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Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review – Redemption

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Overall – 95%

95%

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is a tale of redemption in its purest form. No rubbish, no corpo spin, dedication, passion, and determination to deliver on promises made long ago. The team at CD Projekt Red may have taken a rough road to get here, but now they can rest easy. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is finally, the game we all hoped it would be.


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Cyberpunk 2077 was one of 2020’s most anticipated titles but one that quickly became one of the most disappointing launches of the time. Despite its poor launch, the potential was there for everyone to see. The characters were deep and meaningful, the writing was top of the class, the quest design was fresh and exciting, it had it all – it’s just a shame it was so broken.

Here we are. Three years and many patches later. This is CD Projekt Red’s last chance to really sell the dream of Cyberpunk 2077 with the release of all-new DLC and the highly anticipated 2.0 update, but did they pull it off?

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review

No Man’s Sky, Final Fantasy XIV, Cyberpunk 2077, three games seldom mentioned in the same breath. One, a space exploration RPG. Another, an MMO of a beloved RPG franchise, and the third, a gritty open-world RPG set in the Cyberpunk universe. There is now a single word that will forever unite these games, redemption.

In an industry all too well known for poor releases and hectic schedules, we’ve all suffered agonizingly disappointing releases for our most anticipated games. Some vanish into obscurity, others serve as a cautionary tale, but a select few, and I mean a few, can rise from the ashes. CD Projekt Red’s Phantom Liberty DLC for Cyberpunk 2077 is one of those few.

It was back in December 2020 when I wrote my original Cyberpunk 2077 review, a great game that fell victim to its own ambition. It was a buggy mess, to put it politely. Fast forward three years, more patches than I can count, a highly anticipated 2.0 Update, and a brand new DLC in the shape of Phantom Liberty, if this didn’t help realize the true potential of Cyberpunk 2077, nothing would.

I have hardly touched Cyberpunk 2077 since its initial launch window and due to my previous PlayStation 5 going the way of the dinosaur, I was unable to continue the journey of my original V. Phantom Liberty allows players to instantly jump into the DLC with a premade character complete with weapons, equipment, skills, and vehicles but ideally, this is not the way to play the game. Update 2.0 isn’t a simple content update, it drastically changes the way the game is played, and the way V evolves and grows. If you have the time, I highly recommend starting afresh. Let the game introduce you to the new features organically.

Phantom Liberty once again proves that CD Projekt Red’s narrative team are at the very top of their game as V, working alongside a group of intelligence agents, tracks down a netrunner known as Songbird – who was captured after Space Force One, carrying the President of the New United States of America, was shot down over Dogtown – the pissing pot of Night City. It’s a high-stakes spy-thriller with global catastrophic implications that in of itself, is a brilliantly woven tale, but then there’s the trump card.

How do you make a game, one that already features Keanu Reeves in spectacular form, even cooler? Is it even possible? Two words, one man, Idris Elba. His performance as Reed, alongside the charismatic as hell Johnny Silverhand (Keanu Reeves) is iconic. Despite only having a fraction of screen-time compared to other well crafted characters across the entire game, Reed stands right up alongside Johnny as my favorite characters in the game. Always brooding, analyzing, planning the next move ahead. The voice-over work is fantastic and although I don’t think Idris Elba did any motion capture for the role, it’s clear the team spent a lot of time carefully crafting Reeds every move, every pose. Songbird, another character introduced in the DLC, is also fantastic. Damaged, deep, her performance shines. There was once a time when I didn’t really care much for big Hollywood actors staring in the latest videos games, but the star power it brings to the role really authenticates the narrative experience of the entire story. It feels authentic, and in a game like Cyberpunk 2077, that’s exactly what you want.

Perhaps it was my recent time in Starfield that truly let me appreciate the length’s CD Projekt Red have gone to in immersing players in the story. I don’t know of any other game that makes simple conversations so engrossing. Typically, it’s two or more people standing around as lines of dialogue come across the bottom of your screen but in Cyberpunk 2077, it’s on a whole other level. Your control of V during most of these conversations, glancing around, interacting with the environment, reacting to other characters, in a world where it’s becoming harder and harder for media to truly command our attention, Cyberpunk 2077 nails it. Although if I hear “sitch” one more time, I’m going to lose it.

The main story of Phantom Liberty is nearly entirely contained within Dogtown, an all-new area of corruption and scum. Walled off from the rest of Night City, Hansen and his Barghest militia rule with an iron fist. Streets in disarray, attractions and monuments unfinished, buildings destroyed and in pieces. It’s one of the most impressive sights in all of Night City, and the perfect home for the gritty tale of V’s latest adventure.

In all honesty, the main story would have been enough. The work that has been done on Cyberpunk 2077 over the years has paid off. Getting rid of all the bugs, crashes and issues, allows the true qualities of the game to shrine through, but there’s so much more here than just a new story. The side quests, or Gigs as they are called, are up there with the very best in quest design, even following on from the incredible faction quests in Starfield, I was engrossed in each and every tale I discovered.

If you don’t want to spend your time learning about the stories of those trapped in Dogtown, you can just blow some shit up. After stealing a random vehicle an old friend calls and gives me regular work, taking vehicles from Dogtown and driving them to various garages and spots in Night City. This was my first introduction to the vehicular combat introduced in 2.0 and it was, for lack of a better phrase, bloody awesome. It’s fast-paced, it’s explosive, it works flawlessly with every weapon I found, and creates for some truly epic chases, even having the NCPD on my tail a few times. Just try not to run over the poor homeless folk as you leave Dogtown – it’s harder than it sounds.

It further builds on an already robust combat system that rewards creativity, adapting to challenges on the fly, experimenting with various build and loadouts. Some of the enemies do feel a bit like a bullet sponge but when the masterfully created soundtrack kicks in, nothing else matters.

Then, we have the Cyberware updates with 2.0, which is almost detailed enough to warrant a review of its own. The original system in Cyberpunk 2077 was quite limited and didn’t really give players enough opportunity take V to the next level, to rival the most enhanced and upgraded characters from the Cyberpunk universe. The 2.0 update introduces an all-new system that allows for far greater levels of customization and really gives players the License to Chrome.

The new Cyberware Capacity system restricts V’s Cyberware based on a points system. Each piece of Cyberware costs a specific number of points and V’s total capacity is governed by various skills and abilities all of which can be improved, and the new perk tree system allows for further enhancements through the Technical Ability tree. It’s overwhelming at first, especially if you are diving straight in to Phantom Liberty but for people picking up the game for the first time or starting afresh, it changes everything.

All of this. A new story, a new area, tons of new side content, new characters, I never found a single bug, and I looked. I didn’t crash and I didn’t notice any frame drops playing on Performance mode. From a pure technical standpoint, flawless. Ray Tracing mode, not so much. The 30 FPS felt sluggish and jumpy and really wasn’t worth the visual upgrades. As a static frame, beautiful, but not overly functional with all the moving parts.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is a tale of redemption in its purest form. No rubbish, no corpo spin, dedication, passion, and determination to deliver on promises made long ago. The team at CD Projekt Red may have taken a rough road to get here, but now they can rest easy. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is finally, the game we all hoped it would be.

This review of Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty was done on the PlayStation 5. A digital code was provided.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is a tale of redemption in its purest form. No rubbish, no corpo spin, dedication, passion, and determination to deliver on promises made long ago. The team at CD Projekt Red may have taken a rough road to get here, but now they can rest easy. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is finally, the game we all hoped it would be.

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