Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty review – A worthy return to Night City
Phantom Liberty, the long-awaited expansion to CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077 has fans geared up for a return to Night City as their favorite mercenary V. However, is it worth your time, and is it redemption for the base game’s initial launch?
Every once in a while, a game gets a second chance to redeem itself following a rocky launch. Titles like Final Fantasy XIV, No Man’s Sky, and Destiny 2 were widely criticized upon their arrival but eventually found their redemption.
After a lot of work by a developer, both innovating and working with the community, these titles soared to new heights and cemented their place in the gaming sphere. The solution? An overhaul of their key structure and the introduction of stellar expansions to elevate the base game.
Polish developer CD Projekt RED met a similar fate when it initially released its most ambitious action RPG, Cyberpunk 2077, in 2020. Despite its hyped marketing campaign, it received mixed reviews with numerous complaints about its poor optimization on previous-gen consoles and bugs across all platforms.
Now, three years later, CDPR is back with Phantom Liberty — a new expansion that aims to deliver a complete overhaul of the game, while also adding plenty of content. Excitingly, it’s a relief to say, this is the version of Cyberpunk 2077 fans have been waiting for.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty – Key details
- Price: $29.99 USD | £24.99 GBP | $44.95 AUD
- Developer: CD Projekt RED
- Release date: September 26, 2023
- Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty trailer
A spy-thriller set in the dystopian future
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty delivers on its promise from the start. This is an action spy thriller, where you are hired by a NUSA (New United States of America) intelligence agent and Netrunner Songbird to defend President Myers following a spacecraft disaster.
You’ll be stepping back into the shoes of V, and your motive for helping out here is simple: Songbird claims to have a cure to remove Johnny Silverhand’s relic from your head and spare you from death.
Phantom Liberty offers an alternate storyline as it takes you away from Night City’s fixers, corpo rats, and the Voodoo Boys of Pacifica. It places you in the far more perilous sector of Dogtown, where the stakes are higher, but the rewards greater.
Soon after, you’re teamed up with NUSA sleeper agents Solomon Reed (Idris Elba) and Alex. They help you survive through a militia-ruled Dogtown, run by Colonel Kurt Hansen and his fleet of Barghest Soldiers, who are all too ready to eliminate Night City residents, the NCPD, and NUSA agents.
Dogtown is distinct in its own right — it feels more catastrophic and dismal, comparable to the world of The Last of Us, than the gleaming neon in Night City. There’s someone on every corner looking to flatline you, and the Fixers can only do so much to keep Hansen’s hounds at bay.
The expansion comes with big upgrades
Phantom Liberty isn’t your typical DLC. While CDPR has repeatedly indicated that it’s an expansion, it felt more like a total overhaul to me. If this had launched without the newly added Update 2.0 features, it could have felt like there was a broader issue lingering, especially with the technical problems Cyberpunk 2077 had at launch.
Fortunately, the newly added features and a re-imagining of gameplay mechanics make Phantom Liberty feel like a particularly potent addition to the base game. A completely rebuilt skills and abilities tree improves gameplay significantly, as you now have more RAM capacity to use numerous quick hacks and more powerful perks at hand.
The new Relic skill tree, which unlocks as soon as you dive into Phantom Liberty, is one of the more noteworthy additions to the expansion. Working for President Myers, an ex-CEO of Militech, comes with its own set of benefits, including the ability to unleash the full power of the Arasaka Relic Shard jacked into your skull.
These Relic Skills add an enticing icing to an already compelling cake. They make full use of your Cybernetic Implants and allow you to choose your own combat style, such as building yourself into a Ninja, Netrunner, or Solo Slammer using the Build Planner. The increased gore in combat only adds to the visceral action you’ve come to expect from Night City too.
Sink in the new Chrome in Dogtown
One flaw here though is that V can only install a certain number of Cyberware implants simultaneously. This limit is tied to your level and increases as your character develops and gains levels, so you can feel somewhat restricted early on.
This is a rational change, however. Those who have seen the Cyberpunk: Edgerunners anime will be well aware of what too many cybernetic implants can do to a person. So, in order to prevent V from becoming a Cyberpsycho, each item of Cyberware you install contributes to the limit, forcing you to be mindful of how you alter your build.
Your Cyberware also now contributes to your armor. Moreover, with a revamped interface, purchasing and selecting Cyberware mods at a Ripperdoc is now a much more dynamic and intuitive experience.
There’s also the not-insignificant matter of numerous new weapons, including all sorts of diabolical guns and lethal Katanas that can deflect enemy bullets and slash enemies to pieces. Phantom Liberty’s gunfights are incredibly satisfying, and the game’s Mantis Blades and Monowire finishers are sheer violent genius.
You can also purchase vehicles equipped with projectile missiles or firearms from a number of kiosks in Night City or Dogtown. These vehicles provide the ideal escape from Hansen’s hounds or regular thugs attempting to flatline you. And believe me, shooting at enemies while driving and jumping out of the vehicle to get a closer shot feels extremely cinematic and is something you will want to indulge in repeatedly.
The City of Dreams is now more stunning than ever
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty’s next-gen visuals are now a real showcase of CD Projekt’s technical prowess, as the neon-laced streets in Dogtown and Night City glisten magnificently across the cyber-infused landscape. Playing on a PS5, the game ran excellently, which was an incredible relief after the rocky console release of the original game.
From the most intense combat sequences to adrenaline-fueled car chases, everything in Phantom Liberty is a testament to the amount of effort CDPR put into this expansion, and Update 2.0 provides fans with a redemptive experience for the RPG.
The vehicle combat controls are a blast, the showy action is great and the cybernetic add-ons only enhance the experience. As the expansion’s stakes rise, so does the importance of your decisions. Phantom Liberty reinstates the traditional climax, in which player decisions affect the story’s final outcome. The expansion’s lore, on the other hand, felt much more polished to me as it invited my input on key decisions and made me feel the plight of the new characters.
The game delves into the consequences of these choices and the moral dilemmas they pose, creating a thought-provoking narrative that challenges players’ preconceptions. By the time I reached the end of Phantom Liberty and unlocked a few alternate endings, Cyberpunk 2077 sparked to life in front of me.
When combined with the Phantom Liberty expansion, the game becomes one of the best action RPGs on the market. It’s a worthy return to Night City, and the expansion lives up to its lofty aspirations with intriguing new characters, and a fascinating story. For players who can forgive the base game’s admittedly rocky debut and shaky foundation, Phantom Liberty delivers on many of its promises and provides the remarkable gaming experience that you’ve always wanted.
The Verdict – 5/5
CD Projekt RED has repeated its excellence of great DLC for their RPGs with Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty. Much like with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the developer has crafted a meaningful expansion on the base game. They’ve clearly learned from their mistakes, listened to the community, and expanded the game to provide a larger-than-life experience to its devoted fanbase.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5