- Author: Mila Grish
- Date: July 3, 2020
After a few motivating words from a fellow thug, a jittery criminal runs into a small convenience store and takes all of the cashier’s money under his gunpoint. As he makes his way for the door, adrenaline pumping through his system, he is shot by his own accomplice. Our protagonist, V, experienced this event through his sense of sight, hearing, smell, and touch, being jerked back into reality with rushing level of stress hormones and adrenaline.
This mind-blowing footage (apologies about the pun) will introduce us to Braindance in Cyberpunk 2077, its profound reflection of the futuristic society and the opportunity it presents in living through and picking apart someone else’s life experiences.
CD Projekt Red made this feature into a creative method of lore exposition as well as a compelling puzzle for quests, and there is a lot to be excited about. Let’s talk about just how exciting Braindance is based on what we know about the game so far.
(We will discuss a second known instance of Braindance in Cyberpunk 2077 that has no available demo footage as of yet!)
Braindance’s Dark Existence in the Night City
Developers of Cyberpunk 2077 were quite clever with the mini-game they worked out using Braindance’s history in Cyberpunk; while studying the footage in the Braindance Editor you might realize that you are using material that has a life of its own.
Why does that matter? Well, there is a difference between studying a security camera recording that was designed to capture events at a specific location. A whole another is trying to parse significant bits of information out of a first-person footage that was created to satisfy urges of adrenaline junkies — a purpose you might not have even recognized the first time you watched it.
The XBD that we saw in the first Night City Wire episode (XBD is a black market Braindance footage) has a colloquial term of a “flatliner,” a rare kind of footage that captures death of the “roller,” the person recording. Capturing everything starting from their emotional state to the sense of smell and touch, the footage is supposed to provide an extremely accurate recreation of what it felt like to experience the recorded events.
It is no surprise that after starting out as a mental therapy and military training material, Braindance found a whole new purpose on the black market by satisfying consumers’ sexual needs and a wild variety of obsessions and kinks.
Lying back in a chair in a dark room inside Lizzie’s, V is watching a death footage created by a thug’s grim betrayal of their partner in crime driven by the crude desire for monetary gain. Both common and gruesome at the same time, this little bit of someone’s life and what became of it tells us a lot about the kind of society Cyberpunk 2077 is, starting very early into our journey.
What Can You Do With Braindance Footage?
Alright, we did confirm once again that CD Projekt Red has a bottomless pool of dedication to the quality of storytelling in their games. But does Braindance carry any value aside from its mere existence within the culture of the Night City?
It’s hard to say how much of a one-time novelty this feature is for now, since we only know of two of its appearances in the game in detail and only one of them has released footage.
The Braindance footage featuring a thug taking a bullet from their associate becomes our introduction to the Braindance Editor. This software lies at the core of how we use this exceptionally detailed footage to our advantage: playing it back and forth at different speeds, detached from the body of the host. This freeform control and the ability to investigate the rest of the scene is what makes this Editor so fascinating.
Alright, so we saw how the Braindance module captures sights and sounds that the roller wasn’t even aware of at the time of the recording, but it’s also important to remember that every weapon, every featured individual, and every piece of technology can be scanned based on the information that was captured by the roller’s Cyberware.
You can locate and identify pretty much every object and person on the scene. In the nameless thug’s footage we also were able to connect to the surveillance camera screen to study the footage it recorded at the time the Braindance tape was created. That’s how we identify the individual who assassinated the roller.
Judy mentioned the module’s ability to capture heat signatures too, if permitted by roller’s own Cyberware. That’s where our second footage, captured by Evelyn, comes into play. As a part of our pursuit of the chip of immortality in our main questline we also have to study a piece of footage created in a high-end city penthouse where the chip is supposedly kept. Since the chip has to be cooled down to be preserved, Evelyn’s ability to capture temperature of her surroundings becomes the key for us to locate it.
Alanah Pearce was pleasantly detailed in discussing her opportunity to play the demo version and noted the ability to listen in to phone calls and the corresponding ability to hear the conversation from the perspective of the individual at the other end of the line within the Braindance Editor.
With this in mind, the possibilities of Braindance mini-game seem limitless. In the sci-fi setting of the Night City everything is connected to the network, Cyberware scanners identify anything that might be of importance to you, and every piece of technology or part of your body can have an additional “smart” function in itself. From the rollers archiving their experience and their surroundings in detail to you using futuristic technology to gain access to that information the resulting puzzles can be delightfully complex and fascinating in their variety.
In other words, CDPR can take the Braindance mini-game into a great variety of dimensions to keep it interesting. It could be just as compelling as the Hacking mini-game for the majority of the players, if executed right. But just how much did CD Projekt Red do with this feature? That remains to be seen.
What we know so far is that Braindance is a satisfying, immersive experience. It can be compared to the investigation sequences in Batman Arkham Knight or the quest featuring Detlaff in The Witcher 3‘s Blood & Wine DLC, but as a recurring mini-game that requires decoding of a first-person footage, their senses, and their surroundings, it stands as its own exciting experience.