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Hands-on review: Cyberpunk 2077 2.0 and the Phantom Liberty DLC expansion (PC)

Apart from No Man’s Sky, no other game has redeemed itself in such a spectacular fashion as Cyberpunk 2077. With the release of the 2.0 update and the DLC expansion, is Cyberpunk 2077 finally the game promised to fans almost three years ago?

CD Projekt RED, a darling of a development house since releasing their lauded, and deservedly so, Witcher games, absolutely dropped the ball with Cyberpunk 2077 on its much-delayed launch in December 2020. What should have been the developer’s crowning glory ended up over-hyped, over-promising and under-delivering. With bugs and performance issues, the game had fans raging.

And it was such a shame, as even at its buggiest, the game had the glimmer of something very special. But this awkward brilliance was only really reserved for PC gamers with the horsepower to enjoy Cyberpunk 2077 at launch. Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 owners were faced with a buggy, poorly performing mess. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 fans were handed something that just wasn’t supposed to be.

Arrogance? Hubris? Or just bad management? As nightmare game launches go, it doesn’t get worse than that of Cyberpunk 2077.

Rather than just abandon the game (as other notable published have done with similar failures to launch), CD Projekt RED rose to the occasion and took it on the chin. Since its release, Cyberpunk 2077 has had countless updates and bug fixes.n

With version 2.0, Cyberpunk 2077 becomes the game it was always meant to be. The living and breathing Night City is now open for business. The 2.0 update, which completely reworks the ability system, overhauling the game’s RPG element and other core gameplay elements, is completely free to all players of the game. This alone makes the game worth returning to.

Sit in a future where cybernetic bodily augmentations are the norm, the game follows V, a mercenary in the neon-draped Night City. When a job goes bad, V ends up with a prototype chip in their head. This chip is encoded with the imprint of long-dead revolutionary rocker boy Johnny Silverhand’s personality. Not only is the chip relic killing V, but it also allows V to talk to Johnny Silverhand as if he is standing there.

Launching in tandem with the 2.0 update is Cyberpunk 2077’s premium DLC expansion, Phantom Liberty. The expansion opens up a new Night City district, Dogtown, a new set of story quests as well as side quests and gigs.

The walled independent district of Dogtown was supposed to be Night City’s entertainment district before being left to rot. Run by the enterprising Colonel Kurt Hansen and overseen by his Barghest militia, Dogtown is home to Night City’s most nefarious undertakings. Amongst the criminals and low-life that call the district home, Kurt Hansen hosts Night City’s most influential citizens in his exclusive Black Sapphire nightclub.

I’ve spent over 70 hours playing Cyberpunk 2077 since the game’s release. During my time with it, I’ve watched the game evolve from a very good PC game to something rather special. So it was with relish that I stepped into Night City, once more, continuing right from where I last left it, but with my character skill tree reset for the revised 2.0 experience.

After booting up the game with Phantom Liberty installed, a temping new quest arrived. This triggered the new expansion’s storyline via a visit from a Netrunner hacking into the relic in my character, V’s head. More peculiar, the ethereal Netrunner, Song Bird, could see the deceased, Johnny Silverhand (the returning Keanu Reeves), who also has a residence in V’s head.

Song Bird explains that the president’s aircraft is coming down in Dogtown, a particularly nasty bit of Night City. Song Bird, who is on board with the president, has been able to hack into V’s relic, recruiting them to rescue the president from hostile forces.

The Cyberpunk genre is very derivative, drawing on the likes of Gibson’s Neuromancer and Dicks’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep/Blade Runner. This expansion adds Escape from New York and a dash of Apocalypse Now into the mix.

Phantom Liberty is a tighter story than that of the main campaign. It’s a futuristic spy story full of double-crossing, lies and subterfuge. Quests range from escorting VIPs through hostile areas to an infiltration mission straight out of Mission Impossible. The expansion adds many fully-realised supporting characters, most notably Federal Intelligence Agency sleeper agent Soloman Reed, played by Edris Elba.

The expansion gives players plenty of opportunity to explore and get to know the densely populated Dogtown, with the game encouraging players to take on side quests and gigs between the main missions. You can still duck in and out of the otherwise fenced-off Dogtown, as you like, to run errands across Night City.

As well as refining the gameplay, CD Projekt RED has been optimising the game’s performance, culminating with the 2.0 patch, making Cyberpunk 2077 one of the most visually impressive games available today.

Whilst the review rig is armed with an RTX 4090 GPU, the PC game’s implementation of both AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution technology and Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sample means that even humble rigs can enjoy the game’s rather spectacular visuals. With the 2.0 update, Nvidia 4000-series owners get access to DLSS 3.5, promising even more AI wizardry to get better performance.

The game’s next-gen path tracing mode, though, will make even the mightiest GPU earn its keep, treating gamers to some of the most spectacular in-game graphics they’ll have ever seen if their machine has the horsepower. But even running the game on a ROG Strix G16 laptop, armed with a Core i7-13650HX and an RTX4060, produced rather breathtaking results with the settings turned down.

The Cyberpunk 2077 of today is a polished, balanced, and relatively bug-free game that fully immerses players in its slightly unnerving futuristic world. Whether you are stepping foot on Night City for the first time or returning for a visit, Cyberpunk 2077 with the 2.0 update is worth checking out. Add in the tight Machiavellian spy drama of the Phantom Liberty expansion, and you have possibly one of the greatest sci-fi games ever made.

Verdict: 10/10

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