While my newest video game system is from the early 16-bit era, I’m still reasonably aware that the industry is still moving ahead, cranking out new, exciting titles that are, somehow, even more immersive and deep than Krull on the Atari 2600. One of these is Cyberpunk 2077, a new game that’s getting all sorts of attention, some of it kind of alarming. But when it comes to modern video games, I can’t tell wine from grape Fanta. What I can talk about, though, are the amazing vehicle designs the game seems to have.
From what I can gather, the game takes place in a quite dystopian 2077, in a place called the Free State of North California, in an LA-ish city called Night City.
It seems like the American economy and culture has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride, and the peaks and valleys of that ride can be seen in the four main visual styles seen in the game, each of which seems to be associated with a particular kind of car.
These styles are the lean, somewhat desperate Entropism:
...the reactionary, more fun and exuberant Kitsch:
...the brutal Neo-Militarism:
...and the opulent Neo-Kitsch:
All of the cars seen as examples of each style feel derived from real world examples but clearly modified. Entropism has something that reminds me of a ’70s-’80s electric Citicar, Kitsch’s car is very ’70s Cadillac-inspired, Neo-Militarism has a sort of armored ’70s-’80s Lincoln look about it, and Neo-Kitsch is all Bugatti-inspired.
There are lots more cars in the game, which is why I was glad to see that a whole Official Vehicles Trailer was made to give a nice overview of what sorts of fictional cars make up this new world:
The automotive design feels very derived from cars we know, of course, but there appears to be one design concept that real-world auto designers have never fully embraced, but is crucial in the Cyberpunk 2077 world: asymmetry.
While real designers have certainly experimented with it here and there, usually in fairly controlled and limited ways, like Raymond Loewy’s Studebaker Avanti, it’s hardly become a mainstream sort of design element, and cars that have embraced it, like the Nissan Cube, have found that the general car-buying public is pretty hesitant to accept it.
That’s not the case in North California! Check out the cars from the Economy group, for example:
There’s some bold asymmetry going on here, and I kind of love it. The green car on the left feels a lot like a late ’70s Toyota, but that front end lighting setup is unashamedly asymmetrical.
It looks like all of the main road lighting is on the drivers’ side, though turn indicators and marker lamps are duplicated on both sides.
There’s another shot of that hatchback on the left; I like the rising beltline and C-pillar air intakes. It reminds me both of a Japanese car and an Eastern European car all at once, like if Suzuki and Zastava joined forces.
The center car has equal lighting on both sides, but those groups of three lamps are set at different levels and positions. The smallest car on the right there, that red Citicar-looking wedge, seems to have one set of lights on one side and some sort of unknown hardware on the other side.
The asymmetry continues at the rear, with unmatched rear lamp clusters and other details. This little guy seems to be a quality Makigai product.
Look at this fantastic shooting-brake design! None of this category of car seems to have much in the way of front grilles or air intakes, which makes me suspect these are intended to be electric?
In this brief shot of an engine bay, though, maybe not. That looks like a transverse engine block and some kind of super-jet-turbo-whatever on there, too.
That wagon seems to be a Thornton, and I love its pacer-like windows and what seems to be woodgrain paneling? It’s got a cyberpunk Family Truckster vibe going on here. Also, nice to see the designers didn’t ignore marker lamps.
The interior of the Thornton looks like it uses one display for all the instruments, though I suspect this particular one has been modified a lot, as there’s a hell of a lot of controls and just stuff going on here.
This Archer car feels like a version of a Crown Vic or maybe a Chevy Caprice. Something mainstream and American, definitely.
Again, we see a lot of asymmetry, especially in lighting unit placement.
This shot has both a very modified sports-ish car, something like a Camaro or Eagle Talon kind of thing, modified with what looks like an external ECU on the front, but I really want to know more about that minivan thing back there. I like the odd window shape choices and useful-looking proportions.
Here’s another shot of one of those vans; looks like it’s a Mahir. Also, it looks like QR-code-type license plates are the norm.
There’s an Executive group of cars, too, which seem to be derived from Cadillacs and Lincolns and Chryslers, and some of these really lean into the asymmetry, too.
This six-wheeled, three-axled beast is very clearly Cadillac-inspired, looking a lot like a ’70s Coupe de Ville.
In the game, it’s a Villefort, and has the vertical side pontoons/fenders of a Caddy, and a Caddy-like grille. I’m not sure of the purpose of the extra axle, except maybe it helps support a very large engine and gives a smoother ride?
The Chevillon leans the most heavily into asymmetry, with a very asymmetrical grille that I kind of love. Lighting is not bi-lateral, either, and I’m not sure what that round thing is on the right there. This feels very alternate-universe Lincoln to me.
The rear is a bit more conventional and Caddy-ish, though still dramatic.
The interiors are pretty swanky, with lots of alligator leather and red VFD-looking displays
The game also has a nice array of big utility vehicles, more militaristic-looking trash trucks and street sweepers, most of which look like rational-ish cabover designs.
Military vehicles seem to be present as well, like this Hummer-like beast.
The Sport category seems to be made of cars that look and feel like mixes of muscle cars like Challengers and Camaros along with more exotic things like Lancia Stratoses, and some JDM stuff like Celicas and Supras and Mitsubishi 2000GTs.
That thing up there seems pretty obviously JDM-inspired, and below I see something that feels like a mix of a Bricklin GT and an Aventador?
The voice-over says something about a four-liter six that goes from 0 to 100 (kilometers? miles?) in 3.2 seconds, which is impressive, though not really different from what we can do today.
I like whatever this one is; it’s very American Muscle feeling, like a Barracuda or an AMX or Mach I or something.
The wedge in question appears to be a Quadra, like those old Macs.
One of them has some exciting, angular fins and a removable top, which looks like fun.
Interestingly, the Sports group remains much more symmetrical in design.
These dashboards, though, seem to require a lot of work — what’s up with all those gearshifts? And all the controls on that F1-like wheel? And all those displays? And those pants?
The Hypercar category is pretty much what you’d guess: rich people cars, but because this is a dystopian video game, they seem to be armored, as well. Is that why two of those don’t appear to have windshields? They mention “lidar arrays” so I wonder if these have sensors instead of glass.
I like the Herrera’s comb-like taillight setup there.
That one, in profile, with its long wheelbase and four doors and wedgy sleekness feels like an updated Aston Martin Lagonda, which was pretty cyberpunk in its era, too.
Rayfield seems to be this sort-of-Bugatti, sort-of-Zimmer Quicksilver chimera thing. I do like that infinity-portal design grille, especially.
This one has that blade-like design that reminds me of an Audi R8, maybe mixed with a BMW i8 and a very aggrandized Smart Roadster.
The trailer also teases that there are real-world cars in here, too, and it looks like one of them will be a Porsche 911, with some cyberpunk mods.