I think this is a valid criticism of the system how it was before and agree the new one isn't right either. For me it's not just the sense of progression that was missing but the clusterdness of phone calls and map icons that was an issue. As you say made V feel like the hottest shit in town. So the way to get calls/accept missions should also be a concern fixing thisMy issue is with pacing and how it fits in the lore. In every SP open world rpg one of the most important/difficult things to design is balancing of Freedom, Character Progression/Difficulty and Immersion.
You need to lead player to quests and encounters to the player in immersive fashion, but also "gate" harder ones in a way that feels organic, intutive, while still making the world feel open and inviting to explore ( so there aren't constant "roadblocks").
CDPR really does this exceptionally poorly, both with levels/difficulty and with quests.
"Old system" of gigs makes V feel like you're the greatest/only merc in town, all the fixers at your beck and call, constantly monitoring you and giving you gigs at your convenience.
They went too far with making access to content as convenient as possible ( skipping introduction to fixers altogether, and "low level" quests) so it strips the world of connection to the player and turns into a giant checklist.
Now they added "progression" of a sort, but in a very simplistic and inorganic way, without really fixing core issue. ( I guess this shows there are no shortcuts to good design)
By having first segment more linear, with a few gigs and direct dalogue with fixers, it serves a narrative/worldbuilding purpose of introduction, and progression.
Then after this, majority of gigs becomes accessible ( 75% or so, in the area) and player can simply ask for specific type of gig in any location, nearest to your own: this is where you give the player more agency and freedom, while reducing backtracking. This is also good way to have more accessible difficulty ( so if you're specialized into stealth, you can ask for those type of gigs first)
Then last, after you've done those, fixers will call you and offer you more complex gigs ( like Sinnerman).