We have returned to Night City for one last job with V and Johnny Silverhand after patch 2.0. Will this be the final farewell?
When Cyberpunk 2077 finally arrived in my hands in December 2020, I grabbed it with such force that for the first few hours I was completely oblivious to the concentration of bugs and visual errors that didn't match what CD Projekt RED had promised to the millions of gamers who began our lives as 'mercs' in Night City. And despite the desire and enthusiasm I put into the game, I had to wait a few months before the title offered me an acceptable experience on my old PS4.
Still, I did almost everything the game suggested, and managed to complete its story and see all the possible endings to Johnny Silverhand and V's story (including the 'secret ending'). So when Phantom Liberty was announced, I was really intrigued about what this new chapter could offer (the denouement of the base game being as definitive as it is). But before I get into talking about Phantom Liberty, its new story and the new area where we can have fun with our weapons and cyberware, I'll talk about the "augmented gameplay". Because Cyberpunk 2077 will now change radically for all players with the free 2.0 update.
Welcome to Cyberpunk 2.0 (77)
Patch 2.0 is more than just improving Night City's police AI and adding vehicle-based combat. All enemies now move more realistically, creating more elaborate attack and defence strategies, including flanking tactics and cover to make combat more challenging. It's no longer enough to just empty magazines or run around with your katana or mantis claws to gut gang members. You'll have to intersperse the use of different weapons and keep moving to avoid being shot at from multiple directions. And, after the battle, there will be less variety of loot available.
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Most items and items of clothing now play less of a role, as the armour stats of clothing pieces have been removed and it's all about implants and cyberware. This poses a problem if (like me) you created V focusing more on weapon skill or corpulence, because all the stats have been changed and now the weight falls on cyberware and (at least as I perceive it) netrunner skills.
All armour and attack modifiers are now based on what Night City's thugs do for you and whether you're lucky enough to find them in the fights (or have enough hedis to pay for them). Although I understand the reasons for focusing character building on augmentations (before you had to change clothes every so often to gain one or two points of armour), perhaps where it is most noticeable is in the skill trees: Much simpler, with the attributes to boost changed, and in certain fields (such as firearms) it is not clear where their absence is now compensated for.
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And I wish it was clearer to me as a player, because my next stop was to tackle another of Cyberpunk 2077 2.0's new features: Max-Tac. The new police chase system is, so everyone can get used to the idea, as tough as a 5-star GTA V. Now it won't be so easy to evade NCPD patrols with minor infractions, and it will be downright impossible when we reach the higher pursuit levels and they send in the special forces. Can you survive Max-Tac? Yes, but it's going to be one of the toughest battles in the entire game, and you'll probably use up most of your stock of health packs and ammo.
Vehicle combat has been the one I've relied on the least, although if you get the Phantom Liberty expansion you'll even get a new line of side missions with armed vehicles. Basically you can shoot with auto-aim while driving at full speed through Night City, but rather than being a new feature, I see it as just another option in the game's existing range of possibilities.
Phantom Liberty: The most cinematographic expansion
So far I've talked about what all players will find if they install Cyberpunk 2077 again, but for those returning to V and wanting to see more, there's a new story ahead that's sure to delight movie buffs. As Phantom Liberty begins much like John Carpenter's 1981 classic, Escape from New York. A mysterious netrunner called Songbird calls us to offer us a solution to our "problem" with the Relic and Johnny Silverhand, but in exchange we will have to accept a risky mission: to rescue the president of the New United States of America, Rosalind Myers, from Dogtown.
The shuttle in which she is travelling is going to be shot down over the "free" city of Night City by the militias of Kurt Hansen, an ex-army and Militech colonel who took absolute command of Dogtown and rules with an iron fist thanks to arms trafficking and his militia, Barghest. Again, if you're a film buff, the inspiration for this character in Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now is surely not lost on you either.
And while those two plots converge and twist into a thiller of spies and government conspiracies, there are the stories of Solomon Reed (Idris Elba) and Songbird, which I won't go into too much detail about for obvious reasons, except to say that both characters are fascinating, and that the weight of decisions (and certain choices in Phantom Liberty's campaign) can unlock a new canonical ending for the character of V/Johnny Silverhand.
Phantom Liberty offers dozens of extra hours of fun to the base game. In addition to the story-driven exploration on offer, Dogtown is an all-out war zone. The craziest and darkest characters in all of Night City are here, and there will be two new recurring mission types: "air package" and "courier". If the new assignments of fixer, cyber-psychopaths and the like are not enough for you, you won't get bored here.
All in all, Phantom Liberty and the 2.0 update give CD Projekt RED's title a second life. And while many may already consider their time in Night City to be over, this new story may give you more than a few surprises.
8 / 10
Enemy AI makes combat much more varied and lively. The story of Phantom Liberty is "pure cinema".
Focusing on one character model can limit the game to some. Equipment loses all meaning other than aesthetics.