In Cyberpunk 2077, there are few problems that can’t be solved with either a bullet, a blade, or a colorfully worded variation of “F you.” In Phantom Liberty, the first and only expansion for the game, developer CD Projekt Red throws a curveball at the player in the form of an optional final mission that channels inspiration from one of the greatest survival-horror games of the eighth console generation.
[Ed. note: Spoilers for the endings of Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty.]
After I finished my initial playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, I immediately booted up one of my earlier saves in an effort to circle back and see what other endings the expansion had to offer. After choosing to side with Idris Elba’s Solomon Reed during the mission “Firestarter,” I was led on a series of missions that saw me escaping from the Dogtown warlord Kurt Hansen’s clutches, mounting a coordinated ambush on a MaxTac prisoner convoy, and descending into the bowels of Night City to infiltrate a secret Militech research facility dating back to pre-DataKrash era.
So far, so ordinary; nothing out of the usual for Night City’s most in-demand merc. It’s during the “Somewhat Damaged” mission where the game takes a steep detour into full-on horror, introducing a challenge that can’t be conventionally defeated. The adversary: The Cerebus MK-II, a terrifying experimental spider-mech impervious to ballistic damage, quickhackery, or quippy bon mots. The Cerebus has a predilection for loudly crawling in and out of air ducts while screaming vague threatening shit, and grabs the player to show them the business end of its many, many drill arms.
Essentially, the mission resembles one of the many encounters in Creative Assembly’s 2014 survival horror game Alien: Isolation, except instead of being hunted by an acid-spitting Xenomorph across a derelict retro-futuristic space station, you’re being stalked by the cyberpunk equivalent of System Shock’s Shodan in a mech suit from hell. The whole situation is made even more horrifying by the fact that the closer the Cerberus mech gets to you, the more a cacophony of velvet static seizes the corners of the player’s field of view, accompanied by a sound queue which could only be described as an off-the-rails Philip Glass horror score.
The mission as a whole makes for one of the most nerve-wracking and memorable experiences not only in Phantom Liberty, but in the entirety of Cyberpunk 2077, which makes it all the more extraordinary that players could easily miss out on it themselves. Players who have experienced “Somewhat Damaged” have really taken to the mission, as GamesRadar pointed out in a recent article. Patrick Mills, a Franchise and Lore Designer at CD Projekt Red, tweeted, “I love Alien Isolation and the Frictional Games style, but they are too scary for me. So I decided to make one.”
I would say that he and the rest of the Phantom Liberty team succeed. Apart from being a terrific expansion to Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red managed to sneak in one of the coolest video game horror experiences of the year.