I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed revisiting Cyberpunk 2077 as part of its major new update.
I dutifully played through Cyberpunk 2077 in the weeks after its rocky December 2020 launch, but I always felt that it was aggressively fine. I loved sneaking through levels as a netrunner that stealthily hacked into enemies. But things like the cringey edginess that permeated nearly every line of dialogue, a clothes / gear system that forced me to look like an absolute clown to get the best stats, and even small details like a frustratingly zoomed-in mini-map all brought down the experience.
Nearly three years in, a lot of those quibbles are now fixed, and after spending more than a dozen hours with the new update 2.0 and Phantom Liberty expansion, I’m finding myself eager to keep exploring Night City.
Let’s start first with what’s added in update 2.0, which will be available for free on Thursday. It brings a litany of significant changes. The biggest is the revised skill tree. Now, as you put points into the different attributes (body, reflexes, technical ability, intelligence, and cool), you’ll open up new levels of skills you can choose to put perk points into. There are a bunch of new skills to choose from, and you can see each attribute’s available skills on just one page.
If you’re continuing a Cyberpunk 2077 playthrough, you’ll have a chance to redeploy all of your attribute points. Since you can redistribute all of your perk points whenever you want when you’re not in combat, you’ll have the flexibility to easily make a new build under the updated system. If you want to mess around with what’s possible before jumping in, you can try out developer CD Projekt Red’s in-browser build planner.
I once again invested the vast majority of points into intelligence to improve my netrunning. But under the new system, I also tossed a few points into things like health regen and the ability to move faster while crouching so I can more easily survive tense encounters.
The clothing system is way better, too
The clothing system has been fixed, too. Your armor stats are now determined largely by your cyberware (essentially tech implants for your body), so now, you can wear your favorite outfits without making yourself weaker for fights. The change builds on CDPR’s transmog system it added last year that lets you set up to six outfit combinations as part of your wardrobe that would show up regardless of what you had equipped.
Vehicular combat feels like a feature that should have been in the game at launch, but since I try to avoid using weapons in Cyberpunk 2077, driving and shooting don’t really appeal to me. I usually hopped out of my car and hid behind it to defeat my attackers with my netrunning abilities — including one that let me remotely blow up cars — before driving away. There’s also a new police system, but as a generally law-abiding citizen (well, outside of the plethora of missions where you commit crimes), I didn’t really notice it.
The many changes in update 2.0 (you can see a breakdown of even more in this video from GameSpot) add to welcome improvements from previous patches like optimizations for next-gen consoles, a much-improved mini-map, and cross-saves (which flawlessly carried over my Xbox Series X save to PS5). My experience wasn’t without bugs; during one climactic Phantom Liberty boss fight, a tutorial prompt got stuck on the screen, and I was able to easily defeat the boss because he became immobile midair. But Cyberpunk 2077 now feels a lot closer to what I was hoping it would be when it was first released, and on its own, I can finally give Cyberpunk 2077 a stronger recommendation.
I’ve also really enjoyed the new story campaign in Phantom Liberty, which CDPR markets as a “spy-thriller adventure.” It takes a few hours to get going, but it eventually starts to feel like a cyberpunk heist movie, complete with some thrilling set pieces and scenes where characters explain the planned operations with fancy graphics and diagrams. I’ve also been impressed by some genuinely surprising twists that have gotten me far more invested in the story than I anticipated. It’s a meaty campaign; I’m still working through it even though I just made what felt like a story-concluding decision.
A key player in the Phantom Liberty story is Solomon Reed, played by Idris Elba, and he’s easily my favorite character in Cyberpunk 2077. Elba brings an understated energy to his performance that’s a much-needed reprieve from the dialed-up intensity of Keanu Reeves’ Johnny Silverhand and just about everyone else in Night City. You’ll spend a lot of time with Reed throughout Phantom Liberty, but unlike pretty much every other character in the game, he hasn’t gotten on my nerves.
Phantom Liberty brings a lot of new things to see and do to Cyberpunk 2077, including new areas, quests, items, and perks, but at $29.99, it’s a very pricey upgrade. If you’ve wanted to take a spin through Night City again, update 2.0 is the perfect reason to do so. If you’ve got the eddies for Phantom Liberty, I think you’ll enjoy it, too.
Cyberpunk 2077’s 2.0 update will be available on September 21st for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X / S, and PC. The Phantom Liberty expansion will be available on September 26th for the same platforms.