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The Untold Truth Of Cyberpunk 2077

After years of anticipation and months of delays, CD Projekt Red has at last succeeded in releasing Cyberpunk 2077. Based on Mike Pondsmith's tabletop RPGs, this action-adventure open-world game takes players into the adrenaline-fueled dystopian future of Night City, a sprawling megapolis glittering with neon, cybernetics, and corruption. Gamers play as V, an outlaw mercenary on a mission to find a prototype implant which provides the key to digital immortality. Along the way, you'll explore all the debauchery the city has to offer, and cross paths with numerous gang lords, corporate leaders, and underground hustlers.

Its dizzying attention to detail and hyper-realistic layout gives Night City the feel of a real concrete jungle — one you can easily get lost in while exploring its countless back alleys and high rises. Gamers have good reason to be excited about this technical masterpiece, which they greedily obsessed over for the five years leading up to its release — a passion fueled by a love of CDPR's prior success, with the Witcher franchise. Fans may think they've absorbed every Cyberpunk fun fact, but there are probably still a few you don't yet know about this revolutionary video game. From surprising references and celebrity cameos to the creation of numerous cars and characters, here's the untold truth of Cyberpunk 2077.

Cyberpunk 2077 was released without adequate seizure warnings

Any game as complex and massive as Cyberpunk 2077 is bound to be rife with issues on its way to market. After announcing it would be released in April 2020, CD Projekt Red realized they'd need more time, delaying the release until September, then November, before finally launching to an impatient public on December 10, 2020. Despite these delays, the game was still launched with a host of issues — base models of the PS4 and Xbox One have been plagued with choppy frame rates, weird physics, texture pop-in, and screen tearing.

CDPR plans to retroactively fix these issues through a series of patches, but is willing to give refunds to dissatisfied customers. Sadly, not all of Cyberpunk's release issues can be solved with refunds. Some players have reported experiencing seizures from gameplay, specifically due to flashing lights experienced during "Braindances" — a futuristic form of virtual reality allowing users to experience other people's digitized memories.

Normally, manufacturers place warnings in-game so photosensitive players know to avoid potentially triggering scenes — but Projekt Red failed to properly warn gamers in this regard. Some players suffered as a result, including Game Informer Associate Editor Liana Ruppert, who was one of the first people to bring public attention to the issue. Thankfully, CDPR added a seizure warning at the start of the game on December 9, promising a "more permanent solution" in the near future.

That Braindance hardware looks familiar

There's a veritable goldmine of Easter eggs in Cyberpunk 2077, referencing everything from The Office to Sailor Moon to Cyberpunk creator Mike Pondsmith. Fans have even noted a reference to the 1993 sci-fi action flick Demolition Man. The film imagines Los Angeles as a seemingly peaceful utopia in 2032, renamed "San Angeles” after the merger of Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara.

In addition to ridding society of anything deemed "bad," including caffeine and spicy foods, the enlightened society of San Angeles has eliminated the use of toilet paper and replaced it with three silver seashells. How these shells are used is never detailed, and the tongue-in-cheek humor surrounding their existence has made them a cult favorite among fans. A reference to this scene has been located in Cyberpunk 2077 — inside V's bathroom are three silver seashells, and just like Demolition Man, the details of their use are never mentioned.

Another reference to this '90s cult classic film has gone mostly unnoticed by players — the VR headband used in a Braindance is nearly identical to a similar device featured in Demolition Man. In addition to eliminating destructive habits, like toilet paper, the leader of San Andreas has also banned any form of "body fluid swapping" or physical contact — including shaking hands and intercourse. Reproduction is conducted in the sterile safety of Petri dishes in labs, and intercourse has been reduced to a virtual experience using headbands — which one character humorously learns the hard way.

A match made in heaven...

One of the many colorful characters encountered while playing Cyberpunk 2077 is rock star terrorist Johnny Silverhand, played by Keanu Reeves — who goes full Keanu for the role, and it's absolutely delightful. His excitement over the collaboration is nearly palpable, from his enthusiastic acting delivery to comments made in interviews and reactions behind the scenes. Senior level designer Miles Tost fondly has recalled a moment during the pitch process when Reeves got "really into the role" and began fervently working through potential character traits right there and then.

The actor was a relatively late addition to the cast, which is interesting considering it's hard to imagine the plot without Reeves once you've become immersed in the game. It wasn't until Microsoft's E3 2019 that his participation in the project was revealed, when he announced Cyberpunk 2077's then-targeted release date of April 2020. When asked why CD Projekt Red targeted Reeves over other action stars, Tost described him as the ideal fit for the role, thanks in large part to his cyberpunk-esque story-studded resume — most notably films like The Matrix and Johnny Mnemonic.

