Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty – First Impressions

We’re still a bit too early in our journey with Phantom Liberty to give a final score but what we’ve played so far is tremendous.

This is the Cyberpunk adventure CD Projekt Red have been building up to. The deep, dark politically charged epic, driven by two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, in a world that is as territorial as it is frivolous.

We all know what it took to get here. CD Projekt Red have scraped and clawed, worked around the clock to build the game we first saw in those early trailers. And after spending around five hours in Phantom Liberty, I feel they’re finally starting to get there.

This is the kind of content you want to play, either being able to dive right in with a new character, built up just enough to meet the demands of the content – it is certainly a challenge. Or being able to access the content fairly early doors, without it giving too much away of Cyberpunk’s end-game if you haven’t already reached that point.

You’ll need to have at least finished the prologue portion of the game and met up with Johnny Silverhand in order to play. At that point, the game’s critical plot device will be in play – centered around V – and you’ll be caught up in a web of intrigue with some new, intriguing players who may have a solution to your problems.

Narrative is core and key to this experience, so I’m going to try not to say too much about it. But you’re contacted by an enigmatic netrunner named Songbird who presents an offer to V that almost seems too good to be true. There’s a catch, of course, there always is, and it comes in the form of the President of New America.

What relationship does the most important political figure in Night City have with a Netrunner? And the big question you’re all wondering, how does Idris Elba / Solomon Reed figure into all of this?

Well, that’s a question you’ll be waiting on an answer for. At least, for a little while. And that was the immediately satisfying thing about this content, they’re not rushing to get the big names in here to try and keep your interest. There’s a story to tell and those characters will arrive precisely when they need to.

And so far this is a very carefully curated, intriguing story that develops, evolves and really weaves you in like only CD Projekt RED know how. This is going back to their Witcher 3 days of building a compelling play, taking their time to let everything sink in and to make sure you’re paying full attention to what’s going on. The best kind of DLC.

This is achieved with a fairly easy to follow story, but one filled with clever nods and twists to the wider world, a cast of characters that you’ll want to spend time with, trying to learn more about them, figuring out who to trust.

All that, while getting even more backstory to Night City, and some great scenes and scenarios to play through as you’re dramatically introduced you to a dangerous new area – Dogtown.

For such a violent area, of course there’s a lot of gun fights in Phantom Liberty, but also plenty of space to drive around and test out the vehicular combat. This allows the new 2.0 update to really shine, putting it to the test and through its paces in player hands, all while showing how much better the game has become in the last year and a half, visually, mechanically, even with a ton of bugs stripped away.

So far, Phantom Liberty is delivering and I am having a really great time playing through the story. Heck, this is making me want to go back and play Cyberpunk 2077 all over again once the DLC is done.

I’ll save my deeper impressions for the final review, but immediate highlights – the story is great, Idris Elba is, unsurprisingly the star of the show, but equally both Keanu Reeves and V get some fantastic lines of their own and both of them shine in their roles, developing their respective characters even further.

I did have some frustrations early on with some of the platforming sections getting a little tricksy with easy missteps and little lighting. Also, some of the gun fights get really overwhelming, really fast. But it’s definitely not enough to stop me playing and seeing this one through to its conclusion.

Phantom Liberty also contains one of the most satisfying boss battles I’ve played in some time in any game, with the variety of attacks you have to watch out for, the use of environment to get you to safety and spending time trying to find weak spots. Very well done.

CD Projekt RED have clearly gone all out with this one. It reminds me of good old fashioned, meaty expansions we used to get for games like Bioshock and Fallout 3/4 in the best possible way. A self contained story that sometimes ends up being more entertaining than the base game itself.

While I’m not quite ready to make that official yet, I can tell you I’m fully onboard and swept up, desperate to find out what happens yet. This feels like the culmination of the ultimate comeback story for this game and maybe the final incentive you need to take a chance on Night City if you’ve been hesitant to visit or not sure if it’s worth a return trip.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is out today on PC, Xbox and PlayStation 

Code kindly provided by CD Projekt RED for review purposes.

Full overview to follow

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