Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release Date: September 26, 2023
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is a perfect send-off for what is arguably the most notorious game release in recent memory. This expansion encapsulates the best of Cyberpunk 2077 and distills it down into a 10 to 15-hour adventure. On top of that, it also contains numerous gameplay updates and improvements that help enhance and streamline the core mechanics. Phantom Liberty is the full package, and then some.
With Phantom Liberty, Cyberpunk 2077 has completed its beleaguered journey. Though it might fall short of what was promised in the game’s alluring E3 2018 trailer, there’s no denying that, in its present form, it’s now one of the finest RPGs ever released. It’s come a long way since our original Cyberpunk 2077 review from 2020. If you’ve somehow never played Cyberpunk 2077, this is the ideal time to see what it’s all about.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is not only a fantastic expansion, but it also completes Cyberpunk 2077’s redemption arc. It truly is one of the best PC games, best Xbox Series X games and best PS5 games of all time. Read my full review to find out why.
Welcome to Dogtown
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty takes place in Dogtown, which was a previously closed-off section of Pacifica. Pacifica was the most lawless and dilapidated sector in Night City, but Dogdown is a borderline post-apocalyptic hellscape. After the president of the New United States’ orbital shuttle crash lands in Dogtown, protagonist V is tasked with retrieving her.
V isn’t exactly the most upstanding citizen, depending on your playstyle during the main game, but they have a powerful incentive for rescuing the president. Namely, a potential means to prevent the biochip embedded in their brain from killing them.
This is V’s driving motivation during the main game, but a new character named Songbird offers a more concrete means of achieving that goal. Of course, it won’t be easy as V must contend with an army of former Militech soldiers led by a man named Kurt Hansen, who is the defacto dictator of Dogtown.
Phantom Liberty plays out like a cyberpunk-infused techno spy-thriller, with tons of twists and turns throughout the labyrinthine narrative. Along the way, you’ll meet morally grey individuals like the aforementioned Songbird, FIA agents Solomon Reed (played by Idris Elba), and Alex, and a slew of supporting characters.
The plot has excellent pacing, with a brisk skip in its step that keeps you guessing what will come next. That said, there are also plenty of slower moments and even introspective segments that provide further insight into Dogtown and those you’re dealing with. Story-wise, Phantom Liberty delivers the goods.
Speaking of fleshing out the world, Phantom Liberty’s side quests not only help expand world-building, they also provide excellent self-contained stories. I won’t spoil anything, but there are a handful of missions that I’m still thinking about. That’s no surprise since this was generally the case with Cyberpunk 2077, but it’s great seeing such engaging side quests all the same.
The only complaint I have is that Phantom Liberty feels somewhat tonally disconnected from the rest of Cyberpunk 2077. Given the number of years since launch, it's not surprising that this expansion feels different. This isn't a major detriment, but it's clear that Phantom Liberty was developed well after the main game dropped.
The Phantom Liberty expansion would have been enough, but CD Projekt RED saw fit to completely overhaul key gameplay mechanics that affect the entirety of Cyberpunk 2077. Even if you don’t buy Phantom Liberty, you can still enjoy the new mechanics completely for free. Cyberpunk 2077 had already gotten to a good state by the summer of last year, but Update 2.0 further makes the game live up to its potential.
Perks and skills have gotten the biggest overhaul. Upon booting up the 2.0 update, your skill points get returned since almost none of the previous perks and skills exist. This gives you a chance to create a new V from scratch — one with skills that can better accommodate your preferred playstyle. I went with a gunslinger build, but hacker or ninja options are just viable. Best of all, you can reset skills at any time without penalty.
Phantom Liberty features a new Relic skill tree featuring brand-new perks that can complement existing ones. For example, those with melee builds can employ new abilities for Mantis Blades and Gorilla arms, while stealthy players can use an emergency cloak that renders them invisible.
You can only get Relic points from hidden locations in Dogtown or from Songbird, which is an interesting take on earning skills. Overall, Relic points add to the game’s already robust customization options.
The cyberware and armor system also get a significant revamp. V now has a limited number of cyberware they can have installed at any one time, depending on their level. But as V levels up, the more cyberware (and better) cyberware they can use.
This forces you to prioritize certain cyberware components over others, which can be frustrating in the moment but rewarding later on after you’ve reached the required level. Armor is now tied to cyberware instead of clothing. This allows you to wear whatever you want without fear of compromising your defense.
Other overhauls include a new GTA-like police system where the cops' response escalates depending on your actions. You can also now engage in vehicle combat either by firing your guns or using vehicle-mounted weapons. Speaking of firing your arsenal, stamina now drains when you’re shooting guns, which can make tense shootouts even more harrowing. These gameplay changes make Cyberpunk 2077 more engaging.
This is a game that is now a different cyborg than it was at launch, but one thing that’s remained constant is this title's stellar presentation. There’s a reason it’s one of the main games I use when testing the best gaming laptops and the best gaming monitors. Cyberpunk 2077 is a marvel to behold.
I’ve played Cyberpunk 2077 on some of the best gaming PCs and on the PS5 (post-update) and found the game stunning on both platforms. Of course, the best visual experience possible is on a high-end PC with ray tracing and other graphical effects cranked to the max. But even if you’re playing Cyberpunk 2077 on Steam Deck, your eyes won’t be disappointed.
Phantom Liberty features the same graphical fidelity as the main game since it’s still set within Night City, which you’re free to explore at any time. As I said, Dogtown is even more rundown than Pacifica, and the game does a great job of showing bombed-out tenements to luxurious high-rises in stunning detail.
Even if Dogtown isn’t exactly inviting, I still made sure to take in all the sights whenever I wasn’t in a shootout with crazed gangs or soldiers. The attention to detail is awe-inspiring.
Cyberpunk 2077: Revived
I’ve been with Cyberpunk 2077 since launch, and it’s one of the strangest journeys I’ve seen a game venture upon. I won’t list all the sordid details, but suffice it to say, the subsequent patches and updates eventually have given us the experience we expected in 2020.
In 2022, I said now was the best time to play Cyberpunk 2077 — and I’m doubling down on that statment again thanks to the exceptional Phantom Liberty expansion.
This DLC looks like it could be the end of the road for Cyberpunk 2077, and I couldn’t think of a finer conclusion. I’ve always enjoyed this action-RPG, even when it suffered from glaring bugs and glitches. But now, I can wholeheartedly recommend this exceptional experience to just about everyone.
Cyberpunk 2077 is undoubtedly one of the best games of this generation.