However you look at it, the launch of Cyberpunk 2077 had a monumental impact on the games industry. Taken by some as a cautionary tale about releasing a game too soon, by others as a worrying advocate of workplace crunch, it was nevertheless a staggering achievement in terms of world-building, characterisation, and cinematic storytelling. It also struggled technically, almost buckling under the weight of its own ambition. I didn’t suffer many of the bugs that affected others, only tripping on minor visual glitches throughout, none of which were enough to dull the effect the game had on me. I was awestruck, and still am. With Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty and the 2.0 update, CD Projekt RED have further delivered on their promise to create the most immersive open world ever. Let’s make no bones about it: this DLC is incredible.
We’ll circle back to the game-changing 2.0 update shortly, an injection of pure gold that elevates what was already a fantastic game even further. The main event here is the DLC itself, a new story that can exist separately or weave seamlessly into the main campaign. It’s hard to overstate how well this has been implemented. Regardless of where you are in the story, just starting out, or poised on the threshold of no return – hell you can start a new character and jump right into Phantom Liberty without playing anything else – the onboarding to this new tale of espionage and intrigue is flawless.
For me, it slotted right in before the point of no return, where I left my original review save back in 2020. 45 hours in, with a few loose ends left which I had skipped over to finish the campaign in time for the launch. My V is standing outside Arasaka Tower, and I’m sitting there with a confused Gandalf expression wondering where the hell I was going and what I was doing. Then V’s phone rings, and we’re talking to Songbird.
She’s a Netrunner, would be legendary if not for her careful secrecy, and she needs our help. So V and I head to a rendezvous, where Songbird meets us – sort of – and does the impossible. She shuts Johnny up, hijacking the Relic for a mission of the utmost importance. The President of the NUSA has been shot down over Dogtown, a military-run, walled-off district of Night City governed by Kurt Hansen, a ruthless, ex-military arms dealer with a personal army at his disposal.
Our job is anything but simple: get in, and get the President out. Everything else can wait, too, because in exchange for V’s help, Songbird offers a genuine cure for our condition. So… President in danger, madman with a private army, mysterious benefactor, a chance for survival – even in Cyberpunk 2077, the stakes have never been higher. All of which leads directly to working with Solomon Reed, an ex-FIA super agent played by Idris Elba. And let’s be honest, if you’re looking for an actor who can match Keanu Reeves for effortless cool, you couldn’t pick a better candidate.
What follows is a bona fide spy thriller that simultaneously feels new and fresh while maintaining the quintessential 2077 atmosphere. Phantom Liberty’s campaign features desperate shootouts and bombastic set-pieces, of course, but also a sense of genuine paranoia because you cannot know who, if anyone, to trust. Beneath the explosions and spectacle, it’s an espionage tale at heart, even featuring a daring infiltration complete with blueprint-scanning and pre-planning that feels like Ethan Hunt is about to drop in. There’s even a high-stakes game of roulette at a flamboyant party to the backdrop of a spectacular music and light display.
Yet, despite the intensity of the Phantom Liberty story, you can still jump back and forth between working with Reed and following V’s prior mission to free herself from Johnny Silverhand. The abrasive rocker-boy returns here, too, with a slightly smaller role that feels no less impactful and invasive thanks to Reeves’ deadpan delivery and the perfect timing of his every appearance. Perhaps most importantly, Phantom Liberty also offers a completely new ending, one that can be put on hold until the main game is complete, in order to wrap both campaigns at once. It may not be the ending you expect and by god is it hard-fought, but it’s an interesting way to handle the merging of narratives.
If I have a complaint about Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty at all, it’s with Dogtown itself. Anyone expecting a big visual change may be a bit disappointed: Dogtown looks like the rest of Night City, albeit with a few landmarks here and there like the remembrance tree in Longshore Stacks, where you’ll spend a fair bit of the story in a bar called the Moth. Dogtown is also a pretty small district when you’re in it, and while you’re dealing with Scavs and the might of Hansen’s Barghest army, it never feels like a really new area. But perhaps that’s by design, as it all slots smoothly into the existing tapestry. You will encounter bugs here and there, but in my entire playthrough I only experienced a couple of minor visual glitches and one weird moment where a corpse floated around like a helium balloon tied to a chair for a few seconds.
Although the 2.0 update is free to all players and separate to the DLC, it’s impossible to talk about the latter without the former. The changes are all quality of life improvements that each make a huge difference to the game. For example, the police of Night City now act more like police should in an open world RPG like this. They’ll respond to crimes they see, and citizens can call them when you’re tearing shit up like a Cyberpsycho – and they don’t just appear out of nowhere anymore either. They won’t usually crack down on you for wiping out gangs, but if they see you blasting heads open in the middle of the street, they will attempt to take you down. The wanted level escalates like it would in something like GTA, and if it reaches the highest level you’ll be dealing with MaxTac, which is essentially a boss fight against an entire squad of super-augmented hardnuts with varying powers and abilities.
Car combat gives you more options for carnage, as well as new choices in the revamped Perk Trees. It also ties directly into some of the new Gigs and repeatable jobs you’ll find around the city. While we’re on the subject, tweaks to the handling of vehicles improve the driving experience in general.
But perhaps the most important change in 2.0 is the rebuilding of the Perk and Cyberware systems. Upon logging into 2.0 even without the DLC, you’ll be asked to reallocate your Perk and attribute points. I continued with my high investment in Technical, Intelligence and Cool, re-establishing my V as a skilled Netrunner and consummate bounty hunter, but with Perks that now have a much more palpable effect on everything from damage output to survivability, hacking, stealth, and melee combat. I won’t get into the minutiae of it, but Perks feel much more essential and meaningful, and your build can genuinely change the way you play the game. Likewise, a new Skill system that rewards you passive upgrades based on how you play makes picking a style and running with it much more viable.
Armour is now tied to your Cyberware implants, making clothing purely cosmetic in most cases (though a few items still have minor benefits), and the Cyberware system itself makes more sense. Each implant has a points value, and you now have a set limit, regardless of character level, that you can only increase by finding special Shards or speccing into the Technical tree. It makes you think about the balance of your augmentations, and allows you to really build into certain abilities. For example, in addition to extra armour to compensate for my low Body and Reflex attributes, I’ve got multiple implants that allow me to spot cameras, hack devices, and slow time when I’m spotted. And of course, I have my bionic legs to reach those high ledges.
At no point does the atmosphere let up, even when the game itself isn’t being super intense. Phantom Liberty injects so much raw cool directly into Cyberpunk’s veins that it’s hard not be shocked and awed all over again by the level of narrative design and the sheer scope of this world.
Where the original release of Cyberpunk 2077 blew me away with so many of its elements, from its immersive, colourful, living city to a story that managed to be irreverent, gritty, and funny while also hitting the right emotional beats throughout, Phantom Liberty and the 2.0 Update heap quality of life improvements and a tense, thrilling, and exceptionally well-written campaign on top. Idris Elba, and indeed the entire cast, do a fantastic job of bringing this new chapter to life. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is a masterclass in how to develop DLC. It slots in and out of the main story seamlessly but still manages to feel utterly essential and compelling. There’s never been a better, more explosive, or exciting time to visit Night City.
Excellent, engrossing story
New characters are great
Integrates perfectly with the main game
Still a few minor bugs