Microsoft Showcases Keanu Reeves at E3 2019

Celebrity cameos at press conferences are nothing new. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to recall an E3 that didn’t feature a Joel McHale or a Yoko Ono or a Snoop Dogg or an Aisha Taylor (Snoop in particular is supposedly DJing a party I’m attending tomorrow night). But Keanu Reeves’ appearance in the latest trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 was iconic.

To be clear, I’m talking about an appearance at Microsoft’s Xbox E3 Briefing, which took place earlier today. Moments after his role in the latest game from The Witcher 3 developer CD Projekt Red was announced, the man himself was hurled onto stage and met with ceremonious applause.

Never before have I seen a game developer with as much goodwill as CD Projekt Red has built up for itself team up with an actor who is as universally adored as Keanu Reeves. So when it was revealed that Reeves will be digitized in Cyberpunk 2077, the crowd — comprising mostly jaded media folks like myself — lost their minds.

Much as I wanted to get excited for a release date or a trailer for one of 60 Xbox games shown at Microsoft’s presser, I couldn’t stop thinking about Keanu. Maybe it was because I had just watched John Wick for the first time on the plane ride from New York to L.A. Or maybe I’m struggling to get hyped for art that isn’t out yet.

Beyond Hollywood movies, I can’t think of another medium where art is teased months or even years in advance. I will buy the new Halo game. It looks beautiful, and I love that franchise so much I have its logo tattooed on my right forearm. But Holiday 2020 is a long, unspecific time from now. I’m more excited for Keanu Reeves, who was standing a mere football field away from me when he enthusiastically remarked:

“Cyberpunk … is set in the metropolis of the future, where body modification has become an obsession. You play as an outlaw, working in the sleazy underbelly of the city.

…Before being interrupted into laughter by a heckling fan. I’ve never looked forward to Cyberpunk as I do now. Keanu Reeves, however, wasn’t the only ‘World Premiere’ from Microsoft’s pre-E3 press briefing worth discussing. 

The company also demonstrated a newfound commitment to JRPGs. Dragon Ball Project Z is now being called Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, but more importantly, Phantasy Star Online 2 and Tales of Arise are both coming to Xbox. Anyone familiar with Microsoft’s shaky developer relations outside the western market ought to understand the magnitude of these unveilings. 

Additionally, Project Scarlett — the next-generation Xbox console — was mentioned by name. It’s coming out next year, alongside Halo: Infinite, which looked incredible in its debut cinematic trailer. Assuming that was in-engine footage, we could be in for a real treat when it inevitably arrives on Xbox Game Pass which, mind you, is now being bundled with Xbox Live Gold for $14.99 a month. 

The forthcoming Microsoft console will use AMD Ryzen 3rd Gen and Navi parts, is purportedly four times more powerful than the Xbox One X, features real-time raytraced graphics at “up to 120fps” and has reduced load times due to its SSD inclusion. I guess my key takeaway is that I wish Sony was here this year to heat things up with a surprise Jeff Goldblum showing. 

Nothing like seeing a famous person out of their element at a video game event.