Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review
The comeback is always greater than the setback. Cyberpunk 2077 is finally something that deserves to sit on your shelf. It was a long, arduous journey, but the destination was made sweeter after taking the road less traveled. With the inclusion of Cyberpunk’s 2.0 update plus the new Phantom Liberty DLC, CD Projekt Red has finally achieved what it set out to do many years ago. Cyberpunk 2077 is great. Sure, it has issues. I don’t think they’ll ever be entirely ironed out. But it’s undeniable that this isn’t the same game you (most likely) came to hate back in 2020.
For starters, Cyberpunk’s skill system has seen a complete overhaul. While the number of overall perks has been reduced, what remains provides a more purposeful experience. This means you can now build a character with a better focus on particular tendencies. Stealth players will be able to engage in tactical espionage action like never before. Hackers have a plethora of valuable abilities to wreak havoc with. And if you still prefer to shoot first and ask questions later, additions like vehicle combat will ensure you’re never left wanting. It’s remarkable how far Cyberpunk has come in its approach to offering genuinely unique playstyles.
A New Playground
It’s not just the main character – V – who has seen significant updates, either. How the world around V works and reacts to player choices has also seen an enormous leap in quality. Enemies are now much more aware of V’s presence. This isn’t to say tackling situations from the shadows isn’t still viable. But, if you make a mistake when trying to stay hidden, you’ll most likely suffer the consequences. Conversely, you can also use an enemy’s heightened senses against them. For example, if you need to lure an unsuspecting victim towards you, try popping a silenced round into a nearby wall. This may provide the opening you were looking for. It’s these dynamic, situational moments that have breathed new life into Cyberpunk. They make it almost feel like a new game – one that demands a second look if you’ve previously relegated your copy to the backlog graveyard.
Though, if the 2.0 update isn’t enough to pull you back into Night City, maybe the new Phantom Liberty DLC will. Phantom Liberty takes place in the previously inaccessible section of Cyberpunk’s map, aptly named Dogtown. Much like the rest of Night City, Dogtown is a dense, sprawling chunk of land home to gritty slums, extravagant architecturally impressive housing, and everything in between. There’s a ton to explore in Dogtown, especially if you’re a player with a penchant to see and do everything.
So Much to See
While the primary campaign featured in Phantom Liberty will take roughly 20 hours, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. CD Projekt Red is known for their rich storytelling, and you would do yourself a disservice if you skipped Phantom Liberty’s side content. Packed deep within its walls, Dogtown bustles with heartbreak, tragedy, humor, and triumph. And, while it’s not all homerun, must-see content, I found myself absorbed in the majority of what I found off the beaten path.
This isn’t to say the overarching narrative of Phantom Liberty isn’t worth your time. In fact, it’s arguably the best piece of writing found within the entirety of Cyberpunk. Idris Elba gives a fantastic performance as the mysteriously broken Solomon Reed. The acutely aware may find that Elba’s American dialect ever-so-slightly slips away from him at times. But it’s hard not to call Elba’s delivery the finest acting found in Cyberpunk. Much like the landscape itself, Phantom Liberty’s campaign will take you through the highest of highs (quite literally) and lowest of lows. Thankfully, one of Hollywood’s finest holds your hand along the way.
Despite how much I enjoyed Phantom Liberty, it must be said that Cyberpunk still suffers from technical issues. The most egregious of these is that it remains prone to crashing. Over 50 hours or so, I’ve been booted to the PlayStation menu at least a dozen times. Cyberpunk has a fairly forgiving checkpoint system, but it only somewhat lessens the blow when this occurs mid-mission.
On top of the crashes, various visual bugs remain in full force. NPCs walk through vehicles and characters. Lip sync issues are excessively prominent. And the strangest of all, there were a handful of moments when my screen cut entirely to black, and only remedied by moving the camera around. This might not be a problem when standing still, but having this occur during a high-speed chase will almost guarantee you end up head-first in a brick wall.
Return to Night City
Regardless of the technical shortcomings, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Phantom Liberty and the 2.0 update. This isn’t the same Cyberpunk 2077 that broke your heart three years ago. It’s a new game. A new era, if you will. Sure, it was a long time coming, but the old adage “better late than never” exists for a reason, right? Led by a great performance from the incredible Idris Elba, the developers at CD Projekt Red have righted the wrongs of their past and can finally hang their hats on Cyberpunk 2077. Phantom Liberty is worth your time. Cyberpunk 2077 2.0 is worth your time. Shake off the cobwebs and get back out to Night City. You won’t regret it.
***A DLC code was provided by the publisher***
- 2.0 update brings welcome changes
- Intriguing narrative
- Idris Elba’s performance
- Odd visual bugs
- Audio sync issues