The moment I heard Cyberpunk 2077 had a photo mode, I knew I was in trouble. I was surprised when I finally sat down to play, however, because it wasn't the city I was drawn to. I mean, it's amazing for the most part. Evocative and atmospheric and completely absorbing at times. But the people on the streets—the waves of citizens constantly streaming past—are what really caught my eye. So I grabbed my virtual camera and took some portraits of the people I saw, as well as a few characters V meets during the story. Here are some of my favourites.
I've played around 40 hours of Cyberpunk so far, and I'd say a good five of those have been spent just walking. I love wandering the streets of Night City aimlessly, stopping in bars, crossing busy intersections, ducking down narrow alleyways, and talking to strangers. It's a smaller world than The Witcher 3, but infinitely more dense, and it's a joy to get lost in.
If being stuck indoors during the pandemic has made you miss people-watching as much as me, you'll love Night City. The endless, teeming mass of humanity constantly shuffling past you on the streets is incredibly varied and exciting to look at. The outrageous future fashions, ornate cyber implants, and wild, colourful hairstyles make for a vivid and lively city.
The appearance of the NPCs you see around you in Night City changes depending on where you are. Out in the outskirts, in the Badlands, it's all bikers, nomads, and road warriors with dusty, retro-fitted vehicles. However, duck into a trendy bar like the Afterlife, a popular hangout for cyberpunk mercenaries, and you'll see extreme body mods, high-end cyberware, and exotic street fashions.
As is the case with most games, characters who are key to the story in Cyberpunk 2077 tend to look better than the regular, disposable people buzzing around on the street—but not by much. You might only glance at someone who passes you on the street, but freezing the game with the built-in photo mode often reveals a stunning level of detail. Kudos to the character artists.
Surprisingly, not everyone you encounter will look like a Blade Runner extra. Occasionally you'll see a person wandering around Night City who looks positively ordinary. No cyberware or outlandish clothes. Just a guy in a sweater with neatly parted hair and sensible shoes. And in a weird way, these aesthetic rebels stand out more among the throngs of augmented fashionistas.
The illusion isn't always perfect. People on the street don't really do much other than walk back and forth, sometimes stopping for a smoke or to sit down on a bench. The NPC simulation isn't as rich or reactive as something like Red Dead Redemption 2, but hundreds of small, scripted moments add a layer of hand-crafted detail, making the city feel full of life, if you don't look too closely.
Sometimes V will find themselves taking an elevator to the top of a gleaming corporate skyscraper, and the haughty, well-off people who dwell here contrast sharply with the crowds on the street below. While most Night City citizens wear their cyberware loud and proud, many corporate types keep it subtle, hidden away, partly obscured by their sharp tailored suits.
You can interact with every NPC in Night City, but most of the time all you'll get back is a single, throwaway line of dialogue, similar to The Witcher 3. None of these lines are particularly interesting or funny, but they must have recorded thousands of them, as I don't think I've heard one repeated in my 40 hours with the game. I just wish the city's residents had more to say.
Night City is an occasionally stunning setting. The environmental design is detailed and dramatic, if a little lacking in the finer details. The sense of verticality, of the city clawing at the sky, is frequently breathtaking. It's still the people that have really impressed me. They don't do much, but they look good doing it, and the result is one of the most vibrant virtual cities you can explore on PC.