Cyberpunk 2077 is a game released at the end of 2020 for Xbox, PS5 and PC. As a biohacker, what do I think of this game? A review with an explanation about the Cyberpunk genre, interesting upgrades and the pros and cons of the game.
This is an overview of the article:
In the past: about the games Deus Ex and Wolvenstein
The Cyberpunk genre
Biohacking in Cyberpunk 2077
Review of Cyberpunk 2077
Finally, a list of sources and place to leave a comment.
Video Cyberpunk 2077
On my YouTube channel I made a video about my experiences with the game. In this video I explain the background of Cyberpunk, I give more information about the Ripperdocs and a short review of the game.
Cyberpunk 2077 is not my first computer game. When I was eighteen I was addicted to Deus Ex.
The computer room
We still call it the computer room. Nowadays my parents don’t use the room for computing. They sit at the dining table or on the couch with their laptops on their lap. The computer room, opposite to my old bedroom and next to my parents’ bedroom, is being used as storage place. There you will find old folders, computer cases from 20 years ago and even videotapes.
I have good memories of that room. My brother Jeroen and I spent hours there when we still lived at home.
Wolvenstein or Sim City
I was not a good gamer. Jeroen beat me with faster lap times in car games, progressed in Prince of Persia and shot sharper in the shooter Wolvenstein 3D. In games with more strategy, I was better: building a strong army base in Command and Conquer, investing smartly in Railroad Tycoon or building a city in Sim City.
Our interests and qualities came together in the RPG mode, in other words: role-playing games. This requires a combinations of agility and thinking ahead. That’s why we were about as good at Deus Ex. This game is about secret agent J.C. Denton. He searches for terrorists who have created a deadly virus and spread it among the world’s population. In the light of some conspiracy theories surrounding the current corona virus, this is a remarkable scenario.
In the year 2000, I was in 5VWO and we played this on and on. He played an hour, then I played another hour and so we got the evenings full. An old-fashioned egg timer stood next to the computer.
What does Cyberpunk stand for?
One year before the launch of Deus Ex I was very impressed by another dystopian story. In 1999 the first part of The Matrix trilogy came out in the cinema. I was immediately sold, although that was mainly due the action scenes and the special effects. Years later I understood the hints to deeper themes.
I wanted more like The Matrix. I searched the internet for movies like this one. Not like now through an app like IMDb on my smartphone. No, I had to wait for the cracking beeps of old-fashioned internet connection over the phone so that I could search on Home or AltaVista.
The first result I liked was Blade Runner from 1982. A movie starring Harrison Ford and Dutch actor Rutger Hauer. I rented the DVD in the video store. It was fantastic: the dark city, the neon lights, the indistinguishable distinction between humans and cyborgs.
In the years since, science factions has always drawn me, but it wasn’t until much later I read the books Neuromancer and Snow Crash. Together with Blade Runner they are the showcase of a genre: Cyberpunk.
Easy to spot
The Cyberpunk genre is hard to grasp. Professor Sherryl Vint (University of California, United States of America) says in an interview: ‘It could be a specific setting, a few iconic images, an aesthetic or a certain theme. Just like a film noir, Cyberpunk is easy to recognize, but difficult to define.’
Cyberpunk is easy to recognize, but difficult to define
Professor Sherryl Vint
What makes that recognition so easy? The sketched world often consist of an Asian-looking city, with neon lights in rain, gangs, powerful megalomaniac companies, virtual worlds, hackers and cyborgs. For example, the powerful company in Blade Runner is the Tyrell Corporation, part of Snow Crash takes place in the virtual world of the metaverse and the protagonist in Neuromancer is a drug-addicted hacker.
After the Second World War
Cyberpunk’s origins lie just after the Second World War. Countries such as the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands saw their colonial power crumble. At the same time, they feared for the emergence of Asian countries, especially Japan, as new world powers.
Cyberpunk as a literary movement, genre and style emerged after the Second World War.
Dylan Yeats, author
At the same time, he same feeling lived in the United States of America. They needed two atomic bombs to conquer Japan. Author Dylan Yeats of Yellow Peril: ‘I think that context is very important. You can hardly overestimate the impact of the Second World War. Cyberpunk as a literary movement, genre and style originated there.’ Writers elaborate on the fear of oppression against Japan in the United States and Europe.
Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the Cyberpunk 2020 game by designer Mike Pondsmith. It’s a roleplay, released in 1988 as a set of books in a box. In an interview, Pondsmith refers to what Professor Vint also said earlier: ‘The aesthetic of Blade Runner has shaped the genre to a large extent. It is not only the technology in that film, but also because it has elements of film noir that Cyberpunk always falls back on.’
At the time, you had a lot of uncertainty with Reagonomics and social changes.
Mike Pondsmith, creator of Cyberpunk 2020
The game Cyberpunk 2020 (1988) and the aforementioned books Neuromancer (1984) and Snow Crash (1992) color the genre. Pondsmith: ‘At that time, you had a lot on uncertainty with Reagonomics and social changes.’ Reagonomics stands for the liberal economic policy of US President Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) with tax cuts, less social spending, more investment in the military and deregulation.
