Review: Cyberpunk 2077 Flexes Strong with Phantom Liberty, And It’s Great to Return to Night City

Phantom Liberty is a suitable expansion for Cyberpunk 2077 that is fun to return to, and makes me wish we had this at launch.

Image via CD Projekt Red

For many, Cyberpunk 2077 was a disappointment on release, filled with bugs, game-breaking issues, and lackluster features that didn’t feel fully fleshed out by the development team. It’s been a tough game for many to return to after it launched in December 2020, but CD Projekt RED has been hard at work making a more refined and quality experience with the release of the 2.0 update and Phantom Liberty.

My time playing through Phantom Liberty has been delightful, and the team’s changes to Cyberpunk 2077 for update 2.0 are phenomenal. Everything about it feels strong, and picking the game back up after playing it at launch is a night and day experience, my only regret being that I can’t immediately start right at the beginning to play it all over again, seeing it for the first time.

Phantom Liberty Hits All The Right Notes

Image via CD Projekt RED

The Phantom Liberty campaign plays out like a high-stakes spy thriller adventure, complete with the president of the New United States of America named Myers and the introduction of a sleeper agent hiding out somewhere in the expansive new zone Dogtown. It’s over the top in all the right places, down to the waves of enemies meant to hunt you down.

The twists and turns of the expansion’s main campaign narrative do a good job of keeping the stakes high the entire time. Although the expansion happens right in the middle of the story, even though many players may have already seen the end of Cyberpunk 2077, the thought of the main character, V, getting any amount of hope of finding a cure for the Relic is a bright spot in this otherwise bleak story. Knowing how V’s story could end didn’t take away from the expansion, and I still had a good time going through the motions of every set piece.

The overall tale in Phantom Liberty is compelling, and CD Projekt RED keeps it as ridiculous as any Cyberpunk 2077 fan might expect. The story missions are lengthy, but it was never large enough that I felt lost or that I didn’t know where I wanted to go next. It’s a significant detour and comes at the best time in Cyberpunk’s larger story that never goes too far to feel unbelievable.

Setting Off Into Dogtown

Image via CD Projekt RED

When I pulled myself away from the larger story, I found myself enjoying the exploration of Dogtown. It’s almost surprising to find a location even more violent than the rest of Night City, but it makes it much more plausible why this place has been cut off for so long. The new area is not groundbreaking but a fine addition to an already lively city.

Dogtown has enough lively adventures to make it an exciting place to check out. However, it’s a small location to search through. The area certainly feels bigger working through the main campaign stories, but when you step away from those and seek out the smaller gigs and side quests, you can see through the size, and that healthy reminder makes it feel doable. I never thought I couldn’t dive into everything, or this was a separate area of Night City. This was just another district with plenty of unique scars and notable people trying to survive.

It had been so long since I sat down to play Cyberpunk 2077 that I had just remembered the size of the proper city. When I did get away from Dogtown and started searching around the other areas, the smaller, cutoff area felt like this tiny slice of adventure I could check out. 

If I had come across it through my main playthrough when it properly unlocked in Act 2, I can see how this story and adventure would fit right in with everything that’s happened with V, and it’s a shame I didn’t experience this way, and I hope others do. That’s the best way to play Phantom Liberty after playing through and working on Cyberpunk 2077’s larger story.

Cyberpunk 2077’s 2.0 Kicks Up The Quality And Holds My Attention

Image via CD Projekt RED

What really made my time memorable with Cyberpunk 2077 and the Phantom Liberty expansion was the 2.0 update. This massive, free-to-everyone update is going live ahead of Phantom Liberty’s release. Although it’s not going into the Phantom Liberty bundle, it’s difficult not to consider all the changes CD Projekt RED made with this update and how much it dynamically changes the game.

The perk system has completely changed, and anyone who boots up Cyberpunk 2077 must rebuild their character’s perks. The changes are much more substantial for someone who’s high level, but these feel meaningful, far more than they initially did. On top of this, armor is associated with your character’s cyberware, giving you the freedom to create a V that reflects your favorite aspects of the character, making the appearance customization endless without feeling like you have to wear specific items for certain stats. Stamina is also associated with weapons and combat, not running around, so the general movement of the game felt faster and more dynamic.

These are not all changes, but they’re more dynamic. My time playing Phantom Liberty didn’t have me worrying about the police too much or upgrading my character at the ripperdoc for the new animation and UI system. I enjoyed the updated vehicle content, but I think this would have been much more impactful had I been playing the base game outside this smaller area.

The verdict

Image via CD Projekt RED

Phantom Liberty feels like a fresh start to Cyberpunk 2077, and it’s only unfortunate that many of the more uplifting changes took three years to finally see the light of day. The story Phantom Liberty and the playground of Dogtown makes it a fun way to return to Cyberpunk 2077, especially for someone who hasn’t touched it too much since the fatal launch and didn’t get too far after going back to it a year or two later.

Phantom Liberty is an incredibly fun expansion; even the smaller size of Dogtown is a good way to kick things off despite the immense size of the base game. I think the best way to experience this expansion is with a fresh save, starting from the beginning, but those who want to jump into it to check out the new area and see all the changes CD Projekt Red made won’t be disappointed.

Final Score:

8.5 / 10

+ Fun spy thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat
+ Enjoyable expansion that doesn’t feel too bulky
+ 2.0 Update makes Cyberpunk 2077 feel fresh
Definitely an expansion that feels pushed by the 2.0 update
Starting a new playthrough would make the expansion a more enjoyable experience

Gamepur team received a PC code for the purpose of this review.