Whilst there is no doubt the upcoming expansion Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is the real deal (based on current gaming media reviews), parts of the recent Cyberpunk 2077 update 2.0 feels a little underwhelming in the grand scheme (trying hard not to complain too much about free stuff). In-a-way, with all the big-talk surrounding it, feels like some kind of psy ops. Let’s explore why we think that way especially as Cyberpunk 2077 is one of our favourite games of all time with close to 1000 hours invested so far. Don’t misunderstand us, the free update is welcome and does improve parts of the game way beyond the original release, but being critical we have some reservations.
For starters, there seem to be more bugs now than in the previous update, where we’re once again seeing NPCs and cops floating around the map like lifeless statues. We’ve had V’s vehicle arrive, crash into something invisible then flip over on its roof to be unusable, odd NPC vehicle behaviour just ramming into walls when trying to escape a gun battle, numerous glitches etc. These little moments are somewhat expected for a massive open-world game. However, some of the new additions are a non-starter and on top of that despite the visual splendor and Nvidia tech showcase that Night City has become, it still remains a lifeless world full of drones, where games from 10 years ago had more and better interactions with the world. CDPR has sold this update as if it has made the game the best thing since sliced-bread for open-world games, when really it’s just improved it from a very low-bar to begin with and added elements that modders have already accomplished (on PC obviously). Previous updates, didn’t afford such fanfare, and really, this one should have followed suit, leaving the PR firmly fixed on the Phantom Liberty arrival given the short timeframe between releases.
IMPROVED COP SYSTEM
Let’s start with the most obvious addition, the much awaited improved cop system. Well, this is a no-brainer and something old games have mastered even as far back as GTA San Andreas (2004) which is almost 20 years old. The core wanted system in Cyberpunk 2077 was laughably bad at release and beyond with some incremental improvements, and yet whilst it’s now on par with games from yesteryear, depending on how you play it’s something you’ll never really see outside of scripted moments during missions. If you’re not gunning down NPCs randomly, or driving around like a lunatic, the improved cop system is completely irrelevant. If you accidently trigger a wanted level (such as mistakenly running over a pedestrian and killing them due to the still very subpar vehicle handling), then it remains way too easy to either hide somewhere or drive-off into the sunset and lose the wanted status. Given the supposed technology in the year 2077, the cops should always be able to hunt you down regardless of where you’re hiding or driving off to forcing the player to be mindful of collateral damage at all times. The game should have employed an APB system where the wanted status remains so that any cop wandering the streets will give chase if they spot you – games like Bethesda’s Skyrim (2011) had a similar system. Perhaps the player could spend time in jail if busted, or bribe, pay a fee or some other penalty. Having cops is superficial because even if all-hell-breaks-loose. You die, respawn and carry-on where you left off. No harm done then. So what’s the point unless you just want to play cyberpsycho?
The most glaring thing for us are the NPCs where we’re still seeing repeated models in different clothing in close proximity to each other which is really immersion breaking. We’re still hearing the same soundbites, although admittedly some new ones are appearing. However, a glitch caused a distant NPC to keep repeating the line “she’s not going to get all of them” over-and-over during a gun battle. You can still get in the face of NPCs and they will just stand there and not really do much else. At least in some games like Watchdogs Legion there were negative and positive emotes and even the option to take selfies where the NPC would react positively or negatively and even pose with you. No such thing here. In-addition, all of the sex workers offering V a good time, ends in nothing but empty words. Why can’t V take any of these somewhere for a bit of fun-and-games like you can in GTA V (another game that’s 10 years old)?
Night City hasn’t changed aside from the addition of new area Dog Town (accessed via the Phantom Liberty expansion), and given how easy it is to create AI artwork these days, how hard would it have been for CDPR to include some new billboard ads to spice things up? Several modders have done this with relative ease as you can see here (NSFW), and it does make a massive difference in making Night City feel fresh. Yet, no such thing in this or any previous updates, and what we’ve seen thus far in the Phantom Liberty expansion doesn’t add many new visual quirks either. A crying shame!
TWEAKED DIFFICULTY/IMPROVED COMBAT
Cyberpunk 2077 has always been relatively easy, even on the toughest setting what with things like a mini-map showing enemy positions, their vision cones, auto-aiming and poor enemy AI. Admittedly, some of these things can be disabled for extra challenge but by-default they are enabled. The update has changed combat where enemies now scale to the player level (something that’s quite divisive amongst gamers) and there’s seemingly more options to tailor your character build to suit bespoke approaches. Yet, in the past, enemies with skull icons were untouchable, now they drop like regular foes. There no longer is any danger as a result depending on your build. Netrunners are still over-powered and can sit back or behind cover, hack and if anyone gets close, a few rounds or a melee swing will drop the daring who get in your face. In-fact we’ve put all attributes into COOL and INTELLIGENCE yet we’re still able to use a baseball bat and knock enemies/cyberpsychos over as if our BODY stat was maxed-out. Something is awry here with the balancing, a fear we had prior to this update dropping and something that was painfully obvious looking at the trailers/gameplay CDPR showcased. V is just a crazy OP killing machine, the only real differences here is how you go about that as there are more options now. Fun yes, but challenging not so much especially if you want to role-play a bit. The vehicular combat is a nice inclusion but why don’t enemies toss EMP grenades at V sitting comfortably in a stationary vehicle shooting them up? That should be a standard reaction to players who just park and shoot, especially given the auto-aiming from behind the wheel.
CDPR could have made more definable builds as an option where if players choose to be a Netrunner for example, they are shit at shooting and melee as a consequence. Perhaps at the start of Act 1 an option to choose your direction would have been great, or if players pump points into specific attributes get negative buffs in others. A hardcore, or even Ironman mode would be brilliant inclusions here.
The update brings plenty of minor tweaks you might not realize have an impact, such as placing KO’d enemies into containers is lethal now, so you have to hide bodies somewhere else if you’re panther stealthing missions and playing pacifist. The economy seems totally screwed, where players can now amass loads of credits from used weapons sales and searching crates, yet completing side-missions pays less than before. We paid ripperdoc Viktor his 21000 credits very easily here even after spending on some of the revised cyberware just an hour or so of playing.
It seems to us that with this latest update, all CDPR has done is bring the game up to par with how it should have been when it launched. There’s nothing groundbreaking here despite modders showing elements that could have been included. We’re not going to list them, as these are well-known. There is so much more that could be done that other games have done very well. Emergent territorial control, faction statuses, even things like hitmen coming after the player when certain gangs are pissed-off. Better yet, start looking like a pimp and gangbangers attempt to rob you when you’re in their territories. Clothing should play a greater role now that the armour stat has been removed. With less mobility or higher visibility stats depending on what threads you’re wearing. Even things like dressing well or badly having an impact on conversations and how people deal with you. There is so much more role playing elements that could have been included here. Stuff that was hinted at in the first gameplay reveal.
We hope then, CDPR are taking note now they have some experience with this type of open-world game, and come-up with some fresh ideas for the sequel. Until then, let the modding community do their thing. A shame then that console players won’t have access to all of the cool stuff that the modders come up with. It feels like this update is predominately for the console community as mods have taken the game on PC to much more interesting spaces and will continue to do so until the next game in this series releases.