. Said echo wishes to continue his life’s work of dismantling the status quo and teaching the corporations of the world a lesson—lesson being a polite way of saying murder. He wants to show them a murder. He wants to show them their murder…he wants to kill them. Oh, he also wants to take over V’s body? I mean, he definitely tried, and he doesn’t really seem like the kind of guy to give up after one attempt, you know, because of the whole thing where he persists after death. That’s some pretty hardcore tenacity. He can play the guitar though…I have no idea what point that proves, but it is pretty cool. Maybe if you agree to help him destabilise the corrupt society established after the nuclear devastation of the planet he’ll teach you how to play: that could be cool.
On the topic of music—a segue I legitimately didn’t mean to set up, but yay serendipity—another recent trailer showcases the tunes that go into fleshing out Night City. I mean, people in this dystopian technoscape gotta jam out to somethin’, right? That being said, I am admittedly one of those people to whom music skirts right by. I appreciate a game’s sound, but it is an element that rarely sticks with me to the degree that elements like dialogue or art style do. Luckily, companies make games with more than one person in mind and CD Projekt Red are cramming a tonne of music into Cyberpunk 2077. Between populating the airwaves with real-world musicians spinning fictional tracks and a score built from both traditional instruments and devices that have more dials and cables than a mortal could ever comprehend, it’s looking (sounding?) to be quite an audio endeavour. Something that specifically caught my attention was the decision of the audio team to shift the era of inspiration from the 80s—the period more frequently attributed to the cyberpunk genre—to the 90s, altering the overall vibe. It sounds such a simple choice, but one that inordinately impacted the final product…which will release eventually.
Consequently…I don’t have a segue set up for this, so…face mapping, am I right? We all know what it’s like to see vocals that don’t match facial expressions—be it from a dub/localisation of a video game or anime, or one of those times when your scratched DVD threw the audio off just enough to notice. It’s distracting, and it can ruin immersion. Somewhat unfortunately, this means that developers have to put tremendous amounts of work into crafting something that you won’t think twice about. That being said, technology is apparently marching ever onward and there are some cool-looking programs that automatically sync up audio and facial performance. I know this isn’t a topic that seems directly related to your personal experience of Cyberpunk 2077, but it’s still pretty cool to see how much effort goes into something your brain simply expects to exist. What stood out to me was the ability for this program—JALI—to match character’s facial performance to whatever vocal performance was funnelled into the program, meaning that everything syncs up no matter what language the game is localised for. That’s awesome. Again, it’s something nobody will notice if done correctly, but I’ve played enough Japanese games dubbed in English to know how distracting lip sync (or lack thereof) can be. Does it completely break an experience? No, but every bit of effort and realism helps, and I’m at least going to praise the efforts of this team and program in this moment…before I get distracted by all of the lights and sounds of Night City and completely forget the work that went into making it look like Johnny Silverhand is actually saying all of those curse words directed at V. Apologies in advance, team behind all of this work.
So, there you have it: a look into the upcoming world of Cyberpunk 2077. If I may say so myself, it’s looks pretty cool. Though I most certainly wish the game was already out and I was playing it, I am still somewhat enjoying the expectant fervour that allows me to focus on individual elements that will eventually merge into a singular experience. It sounds sort of mean to note how the efforts of so many teams will eventually fade away behind each other, but I think that’s the point. Each of these production elements is a facet of Cyberpunk 2007; each has an impact on the world they are creating, but none of them are, themselves, Cyberpunk. Everything is supposed to blend, combine, and merge into a believable fiction: a world with a past and a purpose for existing. Is such a grandiose idea something we’ll actively think about? Of course not. I mean, have we ever? Yes, but not in these flowery terms. We feel when we believe a game’s world. Every nostalgic experience that you know all to well, all of the lore that you have acquired and love to discuss with others of similar passion: that is the sign of a complete world. Will Cyberpunk be that? I can’t say. Nobody can. But for all of the effort and time that has gone into this game long expected and delayed, I hope to heck that it’s as cool as we all want it to be. I mean, worst-case scenario it’s a game that lets you jump around a neon city punching cyborgs with your arm blades whilst Keanu Reeves hovers around like a Force ghost with attitude. And that sounds awesome. So, the future’s looking pretty bright…and violent.