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Cyberpunk 2077 is likely beyond saving at this point

Cyberpunk 2077
(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Cyberpunk 2077 is arguably the most notorious game in recent memory. After several delays, it launched in a nearly unplayable state on most platforms, especially the PS4 and Xbox One. Over the past two years, developer CD Projekt Red has released a slew of patches and updates that have made the title relatively playable on the best gaming PCs, as well as the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Now, the company has announced Cyberpunk 2077’s first expansion, Phantom Liberty.

The trailer in question sees protagonist V swearing an oath of office for the New American presidency. Johnny Silverhand (played by Hollywood star Keanu Reeves), also makes a return.. Over the past two years, developer CD Projekt Re has released a slew of patches and updates that have made the title relatively playable on the 

We can applaud CD Projekt for continuing to update Cyberpunk 2077, and for trying to salvage the title. Phantom Liberty could be kind of experience that CD Projekt promised during the game’s official E3 2019 cinematic trailer (opens in new tab). But even as someone who has sunk nearly 100 hours into the PC version of Cyberpunk 2077, I have to question if this expansion can set the game on the right course. It could be too little, too late.

Broken trust

CD Projekt RED became a darling of the video game industry thanks in large part to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. While The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was a critical success, the third installment catapulted the video game adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels into the mainstream. Although it's based on the book series rather than the games, Netflix’s The Witcher series no doubt exists due to the popularity of Witcher 3.

The Witcher 3's massive popularity contributed to the hype behind Cyberpunk 2077. You could argue that said hype was undeserved, considering that Witcher 3 was CD Projekt Red’s sole smash-hit. Nevertheless, expectations for Cyberpunk 2077 were astronomically high. Even if the game had launched in a rock-solid state, it’s doubtful it would have lived up to what people had constructed in their heads. Of course, what really happened was far worse than a title that simply fell short.

We've documented much of the game's history, including Cyberpunk 2077 being hit with a class action lawsuit, staff members detailing the game's disastrous development, Steam players ditching the game, the title's return to the PlayStation store after being pulled for six months and a round-up of its worst bugs. There's more, but this gives you an idea of what the game faced after launch.

Suffice it to say that, I, and likely many others, will approach this DLC with a healthy dose of skepticism. Again, I genuinely enjoyed Cyberpunk 2077 despite its numerous technical issues and dated open-world design. I’ll probably play Phantom Liberty. But I’m going to temper my expectations before diving in.

And even if Phantom Liberty is a well-put-together expansion, will it be enough to save the game? Anything related to this project, or developed by the studio, will face severe scrutiny, both warranted and unwarranted. People love a good redemption story, but they might also enjoy seeing Cyberpunk 2077 take another critical drubbing. If the DLC is universally praised, then perhaps there’s a chance for salvation. But that chance seems slim.

Next-gen only 

Phantom Liberty is an expansion that’s coming only to PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X. I find this fact interesting, considering that I've said game should never have come to PS4 and Xbox One. In fact, one of the reasons why CD Projekt Red delayed the game to December 10, 2020 was because the it needed extra time to get the title running on last-gen systems (opens in new tab).

Cyberpunk 2077 will support Xbox Series X Smart Delivery credit

I think Cyberpunk 2077 would have fared better if it had only released on PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X. (Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Though the current-gen versions of Cyberpunk 2077 had their fair share of technical hiccups at launch, they ran far better than their last-gen counterparts. This isn’t surprising, considering the power of the PS5 and Xbox Series X. But it justified my belief that Cyberpunk 2077 would have fared better if it had launched only on systems that could handle it. Phantom Liberty being strictly “next-gen” seems like the right course of action. 

Since Phantom Liberty is coming to PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X, I’m curious to see what, if any, features the expansion might implement that are possible only on modern hardware.

Outlook 

Games such as Sea of Thieves, No Man’s Sky, Rainbow Six Siege and even Fallout 76 were able to overcome their rocky beginnings to eventually become highly successful. In that sense, it’s not impossible that Cyberpunk 2077 could have its own redemption arc.

However, those other titles were multiplayer endeavors that constantly need to renew themselves via expansions anyway. It's true that The Witcher 3 had a long shelf-life due to its numerous expansions. But most single-player titles tend to wane and all-but vanish shortly after they come out. Maybe Cyberpunk 2077 will buck this trend, but given its history, it seems unlikely. Trust isn't a thing that's easily mended, after all.

