Review: ‘Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty’ gives a glimpse of ‘Grand Theft Auto’ of the future

LONDON: “Cyberpunk 2077” was originally released in 2020 to much fanfare as to the scale of the game’s ambition followed by huge criticism as to the glitches and bugs in the game that went so far that some called it unplayable.

Three years later there has been a steady release of patches and improvements to the game captured in the release of a 2.0 update along with this additional “Phantom Liberty” expansion pack.

The game – in essence – is an increasingly polished Hollywood-esq futuristic “Grand Theft Auto.” The main protagonist, the character “V” who can be personalised to a gamers taste, is unleashed on Night City, a “Blade Runner”-like dystopian vision of the future.

Night City is a vast metropolis of incredible scale and detail, but like much of the game if you’re hoping for genuine interaction with your surroundings you are limited by the game’s central story and sub-stories. Indeed, “Cyberpunk 2077” has created an impressive tapestry but limits your ability to feel part of it. You can steal a car from in front of a nightclub guarded by a gang, drive round the block and by the time you’re back the gang have forgotten your transgression for example.  

That said, the graphics are impressive, as is the world building around the futuristic location that you find yourself in. Key to this world is the notion of augmentation, very much a topical subject considering the interest in artificial intelligence in the real world. Inhabitants of Night City spot differing levels and spec of augmentation ranging from brains that can connect to mainframes with a wire to bionic arms and metal exoskeletons. Gameplay is in the first person with auto-aim and a solid health bar giving gamers a gentle curve of difficulty. In fact, in the first few hours I found the biggest danger was getting run over.   

The plot of the main game concerns the intricacies of murder and power amongst warring clans and high-tech corporations. It’s a thrilling affair but often you feel you are going along for the ride rather than really shaping the events around you.

In classic RPG fashion, you have the big picture missions and then a long menu of sub-objectives. The storyline of these is cleverly done, such as supporting an AI cab firm to find out who is hacking into their self-driving cars. Weapons and enemies are varied and colourful and the navigation is all very self-explanatory and rarely will you find yourself stuck.  

Dialogue is cliched and limited in terms of impact, but this is balanced against the presence of A-list Hollywood stars in the story; whether Keanu Reeves in the original or Idris Elba in the new “Phantom Liberty” download. Supposedly the developers have spent millions of dollars fixing the bugs from the initial game and newcomers to the series may not spot the issues that plagued people years ago.

One key improvement is around the “perk” system and the levelling up of your character, something that feels intuitive in the new update rather than overly complicated.

The new expansion pack makes the world of “Cyberpunk 2077” that bit bigger introducing the Dogtown location and a host of new weapons, vehicles and characters, but it is the changes under the hood to the very DNA of the game that makes this title an enjoyable, if shallow, jaunt.  

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