Rick, a 37-year old from Canada, wanted to fix Cyberpunk 2077’s enemy netrunners (the ones who like to hack you in battle). He downloaded a decompiler that let him sift through CD Projekt Red’s in-house scripting language, and took aim at some of the bugs lingering in the source code. Rick found a lot more than he bargained for. Apparently, there were a slew of enemy quickhack abilities that, seemingly, never made it into the retail disc.
They had names like “HackDeath” and “HackweaponMalfunction”. Rick tested each one out by modifying the game code to use the hack with the name he specified and found some of them worked and some of them didn’t. “For some of them the hack part worked fine but the status effect they applied did nothing,” he said. “In the case of something like HackWeaponMalfunction, there were four or five different status effects present in the game with names that were variations of JamWeapon, WeaponJamTier2, etc. and I tried them all until I found one that worked.”[ignvideo width=610 height=374 url=https://www.ign.com/videos/2021/04/22/cyberpunk-2077-wall-running-returns-through-mod]
Clearly, there was a time when some of the stronger enemies in Cyberpunk were intended to carry a much larger toolbox, full of dastardly feints and cracks that could overheat your firearms or cripple your movement, designed specifically to screw up V’s battleplan in every corridor. Rick can understand why CD Projekt Red made the cut. For plenty of gamers, he says, getting constantly hacked by a platoon of giggling androids might be pretty frustrating. But he still wanted to witness Cyberpunk in all of its pre-alpha glory. “I made the mod for other players like me who would like a more challenging experience,” says Rick. You can download it right now, on NexusMods. It’s called, “AI Netrunners Enhanced.
Thus begins the golden age of Cyberpunk 2077 modding. The most anticipated video game of last year landed like an atom bomb. We watched as the greater gaming community drew battle lines over review scores, surreptitious graphical downgrades, missing features, and eventually, a full-on refund campaign paired with lengthy investigations into What Went Wrong. But, as we reported back in February, the zeitgeist has since moved on. All that’s left is a dedicated nation of mercenaries scoping out the neon streets of Night City as, unsurprisingly, an excavation project took hold. Once the game hit PCs and consoles around the world, and it became clear that all of the ideas, visuals, and mechanics showcased during the rollercoaster Cyberpunk 2077 promotional run did not make it across the finish line, modders started building back the mythos piece by piece.
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“I knew something would have to give and nothing would live up to the hype CD Projekt Red cultivated,” says a 22-year old modder who goes by Wulfgaardian. “I knew there was going to be a lot of cut content that would inevitably have to be restored with mods. In spite of that, I was satisfied with the game, but of course, it’s hard to go back and look at early footage and realize what could have been.” [poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=Wulfgaardian%2C%20and%20his%20partner%20KickingWriter%2C%20pioneered%20the%20restoration%20of%20the%20clothes%20donned%20by%20V%20in%20one%20of%20Cyberpunk’s%20E3%20trailers%2C%20which%20didn’t%20make%20it%20into%20retail%20code.”]
Wulfgaardian, and his partner KickingWriter, pioneered the restoration of the clothes donned by V in one of Cyberpunk’s E3 trailers, which didn’t make it into retail code. Download his mod, and the protagonist is once again blessed with a pair of thick black boots, a mesh red tank, and a sweaty pair of leather pants bound together by a metal chain — about as Night City chic as you can get. The only way Wulgaardian and his partner could modify the existing clothes was through hex editing the game files, which took a lot of trial-and-error to see what alterations would actually manifest themselves in-game.
“I had to edit one of many files responsible for handling a certain clothing item’s appearance,” explains Wulfgaardian. “I could make edits to the colors and textures of different parts of clothing, allowing me to restore the clothing we saw in pre-release material not available in the retail version.”
Finally, says Wulfgaardian, he and his partner had access to the V he wanted. They’re not alone. As of this writing, the mod has been saved over 10,000 times. Want the original Samurai jacket from E3 2018 instead? Don’t worry, Wulfgaardian has you covered there, too.
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That’s just the tip of the iceberg in the Cyberpunk 2077 modding scene. Other mods range from quality of life design improvements, (like tighter vehicle handling,) to small, thematic embellishments, (more cyborg-y looking eyes.) This cadre has quickly scrapped Cyberpunk 2077 for parts, and just like the denizens of the universe, they’ll happily rebuild the code in any way that suits your pleasure. (It must be said: There are a lot of porn mods.) Wulfgaardian believes that this is, in part, inspired by the fractured state that the game shipped in. He notes that modders have already patched in a number of bug fixes and quality of life improvements left hanging by CD Projekt Red. After all, any PC gamer can now install a fix that streamlines the knotty inventory screen, or a keybinding that adds a “walk” function. Currently, Wulfgaardian believes that this loose network of independent hackers is lapping any attempts from CD Projekt Red themselves to fix 2077’s issues, and bringing back honor to the Cyberpunk name.
“Over time, we’ll have to see if CD Projekt Red steps up, but right now I believe that it’s on us to build back [the game’s] reputation,” says Wulfgaardian. “Because CDPR is letting this game fade to obscurity the longer they wait to deliver crucial fixes and cut content.” [poilib element=”quoteBox” parameters=”excerpt=%22Over%20time%2C%20we’ll%20have%20to%20see%20if%20CD%20Projekt%20Red%20steps%20up%2C%20but%20right%20now%20I%20believe%20that%20it’s%20on%20us%20to%20build%20back%20Cyberpunk’s%20reputation.%22″]
Of course, not everyone in the community shares his opinion. In fact, Rick says he’s mostly enjoyed Cyberpunk, and simply wanted to do some work around the edges. However, nobody can do it like the developers of the game itself can.
“I think people are very excited to add to the game. I think it’s a really great setting to make more content in, so I’m excited to see what people come up with,” he says. “But I don’t think it will be possible for modders to replace what CD Projekt Red has the ability to do, so I’m also really looking forward to the expansions and patches to come.”
Cyberpunk 2077 is a game about synthetic indulgence and limitless debauchery. It’s set in a city where even the most flippant desire can be quickly consummated by a rendezvous at the body shop. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the community has taken those same lessons to heart. Are certain facets of your Night City vacation letting you down? Don’t worry, just slap on a fresh few lines of code, and keep it moving.
Luke Winkie is a writer and former pizza maker in Brooklyn. He’s written for Vox, Vice, The New York Times, Gizmodo, PC Gamer, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, and wherever else good content can be found.