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Cyberpunk 2077's massive Phantom Liberty expansion completes the RPG’s redemption

Ewan Moore

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Cyberpunk 2077's massive Phantom Liberty expansion completes the RPG’s redemption

Featured Image Credit: CD Projekt

If you’d told me a few years about that Cyberpunk 2077’s major expansion was more of the same, I’d have run far away. We don’t really need to hash out why the game was such a mess when it launched - that’s been done plenty. But it was a struggle to recommend to anyone, not particularly fun to play, and a damn shame to see what was clearly a very ambitious and unique game buried under all the rubbish.

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Fast forward a few years and the work CD Projekt RED has done to make Cyberpunk 2077 the game we all knew it could be is nothing short of remarkable. A game that left me so utterly cold when I reviewed it on PlayStation 5 has grown into a phenomenal RPG. The weird bugs and broken world have been tweaked and polished to allow us to enjoy Night City for the genuinely fascinating digital metropolis that it is. When I returned to it in 2022 I found myself obsessed with simply wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere - something that was much easier to do with the game not breaking every 10 minutes.

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Having gone hands-on with Cyberpunk 2077’s substantial and long-awaited Phantom Liberty expansion, I’m delighted to report that the RPG’s redemption arc is complete. This is a polished, cinematic new adventure with tons of new content to enjoy and a gripping new main quest that promises to match the high storytelling quality of previous CD Projekt RED expansions like The Witcher 3’s Hearts Of Stone and Blood And Wine.

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The majority of Phantom Liberty takes place around Dogtown, a sealed-off area of Night City that’s ruled by a vicious militia and lives by its own code. It somehow manages to make the rest of Night City look like Butlins by comparison. V and Johnny (yes, Keanu Reeves is officially back) are pulled into a shady political plot and the world of espionage as they work to save the president from Dogtown’s ruthless leader.

It’s hard to really get a feel for an expansion like this in less than an hour of playtime, but the segments I played through felt like a real statement of intent. The action is way bigger, for one thing. One particularly explosive set piece saw V sprinting through a crumbling warzone, blasting militia in the face with a shotgun while trying to get the president to safety. I should stress that Cyberpunk 2077 still isn’t a first-person shooter and you can approach combat any way you like, but getting stuck into the thick of the action definitely feels way better than it used to.

Cyberpunk 2077/credit: CD Projekt
Cyberpunk 2077/credit: CD Projekt
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There are still plenty of quieter moments, too, and choices that seem like they’ll have a real impact on the story. At one point V takes the president to hide out in an abandoned apartment when two guys stumble in looking for a place to crash. Raising my gun to them to politely tell them the place was occupied, I was happy to let them leave peacefully… until they recognised the president. Given that our fearless leader was supposed to be incognito, I realised it probably wasn’t the best idea to let two strangers wander off with the knowledge of her location. Things got bloody. I suspect letting them leave would’ve created more problems down the line, and CDPR promises that there’ll be plenty of twists and branching paths based on who you decide to trust.

Dogtown itself is markedly different from every other district in Night City, all decaying buildings and trigger-happy gonks on every corner. The rest of Cyberpunk 2077’s world is hardly a tiptoe through the tulips, but there’s a real sense of constant danger and bubbling tensions in Dogtown that makes exploring it feel that much more dangerous. There are, of course, plenty of new side quests and mercenary missions to tackle in addition to the main story, so expect to spend a lot of time getting used to Dogtown’s unique charms.

Then there’s Idris Elba, who plays an old spy contact of the president called Solomon Red and is effectively your main partner and guide through the world of espionage. He only popped up at the very end of the demo but, come on, it’s Idris Elba. Obviously he’s brilliant in this, as he is in everything. Will we be able to romance him? I suspect not, but damn it all if I’m not going to give it a bloody good go. And if that fails, I’ll see if the president is up for it.

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Cyberpunk 2077/credit: CD Projekt
Cyberpunk 2077/credit: CD Projekt

Perhaps the most welcome surprise in Phantom Liberty is how it further fleshes out Johnny Silverhand. I wasn’t really expecting Keanu Reeves to be back in a particularly massive way, but as V tumbles further down the rabbit hole, we learn about an entirely new side of Silverhand and his days in the military. There were one or two moments in my preview when Silverhand dropped the punk swagger and showed a rare vulnerability, allowing Reeves to flex his considerable talents. I won’t spoil anything here, but it’s safe to say Phantom Liberty is only going to deepen the complicated relationship between V and Johnny, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.

Phantom Liberty is shaping up to be the victory lap that Cyberpunk 2077 deserves. It’s a massive expansion that promises to be filled with engaging new stories and surprising adventures, and I can’t wait to dive back in and discover them all. If the quality of the rest of the expansion is as consistently high as what I experienced, then it’s safe to say Cyberpunk 2077 is going out with a bang. And who ever thought that would happen?

Topics: Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red, Preview

Ewan Moore
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