Cyberpunk 2077 after Update 2.0 and Phantom Liberty – return to Night City
This is supposed to be a review of the Cyberpunk 2077 expansion pack alone: Phantom Liberty, but almost simultaneously with it, CD Projekt Red released a huge update to the game with new mechanics, updated skill branches, a new cybercraft system, police, artificial intelligence traffic, and other minor improvements. That’s why we decided to return to Night City once again and evaluate how the game has changed in three years and how it differs in quality from the infamous release.
|Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty
|Windows, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One / Xbox Series X|S
|CD Projekt Red
The release of Cyberpunk 2077 was a failure, to put it mildly. CD Projekt Red fell into the trap of their own promises and marketing, and technical problems and many bugs made players compare the Polish developer to Blizzard, which infamously “re-released” Warcraft 3 the same year.
The technical condition left a mark on the experience of the game and any discussions around other aspects of it. Even if they were fine, it immediately came down to discussing bugs and how it was possible to release a product in such a state that Sony had to remove the PlayStation 4 version from its own store.
Looking at it all in retrospect, I liked even that buggy 2020 version, but with many “buts.” First of all, I liked it because of the emotional connections I formed with the characters in the game, starting with Vee and ending with Claire. Their personal stories, characters, and the way the voice actors invested in them were my motivation to return to the game. It was also interesting to explore Knight City. Yes, the city was filled with repetitive tasks, the streets were half-empty, and all traffic could be stopped by one car parked in the middle of the road, but atmospherically it was just the right amount of cyberpunk.
I am in no way defending CD Projekt Red. That release will be remembered for a long time as one of the most disastrous in terms of reputation, and partly in terms of financial. The company itself has repeatedly admitted that it made a mistake and spent three years trying to fix Cyberpunk 2077 to a state that would be acceptable primarily to them. It is not for nothing that Idris Elba, who plays one of the key characters in the Phantom Liberty expansion, says in the new commercial “Just don’t forget, the game is fixed”, which, apart from a very clever play on words (it can be translated as “the game is fixed” or “the game is contractual”), is also a kind of confession: “Yes, we screwed up, but now it’s okay, we fixed the game!”
Working on mistakes
But was it really fixed? Yes, there are no more bugs that break Cyberpunk 2077, but you can still run into some kind of malfunction. I had a funny moment when, after choosing one specific line of dialog, the screen started to glitch and “float”, like in those moments when V is getting sick. I played for about an hour and began to suspect that something was wrong. I was able to fix the bug only by restarting and choosing a different dialog option, and it has been fixed in a recent patch. There are also problems with characters. For example, in one of the tasks, the doctor I had to save stopped moving and reacting. I had to restart again.
In any case, the game has been technically improved. This also applies to graphics. Without exaggeration, Cyberpunk 2077 is now the most visually beautiful game available. Of course, to appreciate all the beauty, you need to focus on configuration not lower than “Progressive”, but it is clear that with the prices of new video cards, not everyone can afford it. The screenshots you see were taken on a GeForce 4080 configuration with DLSS 3.5 enabled.
Still, the main thing about the 2.0 update is not bug fixes, but new mechanics that are so significant that CD Projekt Red recommended starting a new playthrough instead of returning to an old save.
The first thing you notice is the completely redesigned skill system. Players of the release version of Cyberpunk 2077 should remember how illogical and uninteresting the skill leveling system was. Too many choices, skills that simply increased damage by a certain percentage – these are all signs of an uninteresting and lazy design. The new system is not perfect either, but the update made it more logical and removed unnecessary things. Each skill point now has a better effect on VP. At the same time, you don’t need the maximum level to feel like an invincible cyberpunk – almost all builds peak around level 25, and that’s not even the middle of the game. After that, any improvements only make you a little stronger.
Of course, it was possible to create your own character to match your playstyle or weapon before, but the 2.0 update offers more options and a generally more understandable system. However, the same update has once again shown that some game elements in Cyberpunk 2077 can only be fixed by continuing the game.
Let’s take hand-to-hand combat as an example. My V is a mix of a shinobi and a butcher, with a focus on close combat and knife throwing. V jumps, throws a knife at one enemy’s head, then pulls out a pistol, shoots at a vulnerable spot, pulls out a mantis blade, reduces the distance to the sniper with a double jerk, and cuts him to pieces.
It all sounds exciting on paper, but it’s played as a turn-based strategy because the game was simply not designed for that. Enemies are often hiding behind cover, and jumping with blades ends up with V simply bumping into an obstacle. The attacks themselves look like an animation of a fight between two cats, not a slaughter. First, you literally stroke the enemy with your blades, then a button appears on the screen to finish him off, and repeat on the next enemy. And it all looks very, very clumsy. If you compare it to one of the best cyberninja games in my opinion, Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance, it’s not in Cyberpunk 2077’s favor.
