Cyberpunk atmospheres in Unreal Engine 5

With the intention of announcing the launch of a Kickstarter campaign shortly, the independent team of Envoidant Studios has proceeded to disseminate a new gameplay teaser of Vigilance 2099. A particularly ambitious open world action RPG, the debut title of the small studio of development was not initially received with particular interest, but the formalization of the transition to Unreal Engine 5 – which took place precisely with this last contact – has redeemed its potential by exhibiting a truly noteworthy artistic sector.

Although short, the video clearly shows a direct inspiration to the cyberpunk scenario conceived by William Gibson with the Sprawl trilogy, putting ourselves in the shoes of a bounty hunter in the chaotic and gloomy Prey City. But the influences are not limited to this cornerstone of science fiction literature, ranging from other cult like Blade Runner and – returning to the videogame field – to the sadly canceled Prey 2. Although the development is still in its primordial stages and the details on the gameplay structure still shrouded in mystery, it is still possible to take a first look at the work, trying to identify its peculiarities by reviewing the features promised by the developers.

A suggestive aesthetic

Among automata, holograms and flying machines, Prey City is preparing to welcome us with its dark and dangerous ways in a world that makes the fascination for the famous Ridley Scott film the fulcrum of a careful stylistic research. Thus landing in a technologically exasperated scenario, where crime and everyday life are inextricably intertwined, the Envoidant Studios welcome us to the hive city that will be the backdrop to the events of our alter ego.

An incipit in full accord with the philosophy of the reference narrative strand, which bases the story of a bounty hunter stubborn to make a name for himself in a society at the mercy of greedy corporations – thus not failing to wink at the work of CD Projekt RED. The streets of Prey City are in fact as dirty and aseptic as those of Night City, punctuated by bursting advertisements and crossed here and there by neon reflections that break on surfaces and puddles, in a flow of soft lights with a synthetic flavor. A choice, the latter, which – although there is no confirmation from the developers – at least makes us assume the implementation of raytracing, which would undoubtedly raise the caliber of the title, helping to make the environment outlined by the artistic direction more immersive. As for the structure of the game world, however, for now we know that it will be a vast open world divided into three macro areas. Freedom of movement and verticality of the level design seem to be the pillars of exploration, which can take place either on foot or aboard the aforementioned flying machines: an expedient used only rarely in the videogame panorama, but which goes well with the concept, giving Vigilance 2099 a unique character.

Less convincing is the density of the population on the streets of Prey City – at first glance too sparse to reflect the idea of ​​urban overcrowding iconized by the cyberpunk trend – and the perhaps somewhat rudimentary animations of the characters, on which we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt given the more than preliminary state of the work.

However, the scenographic impact of the production remains remarkable which, while not shining for a particularly generous depth of field, presents itself with the glance typical of those enveloping scenarios capable of kidnapping after a few seconds with the suggestive force of its atmosphere. Strengthened by an imaginary in itself evocative and aesthetically powerful from which the Envoidant Studios seem to have stolen the essence with extreme effectiveness, also by virtue of the enormous potential offered by the Unreal Engine 5, Vigilance 2099 promises to give a stylistically sumptuous experience in a well-finished futuristic dystopia.

The hard work of the bounty hunter

On the other hand, getting to your target, eliminating it and then collecting the due remuneration could be a far from simple undertaking and for this reason it seems that the Envoidant Studios wanted to make available to the player different ways to complete their assignments.

As far as the constitutive elements of the gameplay are concerned, we can in fact say with some certainty that the freedom of approach is a preponderant trait, as in fact also seems to suggest the possibility of passing from the third to the first person in the shooting phases. In the teaser we were able to see the immediacy of this change of perspective, which we do not exclude was due to a choice of greater accessibility, but which at the same time helps to clarify the philosophy of a title devoted to the personalization of the experience. In this regard, we expect to see also a rather rich editor with whom to indulge in shaping your alter ego, although at the moment no information on his actual presence has been communicated.

Returning to the freedom of approach, however, it is interesting to underline how the protagonist is free to move easily between the structures and skyscrapers of Prey City, also thanks to some parkour skills that seem to play a central role in the gameplay economy. These particular acrobatic skills could in fact guarantee us access to alternative routes to reach the goal, or provide us with a ready and safe escape route if necessary. A rather accentuated mobility, which could be synonymous with a widely explorable world, even if on the actual dimensions and stratification of the open world we must postpone any judgment to a more in-depth contact.

A heterogeneous Action

As for combat instead, in Vigilance 2099 it will be possible to face one’s enemies both with firearms and in close combat, even if the feedback of the shots in the latter case seems to disappear. Currently we are not told if there will be a cover system and – in general – what role the shooting sector will play, but the staid movements of that short video do not suggest a particularly frenetic type of clashes.

Indeed, it is more likely that the game focuses on the more tactical aspect of the experience, encouraging the development of a well-conceived plan based on the tools available and the characteristics of the environment, different for each objective.

On the other hand, the information seems to be really of crucial importance for our bounty hunter, who will have to interrogate the different NPCs to identify the location of the target. To this are added a negotiation mechanics – probably similar to that of the contracts of The Witcher 3 – and the inevitable hacking with which you can hook up to the signal of the cameras and use them to evaluate the situation. Of course, being a cyberpunk world with real automatons or whatever technological grafts like Deus Ex, hacking will certainly also have several offensive connotations, giving us the possibility of manipulating or disturbing enemy equipment, even if – for now – these are only legitimate speculations.

There is also no lack of a stealth component, which in fact is well suited to the role of an unscrupulous hunter, determined to strike in every possible way in a society where honor is an increasingly rare commodity.

However, not even this aspect has been investigated and for now we cannot unbalance on its actual usefulness, not knowing whether the stealth option will be considered ancillary and limited to certain situations, or a strategy that is always applicable. Even on the progression we do not have many details, but it is likely that at the base of the development of your character there is a system of parameters with which you can enhance some skills at the expense of others, thus orienting the choice of your build based on game preferences.

Finally, one of the aspects that certainly intrigued us is the Outlaw system, which – similar to the Shadow of Mordor Nemesis System – will allow the surviving enemies to remember the protagonist, and therefore to be found more prepared and better equipped for a possible second encounter. A trick that could open up to significant game design solutions and a further layering of approaches, but which must necessarily be evaluated in the light of its practical implementation.