A woman doing her makeup as the camera slowly pulls out to reveal she’s missing the bottom half of her face, a gaping cybernetic maw in its place. A cable jacked directly into a businessman’s skull, sparking and smoking as it fries his brain. An elevator the size of an apartment, crawling up the side of a high-rise towards the sky.
These are just some of the fragmented vignettes studio CD Projekt Red put on display in Cyberpunk 2077’s debut trailer earlier this year. As an introduction to Night City, it promised one of the most distinctive game settings since Rapture or City 17 — but not much of its neon-soaked imagery is original. And that’s by design.
With this game, CD Projekt Red is drawing from a long tradition, one that — unusually — is named right there in the title: cyberpunk. But what exactly does that mean, and where did it come from?