Phantom Liberty Review – So Mi’s Choice

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty on PS5

DLC expansions are tricky to do right nowadays. People expect more and more from these add-ons, especially when they tout themselves as building upon the story and world of their base game. These expectations only climb when said DLC is for a massive hit with a notorious development cycle, as is the case with Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty.

Fortunately, I can safely say that Phantom Liberty does right by its base game and then some. It expands on what came before it in some narratively interesting ways, and CD Projekt Red managed to stuff even more gameplay options into the mix to an impressive degree of success.

Image Source: CD Projekt Red

Granted, this might not seem apparent right off the bat. The DLC’s story kicks off when the player receives a message from an unknown Netrunner named So Mi, AKA Songbird. She promises an opportunity to save V from their death at the hands of the Relic, but needs them to help her save the president of the NUS after their plane crashes in the disputed Night City district of Dogtown.

This doesn’t exactly go off without a hitch, and the player is quickly dragged into a desperate struggle for survival alongside sleeper agents at the beck and call of the NUS. As the truth of why the President crash landed emerges, V will could come at odds with these sleeper agents or enlist them as allies; and, if their lucky, find a new way to escape their untimely fate.

While this all sounds plenty intriguing, it doesn’t quite nail its first impression. The story takes a bit to get going, and the gameplay tied to it isn’t all that engaging. As a result, it can feel like a bit of a slog getting through what would seem like fantastic set pieces on paper.

Fortunately, the same can’t be said for the rest of the main story and side content in Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty. Its narratives start to expand into something more interesting, with varied mission types and strong character writing buoying both the core content and its side stories.

The DLC’s focus on choice-making only elevates things further. Across its main missions and side missions, there are a variety of impactful decisions players are tasked with carrying out. These run the gamut from determining a character’s fate to siding with a specific character to determine what new ending to the base game’s story one unlocks. Most all of them force the player to really think about how they, personally, want to resolve a situation, and weigh what rewards mean the most to them.

It can be a little intense, but leads to much more impactful moments where it feels like one has made a legitimate impact on the story. More than once, I needed to set down my controller and carefully weigh which decision I wanted to make because of how it would affect my V’s reputation and overall narrative. There wasn’t always a clear-cut good or bad choice, and it came down to what I believed was the right course of action.

What’s more is that the player’s actions in the base game open up even more options for these choices. Taking the time to build up connections with other characters can result in them helping you achieve a better outcome for parts of the DLC, and allow one’s past choices to feel more important as a result. It’s a small touch, but one that makes the DLC that much more fun to dig into and become immersed in.

Image Source: CD Projekt Red

And this isn’t even touching on the moment to moment gameplay. While it might not be exceptionally different from what players would find in the base game, Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty differentiates itself just enough to feel like a fresh experience.

New character customization elements like unlocking abilities from the Relic Perk tree, as well as new tasks like fights for airdropped supplies, help to build upon the usual gameplay loop of running, gunning, and looting as one explores Dogtown. They likewise give the player more incentive to take their time and see the sights between main story missions, taking on enemies or solving puzzles to track down new weapons and potentially unlock a new Relic Perk Point.

All of this will be especially true for those who play the game after the 2.0 update. The reworked perk system and refined mechanics add a welcome amount of polish to the overall experience, albeit at the cost of some of the balance-breaking strategies players could make use of in the original game. A hulking Berserker with Gorilla Arms is still just as viable as a stealthy Netrunner, but players will need to know how and when to use their rerspective abilities properly.

As a result, the overall game — and especially the DLC — feels more cohesive, and forces players to dedicate more effort to properly using all the tools the game provides them with. In a way, it finally brings the experience to the level that was promised so many years ago, offering up one of the best first-person RPG experiences around and doing right by the cyberpunk genre.

Image Source: CD Projekt Red

Rounding all of this out is the audio and visual presentation. Graphically, Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is stunning to look at. Character models are rendered with an impressive amount of detail, and the different settings players can make their way through gleam, shine, and crumble in a way that’s hard not to be enraptured by. This doesn’t change when the game ramps up its action either, as everything retains its luster alongside crisp and smooth framerates.

However, it’s hard not to point to the audio as one of the game’s true highlights. The music and sound effects are beyond impressive, enfolding players into the experience with perfectly timed chords matched by the satisfying ring of gunfire and explosions.

The voice acting in particular is top of the line, and Idris Elba’s performance as agent Solomon Reed is a cut above. It stands right alongside Keanu Reeves’ performance as Johnny Silverhand, and works to make the overall experience that much easier to fall into anytime his character is on screen.

There’s not much more I can say about Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty other than that it succeeds at what it tries to do. Though not immediately perfect, it hones and improves upon the base game in a way few other DLC expansions could hope to. Newcomers will find a complete package of a game to dig into, while long-time fans can look forward to a finishing touch that makes the whole experience that much more worthwhile.

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty

Reviewer: Keenan McCall

Award: Editor’s Choice