Spoilers ahead for Cyberpunk 2077.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience throwing Elon Musk down a garbage chute, there is, to my knowledge, at least one option: a side quest in Cyberpunk 2077.
For a video game about dystopian wealth disparity, AI-driven cars, and downloading your consciousness into other bodies, Cyberpunk 2077 is oddly short on Musk references. The one it does contain comes from the “Violence” side quest. In it, you meet chrome-skinned pop superstar Lizzy Wizzy, voiced by real-life singer-songwriter Grimes, who was still in a relationship with Musk at the time of the video game’s release in 2020.
Here, Lizzy Wizzy hires the protagonist, V, to surveil her boyfriend, whom she suspects of cheating. It’s a pretty bloodless job — heck, downright lawful compared to the other hijinks you’re getting up to — and V seems taken aback by how low the stakes are. Why not just ask him?
“Imagine this — we’re never alone, not really. Always surrounded by assistants, PR reps, makeup artists,” she says. “I stop smiling at him for one millisecond, it’ll be all over every screamsheet in this town … Millions of eyes, trained on you, constantly.”
The suspected cheater is Liam Northom, who Grimes / Lizzy describes as “Forty-ish. Sensitive. Guy who never wanted for anything.” Then, in a twist that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the dialogue, she explains that Liam is her manager.
Why would a pop star have trouble securing a private conversation with her manager when she apparently has no trouble sneaking off to a seedy motel in order to hire a mercenary? Why would tabloids even care about whether she’s smiling at her manager? And what does “guy who never wanted for anything” mean, exactly? Are emerald mines implicated?
But inconsistent character building and weak dialogue are pretty par for the course in Cyberpunk 2077, so let’s move on.
The gameplay element in the quest is straightforward. You sneak into a nightclub, hack their cameras, and record a conversation between Liam and a mysterious woman. It turns out that he’s not cheating — he’s surreptitiously backed up a digital version of her consciousness as insurance just in case her career ends prematurely. “Can you tweak [her digitized personality] to remove undesirable traits?” he asks the not-Neuralink corporate rep that he’s meeting secretly in the club. “Ever since her conversion, she hasn’t been herself.”
At this point, V logs off from the surveillance system. His constant companion Johnny, voiced by Keanu Reeves, is horrified and encourages him to tell Lizzy the full truth. If you “do the right thing” and give her the recording of Liam’s conversation, she hangs up in shock and dismay. Some time later, she calls you again, asking you to meet her at the same motel. You can find her there having a full meltdown with Liam’s corpse lying on the ground next to her. If you choose to help her again, you pick up Elon / Liam, walk down a hall, and discard him in a garbage chute.
And that’s sort of it! You get some unhinged texts from Lizzy Wizzy later on about how inspired she is to make a new album. Presumably, it’ll be Lemonade but full-sensory — and instead of forgiving her cheating partner, she murders him and pays some guy to toss him in the trash.
“Forty-ish. Sensitive. Guy who never wanted for anything.”
It’s possible that the “Violence” side quest was meant to be much longer but had to be truncated due to Cyberpunk’s notorious production issues. It certainly feels truncated. But the real sin is that it’s not even all that funny. The console-breakingly bad bugs that plagued its release have since been addressed, and all in all, Cyberpunk 2077 is a genuinely entertaining video game that I’ve played for a truly embarrassing number of hours. However, it’s much harder to fix the weak writing in subsequent patches — and this game’s writing is so weak that a quest where you throw Musk down a garbage chute is mostly unmemorable.
Musk was in a pretty different position in the cultural consciousness at the time of the game’s release. For most gamers then, he was the guy who makes Cybertrucks, which look like they’re straight out of Cyberpunk 2077; now, he’s the guy who thinks iPhone strategy games are superior to chess and has the worst Elden Ring build you’ve ever seen. Also, he and Grimes are broken up.
Between the various rumors of infidelity to Grimes and his overall flagging popularity since the acquisition of Twitter, maybe the “Violence” side quest was just too ahead of its time. If it had been written today, Liam Northom could have become a much more explicit nod to the billionaire and the whole arc would have been much funnier. Maybe Liam’s body would be unbelievably heavy due to carrying two shields. Maybe you’d get rewarded with a Cybertruck that’s supposed to show up in your inventory later and never does.
But underwhelming or not, as far as I know, it’s still the only video game where you can throw Musk down a garbage chute. Put it in the next anime, cowards.