PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC
CD Projekt Red
December 10, 2020
Stadia), February 15, 2022
Xbox Series X/S)
Despite an extremely rocky launch, I enjoyed Cyberpunk 2077 a lot. I beat it around its release in 2020, and I’ve checked in a few times to see how the CD Projekt Red’s post-launch work has improved the game, but those check-ins were always a few hours. I’d drive around, shoot some enemies, and listen to Run The Jewels on the in-game radio. Satisfied with my V’s ending, I didn’t have a reason to return to the meat of the campaign, but when CDPR announced its Phantom Liberty expansion, I knew it’d be the reason I needed.
I played an hour of this expansion – what appears to be its opening hour – and I’m happy to say it’s good to be back in Night City. Or, more specifically, the city’s Pacifica district because Phantom Liberty introduces the new Dogtown area into the game. Pacifica was set to be a resort district of sorts, complete with bustling casinos and the like, but the Unification War prevented that idea from being realized. And part of that became what’s known as Dogtown, the starting location for this new expansion.
It’s a run-down area, littered with remnants of what could have been, like a massive pyramid building reminiscent of Las Vegas’ Luxor Hotel. There’s a lot of verticality in Dogtown, which I think is especially great for fast and agile V builds, and the small taste I got of it has me excited to check out more in the full thing. But CDPR tells me that while Phantom Liberty begins in Dogtown, the narrative will take players all across Night City.
CDPR has positioned Phantom Liberty as a spy thriller, injecting espionage into the base game’s otherwise action-heavy story. And right from the jump, that’s clear. Taking place shortly after players reach Pacific in the Cyberpunk 2077 campaign, netrunner Songbird speaks directly to V, telling her she can cure her of the ticking time bomb that is the Relic program in her head, aka Keanu Reeve’s Johnny Silverhand.
But first, she must save none other than the President of the New United States, Rosalind Myers, who is aboard Space Force One, which is set to crash land in Dogtown at any moment. As Songbird and V watch this ship start to descend toward Dogtown, it’s targeted by missiles, ensuring Space Force One, and ideally President Myers, go down with it. And this sets up the story of Phantom Liberty – V heads to the crashed ship, saves President Myers (although admittedly, she doesn’t need the saving, it seems), and the two shack up in an abandoned high-rise building.
V’s ultimate objective is to get Myers out of Dogtown, but that’s near impossible because there are targets everywhere on her and likely a massive bounty to take her out. Myers says that getting out of Dogtown, then Night City, and back to Washington will be impossible unless…Solomon Reed can help. This is Idris Elba’s character, and he’s essentially a Sleeper Agent that used to work with Myers, and she’s confident he’s her ticket out. V’s job is to find Reed so that a reverse-heist of sorts can be performed to get Myers out of Night City and back to Washington.
Elba plays the role well; he’s a hardened spy and seemingly a man of few words, at least compared to Johnny Silverhand. The two are complete opposites, and it’s a fun contrast to watch V deal with the two in my short time when V, Johnny Silverhand, and Reed are together.
I dabbled in some street combat, and it feels familiar. CDPR says this expansion and a free update coming to the base game brings the ability to shoot out of your car to the game alongside vehicles that can actually fire bullets and rockets out of mounted guns as well. I didn’t get to experience any of this, but I’m excited to see if and how it changes the otherwise standard first-person combat present throughout the rest of Cyberpunk 2077.
I left Phantom Liberty excited to play more. It feels like a return to the seedy home of Night City I enjoyed in 2077, and it promises to bring a new type of story to this world. With just an hour of hands-on time, I can’t say Phantom Liberty feels or looks all that different. But I’m not sure it’s meant to. It’s an additive story to an existing campaign that takes place long before that campaign comes to a close. However, CDPR says Phantom Liberty does add flavor to the story of 2077, going so far as adding a new ending to it, too.
But it’s a standalone expansion in its own right, too. CDPR says you can play the campaign and when you reach Phantom Liberty content, you’ll receive a text that indicates you can begin the expansion storyline. Or, you can start a new game and “fast forward” right to the expansion if you’d like. And those who beat 2077 can also jump back into that save and play through this new story.
It’ll be the latter option for me when Phantom Liberty is released on Septembe 26, and this small taste was just enough to remind me that I enjoy playing around in Night City. Right now, it feels like more 2077 – which is great – but it’s the narrative of this expansion that I expect will set it apart from the base game. What I played set up that narrative nicely, but I honestly have no idea where it could go. I’m excited to find out.