A dusty wasteland surrounds V. A neon-lit pyramid invades the horizon, ignored by the hordes of homeless that litter the sorry streets. Wrecked cars and private army soldiers dominate the roads, and Johnny Silverhand looks distinctly unimpressed, as usual. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty may be new content, but it’s still Night City.
The expansion sees our edgerunner, V, lured to Dogtown, a newly-added district of Night City run by Kurt Hansen and his private army, Barghest. It’s a combat zone; a desolate place with endless firefights between Barghest and whoever dares disagree with them.
As inhospitable a place as this is, we’re here because of a netrunner called Songbird, AKA So Mi, who offers a cure for our hero’s terminal illness. Naturally, this sounds too good to be true but when So Mi makes Johnny temporarily vanish, it’s clear she’s no ordinary hacker.
This sees us tasked with tracking down Solomon Reed, a former spy hiding out in Night City, portrayed in game by actor Idris Elba. Along with Songbird, Reed is the other big player in Phantom Liberty, both of them serving as our guides in this new world.
From Dogtown with love
Phantom Liberty is a full-on spy thriller, with V partaking in gripping acts of espionage. We’re talking duplicity and aggressive observation, from casinos to car trunks. Honestly, we’re very close to the world of James Bond here, which is fitting given how much Elba was linked to the iconic movie role in recent history.
It’s not all sneaking and shaken-not-stirred though, with some truly spectacular scraps to be had in Phantom Liberty. Throughout the 20 hours I spent with the DLC, I was treated to gunfights on par with the high-octane assault in the base game’s final act. Enemies were plentiful in these set pieces, making for perfect occasions to get the most out of my Sandevistan. But there’s plenty more to this DLC than spying and violence.
Federal Intelligence Agency member Alex, who we meet through her old colleague Reed, is a fascinating character. Then there’s Mr. Hands, who appears in the base game, but takes on a more prominent role in Phantom Liberty. While both are guarded at first, each one is rewarding to get to know, with the latter tying into a wider side quest arc for V.
Speaking of side quests, there are plenty of gigs to be found in Dogtown, with many of them getting Hands on your good side - so long as you complete them to his satisfaction anyway. There are also cars to steal for another fixer by the name of Muamar ‘El Capitán’ Reyes. While these jobs start out on the basic side, with you finding a car being watched over by one inept guard, they soon blossom into more elaborate heists.
License to Skill
There’s also a new Relic skill tree, offering new abilities in exchange for Relic points, which can be earned from quests, as well as found at Relic points around Dogtown. Unlockable skills include Emergency Cloaking, which lets you use Optical Camo in battle, and Jailbreak, which grants new abilities for arm-based cyberware, such as mantis blades.
The list of extra content goes on, including vehicles to buy, tarots to scan and street fights to compete in. There are even new text conversations available with NPCs from the base game, adding a welcome level of depth. And of course, there’s more dialogue with Johnny Silverhand, enriching the relationship you share with him.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, there’s the extensive array of changes and new additions present in the free 2.0 Update. In fact, the change is so significant that when you first load the game after the install, you’ll see your skills have been completely reset (although your level is the same), with the game telling you to redesign your version of V.
One skill that deserves a special mention is ‘DIE! DIE! DIE!’, a Body perk regarding shotguns, LMGs and HMGs. The icon for this option features the face of Rebecca from Cyberpunk Edgerunners, further cementing the anime series within the world of the game, and rightly so because it’s an exceptional show.
Glitches are Forever
As impressed as I am with Phantom Liberty, it would be remiss of me not to mention the numerous glitches I encountered on my journey through the DLC. I’ll preface this by saying I played Cyberpunk 2077 at launch on Xbox One X, so I’ve experienced the game in a far rougher state than it is now. I’m currently playing on Series X and we’re definitely in a better place after three years. That being said, the game is still far from flawless on a technical level.
NPCs would float above ground, teleporting between locations, and no, I don’t mean by using their implants in battle. Cars would randomly flip. Quests would fail to load, forcing me to reboot the game. Even loading up Cyberpunk 2077 was an issue at times, with the game throwing me back to the console dashboard faster than you can say “Cyberpsychosis.”
While these moments weren’t uncommon, the majority felt like harmless, Bethesda-style “features” as opposed to unforgivable bugs. However, when they were really bad, it served as a reminder of how this game may never be the buttery smooth experience console gamers were promised all those years ago.
Die Another Day
Overall, I’ve loved my time with Phantom Liberty. As far as DLC goes, it’s a masterclass example. The new area feels unique while simultaneously fitting the vibe of Night City we already know. The set pieces are exquisite, offering a level of wondrous mayhem that the game’s delicious gunplay deserves. There’s also plenty of emotion, with some dialogue really hitting home, depending on the choices you make. Lastly, there’s the whole new ending to the main game, which is only accessible upon finishing the expansion’s main questline in a certain way.
While the free 2.0 Update provides plenty of reason to revisit Night City, Phantom Liberty successfully makes the argument for fully taking residence there again. Much like V after a visit to the ripperdoc, these new implants take Cyberpunk 2077 beyond its limits, and the result is a stunning evolution.
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