The Cyberpunk 2020 update we deserved for Cyberpunk 2020. Cyberpunk Red updates the setting in a way that corrects some of the flaws of the controversial Cyberpunk V3.0 Edition and replaces it with something more grounded. It’s not a straight adaptation of Cyberpunk 2077 but is set significantly earlier in 2045.
There are certainly a lot of similarities, and you can see things going from A to B to C but it’s unique enough a setting to be played on its own. There’s much content on how the city was rebuilt following (as we now know) Johnny Silverhand’s participation in the nuking of Night City as well as how the United States has returned to at least a semblance of its former power. We also get details on what people eat, where people live, and what they do in their free time.
It doesn’t get too deep into characters but mostly focuses on the history of Night City itself and how Richard Night’s dream of creating a crime free-corporate utopia to wait out the apocalypse proved to be a complete disaster. It also nicely manages to explain how Mad Max can exist alongside Robocop with no discontinuity. It’s not post-apocalypse but it’s certainly a breakdown in centralized authority (but getting better!).
I think my favorite part of the book is the discussion of things like what it’s like to live on the street versus a corporate Beaverville (suburb) or penthouse. Talk about the fact most people eat kibble and how fresh fruit as well as vegetables are worth fighting over but can be grown oneself. There’s a very DIY sensibility to post-nuke Night City and oddly inspiring in places where you’re not being stabbed for a tomato. It’s a world that had a lot of thought put into it and is all the stronger for it, even though the details are sparse in places.
The megacorps section also deserves special attention as we see the kind of corporations that have risen to power in 2045. For the most part, they’re not as maniacally evil as the ones in Shadow Run but just trying to profit even as you can see how they ruined the world with the 4th Corporate War (as well as everything leading up to it). Some of the NPCs are also hilarious like the CEO of Danger Girl Detective Agency that managed to survive being assassinated by being as kawaii and quirky as possible even into her middle years. Also, the fact the CEO of Sov Oil is obviously some guy who had plastic surgery to replace the previous one but they’re all pretending otherwise.
The book is a bit more crunch heavy than modern tabletop games tend to be and has a lot in terms of tables, rules, and charts versus lore. I think this is a bit of a mistake and we could have used even more in terms of fluff regarding the Time of the Red. On the other hand, this is a matter of personal preference and the fact there is so much crunch will probably appeal to some gamers.
This is both a mechanics heavy and roleplaying heavy book, which is a rare combination. I think fans of the original will be pleased and a whole new generation of cyberpunk gamers will enjoy the fantastic world of Mike Pondsmith.