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Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review (PS5) – A Slick Dogtown Spy-Thriller That Is One Of The Better Expansions Around

Arriving almost three years after the release of Cyberpunk 2077, Phantom Liberty is a major new storyline and fully featured expansion that is releasing together with the much anticipated 2.0 Update. While the 2.0 Update is free for everyone and introduces a wide variety of often transformative gameplay changes, the “Phantom Liberty” DLC is a paid $30 expansion with a whole new storyline, a new area called Dogtown, and new Gigs/Side Jobs. Put simply, Phantom Liberty represents a substantial morsel for Cyberpunk 2077 fans and is one the better expansions around.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Review (PS5)

Dogtown Spy-Thriller

On the surface of things, Phantom Liberty is set up as a spy-thriller action adventure, featuring the new main star Idris Alba playing a character called Solomon Reed. Upon booting up the game with the DLC installed, you can either continue from your finished story save to get a call that starts the DLC questline, or select “New Game” and jump directly into Phantom Liberty if you no longer have a save. So don’t worry, even without an existing save you can enjoy Phantom Liberty from the get-go.

Let’s Go To Dogtown

The DLC starts with a mystery woman calling you and she is soon revealed to be So Mi Song, or “Songbird”. V, our main character, has a problem – the Johnny Silverhand implant is slowly killing them and this mystery caller promises a way to save them and ‘all’ we need to do is help with a job. Naturally, things are rarely that straightforward, as Madam President of the NUSA (New United States of America) is shot down in her shuttle over Dogtown, the new district in which the Phantom Liberty expansion takes place. In a twist that echoes cult sci-fi flick Escape from New York, V is tasked with braving the depths and depravities of Dogtown to save the president. As it turns out, V learns that the president may have a cure of her own and so two paths emerge: side with the mystery woman to be saved by her, or trust the president to get a cure.

The first ten missions of the game are fairly linear. After that, the paths split up based on your choices, resulting in completely different ends to the various missions you’ll get stuck into. There is a good amount of replay value here, too. The first story playthrough took me around ten hours and then another few hours to replay the alternate path. Given that the $60 main game story took around 20 hours, the $30 DLC should be at least half as long, and it certainly delivers on that. I counted nieteen unique main quests between all ending paths and while a few only take five minutes, some go on for over an hour. On top of main story, there are also at least 17 new side jobs/gigs and of course, the new area called “Dogtown”, which has plenty of its own nooks and crannies to be explored as well.

Dogtown is located in a walled-off district inside Pacifica and a new gang, the Barghest, rules there. My main gripe with the expansion is how small Dogtown actually is – it is actually comparable to the “Costview” sub-district of Pacifica in terms of size. Due to its small size, most of the DLC story doesn’t actually play in the new area itself, but instead has you constantly going back to Coastview, an old region you will already have visited many times in the main story. Dogtown is intentionally somewhat of a slum district but that also means it’s not as visually appealing as the buzzing skyscrapers and markets in the heart of Night City.

When I think of Cyberpunk, I think back to those visually appealing neon-lit streets. Imagine if all of the main game’s story played in Pacifica alone and you never went to other districts, that’s pretty much the DLC in a nutshell. Running around the same square kilometer repeatedly gets stale fast. The more interesting districts aren’t utilized, which is a real shame when all is said and done.

Decisions, Decisions

Though the story in Phantom Liberty starts off a bit slow, the ending paths are truly where the game shines. Much like the main story, things branch out a lot more in the end based on some critical choices that can be made. I would highly recommend trying out all ending paths as it’s evident how much work went into making those separate storylines and all their dialogues. There are five new endings, two tied to each ending path and a fifth new “main game” ending that’s only available if you make certain choices. To say that the Phantom Liberty has a ton of replay value, would be an understatement.

I did unfortunately run into a game-breaking progression bug during the new main ending. One of the doors remained closed, making progression impossible. I was able to fix it by going back to an older save and sending an ending-related NPC an SMS before restarting the ending path, which opened the blocked door, oddly. The game does keep plenty of Autosaves and Quicksaves too so even if something goes terribly wrong you always have a few fallback saves, so that’s something at least. As for performance, there were some small framerate stutters that lasted for a few seconds (mainly during first main boss) but it only happened twice in twenty hours playtime. Other than that it ran fine and the graphics are among the best you will find on PS5, so overall PS5 performance is pretty solid. It’s probably a good thing CDPR skipped the PS4 version with the DLC, though.

Update 2.0 Is Transformative

While the Update 2.0 changes are available as a free patch, they are definitely worth a mention here too. The biggest gameplay change is that you can shoot while driving. There are also changes to stamina (V no longer uses stamina while running), redesigned skill trees, loot/crafting changes, reworked police responses, armor is now tied to cyberware and not clothes.

Due to the changes to skill trees, you are automatically refunded all skill points when continuing from an old save and can reallocate them however you like. The missions of the main game are still the same as they have been though, with the new changes only being those that affect baked-in gameplay features. After not having played it since launch, it was nice to rediscover the game with new features and certainly players who have waited until now will find their patience rewarded.

In conclusion, the weak points of the DLC are that the new DLC area is too small and there is too much repetition going back to Pacifica. The best part is the ending paths, followed closely by the involving narrative. Ultimately, at $30 you get a fair amount of content, with a story that is longer and higher-quality than most full-priced games and as such, Phantom Liberty cements itself as one of the better expansions out there. If you’ve waited until now to get into Cyberpunk 2077, wait no longer.

Review code kindly provided by the publisher.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty released for PS5 on September 26, 2023.



The Final Word

Phantom Liberty brings a high-quality new storyline to Cyberpunk 2077, even if its new area "Dogtown" is lacking in size somewhat. Coupled with the 2.0 Update, Phantom Liberty brings the Cyberpunk 2077 redemption tale full circle. If you've waited to play Cyberpunk 2077 at its best, you needn't wait any longer.