Best Of 2023: Cyberpunk 2077: Breaking The Cycle In Phantom Liberty’s Ending


(spoilers within for Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty; TW: discussion of suicide)

Two Fugitives & The Monorail

Two fugitives are riding a monorail. They’ve escaped capture. They’re home free. Both of them are tired, bloody, bruised, but hopeful. The monorail is about to take them to freedom, to a place where none of their immeasurable crimes matter, where life can have value again, where they can both start anew.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty — Official Cinematic Trailer

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The Game’s Thought-Provoking Theme

Except, no, they can’t. One of them is a liar. The lie means only one of them gets to be free. They both deserve it, have experienced immense amounts of pain to get it. But only one. The liar has fallen unconscious. The other has a choice to make.

And at that moment, for the first time, I actually pause Cyberpunk 2077 during a dialogue option, mere moments from Phantom Liberty’s ending, to seriously consider the ramifications of what happens next. Some minutes later, I make a phone call. And as the final few hours of the game play out, a monologue comes to mind.

“The hardest thing for me was leaving the life. I still love the life. We were treated like movie stars with muscle. We had it all just for the asking….Anything I wanted was a phone call away. Free cars. The keys to a dozen hideout flats all over the city. I’d bet 20, 30 grand over a weekend, and then I’d either blow the winnings in a week or go to the sharks to pay back the bookies. Didn’t matter. It didn’t mean anything. When I was broke, I’d go out and rob some more. We ran everything. We paid off cops. We paid off lawyers. We paid off judges. Everybody had their hands out. Everything was for the taking. And now, it’s all over. And that’s the hardest part. Today, everything is different. There’s no action. I have to wait around like everyone else. Can’t even get decent food. Right after I got here, I ordered spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”

A scene from Phantom Liberty

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Phantom Liberty: Concluding Moments

That monologue, for those unaware, is how Martin Scorsese’s crime drama masterpiece Goodfellas ends. Henry Hill, a high-ranking gangster, turns rat on his friends, goes into witness protection, and his ultimate punishment is….living a pretty decent–if boring–life in the suburbs. It’s actually a fairly common motif in Scorsese’s work, for normie life to feel like consignment to limbo. Similar fates await Ace Rothstein in Casino, Jordan Belfort in Wolf of Wall Street, Frank Sheeran in The Irishman, hell, even Sebastião Rodrigues in Silence. Purgatory is where the vast majority of us live our day to day lives, never to reach absurd, ecstatic highs or terrifying, bloody, brutal lows. It’s not framed as a happy ending or a downer ending, typically. It’s just an ending, as