Welcome to the Red.
Cyberpunk 2077 can't come soon enough. After years of waiting, the highly-anticipated first-person action-RPG's release date was confirmed for April 16, 2020, at E3 2019. While that's still a little while away, we're fortunate in that he fine people at R. Talsorian Games have released the jump start kit for Cyberpunk Red--the latest edition of the tabletop RPG franchise that Cyberpunk 2077 is based on called Cyberpunk 2020.
Cyberpunk Red acts as a sequel to Cyberpunk 2020. It's set in-between the events of the tabletop original and the upcoming game. If you do the math that's 57 years unaccounted for, so that's a lot of new details about the Cyberpunk universe being revealed here.
Below you can find all the biggest new lore, history, and character tidbits. You're welcome to watch the video version above.
Before we really dig into Red, let's dive into a bit of background from the Cyberpunk 2020 creator himself, Mike Pondsmith. In a previous interview we conducted with the famed creator, he described Cyberpunk's world as such:
"The 2020 world is a fusion of many types and elements of the overall genre. And it’s about a combination of technology gone wrong but being used by people in novel ways up against large megacorporations, powerful people, and powerful forces, governments, etc that are all conspiring to keep people oppressed and stomped on."
While you can create any sort of Cyberpunk city or setting you’d like in the tabletop RPG, the books and the upcoming game focus on Night City, an urban sprawl between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
As Pondsmith said, corporations (are mostly) calling all the shots and doing what they can to keep the people oppressed. While governments still exist, they rarely pose much of a threat to the corporate overlords.
The lack of government regulation has left the megacorporations free to start conflicts on a whim with little repercussions. These wars have been dubbed the "Corporate Wars," and typically end in lots of bloodshed.
The 4th Corporate War
Cyberpunk Red takes place in 2045 after the Fourth Corporate War, a bloody conflict started in 2021 by Aquacorps CINO and OTEC and later escalated by Militech and Arasaka. As different corporations aligned with either Arasaka or Militech, an all-out war was waged between different corporations across the planet. The megacorps rolled through countries, broke international laws, and hired private armies to do their bidding.
In an attempt to put an end to the war, Johnny Silverhand aka Keanu Reeves and the Solo (hit-man) Morgan Blackhand led an attack on the Arasaka headquarters in Night City. During the raid, a small nuclear bomb was detonated and leveled most of Night City, killing over half a million people. Despite knowing that the bomb was supplied by Militech, the US president put the blame on Arasaka and nationalized Militech. The increased pressure reduced Arasaka to a Japan-only corporation for the next ten years.
Due to the combined efforts of Miltech and national armies, the 4th Corporate War was put to an end.
Welcome to the Time of the Red
The end of the 4th Corporate War ushered in the Time of the Red. So why is it called Cyberpunk Red? Well due to the mass destruction and radiation from the 4th Corporate War, a “red pall hangs over the skies worldwide.” However, the radiation isn’t that big of a threat because most people living in this universe already had radiation filters installed in their bodies.
With major cities in shambles, people have been reclaiming the once-abandoned towns and settlements throughout the country. As you’d expect, bandits and other questionable types roam the wilds. Most people who venture beyond the cities stick with armed nomad caravans.
Meanwhile, in 2030, sweeping reconstruction projects take place across the world. Especially in Night City which had its city center leveled. However, in the interim, the city outskirts and districts less affected by the bomb have become overcrowded.
By 2045 the first Mega Building is erected. These are huge buildings designed to safely house as many people as possible. V’s apartment in the 2077 gameplay reveal demo is located in a Mega Building. As the narrator says in the video, these apartment buildings have everything one could possibly need and typically form micro-societies within Night City.
In 2045, Night City’s NCART subway system has also seen better days. While it’s still functional, flooding is a common occurrence and it gets delayed frequently. According to Red's world book, “City planners are working to raise a majority of the track into a new monorail configuration, but that will take time and money the city doesn’t have.” Something tells us this monorail system will be completed by the time 2077 rolls around.
To kick off this new era, the NET as we know it, or rather as we’d know it from Cyberpunk 2020, has been wiped out. Originally you were able to travel the world and into space via the NET, but the infrastructure that allowed for that kind of freedom had been destroyed. After the 4th Corporate War, Netrunners had to physically jack in to local networks if they wanted access.
