Cyberpunk 2077 was once one of the most talked about games around, but often for the wrong reason. The hype it received prior to its 2020 release put it in an impossible position – it surely couldn't meet such lofty expectations. And that proved to be the case.
The last-gen console editions were bug-riddled and moved as smoothly as an arthritic snail, while there wasn't even the sniff of the much promised "next-gen" upgrades for more than a year. It was, for the once loved Polish developer, a disaster.
It may surprise you then to learn that I stuck with the game, even with its numerous failings, and even finished the Xbox One code on an Xbox Series X. And, I even enjoyed it, managing to overlook the frame rate issues and the occasions when characters seemingly floated in mid-air.
But, I couldn't bring myself to revisit it even after the numerous patches, fixes and reportedly superb upgrade to run natively on the latest machines.
Now I most certainly will.
That's because I have played a brief demo of Phantom Liberty – the first major expansion DLC for the game and it's brilliant. I enjoyed it so much that I'll happily start Cyberpunk 2077 from the very beginning, just to experience the game as it was originally intended.
Played on a booth at Gamescom in Germany, the Phantom Liberty demo saw us once again control "V", who this time is tasked with rescuing the President from an attack on her ship over Night City. The craft crashes into Dogtown, a whole new open world zone for the game, and you therefore get to travel and fight your way to the wreckage to discover whether she has survived.
It was fairly short – lasting no more than 10 minutes – but my couple of takeaways are that Dogtown is a far more dangerous place than the rest of Night City, and that gunplay has been vastly improved since we last played the action-RPG.
Taking out enemies is even more visceral than before, while the speed of the combat is more akin to a dedicated FPS. It is, quite frankly, more fun.
The expansion also looks great, giving me hope that the overall game will also benefit from the tweaks CD Projekt Red has made here and there for v2.0 of the game engine.
There are new, more powerful abilities to master and a Relic tree to utilise. There's also a redesign perks system and a host of new weapons and clothing items to pick up. Police activity has clearly been improved too, which was something quite frankly hopeless before.
And there is vehicle combat now, which I didn't get to experience much at Gamescom, but seems to be much welcomed nonetheless.
Oh, and NPCs didn't float a foot above a chair when in a sitting position, neither, which was nice.
Certainly, my demo playthrough was enough to get me excited enough to revisit NIght City once more. And, with Phantom Liberty out on Xbox Series X/S, PS5 and PC on 26 September 2023, I'll be doing so very soon indeed.