Keanu Reeves – the much-beloved star of The Matrix, John Wick, and Bill & Ted – has signed up to appear in a game called Cyberpunk 2077. He’ll play a character named Johnny Silverhand. If you’re a fan of Reeves but don’t know much about the game, you’ve come to the right place for some attempted answers.
Cyberpunk 2077 is an upcoming game for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It was developed by CD Projekt Red, the makers of The Witcher video game series. It’s the sequel to a table-top RPG called Cyberpunk 2020, which was published by R Talsorian Games in 1988. As you might have guessed from the titles, Cyberpunk 2077 is set 57 years after Cyberpunk 2020.
The character that Reeves is playing, Johnny Silverhand, appears in both the table-top game and the upcoming video game. So let’s have a look at what happened in the classic game, how Reeves’ role in the new game was revealed, and what this could mean…
Johnny Silverhand’s Backstory
The table-top Cyberpunk 2020 game is set in a future society that’s stuffed with high-tech weapons and cybernetic implants. Johnny Silverhand is one of many characters in the game. He’s a famous rockstar with a cybernetic arm, who played in a band called Samurai, which had hit songs called “Chippin’ In” and “Never Fade Away”.
Johnny wasn’t just a musician, though. He had previously been in the military, serving in several conflicts before deserting. When a record label attempted to blackmail Johnny regarding his desertion, Johnny signed for a rival label, went solo and released an album about his struggles, his time at war and the governmental deceptions he’d witnessed. Johnny became something of a cult hero and an active rebel against the system, but not without making some enemies.
In a sequel/expansion to Cyberpunk 2020, Johnny was killed by a cyborg assassin named Adam Smasher, who worked for the corrupt leader of Japan, Arasaka Saburō. It’s unclear, as we press ahead into Cyberpunk 2077, if this expansion is considered canon. But we’d wager that it is, given that the CD Projekt Red are working closely with R Talsorian Games on the new title.
At E3 2019, CD Projekt Red revealed that Johnny Silverhand will appear in Cyberpunk 2077 and that Keanu Reeves will be playing him. A new cinematic trailer for the game ended with Johnny addressing the down-and-out player character, who seems to be waking up in a scrap heap.
“Wake the fuck up, Samurai,” Johnny says to the player. “We have a city to burn.” The trailer ends at that point, and as you might expect, the crowd at E3 went wild. Then, they went even wilder, because Keanu Reeves himself stepped out onto the stage, with his full John Wick-length hair on display.
Reeves went on to hype up the game, praising its “vast open world with a branching storyline”, and “how you’d be able to customize your character through in-game choices.” He said that walking through the game’s futuristic city is going to “breathtaking.”
More Details, More Hype
Furthermore, an official press release from CD Projekt Red reiterated that Reeves is playing the “legendary Rockerboy” Johnny Silverhand in the game. This prompted Polygon to highlight an official description of Rockerboy-class characters in the tabletop game, where they’re summed as “street poets, social consciences and rebels of the 2000s. With the advent of digital porta-studios and garage laser disk mastering, every Rocker with a message can take it to the street; put it in the record store, bounce it off the comsats.”
Polygon also spoke to R Talsorian Games, the publishers of Cyberpunk 2020, who said this about Keanu’s casting: “There aren’t words to describe seeing someone of Mr. Reeves talent and legacy picking up a character Mike [Pondsmith, Cyberpunk 2020 creator] first introduced over thirty years ago and bringing him to life. As a musician and someone who believes in making an impact in the word, someone who has known fame and the way it can lift and cut, its clear Mr. Reeves can understand Johnny in a way few people can. We’re beyond excited.”
It’s clear that Reeves has the skills to play this rebellious rockstar, who got caught up in numerous conflicts (both military and gang-based) before ultimately being killed. But one thing that nobody has explained is exactly how this character, who fans thought had been dead for years, is alive and kicking in the new game. Let’s look at some possibilities…
What Does It Mean?
The player-character, who’s a cybernetically-enhanced outlaw, was beaten to within an inch of his life before being roused by Reeves’ Johnny in the trailer. In all the excitement, you might have missed an interesting detail: Johnny seems to visually flicker in this scene, in a hologram-glitching-out sort of way.
This could provide the answer as to how Johnny is able to die in Cyberpunk 2020‘s expansion and yet still appear in Cyberpunk 2077. Did Johnny live on as a hologram, perhaps? Is that maybe something that people can do in this version of the future? Might he be guiding the player in a helpful but intangible way?
It has also been suggested that the player-character has idolized Johnny since childhood and was a big fan of Johnny’s music. Could it be possible that this Johnny hologram is actually a form of futuristic merch that the player-character owns? Or could the player-character perhaps be hallucinating his childhood hero?
All will be revealed when Cyberpunk 2077 launches on April 16, 2020. Until then, we’ll be sure to keep you updated as we hear more…