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Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty review: A DLC redemption

Phantom Liberty in-game screenshot of Songbird and Solomon Reed

Cyberpunk 2077 evokes complicated feelings in many people, and with good reason. The sci-fi action-adventure was undoubtedly one of the most ambitious AAA titles released in recent years. But developer CD Projekt Red strained the limits of the goodwill it built for years with its popular Witcher series upon Cyberpunk 2077’s controversial release. Phantom Liberty is here to change that, and our review shows that it just might have.

The game’s launch suffered from severe technical issues, including stuttering performance and random crashes. In some cases, Cyberpunk 2077 couldn’t even boot up for players. Sony famously pulled the game from storefronts over its many issues on PlayStation. It took years for CDPR to work the game into a more consistently playable state and for fans to see the team’s original vision made real. 

Phantom Liberty is CDPR’s final shot at giving fans the game they were promised all those years ago. And this time, our review shows that the Polish development studio has delivered.  

The Good:

  • Phantom Liberty refines every aspect of the base game with its new content.
  • New mechanics and overhauled systems make Phantom Liberty feel like what Cyberpunk 2077 always should have been. 

The Bad:

  • Phantom Liberty can be taxing on modern machines, which can lead to performance issues. 
  • Some segments may feel overly linear to players accustomed to the game’s open world.

Review Details:

  • Platforms available: PC, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5
  • Reviewed on: PC
  • Official release date: September 25, 2023

It’s a dog-eat-dog world in Cyberpunk 2077

The setup in Phantom Liberty is clear enough. After a mission in the base game’s second act is completed, a net runner for the Federal Intelligence Agency will contact V. The new mission objective is to rescue Rosalind Myers, the president of the New United States of America. After a remote hijacking, Myers’ plane has been grounded in one of the worst parts of Night City: Dogtown. 

Nestled in a heavily militarized section of the Pacifica district, notorious warlord Kurt Hansen rules Dogtown with an iron fist. For V to rescue the president, they must fight through Hansen’s army of Barghest mercenaries. V’s reward if they’re successful? A potential cure for the Relic chip that’s slowly destroying their mind. 

It’s all easier said than done, of course. Dogtown takes Night City’s worst aspects and cranks them up. There’s no telling who you can trust in this lawless section of Night City. The environment feels downright post-apocalyptic, with bombed-out buildings and roving bands of violent mercenaries around every corner. 

Dogtown is a treat to explore and fight your way through.  Thanks to the lawless nature of the new environment, players are incentivized to try out all the new toys the Phantom Liberty DLC brings to the table, something we really appreciated during our review time. Randomly occurring events including cargo heists, vehicle hijackings, and hit jobs make Dogtown one of the most dynamic locations in Night City. This is Cyberpunk 2077 at its best.

A bittersweet DLC finale

More than any other place in Night City, Dogtown exemplifies the societal rot that greed has inflicted on humanity in this vision of the future. Every person you meet, every place you enter, and even the tyrants you take down are all slave to the machine of industry. These themes and characters converge into a heart-wrenching narrative concerned with V’s very humanity.  

Phantom Liberty also has strong themes about false lives. Songbird, the person who hires you in the first place, clearly has agendas of her own separate from the FIA. Christine Minji Chang’s performance keeps you guessing as to Songbird’s true motives. Meanwhile, Idris Elba gives life to the character of Solomon Reed, a grizzled FIA sleeper agent.

After a life of espionage and black-ops missions, Reed’s silent badass routine hints at a man who’s deeply disturbed. Elba plays the role masterfully, highlighting how mentally taxing being a high-stakes agent in the Cyberpunk 2077 setting would be.

Phantom Liberty adds multiple endings on top of the original few. These endings are muddled in morally gray hues. There’s no clean way to finish up Phantom Liberty without V losing some part of themselves. The price of freedom is steep, and there’s no telling where the decisions made will lead to next.

On top of its excellent storytelling, it’s worth noting that Phantom Liberty also represents the culmination of the many fixes and adjustments developers at CD Projekt Red have been navigating since the game’s original release. The game now looks and feels very different, and almost exclusively for the better.

It’s still not quite perfect. NPC and police behavior can still be odd on occasion. The game’s performance may dip during its more visually-intensive moments. And some set-pieces may feel overly linear. But these few marks are small potatoes compared to all that the game is now doing right.

gameland.gg’s bottom line: Phantom Liberty feels like the game Cyberpunk 2077 should have been to begin with.

Score: 9/10 

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Written by Gab Hernandez

Gab Hernandez has a particular love for video games that give players control over the narrative direction, such as Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Disco Elysium. Gab spends just as much time playing games as they do gushing about them online to anyone who will listen. Their work has also been seen on TheGamer, Gfinity, and Wargamer, and you can follow them on Twitter / X at @HardlyWorkinGab.

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