Cyberpunk 2077 has been a rocky-rocky road since its release in December 2020. While it’s not exactly been three years, as of September 21st, 2023, it has recently received its largest update yet with the release of its DLC expansion, Phantom Liberty, coming in just a week afterward. I’ll be doing a separate review for Phantom Liberty but it’s important to talk about the changes for the 2.0 update that changes the entire way the game is played.
The game released in an incredibly broken state with far less than what was implied or promised by the initial advertising. The police system was incredibly underwhelming, there was no vehicular combat, no dynamic chase scenes, and the crowd AI was extremely silly with the cars as well as populace of Night City being dumb as bricks. This is in addition to all of the bugs and glitches that rivaled Bethesda’s Skyrim at launch.
Over the past three years, CDPR has done a decent job of doing an immense number of fixes to the game that moved it from a broken buggy mess to something distinctly playable. Indeed, it was something I recommended at the start purely on the basis of its story and visuals. Plus, the fact I was a die-hard cyberpunk fanboy who was already familiar with Mike Pondsmith’s tabletop RPG setting. Still, the game steadily improved and it became increasingly clear that it should have never been released on last generation consoles when the true experience was meant for the Playstation 5 and Xbox X or S.
The 2.0 update is a wholesale remaking of the game in many respects with something for everyone who has already left the game behind. The changes range from the huge to the small and I think it’s wortwhile for people who enjoyed their first time around to return for a second (or third) run. After having played through the game for a day, I’m comfortable sharing my opinions of what is better as well as worse.
* Crafting is no longer tied to Technical: Crafting was originally tied to the Technical skill. Now, everyone can craft anything they want if they have the components as well as blueprints. This means a lot for those who were previously stuck doing crafting builds to get the best equipment. There’s also a lot less requirements for components due to the changes to armor.
* Clothes are no longer armor: One of the more immersion breaking elements of the game was wearing a construction hat, biker shorts, a leather jacket, and dress shirt to get the maximum amount of damage resistance possible. This is hardy unique to Cyberpunk 2077 and was alleviated with the transmog system that allowed you to make your character look like anything but still was an annoyance. The new system removes all armor benefits of clothing and now the only damage resistance is from cybernetic enhancements.
* The Perk System is completely overhauled: All of the characters’ perks are refunded at the start of the update and now are part of an entirely new skill tree. The abilities are lot more dynamic than before with things like air dash, hacking vehicles, and adrenaline rushes as well as cyberpsychosis berserk mode. A lot of these abilities are familiar from other games but that’s hardly a bad thing. Perks can also be refunded at will and shifted around to experiment with multiple builds.
* Cybernetics are greatly expanded: The number of cybernetics you can outfit your V with signficantly upgraded. You can also enhance your cybernetics to higher tiers. Notably, V is limited to being able to use cybernetics to the limit of their Body score but the Edgerunner perk let’s you exceed it at the cost of brief cyberpsychosis.
* Improved AI: The various criminals and opponents in Night City are no longer nearly as stupid as they used to be. This, again, helps with the challenge and makes encounters things that players are going to want to take slowly.
* The Night City Police are now terrifying: One of the biggest complaints of the game is the fact the Night City police appeared out of nowhere and attacked then gave up if you moved out of a tiny area. For those used to Grand Theft Auto’s intense police combat, this is a massive improvement. We also get Max-Tac at last, guys who can tear through the strongest of V’s and are bosses in mook’s clothing.
* Netrunning has been nerfed: As a legendary Netrunner, my V basically was a psychic wizard who wandered through Night City causing gangs to instantly fall over without ever finding me. Now, it’s much-much harder and easier for enemies to detect you. You can’t use Breach Protocols on enemies anymore either.
* Vehicular combat and car chases: Perhaps one of the biggest changes is that you can now engage in vehicle combat with things like car chases, shooting out tires, and shooting at each other. It’s something that was strongly needed in the game and makes the massive number of vehicles actually useful now.
* You can now change your V’s appearance: This is something that should have been included at the start of the game as cyberpunk is so focused on transhumanism.
* NPCs now scale to Level: This is going to be a controversial change but it’s more true to the tabletop game. This dramatically increases the difficulty of the game but not in a way that’s bad. You’ll never be lacking for challenges when dealing with the many Assaults and Crimes in Progress across the map.
* All Ripperdocs now have all cybernetics: This is one I’m iffy on because I love having to visit all of the Ripperdocs in Night City to do bargain hunting. It immerses you in the setting to know that cybernetics vary between sources. However, there’s the benefit that there’s no downside to beating Fingers within an inch of his life now.
* Changes to the Cell Phone and Journal: Some minor tweeks have been made to make the journal and cell phone less cluttered. I wasn’t of the mind the previous journal was bad but the ability to be able to turn off
* New Radio Stations: There’s three new radio stations and I just don’t really feel like they made much of an improvement with the soundtrack. Basically, I really wish there was more variety in the music of Night City as there’s a lot of punk and techno but very little pop or rock-rock. So, it’s a matter of taste. Still, one of the station is purely original music by Cyberpunk 2077 fans, so there’s that. Also, Idris Elba is DJing one.
* Vendors no longer having crafting components: The game’s longevity has been expanded by the fact that you can only get crafting components by disassembling weapons among other equipment. I really wish I’d bought a bunch of components before the updates.
* NPCs no longer drop clothing: Okay, maybe it was just me but I totally believe when my V killed someone he’d look at them and go, “Nice pants.” Then loot them. Now our V canonically is no longer the kind of crazy murder hobo with a wardrobe of the dead.
* Bugs: The amount of bugs introduced by the changes are small but still noticeable. When I was talking to Vic, I couldn’t exit out a conversation. There were also other small glitches like voices dropping during “I Fought the Law” except for my V. I have hopes these will be corrected in the future, though.
I’m really impressed with what they’ve managed to achieve with this revision to the game and I believe it is finally living up to its full potential. The improvements to the police and enemy AI are enough to justify its existence. I also think the choice to change the clothing so its not an essential part of the loot cycle is a good one. There’s overall a lot less loot and less focus on picking up everything in sight. I think the game is just a lot more FUN to play. It was great because of its storytelling and design before but now it’s just better in every possible way. Those who like coasting through the game, though, will find it a lot tougher. It’s also a shame that this update is something that last generation console users will never get to experience.
Personally, I think now’s the best time to pick up the game if you have a current generation console or computer capable of running it. The new game is better in virtually every possible way. I also think it’s probably best to start over your playthrough rather than continue from a previous save as you’ll get to experience everything from a fresh perspective.