Cyberpunk 2077 offers a bleak, dystopian vision of the future, not only in the gameplay setting of Night City but in the broader context, the embattled, corporate-controlled polity known as the New United States of America (NUSA). Though situated geographically between the Free States of North and South California, Night City is technically autonomous, an independent city-state without external alliances or affiliations. But the political and economic dynamics of the NUSA influence what goes on in Night City and in the player’s experience of it, in the original game and, apparently, to an even larger extent in Phantom Liberty, the forthcoming expansion.
The much-anticipated and subsequently lamented Cyberpunk 2077 is an action RPG developed by CD Projekt Red and published by CD Projekt. Following its 2020 release, the console game was plagued by bugs and performance issues, but a series of patches and upgrades for Cyberpunk 2077 have fixed many of its prior defects, sparking a new rush of interest in the game. The recovery has been so strong that as of September 2022, Cyberpunk 2077 has sold some 20 million copies worldwide and CD Projekt has announced the release of the Phantom Liberty DLC, scheduled for 2023, and is said to be working on a sequel for future release.
Not much has been revealed about the forthcoming DLC, but one thing is certain: the NUSA will figure prominently in the expansion’s story. The trailer announcing the expansion features V, the protagonist in the first game, taking an oath of loyalty to the NUSA and being admonished for doing so by Johnny Silverhand, voiced once again by Keanu Reeves. Given the apparent centrality of the NUSA to the events in the DLC (and the recent announcement of a Cyberpunk 2077 sequel by CD Projekt Red), now is a good time to examine the New United States of America: what it is, how it works, and how it might figure in the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 expansion.
Cyberpunk 2077’s New United States of America: A History
To understand how the NUSA figures in Cyberpunk 2077, it is necessary to go back to 1994. In that year – according to the parallel history in which Night City and the NUSA exist – the US stock market crashed, launching a depression that left millions of people homeless and companies and cities across the nation bankrupt. A period of political upheaval known as “the Collapse” followed the crash, which included the assassinations of leading political figures, a series of small international conflicts, and the appearance of “Free States” – among them Texas, Oregon, Washington, the Dakotas, and California (which itself subsequently split in two) – declaring their independence from the corrupt and ineffective – or “gonk,” an insult in Cyberpunk 2077 slang – national government.
But without the support of a federal government, the Free States and their citizens suffered. Millions of Americans died from starvation, disease, or violence during the Collapse and the years that followed, as international wars between nations and massive corporate entities, or megacorporations, ensued. Millions more became nomadic refugees in the land that had been their country as the NUSA lost much of its domestic power and international standing. By the middle of the 21st century, the government of the New United States controlled only the east coast and part of the country’s Midwest.
Meanwhile, west of the Mississippi River, chaos reigned, with different states forming coalitions to stave off collapse. In municipalities where local governments failed to operate, megacorporations filled the gap, providing services and security in exchange for authoritarian powers of governance (and setting up some of Cyberpunk 2077‘s best main missions). Elsewhere, Free State governments nationalized corporate assets to try and bring rogue megacorporations under control and the NUSA did the same, eventually subsuming the megacorporation Militech while effectively being taken over from within by Militech executives.
In 2069, newly elected NUSA president Rosalind Myers (former CEO of Militech) launched the Unification War to force the Free States back into the union. The result was a tenuous treaty that allowed the Free States to maintain their autonomy while requiring their cooperation with the NUSA. Megacorporations, meanwhile, gained increased prominence – Militech, though annexed by the NUSA, had basically taken control of the nation, while Japan’s Arasaka supported the Free States. By 2077, when Cyberpunk begins, tensions remain high, poverty is endemic, and Night City is clinging to its own precarious autonomy.
Night City Is Officially Autonomous In Cyberpunk 2077
Though it ended up being a place with no birds, Cyberpunk 2077‘s Night City didn’t start out as a hell on earth. To the contrary, during the chaos of the 1990s, businessman Richard Night constructed a planned, self-reliant city called Coronado, intended to be crime-free, prosperous, and safe from the ravages going on elsewhere in the disintegrating United States. Financed by megacorporations like Arasaka, Coronado City (renamed Night City after its visionary founder was murdered by gang bosses seeking to control his dream municipality) quickly went off the rails, with a strong economy but rife with crime and violence. After the Unification War, Night City – formerly part of the Free State of North California but unaligned during the war – was declared an international Free City with no allegiance to NoCal or the NUSA, making it technically a self-contained democracy but for all intents and purposes under the control of Arasaka.
Cyberpunk 2077 DLC Will Feature The NUSA
This is the wider setting against which the events of Cyberpunk 2077 – worth playing with next-gen updates – take place. Though the game contains plenty of enemies for the protagonist, V, and their allies to fight, Arasaka Megacorp is essentially the prime antagonist in the story, the behind-the-scenes power that runs the city and controls the lives of its inhabitants. Arasaka creates weapons and cyberware, which figures in the game narrative, and runs Night City’s police and security apparatus who hunt the player and their friends. The company is also the object that various game characters compete to control, though how exactly that competition plays out depends on in-game decisions the player, as V, makes in the course of the action. The New United States of America exists in the background of these events, providing the broader context against which the gameplay is set.
The NUSA, it would appear, comes more clearly into focus in the upcoming DLC for Cyberpunk 2077, called Phantom Liberty. V – possibly involved in some conflicts beyond Night City – pledges allegiance to the NUSA, though whether that has something to do with those conflicts or the ongoing events in Night City remains to be seen. CD Projekt has described Phantom Liberty as a spy-thriller story set in an as-yet unexplored part of Night City, leaving players to speculate how exactly the NUSA figures in the story, and whether it appears as an aid to the game’s protagonist or – as Johnny Silverhand declares in the DLC trailer’s voice over – whether taking an oath to serve it was a bad idea.