Atmospheric dystopian worlds aren’t exactly the most unique setting for any type of media nowadays. In fact, CD Projekt RED apparently wants to corner the neon-tinged Cyberpunk market with their appropriately named game. Alongside a few other notable franchises, it’s pretty easy to play as a top cyber-enhanced city slicker. Due to this, it was refreshing to play 7th Sector. It features an apparently all-digital entity traversing the many miles of wires of a bright yet grimy city named Novigrad.
Ghost in the machine
The people of this sprawling metropolis have definitely never had any health and safety training. The sheer amount of wire laid out on the floor is a major trip hazard. As well as being a danger to any human, those aforementioned wires are the perfect way for our protagonist to move about. It’s quite astonishing how much of the city is accessible by travelling this way.
It feels very much like having a fly-on-the-wall perspective of things, spying on the lives of the residents. Dark shadows and silhouettes can be seen through windows, going along with their daily lives. Additionally, being able to peek at them through holes and the walls, does make me consider just how connected our lives are now. Especially with masses of wires and cables laying within the walls of our own cities and towns.
Spark of life
At the start of the story, the protagonist is first introduced as a shadowy figure, trapped within the confines of a static-filled TV screen. After taking control, that shadowy figure must be squeezed into one of the wires connected to the TV. By doing this, a spark of electricity is formed, one that can now move freely along any available wire. It can also enter, exit and control a myriad of electrical wall-mounted doohickeys like switches and junction boxes.
Movement is confined to a 2D plane, although the world of 7th Sector features 3D graphics. Whilst this is all good to look at, there were times when I felt not quite in control. Either the movement felt too slow and sluggish, or too fast and skittish. The game never seemed to find a good medium. One particular puzzle where you have to electrify and overload two rotating fans suffered greatly because of this finicky movement. Puzzles varied wildly in difficulty. Sometimes, it was as simple as adding up a few numbers to make a desired amount. Other times objects had to be moved around. Thanks to all this variety 7th Sector is pretty challenging. It was also pretty frustrating at times. If you can get past this frustration it can be quite satisfying.
The game introduces new ideas that can be layered on top of the base controls and themes. Much of the world-building is delivered by visual clues or through diegetic sounds. Because of this, be prepared to hear lots of television screens popping and fizzing, whilst depositing exposition dumps. Everything about the game does come together well. It is visually interesting, and the world is an interesting one to explore. One moment the player may be sneaking across the rooftops surrounded by pouring rain, and the next may involve trundling through a train carriage in a cute little BB-8-like robot. Exploration is also rewarded with a few collectables too. As the protagonist progresses through the game and ends up possessing bigger and bigger things, the scope of the world opens up immensely.
7th Sector invokes some of the best parts of the whole Cyberpunk genre. Sadly, the controls do mar the experience somewhat. Besides this minor gripe, I absolutely recommend this game to someone who is a fan of the Cyberpunk genre. Thanks to the multiple endings based on your actions in-game there is some replay value which is a bit of a bonus.
If you do want to watch a video version of this review, check it out below!