Cyberpunk 2077's Phantom Liberty expansion is out now on Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC.
The game takes place in the middle of the base game's main quest.
The game improves and learns from key foundational issues present in the base game.
Cyberpunk 2077 has seen incremental updates over the last couple of years, with the game progressively appearing more impressive year-on-year. The latest and only expansion, Phantom Liberty, is a final punctuation mark, standing as a testament to CD Projekt's tireless toil these last few years. On the foundations of the sweeping changes from 2.0, CD Projekt was able to address some of the base game's most disappointing aspects and fix some fundamental issues with quests.
For one, Phantom Liberty's quests feel a little bit more open-ended, with players having a lot more agency when it comes to key decisions. This is true for not just the main quest, but also Gigs and Side Missions, which feel far more rewarding and deeper this time around. Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty expansion is a solid ride from start to finish and the game's insistence on player choice to combat monotony and encourage replay value is an inspired decision.
The expansion carries forward the legacy of CD Projekt's fantastic expansions a la Blood & Wine and Hearts of Stone for The Witcher 3. The game is a tightly-scoped yet ambitious foray that rarely ever makes a misstep - both in terms of gameplay or story. Right until the final credits roll, Phantom Liberty weaves a tale of espionage and paranoia that will have players second-guessing every character's motives and consistently keeping them on edge. CD Projekt's final flourish on Cyberpunk 2077 ends in a dangerously addictive expansion that has a lot of replay value, perhaps even more so than the base game.
Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty: 17 Hours of Pure Paranoia and Chaos
The biggest change the 2.0 update brings to the table is easily the new Perks and Skill Progression systems. For one, it gives the game more of an RPG feel than any other system in the game. Previously, "builds" weren't really a thing in the game as my gameplay style didn't have to necessarily match what I dump my Attribute and Perks points into. The game combats this by introducing a new "Skill Progression" system that takes into account your play style.
For instance, playing as a stealthy Netrunner through Gigs and Quests will automatically level your "Netrunner", "Headhunter", and "Shinobi" Skills. While if you're going guns blazing into firefights, you'll gain XP for "Solo". This gives you access to certain key gameplay benefits such as increased movement speed, perk points, etc. Thus, incentivizing players to stick to their build, resulting in a more specialized character rather than a "Jack of All Trades" type character.
Melee combat has also received a massive upgrade in terms of balancing, making them infinitely more viable in both the base game and Phantom Liberty. The improved gunplay and melee balancing are all great things, but it also means you're going to want to play on a higher difficulty if you seek a challenge. On the Normal difficulty, my V was able to plough through multiple waves of enemies without ever breaking a sweat. While that is a perfectly okay way to experience the game, you might want to up the difficulty level if you are over Level 45 heading into Phantom Liberty.
My favourite part about Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty comes from its vastly superior questing as compared to the base game. Side Jobs and Gigs are a far more rewarding experience this time around. For one, every Gig you take up in Dogtown is going to take you upwards of 30-40 minutes to finish and it is replete with important player choice, character development, and most importantly, interesting characters. The district's most powerful Fixer, Mr Hands, has about 10 Gigs for V and each of them presents a unique challenge to the player, both in terms of gameplay as well as the choices they're going to have to make.
Another key area of the game that is sure to excite fans of open-world titles is the introduction of a vastly more competent Police department in Cyberpunk 2077's Night City. Gone are the omnipotent drones that manifest themselves into existence exactly where you're stood, replaced by active NPCs spread all over the city - keeping a watchful eye. Upon witnessing the crime, the player will gain a Wanted Level, much in the vein of games like Grand Theft Auto. To that end, the drill is pretty standard from that point. Continuing to wreak havoc will cause the Police to react more aggressively and evading them is a massively more challenging affair now.
Making the chase a lot more interesting is the fact that you can now shoot out of your vehicle and the police actually chase you now. The vehicular combat is ramped up several notches by introducing the new weaponized vehicles, allowing players to use mounted machine guns and missiles. Finally making it to a 5-star Wanted Level is a taxing challenge and players are rewarded for this extraordinary feat by facing up against MaxTac - Night City's apex predators. MaxTac is the absolute boss of bosses in the game and is liable to rip you to shreds in a matter of seconds.
This open-ended approach to quests is precisely what I felt missing from the base game, which is a feeling echoed by the majority of the Cyberpunk 2077 community. It is truly impressive what the dev team has been able to pull off with side quests and Gigs. That is not to say that the Main Quest doesn't get any of that love. For one, despite the brevity of the story - Phantom Liberty's main quest is filled with a ton of variety, including a very James Bond-style level and a hilariously obvious nod to the character in both the name of the quest as well as a weapon you receive during the quest.
