Cyberpunk 2077 may well be ‘bigger’ than Witcher 3, but not in the way you think

In a recent interview with MCV, CD Projekt Red visual effects artist Jose Texeira said: “Cyberpunk is far bigger than anything else that CD Projekt Red has done before. Far, far bigger.”

The first thought that may pop into the head of any Witcher III: Wild Hunt player is probably going to be ‘how?’ Closely followed by anyone that had to review it with a cry of ‘WHY?!’ Witcher III is geographically massive. Made up of multiple maps that expand for miles, often requiring a boat to travel to until you unlock fast travel checkpoints. I’ve still not seen all locations in the game and I’ve put close to fifty hours in since release. And CDPR are expanding upon it again with the Hearts of Stone DLC later this month.

Do we even want a game that’s bigger? I’ve had my fill of trying to find that damn quest marker over the vast seas surrounding the Skellige islands’ map thank you very much. Except, I get a feeling when Texeira says ‘bigger’ he might not be talking in terms of square miles on a map, or at least I hope he isn’t.

We haven’t seen much of Cyberpunk 2077 at all and apparently we’re not going to see anything until 2017. With just one concept teaser trailer and the accompanying screens to gawp at, we’ve pretty much got nothing to go on. But looking at the screenshot below made me think about reappropriating the term ‘bigger’.

Rather than think about the world expanding horizontally, Cyberpunk 2077 could instead dramatically expand the verticality of game worlds to create a tightly-woven city full of intricately detailed skyscrapers and layers of roads far above ground-level. Think the crazy-high designs of Ratchet & Clank’s Metropolis or New York as imagined by Luc Besson in The Fifth Element. Just imagine a studio as capable as CD Project Red diving into that sort of setting, creating a world with buildings that are more than just nicely painted blocks. Come on, aren’t we all getting sick of painted on doors?

Futuristic locations in video games are so often just window dressing. It doesn’t matter that you’re surrounded by sky-high buildings and streams of flying traffic when you can’t ride a flying car of your own or go inside any of the buildings. Rather than look out across the horizon and see a landmark in the distance, I want that same feeling of ‘let’s check that out’ when I look up from the street, or down from a skyscraper window.

Cyberpunk-2077-vertical-city

As things stand today, Batman: Arkham Knight’s Gotham is the city to beat as it’s one of the most vertically interactive locations in gaming thanks to Batman’s grapple gun. I have high (pun intended) hopes for the new open world in Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst too as Dice seem to have cottoned onto the fact that we want to explore the verticality of a city from street level to rooftop via Faith’s skills as a freerunner. I may be getting ahead of myself there as we haven’t actually been shown a proper demonstration of Faith’s new city.

Back to Cyberpunk 2077. By its nature, the game world probably won’t feature vast expanses of nothing (countryside), so CDPR have a real chance to create a unique and densely packed city that could make GTA V look like a lifeless ping pong table-sized diorama.

Texeira also said, “We’re really stepping into the unknown in terms of complexity and size and problems we encounter.” Given that CDPR have effectively nailed familiar open-world aspects in The Witcher III and their narrative-driven quest design has put their rivals to shame this year, it’s exciting to think what could be pushing a studio to their limits. With the release date still so far away though, we can only hope that the final game can match their ambitions and bring us gaming’s first great city of the future.

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