A video game career rooted in sci-fi

Although it hasn't been mentioned as one of the Cyberpunk 2077 team's motivations for collaborating with Keanu Reeves, the actor has experience in being part of sci-fi and cyberpunk-themed video games as well as films. His career in gaming started way back in 1991, when Nintendo launched an NES game based on Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Dubbed Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure, this RPG action-adventure picks up where the film left off. Players are able to switch between the two dudes while rescuing various historical figures stranded in incorrect time periods. Although an overall entertaining diversion, the game received lackluster reviews due to frustrating issues with gameplay.

Since that time, Reeves' video game resume has expanded alongside his acting experience — his likeness has appeared in several games, including Bram Stoker's Dracula and John Wick in Fortnite, and he voiced Neo in Enter the Matrix. Although Reeves has experience with motion-capture from working on the sets of films like The Matrix, his role as Johnny Silverhand marks the first time he has performed mo-cap for a video game — making his collaboration with Cyberpunk 2077 that much more special.

Keanu's motorcycle company inspired an in-game ride

As it turns out, CD Projekt Red had even more reasons to collaborate with Keanu — the actor is also co-founder of ARCH Motorcycles, a Los Angeles-based shop specializing in drool-worthy high-end custom American motorcycles. Per Reeves, some of the employees at Projekt Red were fans of his acting as well as his motorcycles — and once you've seen the glorious choppers over at ARCH, you can't blame them.

Considering personal rides play as big a role in Cyberpunk 2077 as they do in titles like GTA, it's easy to see how CDPR viewed this collaboration as a "match made in heaven." Players can even ride an in-game motorcycle inspired by the ARCH Method 143, a 170-horsepower beast fueled by a massive 2343cc V-twin engine.

CD Projekt Red's sound design team went as far as traveling to Los Angeles to capture raw sounds of the 143's engine, drive train, and other auditory characteristics. The in-game version has been modified for the futuristic streets of Night City, featuring a "totally different, crazy-looking power plant" and modified sound effects — but its pure sourcing lends visceral reality to the virtual riding experience.

The ultimate driving experience

CD Projekt Red's obsession with organic sounds didn't stop with the Method 143. Their sound design team recorded more than 40 vehicles for the game — a novel feat considering Cyberpunk 2077 isn't a racing game. However, driving is a visceral experience, especially when cruising through a bustling megapolis like Night City, and the gearheads at CDPR wanted time spent driving in-game to feel as real as possible. They even used rally mechanics to place multiple microphones in the engine bay, exhaust, and interior of each model so as to fully "capture the character of the engine" — something car enthusiasts everywhere will appreciate.

Johnny Silverhand's personal ride, a 1977 Porsche 911 930, got extra special treatment — CDPR recorded as many sounds as possible off a real model placed on a dynamometer, including the sound of the doors closing. By taking the time to use organic sounds, while complementing them with futuristic sound effects, Projekt Red has layered another level of realism into Cyberpunk 2077.

You can unlock a Cyberpunk 2077 car in Forza Horizon 4

Crossovers are arguably one of the greatest things about gaming — unlike other forms of entertainment, players get to see characters from various brands interacting in ways Marvel and DC movie fans can only dream about. Except for incredibly rare exceptions like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, audiences are limited to living out their crossover fantasies through video games like Fortnite and Mortal Kombat.

One such crossover event was announced by Xbox shortly after Cyberpunk 2077's release with their latest Forza Horizon 4 update. Via a free DLC made public on December 11, players have the chance to unlock the legendary 2056 Quadra Turbo V-Tech — a.k.a. the iconic grey and yellow sports car first glimpsed in Cyberpunk's 2018 E3 trailer. Whoever unlocks this achievement will get to experience CD Projekt Red's obsessively sourced organic sounds uninhibited on a Forza track, rather than being distracted by the hustle and bustle of Night City.

The musical score was a labor of love

Soundtracks are the backbone of multimedia experiences like gaming, and CD Projekt Red started composing Cyberpunk's the moment it was announced in 2012. In fact, CDPR's music director Marcin Przybyłowicz was still working on soundtracks for The Witcher 3 expansions at the time. Przybyłowicz was already a fan of the Cyberpunk franchise, having played the tabletop RPG in high school, but he felt daunted by the massive project that lay before him.

Even with five years to prepare, the experienced composer knew it would be a struggle to get everything done on time — as fans learned the hard way after three major delays on the Cyberpunk 2077 release schedule. First, a key word was chosen to help guide the decision making process: "attitude," as a reflection of the somber, mature topics examined in the game.

