Thanks to CD Projekt Red for providing me with early access to Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty.
- Developer: CD Projekt Red
- Publisher: CD Projekt Red
- Release Date: September 26, 2023
- Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S & PC
- Played On: PS5
- Time Played: 14 Hours
Before Starfield, Cyberpunk 2077 was the most anticipated RPG in the world. The teaser trailer dropped in 2013 and caught the attention of many, including myself at the age of 12. Originally scheduled for release on April 15, 2020, the game faced multiple delays, pushing the release date back to September 17 and then to November 19.
The game finally went gold, but to everyone’s surprise, it faced another delay and was released on December 10. Despite the long wait, the game has been plagued with bugs and glitches, even for those playing on PlayStation 5 via Backwards Compatibility. While the story and world-building are impressive, the poorly designed features have overshadowed the positive aspects. The game has received negative feedback, leading to disappointment for many who were eagerly anticipating its release.
In 2016, No Man’s Sky promised a lot but failed to deliver. However, through hard work and constant updates, the game has become one of the most expansive space games available today. CD Projekt Red has taken a similar approach with their game, constantly releasing small updates and a big 1.5 update in February of last year to fix the game.
Now, in 2023, they are releasing a massive story expansion called Phantom Liberty in a few days, as well as Update 2.0 which brings a major overhaul to the game. I have been fortunate enough to play Phantom Liberty early and experience Update 2.0. Although I cannot discuss Phantom Liberty at this time, I can share my thoughts on Update 2.0 and whether it truly changes the game or if it still feels empty.
Thoughts on Cyberpunk 2077’s Update 2.0
I’ve managed to put 10+ hours into playing with Update 2.0 and still plan to put many more hours into it. As soon as you enter the game, it requests you to respec your points and from there you can already witness the complete overhaul of the ability system. Stupidly enough I didn’t pay attention to what I was putting my points into but I still ended up making a melee-focused build.
Before this update, using any melee weapons felt stale and the animations were just boring. Now with the revamped skill tree, you’re able to Ariel dash and that combined with the blistering dash makes you a complete monster with a Katana. There are so many new skills that I haven’t even unlocked yet such as being able to deflect bullets with your Katana which just in itself sounds like the best feature yet, if you want to truly be a ninja, now you can.
With the complete change to the skill tree, each ability you choose matters, if you want to be a net runner, you can choose an ability that allows you to queue up hacks, allowing you to put your enemies through hell. There are so many different ways you can play the game thanks to this and with the few things I have selected, it already makes the game much more fun. Among the cyber ware changes, there was a lot more, like the AI improvement and the brand-new police system.
There were just moments where I would be roaming Night City and the civilians would actually react towards my actions or I’d be seeing a complete war happening on the streets with grenades being flung about the place. Thanks to these AI improvements, Cyberpunk 2077 has never felt more immersive. They also managed to improve the Combat AI while at it. When in fights, the enemies moved more smartly while fighting me, taking cover a lot of the time and attempting to avoid my grenades instead of just standing and taking all the damage, now this doesn’t mean that doesn’t happen but it’s less often.
Revamped Police Systems
Now onto the revamped police system, this was one of the most disappointing features when the game was originally released, anytime the police were called on to me, they would just spawn out of nowhere behind me. Now with this new system, the police system finally works, there were times when I accidentally ran over a few people and instead of the police just spawning in behind me, they were searching for me and I could see on the map where they were driving.
They still may be easy to escape but another small thing that I liked about this was that even when you escaped, they didn’t just despawn but you could see them drive away. This small attention to detail shows that CD Projekt Red really wanted to improve upon their game, and while this may seem like the standard thing you should have in your game at launch, sadly it wasn’t but it’s nice to see them improve on it and make their game better.
The last thing I’d love to talk about when it comes to Update 2.0 is the overhaul of the UI/UX.
Before, it was such a clutter and now things are easy to find and organised correctly, using the phone feature and making calls or reading messages is so much easier now with just the minor changes they’ve made to it. It’s small things like these which can change a game drastically.
