All of E3's press conferences have run their course, and the show is now open for journalists and the public to explore the various booths and get some hands-on experience with many of the biggest upcoming games.
While Rockstar didn't show anything off, Grand Theft Auto did become tangentially related when one of the new games was (derogatively) compared to it.
CD Projekt Red, the Polish developer who blessed the world with The Witcher RPG series is working on a new IP. Based on the legendary tabletop RPG Cyberpunk 2020, a new open-world first-person RPG named Cyberpunk 2077 is coming to PC and consoles.
While the game was first announced years ago and later got a pretty nondescript trailer, we finally saw some in-engine footage and journalists on the show floor experienced actual gameplay.
Reactions to the trailer were almost universally positive among the gaming press and fans. Thing is, someone whose name carries a lot of weight in the cyberpunk community was less than impressed. William Gibson, author of Neuromancer among a score of other novels and considered the father of cyberpunk as a genre called the trailer generic.
The trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 strikes me as GTA skinned-over with a generic 80s retro-future, but hey, that's just me.
— William Gibson (@GreatDismal) June 10, 2018
Cyberpunk 2077 is an open-world game that doesn't pull punches when it comes to potentially controversial themes like violence, crime, substance abuse and sex.
In this sense, the Grand Theft Auto comparison is apt and in an industry where GTA happens to be a mainstream titan with its latest installment moving over 95 million copies, cementing it as one of the most mainstream representatives of these themes, it is also easy to see why being like GTA might seem like being generic.
Cyberpunk 2077's trailer also abandoned one of the key visual characteristics of cyberpunk media, namely that it was bright and sunny instead of a dreary, rainy night scene. As iconic as neo-noir depictions are in cyberpunk works, it's not like a universal rule of the genre is that the sun was shot in a back alley by a crime-boss and thus it must always be night-time.
This sunny, big-city vibe going on in the trailer is admittedly visually similar to several of GTA 5's trailers, showing off a sunny Los Santos juxtaposed on scenes of explosions and various acts of violence enacted by Trevor, Franklin and Michael.
The reason why the GTA comparison may sting the developers of Cyberpunk 2077 is due to the connotations it carries with it.
GTA has always been a satirical, comical game that's purposefully over the top and filled with dick jokes. This is a game where a car manufacturer is called Pfister and the beer is called Pißwasser.
It's a big, dumb and immature game that actively tries to be big, dumb and immature on purpose. Calling it these things isn't a criticism because it's precisely the goal the developers have in mind.
However, cyberpunk the genre and Cyberpunk the franchise is something that is considered a more intellectual affair.
The whole genre revolves around themes of technology evolving and class divides, the blurring of lines between economics and politics with power being transferred to corporations, the bastardization of capitalism, the decay of individualism and the emergence of a society where the oppressed are pushed to a point where they would willingly surrender their free will in exchange for survival.
Sure, Cyberpunk 2077's trailer may have diverged from the stereotype of a gruff, over-smoked voice brooding over lingering shots of a dark, rainy, run-down, neon-drenched city while people suffer. It exchanged that with showing the character of the game's setting with a heavy emphasis on body-modifications, gang violence and corporate supremacy.
Was it visually similar to GTA, especially GTA 5? Sure it was, to some extent at least. Was it generic? Not in the least.
It's also important to note that GTA isn't as far removed from cyberpunk as one would assume. GTA 2, which was still a top-down 2D game like the very first Grand Theft Auto title, is an outlier in the series because instead of going for a realistic setting it went full fictional with a cyberpunk setting. Due to its presentation, this isn't entirely apparent, but the promotional art, descriptions and the in-game artwork also conveys a run-down futuristic aesthetic.
We also feel that judging an entire game based on the merits of a sole trailer that is barely longer than one and a half minutes and is not representative of gameplay is reaching, but that's just us.
Is Cyberpunk 2077 just a reskinned GTA clone? No. Is Cyberpunk 2077 a game we suggest GTA fans should pay attention to? Absolutely.