This is reflected in the game and the books: the world is dominated by large corporations and military complexes, while individuals are left to their own devices.
In short, the influence of the Second World War and the economic policy of the United States in the 1980s on the Cyberpunk genre cannot be overestimated. It is the mix of fear for Japanese rule and capitalist washing out: a world with a lot of violence, in which everything is possible and everything is allowed.
This is a recurring theme in science fiction
Incidentally, it is a theme I see more often in science fiction: although they are stories about the future, it often says more about the time in which the story was conceived.
What is interesting about the game for me as a biohacker?
Biohacking in Cyberpunk 2077
My areas of expertise are biohacking, human enhancement and human augmentation. They are terms with a lot of overlap, but the essence is this: improving and changing the human functions and capacities with the help of technology.
From that perspective, I was particularly interested in Cyberpunk 2077. After the first missions, your friend Jackie Welles takes you in his car to Viktor Vector, nicknamed Vik. Vik is a ‘Ripperdoc’. You can find Ripperdocs all over Night City, but Vik is my favourite.
Cyberware in eyes
Vik is installing visual upgrade in my eyes. With the cyberware from Kiroshi Optics version MK3 I can better aim better, I get extra information when I look at people or objects and I have a module where I can see whether enemies have noticed me.
Placing electronic upgrades in or on body parts, that’s where you can go to a Ripperdoc. The name is apt. Ripper stand for an instrument that you use to open or break something. In short, Ripperdocs are unconventional doctors. Or in Dutch: a butcher doctor.
In a Ripperdoc’s clinic you can install upgrades for the following body parts (besides the eyes):
your brain (also called ‘the operating system’, for example to hack faster);
your frontal cortex, for example to hack your opponents faster);
your skull, for example titanium bones to carry more stuff;
your hands, to aim better;
your arms, like wires to connect to machines and computers;
your legs, for example to jump further or higher;
your circulation, to recover faster after a gunshot wound;
your nervous system, for example an upgrade to shoot when you are bent;
your immune system, such as immunity to certain toxic substances;
your skin (called the integumentary system in the game), including better protection against bullets.
You can not buy all type of upgrades immediately. The better the technology, how more Eurodollars (the game’s currency) it costs. Usually you also need a certain level, both in the general process of the game (street cred) as well as in certain skills (for example, you can pass levels in intelligence, combat, technical skills and much more).
My criticism is that the upgrades are actually all electronic. The developers have not included any biological or organic improvements as options, such as genetic modification, modified organs or pharmaceutical interventions.
Splinter with data
Another well-known aspect in Cyberpunk is the transfer of data. In the game you have the so-called ‘shards’.
When starting the game, you can choose between three types of characters, which determine how you start the game. I chose Corpo and the other options are Street Kid and Nomad.
As Corpo you start in a skyscraper of the Arasaka Corporation. You have to go to an appointment with Mr. Jenkins. He will give you a mission, money to complete the mission and a shard with extra information about the target.
The shard, it became clear to me, looks like a kind of USB stick. You plug the shard to an opening at the back of your skull. The information is ten directly in your brain. During the game you will encounter even more shards, some of which are more useful than others.
The shards reminded me of the movie Johnny Mnemomic (1995) starring, yes, Keanu Reeves. The film is based on a 1981 novel by William Gibson (also author of Neuromancer).
In the movie, Johnny is an information smuggler. His clients plug files into his brain through a machine. Wetware transfer of information. Slightly different from the Cyberpunk 2077 shards, but the same idea. Moreover, the movie is quite nice to watch, if only to see Keanu Reeves completely in his element as a casual hacker, even before his breakthrough in The Matrix four years later.
Apart from the Ripperdocs, what is my opinion about Cyperpunk 2077?
Cyberpunk 2077 review
Then the game Cyberpunk 2077. I cannot ignore it: when it was launched in December 2020, the game turned out to be full of bugs and blunders [link at the bottom].
The Polish studio and publisher CD Project worked eight years on this game. The release was extended three times, but that didn’t help. The game turned out to be so shaky (especially for PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One), that Sony removed the game from the webshop. With the Xbox, buyers receive w warming that the game is still full of errors.
The studio was aware of this before the launch and has made every effort to limit the damage. For example, reviewers could play the game in advance, but only with an NDA (non-disclosure agreement, a statement in which they are bound not to share something) and only the PC version (because that’s where the game performs best).
I had also signed up for a review before publication, but unfortunately I did not receive a test copy. So if you’re reading this, CD Project marketing boss: put me on the list!
A clever way in which the studio has created a hypo is through the role of actor Keanu Reeves (of yes, including The Matrix). After about a quarter of the game, it is clear what his character Johnny Silverhand means to you as a player. A tip of the veil: his identity is stored in a brain chip.
