Cyberpunk 2077 Sees a Resurgence Years After Its Turbulent Launch

My recent return to the world of Cyberpunk 2077, courtesy of its substantial 2.0 update, pleasantly surprised me. In the aftermath of its tumultuous debut in December 2020, I had initially found the game to be passable at best. While I relished the role of a stealthy netrunner infiltrating foes’ networks, the game’s cringe-worthy edginess, a fashion system that coerced absurd attire choices for optimal stats, and minor irritations like an overly zoomed-in mini-map all dampened my enjoyment.

Nearly three years later, many of these grievances have been addressed. After immersing myself in the game’s latest update, 2.0, and experiencing the Phantom Liberty expansion for over a dozen hours, I find myself eager to delve deeper into Night City.

The addition of vehicular combat, while a feature that should have been present from the start, doesn’t particularly appeal to me, as I prefer to rely on my netrunning abilities rather than weapons. I would often exit my vehicle, using it as cover while dispatching adversaries remotely through my hacking prowess, even detonating cars from afar. The updated police system went largely unnoticed by me, as I generally adhered to the law (except for the numerous missions that required criminal actions).

Update 2.0, which brings numerous improvements, including optimizations for next-gen consoles, an enhanced mini-map, and seamless cross-saves (transferring my Xbox Series X save to PS5 without a hitch), is a step in the right direction. While my experience wasn’t entirely bug-free, with one notable instance during a pivotal Phantom Liberty boss battle where a tutorial prompt froze on the screen, I can finally give Cyberpunk 2077 a more enthusiastic recommendation. It now aligns better with my initial expectations of the game when it was first released.

Back in 2019, when CD Projekt Red, the Polish video-game company, announced the imminent release of Cyberpunk 2077 the following year, it left some of its own staff in disbelief. Some had initially regarded it as a joke, convinced that realizing the game’s ambitious vision for a sci-fi role-playing experience would require until 2022.

When the game eventually launched in December 2020, after multiple delays, it arrived plagued by bugs and feeling incomplete. The console version was so riddled with glitches that it was removed from the PlayStation Store for six months. As more details emerged about the troubled development process, Cyberpunk 2077 became a symbol of the gaming industry’s issues with overworked employees, understaffed teams, and rushed game releases.

Yet, as they say, everyone loves a comeback story. Following the game’s release, company executives issued apologies, and developers embarked on a series of updates and bug fixes, prompting some critics to cautiously declare that Cyberpunk was now…good? A substantial patch in early 2022, the year when at least one CD Projekt Red developer initially expected the game to launch, introduced significant enhancements to combat, the game world, and more. A Kotaku critic even ventured to suggest that the game “might finally be complete.”

But CD Projekt Red wasn’t done yet. As of September 2023, the Cyberpunk 2077 saga is drawing to a close with two final, substantial releases:

  1. The 2.0 patch, released on September 21, which overhauls many core game mechanics.
  2. Phantom Liberty, an expansion featuring Idris Elba, set to release on September 26.

Both releases have garnered critical acclaim. The expansion introduces a new area within the dystopian Night City and weaves a heist narrative involving collaboration with the president and government operatives. IGN, among others, has praised it, declaring that “Phantom Liberty represents Cyberpunk 2077 at its zenith.”

While new content is certainly appealing, it’s the 2.0 patch that leaves the most significant imprint on Cyberpunk 2077. The changes are immediately noticeable upon launching the game. Menus are cleaner, the loot system is more streamlined, and character development undergoes a significant transformation thanks to an overhauled skill system, enabling players to adopt distinct playstyles. Now, players can specialize, molding their characters into stealthy ninjas, swift assaulters, or cybernetic hackers.

Cyberpunk 2077’s chief dilemma, apart from its technical issues, was its identity crisis—wavering between being a Deus Ex-style RPG and a Grand Theft Auto-style open-world sandbox. It seemed to fall short in both regards. While the new patch doesn’t decisively choose one path over the other, it fortifies both. The revamped leveling system fosters the experimentation that RPG enthusiasts had hoped for in Cyberpunk 2077. Elements such as loot and crafting have also received much-needed refinements.

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