In the final moments of Cyberpunk 2077‘s cinematic trailer during Microsoft’s E3 press conference, an angel appeared before us. Dog tags hanging loosely around his neck, a chrome army glistening in the sunlight, and a world-weary smolder looking past the player character V through the monitor, directly into our eyes. “Wake the f— up, Samurai,” the angel implored us. “We have a city to burn.”
But that wasn’t any angel; it was the Internet’s past, present, and future obsession Keanu Reeves, and he isn’t just playing a random character in CD Projekt Red’s highly anticipated follow-up to The Witcher 3. He is playing Johnny Silverhand, a patently ridiculous name that carries a long, storied history for anyone familiar with Mike Pondsmith’s seminal pen-and-paper role-playing game on which this video game is based.
Naturally, the first questions asked about Johnny Silverhand weren’t about his rock star status, his checkered past, or the whereabouts of his hacker girlfriend Alt Cunningham. People wanted to know one thing and one thing alone: Can we kiss Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk 2077? The answer, as Nerdist has exclusively learned, is probably not.
At least, that’s what I was left to infer after speaking with Kasia Redesiuk, an art director working on Cyberpunk 2077. “Johnny Silverhand is a ghost,” Redesiuk said. “Can you kiss a ghost?” It’s a fair counter-question. After all, Johnny Silverhand no longer walks this mortal coil so your attempts at locking lips might lead to you falling flat on your face. “Johnny Silverhand is a digital ghost haunting our mind,” said a CD Projekt Red representative during a live gameplay demo.
When I pressed further, asking about the possibility of entering cyberspace to try and do some digital necking with Keanu, Redesiuk paused and said, “I think it would be be a spoiler.” And so she left it at that — a combination of pondering the metaphysical implications of smooching a spirit and not wanting to ruin the surprises contained within Cyberpunk 2077‘s twisting, turning narrative.
But don’t give up hope, horny video gamers: there are romance options in Cyberpunk 2077, and unlike in The Witcher 3, you won’t be limited by your protagonist’s canonical sexual orientation.
“In The Witcher 3, we were playing as Geralt. He is an established character, this guy who is hyper heterosexual. He was all about the ladies,” Redesiuk explained. “In Cyberpunk 2077, you are playing as V and you are creating V, so you’re free to do whatever you want. So if you want to play a gay V, you’re free to do so.”
But will that freedom of choice extend to how you create your character? Playing as a queer character isn’t just a mere role-playing choice for many gamers; it’s a way to see themselves reflected in the media they consume, to complete the identificatory fantasy that video games like Cyberpunk 2077 offer.
So what about players who identify as trans or non-binary? Will they be able to create a character with whatever gender expression they wish? Redesiuk’s answer was not entirely clear, but she seemed optimistic about what players can do with the game’s creation tools.
“We do have elements of characters that can be perceived as male and female,” she said. “For instance, hairstyles, voice, body. However, you can mix and match it however you want. So, you can create a character that will be the character that you want to play.”
This may come as a surprise to some, given CD Projekt Red’s history of making transphobic “jokes” in Cyberpunk 2077‘s marketing materials. This week, another red flag arose in the form of an in-game advertisement, which Redesiuk created in an attempt to create something subversive, but was decried online for sexualizing and fetishizing trans people in a negative way. These were not concerns that Redesiuk treated lightly or dismissed with a glib deflection, though.
“I think it is very important because it is important to other people,” Redesiuk said. “For many people, playing as a character that represents them is very, very important. We want to make them happy. In general, games are supposed to make people feel different things. This is the sort of medium that is very good for a narration to cause different emotions. This is part number one. Two, it is also the immersion. We want people to be immersed in the game to feel like they are actually there. Any kind of dysphoria would break it. So, we’re trying to accommodate it. Also, I think it’s just fun. Especially in the world of Cyberpunk, it’s 2077, it’s a world where people can swap out body parts. So in a society like this, being a person that has different aspects would be completely normal.”
Cyberpunk 2077 comes to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on April 16, 2020.
Images: CD Projekt Red