While Cyberpunk 2077 sucked on all levels, Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is looking to change the narrative back to what the original launch should have been. If you’re new to Cyberpunk’s neon-lit, dystopian take on the New USA, you should know that just three years ago, developer CD Projekt Red released Cyberpunk 2077 to the masses. Needless to say, the launch was terrible.
Everything from rampant bugs to underwhelming gameplay rendered the game practically unplayable. Given developer CD Projekt Red’s work in Witcher 3, it seemed completely improbable and frankly disappointing that they would release Cyberpunk 2077 in its current state. However, the studio was determined to restore cyberpunk to its intended glory. So, they went back into the garage and released subsequent patches and updates to ditch the game’s soggy parts and iron out its squeaky gameplay.
None of those efforts compare, though, to the recently released free Cyberpunk 2077 2.0 update alongside its first and only paid expansion: Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty. In many ways, the developer has molded the re-release to portray Cyberpunk’s original vision in a smooth and seamless way.
Yet, they have exceeded mere patchwork to present to the world an emotional rollercoaster ride with a near-endless stream of thrilling action, packed within a setting as vibrant yet intriguing in its lawless nature as Night City originally was.
Except this is still very much a fresh futuristic and post-apocalyptic universe, both in industry and influence, rendering it a must-play for anyone daring to give famed CD Projekt Red another shot at what they’ve already proven to do best. For all intents and purposes, here are all the ways Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty far exceeds expectations.
For what seems like a genius idea, CD Projekt Red reintroduces Cyberpunk 2077 to the world. They overhauled the original gameplay in place of a new version that runs smoothly without fault. Every trip down the skills and perks corridors proves exciting rather than underwhelming.
They’ve tossed away all of the bogged-down processes of character progression and instead only left what works and works well. Needless to say, the streamlined skill trees are all important and thus motivate you to climb the ladder onward into the playthrough.
Remember the seemingly rampant dildos you had to pick up every so often—a wacky attempt at humor, I suppose? Well, all that is gone for the better. The same goes for the rampant glitches that would spin people up into the air – pay no mind to the laws of gravity.
My favorite is the police system. There’s a reason Grand Theft Auto’s police send a chill down your spine as you attempt to escape handcuffing in a wild goose chase around the bustling streets of San Andreas. They respond as they would in real life: not too soon, not too late.
They also don’t appear out of nowhere the very second you mistakenly discharge your weapon in public. It just works, and Cyberpunk 2077’s attempt to mimic the same flushed down the drain so quickly that I’m surprised I’ve dwelt too much on it.
But that’s because the police system has received a complete overhaul. It’s fun and authentic. So, any fans of police and robbers out here, get ready to get down and dirty with the lawmakers out in Night City.
All of the new changes, the ones that came with the 2.0 updates as well as the ones the developer has been making over the years, culminate in an actually not-so-badly exciting experience.
From the crowds to the traffic, every cog that runs Night City seems to be bolstered perfectly and greased to turn around without fault. Of course, there are still a few minor glitches here and there, but those hardly ever interrupt the overall enticing new and improved gameplay Cyberpunk 2077 has to offer.
But our interest here is in the expansion: Phantom Liberty, and with these new improvements bolstered into the expansion’s gameplay as well, I have to say it’s a playthrough worth your time and money. Here’s why.
Sometime in the middle of your up-and-down run-ins with the law, you’ll come across a tucked-away brand-new district. It's walled up from Night City’s high-octane mercenary vibes. Drifting off into the aura of this place, you’ll almost instantaneously notice the change in tone and atmosphere. This part of Night City, alluringly called Dogtown, is run by a self-appointed Barghest military group.
Their leader, Kurt Hansen, swears better living conditions free from the oppressive corporate leadership of Night City. As always, though, Hurt Kansen quickly forgets his ways. He abuses his newfound power to enact a new kind of oppression – arguably the worst kind – for his own gain.
Dogtown looks like its name. It’s a rundown place whose every turn illustrates all sorts of suffering. There are lush places, too, but those are occupied by the privileged. It’s the way the people here talk and describe this place that makes it seem so huge and in-depth. Yet, this is only a slice of Night City, where you’ll spend a good 14 hours exploring.
This is Phantom Liberty, and you can always come in here as you like, whether after the end of the main game or whenever. Why come here, you ask? Well, Dogtown tells a spy thriller parable best experienced for oneself. It starts off simple. Help protect the president of the New USA. Then it gradually unravels into twists and turns I had no idea an RPG could accommodate.
It’s the kind of story that tests your morality and decision-making. You won’t even know when that moment draws close. But you’ll feel it, sometimes for the moment-to-moment gameplay it spans for. Part of that tense thriller carries forward thanks to a diverse and deeply personified cast. Keanu Reaves returns.
But this time, he’s quite an interesting fellow with valuable input to give, albeit in cheeky one-liners. He presents a fresh breath of personality uncommon in cyberpunk games and, almost always, is a pleasure to run ideas by. Then there’s Idris Elba: a most impeccable performance you can expect from him, and enjoy a fitting depiction of his role as the grizzling aging spy. He and Songbird knit the plot together, with a lot of chemistry and tension between them to boot.
Down and Dirty
The narrative also unfolds in “gigs,” which are side missions that lead you down an objective as rabbit-hole-ridden as the missions themselves. In some ways, Phantom Liberty may exceed Cyberpunk’s 2077, perhaps in the same way Witcher 3: Blood and Wine did – at least as far as the characters and storytelling are concerned.
There are some massive consequences to wrap one’s head around, all neatly tied into the missions themselves.
Skill-tree wise, in addition to the revamp, includes a new Relic skill, which you unlock in Phantom Liberty's first quest: Dog Eat Dog. It helps to curate a fresh, separate experience, along with new loot to toy with.
Crafting a playstyle is exciting, with numerous junctures to consider and re-consider options. Whether a stealthy, slasher, or gunner player, there are skills you may need to prioritize. However, other skills may blend into varied playstyles, like a stealthy player who can throw a punch.
It helps to truly think about what works for you rather than become a jack-of-all-trades willing to dabble in anything that looks cool. Additionally, armor now links to cyberware rather than clothes. While it can seem inconsequential, it does neatly tie in with and elevate your cybernetics thought process.
There are more changes than we can count: some subtle, while others desperately needed. You’ll see skill tree changes, a revamped wanted system, and cyberware reworks. These culminate in a quality-of-life upgrade in how Cyberpunk plays. With the changes the Cyberpunk 2077 2.0 Update and Phantom Liberty bring, Cyberpunk now feels like the RPG it was always meant to be.
However, with all the appreciation and many thanks we have for CD Projekt Red fixing Cyberpunk, there are no words that can describe the kind of satisfying and thrilling gameplay Phantom Liberty brings to the table.
Phantom Liberty tests your very conscience. It does so in the most seamless and refreshing ways the RPG and cyberpunk world has ever seen. It’s a rollercoaster story that feels every bit as captivating as Dogtown itself. It pulls at the heartstrings, thanks to a diverse cast expertly written and performed to believable stature.
The same goes for the structural plot, which ties in perfectly with the holistic, interconnected open-world design. If CD Projekt Red were to tell a new story set in Dogtown, Night City, or create yet another new combat zone in a sequel or whatever, I have to say I’ll be wigging my imaginary tail, plain excited to see what the studio decides to cook up next.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review (PS5, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)
A Come Back Story, Perhaps the Best One Ever
I’m happy to say that Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty delivers way above all the hype. It’s engrossing, thrilling, and quite the worthy return-to-form comeback story for famed developer CD Projekt Red.