Cyberpunk 2077 comes full circle with Sad Keanu meme

Keanu can't believe what Cyberpunk modders have been up to.
(Image credit: CD Projekt)

You could say that Cyberpunk 2077 hasn't had the easiest of rides. Perhaps after the years of hyperbole that was deserved, but what can't be denied is that CD Projekt Red re-trenched after the initial reception, stuck by the game, and has delivered consistent improvements that all led up to this year's major 2.0 update. That was supposed to be the end of it but a few days ago, surprise surprise, patch 2.1 popped up with even more improvements: and a little bit of meme history.

Cyberpunk 2077's big celebrity role is occupied by Keanu Reeves, who plays Johnny Silverhand. Reeves is of course a Hollywood star who's been in the public eye for decades, and he's also unusually beloved by the internet at large for his quirky and slightly broody personality (as well as the fact he's hot). Who knows what the guy's like in real life but this perception of him has been created through various moments, and perhaps the most internet-famous of them all is Sad Keanu.

Sad Keanu is a supremely relatable meme, which sprung from a paparazzi photograph of Reeves taken in 2010. The guy is just sitting on a bench in New York eating a sandwich, someone's clearly snapping away at him, and he's trying to ignore it and eat his lunch: which makes him look a bit sullen or, indeed, sad. Poor Keanu! The image was an instant photoshop classic and you've seen a hundred versions of it by now.

Cyberpunk 2077's 2.1 patch added, among other things, a functional metro system to Night City. And players who take a ride will come across a tribute: Reeves' character Johnny Silverhand, sitting in the Sad Keanu pose and complete with pigeons (as in the original image). It was first spotted by Winky813 on X, formerly Twitter:

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OK, the pigeons are made of folded-up newspaper. This is because Cyberpunk nicks the Blade Runner idea that, in the future, we've somehow wiped out all the urban wildlife (in this world it was apparently disease). But hey, the sandwich is real I think.

Reeves was once asked on BBC World News about the Sad Keanu meme, and I do kind of love his answer. The actor of course points out that it's just a photograph and not reflective of him, he's not that sad and so on, before finishing with a sentiment we can surely all agree with: "Do I wish that I didn't get my picture taken while I was eating a sandwich on the streets of New York? Yeah."

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."