Phantom Liberty Story
Phantom Liberty has been advertised as a spy thriller expansion for Cyberpunk 2077 with espionage missions and they absolutely delivered on that note. As a massive fan of films like James Bond and Mission: Impossible, this expansion completely took me into that spy world and I’ve never enjoyed myself more playing through a story. Along with a new story, a lot of content dropped alongside Phantom Liberty that made the experience worthwhile. Sadly though, there were still some bugs that I encountered such as characters just teleporting elsewhere and walking through walls and was still dealing with my game crashing, though it only happened once. I can say even though I went through some issues, I can promise that is nothing like what the launch of the game was and these won’t tamper with your experience in any way as it didn’t with me.
When playing Phantom Liberty, you’ll stumble upon a fascinating new locale called Dogtown. If you thought Night City was a challenge, then Dogtown will certainly test your limits. The winding roads of Dogtown remind me of a scene straight out of Mad Max – it’s not an entirely desolate wasteland, but it certainly exudes that post-apocalyptic vibe. Everywhere you look, cars are randomly on fire, and heaps of scrap metal can be seen littered around almost every corner. It’s a refreshing change of scenery that will leave you in awe.
In addition to this new district, there are also several new activities to engage in, such as courier missions and airdrops. Although I haven’t personally experienced the courier missions yet, I can attest to the fact that the airdrops are a complete blast. As you wander through Dogtown, you’ll undoubtedly catch sight of a red smoke signal indicating the location of an incoming airdrop.
Upon arrival, you’ll find yourself engaged in a fierce battle to the bitter end for the coveted contents of the airdrop. However, the loot is always well worth the effort. These airdrops occur frequently, and I found myself intentionally deviating from my main mission just to join in on the action. It also provided me with the perfect opportunity to put any new upgrades I made to my cyberwar to the ultimate test.
On the topic of cyberwar, Phantom Liberty brings something new to the game and that’s the Relic Skill tree, I didn’t get to explore this skill tree as much as I wanted to as honestly, I didn’t know how to obtain the points and though I thought it was story locked, I’m still not sure about that one and hope for CD Projekt Red to make it more clear upon release. What I did get to experience with the Relic skill tree though was still cool as there was an ability that would add something new to either your mantis blades, gorilla arms or monowire. I personally loved using the Gorilla arms and the Relic skill ability only just made it more fun.
Now when it comes to the story, I’ve never been more impressed, each mission felt more and more unique and stuck to that espionage feeling. With only 13 main missions available for this expansion, it felt like a lot more. It was able to develop these characters, the world of Dogtown and even build more upon Cyberpunk’s lore and Johnny himself. Something that I felt lacked in the original game was the boss fights, as much as the story made Atom Smasher seem like such a big threat, he didn’t feel like one when it came to facing him. Now in Phantom Liberty, the boss fights can be quite creative though I personally didn’t feel like there were a lot, there wasn’t a need for it since the missions felt so intense that an added boss fight would’ve only sent me to an early grave.
Halfway through the expansion, you find yourself having to make the most important decision that will split the game two ways, I ended up going back to experience the other missions and the game feels like a completely different game. It still ends up feeling like there are so many different endings that you can experience and I only got to experience what I think were two of them. One is the new ending they added for the base game, I can’t go into details on what it contains but it is worth everyone’s time to take a look into it.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, flips the genre on its head and offers a fantastical story that leaves you wanting more. It delivers a heart-wrenching tale that’s dramatically different from the main storyline. Update 2.0 breathes life into the game, making it feel more dynamic than ever before.
While I haven’t had the chance to start over with this update, I’m excited to experience Cyberpunk 2077 in a whole new light. Phantom Liberty’s story is captivating and could easily stand on its own as a movie. It’s the first game this year that had me invested, asking questions, and wanting to know more even after the story had ended.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty releases on September 26, 2023 – on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S & PC.