Prior to the release of Phantom Liberty, while I was impressed by the leaps the game has taken in terms of gameplay - I was far more excited about the story. Safe to say, CD Projekt does not disappoint and delivers yet another harrowing tale in Night City that is sure to leave players feeling bittersweet yet again. The overarching theme of "Night City always wins" is prevalent throughout Phantom Liberty as it is in Edgerunners and the base game. However, this time, you're wrapped up in business that will have you question pretty much everything.
The story kicks off with V being contacted by a mysterious netrunner, Songbird, who says that they might be able to fix V's Relic condition. This sets V on a path that has him rescuing a President, working with a dangerous spy, and tango with a warlord. Throughout your time with these characters, the sense of paranoia around whether you're being played is palpable. The main quest is structured extremely well and despite a muddy section right after the explosive opening, Phantom Liberty picks up the pace in a big way and throws a number of curveballs your way.
There is more than just the main quest here in terms of story as there's an interesting subplot with Mr Hands as well. The elusive Fixer appears to be making a powerplay and wants to shift the dynamic of Dogtown in a big way. This is where you come in and strategically strengthen Mr Hands' position in the district. While I enjoyed the main quest a lot, the Mr Hands subplot somehow felt just as rich, if not more.
While Idris Elba graces most of the marketing and promotional material, his character, Solomon Reed didn't feel nearly as significant as he was made out to be. While Reed is certainly a compelling character that has layers to him that I did not expect - the expansion's primary focus is Songbird. Much of the story revolves around her and it helps that she is massively interesting. Phantom Liberty takes learnings from the base game and strives to develop each character outside of their 2-line description. Each character feels like they have their own set of motivations, fears, and most importantly, goals. Idris Elba's Reed is a lot more subdued character than Keanu's Silverhand but there are certainly moments where he's finally let off his leash.
Unfortunately, some characters do not get this multi-layered treatment. Specifically, characters like President Myers and Kurt Hansen (the main villain) leave a lot to be desired. Save for a memorable quest where you play as Kurt Hansen himself (shout to Idris Elba's Choke Hold during this mission), the character never really felt like much of a threat. The same goes for President Myers, who seems to transform into a whole other character should you make different choices towards the end.
Visuals and Performance
While the console version looks about the same, with key improvements to character models (Keanu now has human-like textures on his face), the PC version of the game looks positively gorgeous. Performance doesn't appear to be an issue on the PS5 - no crashes, pesky bugs or annoying glitches in the 11 hours I've logged into the game. The vastly superior UI makes for a far better experience, leaving me baffled as to why the older UI ever felt adequate.
On the graphics side of things, Cyberpunk 2077 remains gorgeous for the most part and I'd highly recommend the PC version to most players if you want to see the game running at its best. Even on a console, the game looks pretty great - with Ray Tracing turning City Central and Corpo Plaza into a retrowave enthusiast's playground. While console players will not have access to Path Tracing, the game is still pretty to look at. Dogtown is devastatingly grimy and the way it's lit makes for a rather interesting visual treat. The harsh, heavy lighting makes for truly memorable and moody set pieces that will be forever etched in the player's minds.
Final Word: Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty
Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty marks the completion of CD Projekt's and Cyberpunk 2077's redemption run and it is safe to say that the game is definitely worth its price tag and then some. The same goes for the expansion that will easily deliver upwards of 15-20 hours of solid gameplay. The seamless performance and the lack of any major bugs or glitches should finally be of some comfort to those who have been waiting on the fence for the last few years.
Phantom Liberty is a delightful dip into paranoia and it makes for one heck of an experience. The game does away with convoluted plots and strives for a much more concise and lean story experience that, in my opinion, is far more rewarding. The expansion makes for a solid companion piece for the game and even affects the base game by offering players a secret base game ending - which should delight fans who wanted an Epilogue.
Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty Expansion
Release date : 2023-09-26
Market Status : LAUNCHED
Publisher : CD Projekt
Developer : CD Projekt RED
- Player choice and agency are prevalent in quests.
- Vastly improved controls and UI.
- Dogtown is a fairly interesting setting.
- Compelling story and characters.
- Progression is vastly improved.
- Mildly uninteresting villain.
Visuals and Sound Design
Value for Money
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