The only short-range weapon that has any response in terms of sound and impact is the legendary Mina Vstavaylo stick. But shooting in the game is fun. Each type of weapon feels different, and in general, small arms are much easier to deal with enemies.
And in most cases, killing everyone is, if not the most convenient, then certainly the fastest way to complete a task. Yes, of course, some of the tasks can be completed quietly without killing anyone, and sometimes the bosses ask you to do just that. But in most cases, everything goes wrong, and V leaves behind another pile of corpses. The bailiff will scold you a bit, tell you that next time it’s better not to do that, and that’s it. Cyberpunk 2077 neither encourages you to sneak around nor punishes you if you do something not according to plan.
In the same mission with the rescue of the doctor, I killed several bandits before getting to her “office” where she was trying to save another one. V is faced with a dilemma: help save the bandit, or get out before reinforcements arrive. No matter what you do, the final outcome of the task will not be affected: the doctor will simply get into the car, and you will receive approval from the clerk. Of course, your own beliefs as a player should also play a role here, but I wish the game world of Cyberpunk 2077 would react to V’s actions in some way, apart from two minor lines.
A number of tasks have variations in both the way they are completed and the rewards and consequences for the characters, but they do not affect the overall picture. Whether or not you will be served by Claire in the “Beyond” after completing her line of tasks is only conditional and cosmetic.
But the redesigned police system now really works. The police no longer appear out of thin air and can chase the player in a vehicle. The more resistance you put up, the more dangerous the cops become, and at the fifth level of danger, MaxTacs arrive, who are not shy about their methods. The problem is that this system was supposed to work this way back in the first version of Cyberpunk 2077, and perhaps then it was somehow integrated into game missions and other activities. Now it works, but it works in a complete vacuum.
The same applies to car shootouts. Now you can start shooting from a car at any time, not just during scenario missions. There are even cars with machine guns and grenade launchers installed on them. But the base game makes little use of this, and the moments when you really need to shoot from a car are very rare. Even in the new car theft missions, it was much easier for me to stop and throw grenades at the tail.
В перше й останнє доповнення до Cyberpunk 2077 можна грати як окремо, так і посеред проходження основної кампанії. In the main game, it takes about 12 hours to get to the DLC content. If you start with a new character right from Phantom Liberty, you will get level 15, some money, and some weapons, and the events of the previous 12 hours will be retold to you during the loading process.
If you started the game from the beginning, which is what we recommend, then after you visit Pacifica and resolve the issue with the local Voodoo gang, you will be contacted by the mysterious networker So Mi, or Solovia, who will inform you that a shuttle carrying the President of the United States, Rosalind Myers, will soon crash over the Kennel. You have to save her. When you start right out of the expansion, V immediately falls out of the Voodoo church and receives a call from Seo Mi.
If you’ve played the expansion packs for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, such as Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine, you know roughly what to expect from Phantom Liberty. This is a new location, storyline, more than 10 additional side quests, items, and even a whole branch of the Relic skill.
Rescuing the president from a rescue mission quickly turns into a spy thriller with political overtones. It’s not that V is interested in politics or money, but Seo Mi offers her something she can’t refuse.
For me, the best aspects of Phantom Liberty, as well as the main part of Cyberpunk 2077, were the characters and the city, or rather the new neighborhood. Idris Elba played his role flawlessly, and the rest of the cast also did a great job. The only comment I can make is about the setting in which the heroes of the expansion find themselves: a spy thriller is a spy thriller because everyone treats each other and V with distrust, which may not be pleasant for someone against the background of tasks with Panam or Judy.
The new location, the Kennel, is really impressive. Although it essentially looks like a neon-covered garbage dump, its compact size made it more intense than many other places in Night City. This once again confirms the theory that size does not matter when it comes to the open world in games.
The additional tasks are also a little better written, and the main storyline is very fast-paced, if only because it becomes interesting to unravel this spy tangle of intrigue. If you play your cards right, you can unlock an additional ending in the main game. Many consider this ending to be the best of those in Cyberpunk 2077.
All in all, Phantom Liberty is a high-quality expansion that one would expect from CD Projekt Red. It fits into the main game as if it had always been a part of it, and sheds more light on the Cyberpunk 2077 universe.
Has Cyberpunk 2077 become the game that many players imagined it to be before its release? No, and it will never be. There’s nothing extraordinary about it: the story, although quite personal, doesn’t pose dilemmas and philosophical questions to the player like Cyberpunk: Edgerunners; there are plenty of other games for shooting and katana swinging, just as there are for many other things. But Night City, the atmosphere, the very feeling of cyberpunk combined with realistic and unique characters can only be found here.
Is it worth playing Cyberpunk 2077 now? Definitely yes, if this is your first time playing the game. For those who have already played: yes, the game has become better technically, but it’s up to you to decide whether to return to Night City.