After eight years, three delays and two console generations, CD Projekt Red’s hugely anticipated first-person RPG, Cyberpunk 2077, is due for release in just over a week.
Based on the Cyberpunk tabletop game universe created by Mike Pondsmith, CD Projekt Red, who are best known for their immensely popular Witcher video game franchise (which is itself an adaption of a series of Polish fantasy novels), remained largely quiet for the first six years of its development. Once 2018 came around the studio began showcasing its in-game engine, as well as revealing numerous aspects of its gameplay.
It wasn’t until 2019, however, that they kicked Cyberpunk 2077’s advertising campaign into hyperdrive, not only revealing its first true gameplay trailers, but in a move that stunned fans the world over Keanu Reeves was revealed to be portraying a major player in the Cyberpunk universe, Johnny Silverhand.
What makes Johnny Silverhand such a seminal character in the history of Cyberpunk is far too complex a topic to get into here, but suffice to say if early impressions are anything to go off, there is every chance he will be the standout character of Cyberpunk 2077, and perhaps the next in a long line of storied supporting characters in the history of gaming.
With that being said, the importance of his role in the project goes past characterisation.
I will explain further, but first, take fellow Canadian Steven Ogg, who lended his likeness to Grand Theft Auto V, where his character Trevor went on to become one of the most popular figures in the medium of the last ten years, consequently launching his career with a slew of notable roles to his name since. That will happen when you play the breakout character in one of the most successful entertainment products of all time.
It is fair to say that Reeves’ involvement in Cyberpunk 2077 goes somewhat in the opposite direction. He is as much a marketing tool as he is a beloved actor playing a soon-to-be-beloved character, and given that Reeves has a great deal of experience when it comes to shouldering the weight of a franchise, from playing Neo in The Matrix to his more recent renaissance as the titular character in the John Wick franchise, this is professional matrimony at its most ingenious for CD Projekt.
The relationship between the studio and Reeves is very much a symbiotic one, though, as Reeves is using the opportunity to promote his line of Arch Motorcycles, which will be a featured brand of vehicles in Cyberpunk 2077.
All of this adds up to what could be one of the most professionally important roles of Reeves’ career. One that could not only leave his mark on yet another industry, being a musician in addition to his performative and entrepreneurial endeavours, but further his own ongoing pursuits while cementing himself as a cross-media star for the ages.