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Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review - Maybe the best expansion I’ve ever played

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review - Maybe the best expansion I’ve ever played

The Dogtown days are over

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is quite possibly the greatest expansion I’ve ever played.

CD Projekt RED’s first - and only - major paid DLC for the sci-fi RPG is up there with The Witcher 3: Blood And Wine and Undead Nightmare in terms of new content and sheer, dizzying invention. But where most expansions would be content to throw in some new gameplay mechanics, a fresh story, and some new areas to explore, Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is a top-to-bottom overhaul of the entire game. And that’s on top of giving us a huge new section of Night City and a fascinating new adventure for V and Johnny Silverhand to experience.

Take a look at Phantom Liberty in action below!

When I reviewed Cyberpunk 2077 on PlayStation 5 back in 2020, I was gutted to give it a 7/10 (a score that I genuinely believe on reflection was probably too high). I was as excited as anyone to dive headfirst into Night City and experience a new story from the developers of The Witcher 3 - one of my all-time favourite video games. Believe me when I say very few writers go into a review hoping the game they’re about to play is going to be bad.

What we got on console back then was inexcusable. We all know it, and it’s been talked about to death, so I won’t dwell on it here. Instead, I’m thrilled that I finally get to turn around and heap praise upon Cyberpunk 2077. Phantom Liberty is a sparkling expansion that overhauls and completely retools the base game to create something that feels entirely new.

The first thing I noticed as I jumped into Phantom Liberty is just how much more alive Night City feels. This is the result of years of work and several smaller updates, of course, but the latest expansion is one grand reminder of how far this game has come. Residents of the city are much more reactive to your presence, as are the law enforcement entities that patrol the streets. Visuals have been noticeably improved, turning formerly flat and muddy looking alleyways and side streets into fascinating diversions drenched in neon and the tantalising possibility of danger.

I should stress that these changes - and a number of other gameplay improvements - are available for free as part of Cyberpunk 2077’s 2.0 update. Taken alone these are impressive enough, but when you marry it with the Phantom Liberty content you get something really quite special.

Most of Phantom Liberty takes place in a new area called Dogtown, a formerly sealed-off part of Night City ruled by a bloodthirsty militia and inhabited by a forgotten class doing whatever they can to survive. It makes the rest of Night City look like a weekend spa and resort.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty /
CD Projekt

V and Johnny (Keanu Reeves back on excellent form) find themselves pulled into a political thriller as they work to protect the President and uncover the truth behind Dogtown’s ruthless leader. It’s quite unlike anything you experienced in the base game, continuing a grand CD Projekt RED tradition of expansions that dare to try something a little different and succeed wildly.

While Dogtown itself is a claustrophobic environment, the stories housed within its perimeter manage to make the world of Cyberpunk 2077 feel much bigger than before. Certainly, it’s far easier to imagine a sequel now than it ever was in 2020. There are numerous sidequests and diversions to uncover alongside the main story, which barrels along at a terrifying pace and is every bit as brutal and shocking as you’d hope. I would have been happy reuniting with my V and Johnny just to read the phonebook, so it’s fair to say this has surpassed my wildest expectations.

It’s also worth noting just how big Dogtown is, and I’m amazed at how different it manages to feel from the rest of Night City. This is a borough that has a tangible sense of threat around every corner, and deciding who to trust and who to simply shoot in the face is oftentimes agonisingly tense.

One thing that really stood out to me in Phantom Liberty is how much more cinematic the action is. I guess it makes sense, given you’re working alongside the President and fighting for the fate of the entire city, but V finds themself sprinting through crumbling buildings and full-on warzones in sequences that wouldn’t look entirely out of place in a Call Of Duty. But this is still a hardcore RPG at its core, and the choice of how you proceed through encounters is always yours to make. As a gamer who is historically shit at stealth I continued to play my V as a souped-up Terminator who tears through front doors with a shotgun and asks questions later. That continues to be a blast.

Of course there are still lots of quieter moments between the characters, giving the writing and performers a real chance to shine in their roles. At one point early in the expansion V takes the President to an abandoned apartment complex to hide out, which soon results in a chance encounter and a difficult choice to make. There are lots of different ways this story can play out, and I’ll be curious to see how other players handled certain scenarios. I know I often ended up dealing with awful consequences after making what I thought was the right decision.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, Phantom Liberty gives us national treasure Idris Elba as Solomon Reed, a hard-boiled secret agent who works alongside V on their mission. I won’t say anything more about this character or his motivations, but I can assure you that Elba shines in the role, and peeling back the layers on this new companion as the story progresses is deeply satisfying.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty /
CD Projekt

I really can’t say enough good things about Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty. It fills me with joy to be able to report that this is a deeply ambitious expansion that fires on all cylinders and never delivers anything less than a stellar experience. CD Projekt RED is walking away from Cyberpunk 2077 in the best possible way, delivering on the game’s immense potential and dropping one final, unforgettable adventure.

Pros: Tons of new gameplay mechanics, a great new area to explore, an exceptional main quest

Cons: Arguably a slight overemphasis on gunplay

For fans of: Cyberpunk 2077, Starfield, Fallout: New Vegas

9/10: Exceptional

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is due to be released on PlayStation 5 (version tested), Xbox Series X/S Steam, and Epic Games Store on 26 September. A review code was provided by the publisher. Read a guide to our review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: CD Projekt RED

Topics: Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red