While I wait for Phantom Liberty, I'm replaying Cyberpunk 2077 as a hardboiled detective

Cyberpunk 2077
(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

The upcoming release of the Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty expansion has motivated me to once again hit the streets of Night City and start over fresh. But instead of simply repeating my way through another playthrough, I'm doing things a little differently. Phantom Liberty promises to be a "spy-thriller" in a new district, with Idris Elba's Reed Solomon in tow. Previously, I expressed my desire to see the upcoming DLC fill the LA Noire-shaped hole in my life, but not long after I had a revelation: why wait, when I can turn V into a hardboiled detective of my own making in Cyberpunk 2077 already? 

After waxing lyrical about the fact that I like to think of myself as a detective in CD Projekt Red's neon tinted open-world, I started to wonder why I didn't just go all in on this idea and do it for real. With so many gigs and side jobs that set the scene for me to role-play as a no nonsense private investigator, I set out to turn Cyberpunk 2077 into the detective game I've been pining for since I put on Cole's brogues in Rockstar's crime thriller. 

Gumshoe garments   

Cyberpunk 2077

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

The devil, as they say, is in the details, so it makes sense to put some time and effort into acquiring the perfect outfit to bring my vision for V to life to start off with. After spending a chunk of time making my way through the opening portion of Cyberpunk 2077, I work to rake in enough eddies to secure the right clothing items - and progress far enough to access certain gigs - before I begin my role-playing journey in earnest. Drawing inspiration from the often flawed private investigators of hardboiled detective fiction, I pull up images of Humphrey Bogart in the classic 1946 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep

Since Cyberpunk 2077 takes place in a dark, futuristic setting with its own distinct aesthetic, finding just the right clothing items to capture the classic gumshoe style proves to be a bit of a challenge. Maybe I could throw out the rulebook and rock some shiny pink hot pants or a garish leopard print number, but that would be a whole other kind of detective story. While I have some trousers and a jacket already secured in my wardrobe that befit the style, it becomes clear with some research under my belt that there's only one hat and a few select shirts that really capture the look I'm going for. 

With a shopping list of items to hand, I drive from store to store to try to bag the items that will round off my look. When I finally catch sight of the coveted Durable Felt Blend Trilby, I feel like I've struck gold. Sure, it all but obscures the hairdo I sport, and looks pretty darn ugly all things considered, but it's the closest I'm going to get to Cole's attire in LA Noire, or Bogart's signature '40s style. 

Thanks to the very welcome introduction of the wardrobe transmog feature last year, I'm able to switch up V's look without having to downgrade my armor's stats. Fortunately, this means I have the freedom to turn V into a PI who simultaneously looks the part and is well protected when I walk right into the face of danger. When I finally see the completed look in the mirror of V's apartment, my excitement reaches its peak. Now I'm ready, I think to myself. It's time to step out into Night City as a well-dressed private detective and do what I do best: investigate

I spy gigs  

Night City. A place full of corruption, dirty dealings, and crime. As a lone PI, it's my oyster. With so many gigs - which are essentially optional side quests given by local fixers - dotted around each district, there's no shortage of clients out there in need of someone with my particular talents. Some are better suited to my chosen profession than others, though. With various gig types that have different objectives, you can go from being a gun for hire, to swiping some contraband. Personally, I enjoy Agent Saboteur gigs the most, and they just so happen to fit perfectly with my role-play. 

As the name suggests, these are more covert in nature, and will often see you hack some hardware to install a virus, or plant something sight unseen. One such gig titled Breaking News sees me meet with a client in their car as they rundown my objective: place a tracker on a van without being spotted by anyone inside, or by the many security cameras monitoring the garage. The whole set up for the gig allows me to fall right into my detective-style fantasy. I'm no longer a Nomad merc; I'm a bonafide PI who's taking on a job that will bring me into the heart of a criminal organization. 

So many gigs just beg for you to use your stealthy ways to bypass enemies, or look for alternative routes to work around a location. With my investigative chops (and quick hacking prowess), I'm able to make short work of the task at hand and slip out of the garage after planting the tracker; it's as if I was never there in the first place.

Of course, locating missing persons or rescuing kidnapped victims is another common calling when it comes to detective work, and particular gigs feed right into this side of the PI life. After receiving a call about a missing woman who's been getting too close for comfort to a gang's seedy operations, I'm suddenly in a small market square, flicking the image of the person in question to merchants and asking about her whereabouts. It's as close as I've come to feeling like I'm LA Noire's Cole in Night City. Now we're talking. 

The lady in pink 

Cyberpunk 2077

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

While I suspect Phantom Liberty will be a different kind of spy-thriller, my gumshoe escapades have certainly prepared me for whatever lies ahead.

My role-play isn't truly complete until I take on one of my favorite side jobs, which directly references Raymond Chandler. Located at the El Coyote Cojo bar in Heywood, the optional mission titled 'Raymond Chandler Evening' revolves around a request from local bartender and acquaintance, Pepe Najarro. Pepe believes his wife is being unfaithful, and it's up to me to investigate. 

Looking into infidelity in a city "shrouded in darkness"? What could be more perfect for a gritty PI like me? Upon arriving, I scout the street for the woman in question who I'm told is dressed in pink. Johnny Silverhand then begins to narrate over me as though he's reading directly from the pages of a Chandler novel. 

When I tail Pepe's wife covered only by the darkness of the night, Johnny brings the noir feel to life by talking over the scene: "It was her. The Lady in pink, breaker of hearts, framed by a halo of cigarette smoke. I followed her…". V may express their exasperation at Silverhand's interference, but I couldn't love it more in this moment: not only do I look the part, but right now I feel like I'm really playing the part, too. 

As it turns out, it's pretty easy to transform Cyberpunk 2077 into a noir-style detective game if you want to. Get your hands on the right threads, locate the right gigs, and you're away. Oh, and for an added touch, only tune into the Royal Blue jazz radio station and get your hands on the Thornton Colby C125 - as the most popular car that isn't too flashy, it makes for the perfect set of wheels to go around Night City on a case without attracting attention. While I suspect Phantom Liberty will be a different kind of spy-thriller, my gumshoe escapades have certainly prepared me for whatever lies ahead. 

See what's on the horizon alongside Phantom Liberty with our roundup of upcoming CD Projekt Red games.

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.