Forget Phantom Liberty, Cyberpunk 2077's free 2.0 patch is a staggering upgrade on its own

The main character V posing in Cyberpunk 2077.
(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Last month I declared that Cyberpunk 2077's "Update 2.0" looks so big that you should probably just start a new game to experience it. Allow me to put my money where my mouth is: I spun up a new save with the upcoming 2.0 update installed (but not the Phantom Liberty expansion). What will Cyberpunk be like for new players going forward?

Pretty darn different, it turns out. Quests are the same, but the way you play has changed drastically. I'm not even done with the prologue yet (not ready to let go of Jackie), but I'm convinced: start a new game, because this is not the RPG you played three years ago.

In case you didn't catch the official explainer, Update 2.0 is separate from the Phantom Liberty expansion. The expansion, which costs $30, includes a new questline, gigs, city district, guns, cars, and an additional perk tree. We'll have a review of all that on September 20. Update 2.0 is a free patch that reworks large parts of the vanilla game, releasing a few days ahead of Phantom Liberty on September 21. Here's an abridged change list for the update:

  • New perk trees
  • Reworked stats
  • Reworked cyberware
  • Car combat (including cars with guns)
  • Dynamic police

The effects of Update 2.0 started to show the first time I leveled up and was greeted with five perk trees I didn't recognize. CD Projekt Red has done full-body surgery on Cyberpunk's RPG fundamentals: perks, stats, weapons, cyberware and mods. Very little from Cyberpunk's old trees have survived in 2.0, and the new ones replacing them are very exciting.

Cyberpunk 2077 screenshots.

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Cyber ninja redux

Take the Reflex tree: in vanilla Cyberpunk, being a "Reflex" V meant you were somewhat better at shooting SMGs and rifles, which was OK, but not very interesting. You could dump a dozen perk points into that old tree and have nothing but a 10% damage buff and some recoil reduction to show for it. In 2.0, Reflex has been reimagined around freedom of movement. Nodes that used to grant tiny percentage boosts now enable entirely new abilities.

The very first perk I unlocked was not a 3% damage buff, but a passive ability called Slippery that makes enemies more likely to miss me while moving. Branching off Slippery are perks that let me shoot while sprinting, combat slide farther, and climb faster. Around level 7 I unlocked the next branch of perks, and now I can dash around the battlefield like a Dragon Ball Z character and deflect bullets with katanas. 

We can't share screenshots of Update 2.0, so here's Goro Takemura in a diner. (Image credit: CD Projekt)

I'm seeing a genuine build develop for my V that's distinct from the other perk paths. That's something I couldn't really say about my last two maxed-out playthroughs.

Just a few hours in, I'm seeing a genuine build develop for my V that's distinct from the other perk paths. That's something I couldn't really say about my last two maxed-out playthroughs. For the first time in Cyberpunk, I'm fretting over two possible unlocks that both sound really cool instead of half-heartedly throwing points at minor boosts knowing I'll barely notice a change. Seeing the absurd athletics possible on the new Body tree and the downright dangerous cyberware overclocks possible on the Technical Ability tree have me excited to respec in those directions, which is another thing you can easily do now—perk points can be refunded and reallocated for free at any time.

It's like CDPR has finally uncorked Cyberpunk's potential as an FPS RPG, and figured out that making V a total badass is OK.

Not every single node is a whole new ability, but where there are still conventional stat increases (particularly in the hacking department), the bonuses appear to be way more impactful. Enhanced perks don't come without a cost, though: most new moves consume stamina. I thought that the stamina bar itself was another new addition, but it was actually in the game all along—I just never noticed because you only really needed stamina for melee attacks. Now, even shooting consumes stamina, and not having a lot of it can apparently affect your accuracy. I haven't noticed any negative effects in my firefights yet, but it's early.

(Image credit: CD Projekt)

Other Cyberpunk 2077 2.0 highlights

  • Cyberware works differently too, and it's great: You can install way more of it, but you're limited by a total cyberware capacity. I have a max capacity of around 40 right now, and installing a new set of eyes might take up 8-10 of that capacity.
  • Clothes are just clothes now: Wear whatever you want, because clothes have zero armor value. Instead, armor is installed via a new cyberware category (which just makes way more sense).
  • Car combat is cool, but so far superfluous: It's there, but I haven't had a need to use it. I didn't expect CDPR to go back and change the main quest to accommodate car combat, so no surprises there. I wager in the vanilla experience car combat will mostly be used to cause mayhem with the new police, or maybe side gigs. Phantom Liberty was designed with car combat in mind, though.
  • There's another new progression system separate from Perks: These are just called Skills. There are five categories (Headhunter, Netrunner, Shinobi, Solo, Engineer) and they automatically grant unique milestone upgrades just by earning XP toward that playstyle. The upgrades are largely stat increases, but some of them award extra perk points or modify abilities on the perk trees. Each one goes all the way up to 60.
  • You can buy cars online now: V's days of having to manually travel to cars before buying them are over. Cars are for sale via online catalogs at most computer terminals, and that includes cars with mounted machine guns (missile launcher cars are exclusive to Phantom Liberty).
  • Cops act more like cops: Night City's old teleporting police force was so hilariously silly that I'm almost sad they're gone. In its place is a five-star noteriety system ripped straight from a Rockstar game. Cops give chase, call for backup, and yell at you for shooting their friends. I drove around causing a ruckus until I had four stars, then I action slid out of my car and got ran over by a cop.
  • You can pet cats now: I think this is new. I pet a random cat on the street, separate from the one you can get to live in V's apartment.

So yeah, there's a lot going on here and I'm just getting started. I'm excited by what's to come and impressed by CDPR's willingness to rethink Cyberpunk's fundamentals and throw out what didn't work. If the prospect of partnering up with Idris Elba for a spy thriller story wasn't reason enough to jump back into Night City, Update 2.0 is making a pretty good argument on its own. 

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.