Initially, the '80s seemed like a natural fit, considering synthwave and sci-fi seem to go hand in hand, but the deeper they dove into the project, the more they found themselves finding inspiration from the attitude of the '90s. Rave, EDM, and industrial music would play major roles, while analog synth would be used to produce warm electronic tones. Once the right mood was established, CDPR's composition team partnered with various musicians, including Gazelle Twin, Richard Devine, and Run the Jewels, to create more than eight hours of original scores and 150 unique tracks.

AI takes facial mo-cap to the next level

A game is only as good as the characters' facial animation — if it's poorly done, it can be a distraction at best, and pushing extreme edges of the uncanny valley at worst (remember the horror show that was Mass Effect: Andromeda?). Cyberpunk 2077 contains massive amounts of dialogue — more than 1,000 non-playable characters roam the streets of Night City, waiting to be engaged in some manner.

That's a whole lot of facial animation that could go wrong, and yet CDPR managed to pull off realistic-looking expressions and emotions in Cyberpunk's numerous cast of characters. It's impossible to perform facial motion capture for that many individual people — the logistics alone, especially during a pandemic, would have been insurmountable. On top of that, each character has to be animated for every single language the game has been localized for — which is pretty mind-blowing considering Cyberpunk's language support spans the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East, Oceania, and South Korea.

Rather than being limited by the traditional route, a revolutionary facial performance software called JALI provided a solution by employing machine-learning-based software for automated facial animation. Facial performance automatically generates on a character based on the audio, dialogue, and speech of the voice actor. Even better, the technology allows animators to retain full control over the automated result, so they can final edit it as they wish.

The actors for V and Judy Alvarez are married IRL

In order to support languages in multiple countries for Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red employed hundreds of voice actors to accomplish the massive undertaking. Considering CDPR is a Polish company, it only makes sense they would ensure their latest game has a Polish voice cast representing their home language.

Luckily for them, the Polish voice actors for the masculine version of V and a pertinent NPC, Judy Alvarez, came together quite naturally. After playing Liam de Coronata in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine, CDPR re-cast Polish actor Kamil Kula as male V for Polish language support. Once he landed the gig, Kula's enthusiasm for Cyberpunk 2077 spread to his wife, fellow Polish actress Marta Żmuda-Trzebiatowska, who also became interested in the project.

Through her husband, Marta was able to set up an audition for the role of Judy Alvarez, allowing the couple to share the experience of working behind the scenes on such a revolutionary video game. They say work and relationships don't mix, but this power couple proves the opposite can be true with the right people and form of work.

Keanu Reeves is Cyberpunk 2077 canon

Much like the vehicles used to source organic sounds for the in-game rides of Cyberpunk 2077, Projekt Red further immerses players into Night City by giving the real-world bands featured on the soundtrack in-game pseudonyms. Nina Kraviz becomes "Bara Nova," Yugen Blakrok is dubbed "Gorgon Madonna," and Run the Jewels are known as "Yankee and the Brave."

In a fun twist, the lyrics to Yankee and the Brave's "No Save Point" reveal a Schrödinger-level layer within Cyberpunk 2077 lore: in addition to his fictional alter ego Johnny Silverhand, Keanu Reeves' real-life persona is canon in-game. "Keanu Reeves, cyber arm under my sleeve," raps Killer Mike, a.k.a. the Brave.

When asked about the lyric on Twitter, Mike explained, "The KR lyric is lore friendly. It's an in-universe cultural reference to KR, a little known Collapse-era actor who bore an uncanny resemblance to Johnny Silverhand, and in the years following Johnny's disappearance, was frequently mistaken for JS." To quote Deadpool, that's like 16 walls!

Multiple celebrity cameos await discovery

In addition to Keanu Reeves' leading NPC role, Cyberpunk 2077 features several celebrity cameos. Grimes makes an appearance as cyborg pop star Lizzy Wizzy, while Hideo Kojima appears as a rude patron appears as a rude patron named Oshim in Konpeki Plaza.

In addition to mainstream celebrities, YouTube and Twitch stars also make appearances in Cyberpunk. It's a dream come true for any gamer to see themselves depicted in a beloved franchise, especially one whose livelihood revolves around the gaming industry. Popular Twitch gamer CohhCarnage depicts alleyway soothsayer Garry the Prophet, and fellow streamer Jesse Cox plays a character with the same moniker in a humorous side-mission called "Burning Desire."

Even journalists got in on the cameo action — Alanah Pearce, aka Charalanahzard, a noted YouTuber, streamer, and video game writer, plays an NPC in part of the Nomad quest line. Even her hair seems to have a cameo all its own as "hairstyle, No. 31" in the main character customization menu. All other details on Pearce's character have been kept quiet so as to minimize spoilers — you'll just have to play Cyberpunk 2077 for yourself to unravel all its mysteries.