The Phantom Liberty expansion won’t be here for some time, which could serve to work in Cyberpunk 2077's favor. Perhaps knowing that the game is getting a substantial add-on could spur more folks to buy the base game, and thus build an audience that never experienced the title’s rocky launch. The game is currently in an acceptable state. But even new players will have heard about Cyberpunk 2077's difficulties. Its reputation is difficult to escape.

While I'd love to see Cyberpunk 2077 rise from the proverbial ashes, I doubt it will ever shed its troubled past. The game's history is too well-documented at this point for anyone to come in without any preconceived notions. To that end, I’ll place my hopes on a brand-new installment instead. I think Cyberpunk 2077 is finished.

Next: Here's why this is the best time to play Cyberpunk 2077.

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.


  • GraniteStateColin
    Cyberpunk 2077 is currently my favorite game. At this point, on current-gen consoles or a decent gaming PC, it's technically fantastic (not perfect, but better than most in terms of graphical fidelity and stability). It's not just "passable," it's gorgeous.

    I would say that anyone who has not yet played it: if you liked Witcher 3 and you have any interest in a very R-rated first-person cyberpunk world, then you will like Cyberpunk 2077. The gameplay is very, very similar to the Witcher 3. It has pretty much the same strengths and weaknesses. Very interesting characters that you care about. Incredible voice acting that brings those characters to life. Great story that maintains the right levels of mystery and tension. Barely passable inventory management and character management. Most NPC characters are just scenery in the background and non-interactive (though they are a bit more interactive in Cyberpunk than in the Witcher). Solid (very good, but not spectacular) game controls. Dialog and movement are all identical. If you know how to play The Witcher 3, you know how to control and respond to almost everything in Cyberpunk 2077 (a few things are naturally unique to the cyber world).

    To be very clear: the closest game to Cyberpunk 2077 and the best comparison is absolutely The Witcher 3. I see comparisons to games like GTA V and others, but none of those games have much in common with Cyberpunk 2077 other than passing details, like both are open world and have cars.

    The main differences between The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077:

    1. The setting. If you only like fantasy and have no interest in a semi-dystopian sci-fi future, then you may not be interested.

    2. It's in the first person. I love this and much prefer this to the Witcher's 3rd person only view, though in both cases I wish they gave options for both (like the Bethesda games do). But if I had to chose one or the other, I prefer first person to third.

    3. Feels like there are more pure combat (or sneak) quests in Cyberpunk than in the Witcher and fewer quests that involve extended conversations with characters. On the other hand, the main Cyberpunk quest and a small handful of side quests have a huge amount of deep dialog. In short, while I think the total quantity of quests is comparable, I think there are fewer emotionally meaningful side quests in Cyberpunk 2077 than in The Witcher 3. This would be my chief criticism and source of disappointment, because the ones that are in Cyberpunk are amazing.

    4. Combat is vastly better in Cyberpunk 2077 than in the Witcher games, probably because it's all in first person. It's actually fun, if maybe too easy.

    5. Driving in Cyberpunk 2077 is its own skill. I still crash a lot, unless I'm on a motorcycle (I only play on Xbox Series X, I suspect it's easier if using something other than a game controller). This is not like riding Roach and doesn't really have any direct parallel, but that would be the closest reference.

    6. There are more play styles and options in Cyberpunk than Witcher. In the Witcher games, your character (Geralt) is basically a warrior. You can lean more into some styles of combat than others, but the variations are minor (to the Witcher's credit, there are a lot of different ways to use swords in the Witcher, which we don't have in Cyberpunk, at least not before the 1.6 patch, that may introduce more variation). In Cyberpunk, you can fight with guns, fight with swords, use sneaking and stealth, or use cyber attacks (effectively magic spells), and each of those is radically different from the others.

    7. Night City would be vastly larger than the world in The Witcher 3 if you could go into all the buildings, but you can't. Most of Night City is scenery and not very interactive. I think this is a chief complaint for many in an open-world game, but I don't think it's a reasonable one: there is still far more to see and explore than you could in hundreds of hours of gameplay, the fact that many buildings don't open is unimportant: think of yourself in a real city in the story -- you would enter the buildings that related to your purpose, the vast majority you would just walk past and ignore. My hope is that in future Cyberpunk games we return to Night City and next time, major events happen in those other buildings that we've not used. This allows us to really learn the layout of the city over multiple games (it's so huge it would take thousands of hours to really KNOW the city), with just different places that matter in each game.
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