If you haven't finished Cyberpunk 2077 yet and want to avoid spoilers, its best to bookmark this article for later. There are serious spoilers ahead and I don't want to ruin the story for you. Still with me? Let's go!
Cyberpunk 2077 introduces us to a small pool of interesting characters that are easy to become attached to. There's Judy Alvarez, a braindance technician who's woven into Cyberpunk's main story. Then there are characters off the beaten track, like River Ward and Kerry Eurodyne who are neatly tucked away in their own side quests. The relationships we build with these folks can even blossom into romances, if we work at them for long enough. Despite investing hours teaming up with these characters—and fostering a bit of a soft spot for them—I'm still mourning the loss of a character that I spent just a few hours getting to know at the beginning of the game...I really miss Jackie Welles.
Regardless of the Cyberpunk 2077 lifepath you choose, you're destined to only spend a short time with Jackie before the game opens up after the prologue. He's a lovable chap who quickly proves to be a loyal friend, and it's clear from the montage preceding The Rescue mission that V spends six months working, partying, and getting mixed up in all kinds of shenanigans with him. Although I spent such a short period of time with Jackie, I became very attached to him and I can't help but feel as though he was taken from us too soon. He meets his untimely demise when The Heist mission goes pear-shaped, and after his emotional goodbye in the Delamain cab, I wasn't really sure how to continue my adventures around Night City without my trusty pal in tow.
There are opportunities to prolong our conversations with Jackie in Cyberpunk's opening hours, but these feel too few and far between to fully get to know him. His positivity and willingness to chat with V between main jobs help to develop our relationship with him, but there's no time for venturing into deeper territory before he's gone.
Rather cruelly, we actually uncover more about Jackie's past at his ofrenda (depending on where you send his remains). We learn of his involvement with the Valentinos—the gang he belonged to before going solo and meeting V. There's also some dialogue with his mother, before we're guided through some of his most prized possessions in his garage. It's here that we hear more about his upbringing, interests, and his relationship with his girlfriend Misty.
Learning the finer details about Jackie's life, like his favourite brand of tequila and the story behind it, or that he once had a pet fish called Taco, both feel like the little things we'd already know about a close friend. While V comments on some of the items in his garage knowingly, it feels strange learning this information about him after his death.
As the early montage skips so much time, it feels as though we've missed out a huge chunk of V and Jackie's history, and we can only piece parts of it together by examining otherwise meaningless junk in a garage. Similarly, while on a call with Mama Welles, we have the option to offer our condolences. This felt like the right thing to do as I hadn't spoken to Mama Welles before, and she only briefly pops up in the montage. However, she's shocked that V would phrase their reply in such a formal way, highlighting that V lived with her and Jackie at one point. While this is an assumption we could plausibly make from the few moments we witness near the start, it made me feel even further detached from V and Jackie's relationship.
On the one hand, I respect CDPR's decision to steal Jackie away from us so early. He's the first character V meets and bonds with, and being starved of time with him makes his passing even more heartbreaking. Nonetheless, working as a duo with him for just a few main missions makes him feel almost wasted. I can't help but wonder whether a character that was clearly fleshed out should have hung around in V's life for a little longer. It's quite poetic that he died during a heist mission, as hitting the 'big time' was always his goal, but I would have preferred to have spent more time with him as I got to know Night City and eased into the game. The prologue feels abrupt, and unfortunately it's to Jackie's detriment.
Some Redditors have theorised that the montage may have featured cut content that never made it into the game. Specifically, there are a few inconsistencies in the exchanges between V and Padre. Padre calls V and introduces himself after Jackie's ofrenda in Heywood. This seems out of place as the montage shows a clip of V and Jackie delivering a case to Padre, establishing that they've previously worked together. It's almost as if this portion of the montage has just been ignored. While this isn't something CDPR has confirmed, it's clear that a lot of people feel that the brief montage just didn't do Jackie justice—he deserves more.
To make Jackie's departure even sadder, we're frequently reminded of him over the course of the game. You can still call him after he dies, which leads to V leaving a voicemail. There are options to talk about Misty, the mandala Jackie was working on, and the ofrenda. Unfortunately, there's not much time to dwell on these things, as there's still an urgency to keep moving forward—V is on borrowed time, after all. This is a poignant moment as we're still processing the loss of Jackie as players, but it's over quickly as there are more pressing matters to attend to.
Heading back to Jackie's memorial, we can take his power pistol—as it's an iconic weapon it's definitely worth picking up. Mama Welles also gives us the keys to his bike, so we can keep that little piece of him with us as we continue to build our street cred without him. That said, the most painful interaction with Jackie is much later on, and not everyone will see it.
Sending Jackie's remains to Vik Vektor after The Heist results in his body being stolen by some Arasaka agents. It turns out that the agents tried to copy Jackie using Soulkiller, and V can request to speak to his engram. Unlike Johnny Silverhand (who's construct is largely intact), Jackie's is a much weaker copy of him. Most of his dialogue consists of him repeating parts of conversations you've had previously, and this makes the interaction all the more heartbreaking. This isn't the real Jackie, but seeing him again dredges up the same wistful feeling that he's left a huge hole in V's life, and Cyberpunk's story.
Finally, there's a brief moment where you can speak to him on the roof above Misty's Esoterica. Of all the interactions this one seems to be the most comforting. With V's life hurtling towards a close, meeting a dear friend makes for a touching send off. There's no time for his usual jokes, but his inherently warm personality shines through, reassuring V that everything will be alright even though there's a difficult decision ahead.
After finishing Cyberpunk 2077 I'm still hung up on Jackie's early departure. CDPR has done an excellent job of creating a character that I truly cared about despite investing so little time in him. While I grew to like Johnny Silverhand (which is good, because V's stuck with him), Jackie is a lot more charismatic, and I'm impressed by the impact he had on me in his short life. For now, I've got my fingers crossed for a happy reunion in future DLC, specifically set during the montage period.