Based on what we’ve seen of Cyberpunk 2077, We’d imagine this localized NET infrastructure is still present in the 2070s. As we saw in the 48-minute gameplay reveal, once V jacked into the Maelstrom gang’s network, she had access to the entire hideout.
However, in the Time of the Red, Netrunners had to own a set of fancy VR goggles called Cyberdecks if they wanted to jack in to a network. Based on what we’ve seen of Cyberpunk 2077, either you don’t need a cyberdeck to hack or they aren’t nearly as bulky as what's described in Red.
Along with a series of localized networks, the Time of the Red introduced city-wide networks called DataPools. These can be accessed in one of two ways: Through a Data Term or cell phone-like device called an Agent. From what we can tell, local networks rarely interface with these DataPools.
Data Pools are essentially the internet if it was localized to a city. You can message people, share information, buy stuff, and research things, i.e. Facebook, forums, Amazon, and Wikipedia would all exist within the Data Pool. It’s also home to something called PopMedia, which is described as an “entertainment and news programming created by independent producers instead of MegaCorps.” According to the world book, it also boasts an “ungodly amount of trash.”
Chances are, your primary communication device in Cyberpunk 2077 will be your Agent. In Cyberpunk Red, Agents come in three forms: Basic, Expensive, and Luxury. Agents can do pretty much anything a modern phone can do. Though, it is possible to reprogram an agent to act as a surrogate lover and purchase other complementary cybernetic enhancements to suit various needs...This sounds like a Cyberpunk 2077 sidequest waiting to be written.
Living in Red
Life in the Time of the Red can be difficult. Wars break out over fresh food so most people’s diets consist of Kibble and other synthetic foods. Even then, those meals aren’t always cheap. It’s hard to say what meals will look like in 2077, but considering Night City seems to be a bit more stable in CD Projekt Red’s RPG, we bet the food options will be a bit more diverse. After all, we do see someone eating with chopsticks in the reveal trailer. However, it’s still unclear if you will need to manage your hunger or if it’s just a means to recoup a bit of health like in The Witcher 3.
With the public transportation system constantly on the fritz, cars were your most reliable way of getting around during the Time of the Red. And while fancy cybercars did exist, they were expensive and hard to drive unless you were cybered up. Fortunately, good old fuel-burning cars are still kicking during Red.
While cybercars might be rare, Cyberbikes aren’t. These things can run off alcohol or water and are definitely present in 2077. In fact, during this year's behind closed doors demo at E3 we got a glimpse of V riding a Yaiba-Kusanagi cyberbike.
Two other vehicles Cyberpunk Red mentions are the F-152 Aerogyro, which is basically a one-man helicopter, and the McDonnell Douglas AV-4. The AV-4 is described as “the closest thing to a science fiction jet-car.” These can reach speeds of 350 miles an hour and are typically reserved for corporate big-wigs and trauma teams. We'd say that the aircraft we see at the beginning of the gameplay reveal is one of these. Considering CD Projekt Red has said that you probably won’t be able to pilot flying cars or vehicles, we think it’s safe to say that transportation technology won’t make too many advancements before 2077. However, we bet we’ll see more cybercars.
And of course, one of the most important things for any cyberpunk is their style. CD Projekt Red released a series of images teasing some of the various styles. However, clothing does more for a cyberpunk than net them clout on the street. Depending on how much you’re willing to spend you can find jackets with built-in portable chargers, clothing that adjusts to the temperature, bodysuits that can change colors and textures, and undershirts that can harden into body armor. Hopefully, when 2077 comes out you’ll be able to give your netrunning ninja assassin a bodysuit that lets her cloak herself as she breaks into a corporate headquarters.
The People of Red
But what about Johnny Silverhand and Morgan Blackhand? Well, they should be dead. But if you’ve seen the E3 2019 trailer, it’s clear that Johnny is alive…at least in some form.
According to the Cyberpunk Red timeline, there are rumors that Johnny Silverhand’s body was found in cold storage in a body bank under the wreckage. This is just wild speculation but we hope you get to recover Johnny Silverhand’s body at some point during 2077.
Morgan Blackhand, on the other hand, is rumored to be covertly working for President Kress and the US Government. We're not sure exactly how could play a role in 2077, but based on the gameplay reveal you can pick Morgan Blackhand to be one of your character's role models.