The role of Keanu Reeves is also one of the fun elements in the game. I am playing Cyberpunk 2077 on Google Stadia from mid-December 2020 and I have to say that I hardly have any hiccups or bugs.
Although, on the mission Big in Japan I had to rescue a surgeon from a criminal-run port area. I decided to take out the gang members first, but when I returned the surgeon was nowhere to be seen.
Another disclaimer: I am not an experienced gamer, not at all. After my time with Deus Ex in high school, I hardly played on a computer or console during my college days and since then. For an in-depth expert review of the game itself, look further [link at the bottom].
How about the game itself? As I wrote before, I am not a professional gamer or reviewer of games. I am biased as a fan of the Cyberpunk genre and fascinated about the aforementioned human enhancement applications, such as the Ripperdocs and the shards.
Apart from that, I am enthusiastic about the game. Here is a brief overview of the pros and cons. As a mentioned earlier, links to extensive reviews are at the bottom.
The name of the city Night City is similar to a city in the book Neuromancer, perhaps as a kind of homage to William Gibson. Other cool references I came across as a biohacker:
in a radio broadcast you will hear an interview with the author of a new book entitled Cyborg Sapiens.
You regularly see on television or read news reports about people where the installation of a new upgrade at the Ripperdoc went wrong.
In a conversation with T-Bug, a netrunner who helps you hack computer systems, she shares quotes from Aristotle and the Stoics like Marcus Aurelius.
In addition to these references, I was immediately impressed with the rendering of Night City. It feels like playing the movie Blade Runner with the float cars, distant mega corporations and rugged streets full of violence.
The little details are fantastic, such as the display of the neon lights when it starts to rain in the dark or the vibrations in the air just above a barbecue due to the rising warm air.
What disappointed me about the game is that the interaction is fairly limited. Beforehand I had the impression that you can talk to anyone and that those conversations influence the progress of the game.
That is not true.
You can talk to the most important characters and the choices you make (in your answers or questions) influence the outcome or your mission. But on the street, the characters are simple, one-dimensional and clichéd (not only what they say, but also what they look like).
Another point of criticism is the amount of options. This is shown in several ways. In some cases that does not distract, such as the many radio stations you can choose from. That’s fantastic by the way: tearing down the highways with vague Asian techno.
No, it is more annoying that you are constantly called by ‘fixers’ when you come to a new part of the city. Those fixers have assignments and missions for you, with which you can build money and street cred. It drove me crazy every now and then. This overkill comes back more often in the game, for example also with the building of your skills, the advertisements you see or the messages you receive. My advise to CD Projects: kill your darlings.
My third quibble is the gameplay. I personally enjoy improving my skills as a hacker. My idea was to get the most missions with sneaking and hacking. This is only partially possible. Almost all missions I’ve don now I had to grab my weapons at some point.
Personally, I like it more, just like in Deus Ex, that you have more options to achieve goals. That the choices you make in your upgrades and skills have more influence on that.
My brother Jeroen has also ordered Cyberpunk 2077 and has already finished it. He sent me a voice message with his thoughts on the game.
Review of Jeroen
‘Well, the game was of course very hyped. That trailer was really gruesome. When I started playing, it was quite disappointing graphically. That is probably also due to my set-up. I don’t have a PlayStation 4 Pro with a 4K screen.
The gameplay is pretty cool, for example how you shoot and how the different weapons work. The missions are quite varied. I found the main storyline a bit short. My character had not been fully upgraded at all. Apparently you have to do a lot more other missions.
The gameplay is pretty cool and the missions are quite varied. But I found the main storyline a bit short.
Jeroen (my brother)
The glitches were also annoying, but after 2 updates I hardly had any problems with that. I didn’t think the crafting of your weapons was well explained. Coincidentally I found out and still not everything is clear. You also need a certain level of crafting before you can do that with certain weapons.
Cyberpunk 2077 was often compared to Grand Theft Auto (GTA) beforehand. But GTA is really much better. In short, it is a shame. For a game that has been in development for so long, it’s not good enough. I give the game a 7. Actually a 6, but because Keanu Reeves plays along and designed the engines in the game, they still get one point. ‘
Finally, what is my conclusion?
In all those years since Blade Runner, Deus Ex, Neuromancer and Snow Crash, I was excited and tense to Cyberpunk 2077. Developer CD Project had a huge amount of tight trailers, the limitations for reviewers before launch and Keanu Reeves’ star expectations aroused.
And then, well, it might be a bit disappointing. And yet, for me as a lover of the Cyberpunk genre and with a professional interest in human enhancement, it is still a wonderful game.
These kinds of games are also important to me. Night City is not the world I want to live in in 2077. Nor is it a prediction of the future, but rather a warning.
Although it may be a bit crude. Isn’t the Cyberpunk created in the 1980s eerily similar to the world we live in today, with our surrender to technology, the power of big business, the destructive effects of the climate crisis and growing inequality in the world?
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I previously wrote these related articles about human enhancement: