The history of Cyberpunk 2077 is almost as interesting as its world. It launched to almost unbelievable hype thanks to an epic E3 event (back when there still was an E3 Expo) with a surprise appearance by Keanu Reeves, who was featured in the game. Anticipation was extremely high on release day, and as we all know, the title failed to deliver in almost every way.
But developer CD Projekt Red kept working at it, eventually releasing its 1.5 patch which actually made the game stable and fixed myriad bugs. It also made Cyberpunk 2077 playable on older consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to the point where everything ran well, just without all the bells and whistles, or the overly populated neighborhoods found on next generation consoles and the PC.
Enter Phantom Liberty, the first major DLC for the core game. From a high level, Phantom Liberty opens up a previously closed off district of Night City in the Pacifica area called Dogtown, recruits V as a spy for the New United States of America (NUSA), and adds new fixer missions and about 20 or so more hours of core gameplay. It also brings in a new major Hollywood actor, Idris Elba, to act as your companion and spycraft partner in Dogtown. And yes, Keanu is there as well with lots of new things to do and say during the DLC missions.
Now, one thing to note about Phantom Liberty is that it comes with a major patch, called the 2.0 update, which basically changes or modifies almost all of the core systems in the game. Everyone gets the 2.0 update regardless of if they get Phantom Liberty or not, but Phantom Liberty is based on it. CD Projekt Red recommended that everyone start a new character before playing Phantom Liberty, and at first, I balked at that idea. However, doing so makes a lot of sense because the 2.0 update really changes how the title is played, so you are going to be relearning a lot of stuff anyway. So, you might as well do that while playing with a new character. That way, by the time you get to the point where you can start the DLC (after you complete the Evelyn Parker and Voodoo Boys storyline), you will be an expert at the new system.
The biggest change with 2.0 is that all leveling up perks and associated skill trees have either been heavily modified or outright changed. For the most part, the skill trees are simplified so that it’s much easier to concentrate on getting exactly what you want in your character build without having to invest in things you don’t really need. It’s also very easy to respec your build at any time without penalty. That way you can experiment with some of the new skills, and if you decide you don’t like them or they did not do what you thought, you can remove them and reinvest elsewhere. Cyberpunk 2077 also seems to favor more quickness and fluidity in combat, and the new skill trees reflect that quite a bit.
Vehicle combat is also a thing now. You can shoot from vehicles and even hack them while rolling through the streets of Night City, and there are some new perks that can help slant vehicle combat in your favor. Cars also can get damaged now in crashes or when being shot up, and even have weak points like tires which can be shredded in intense combat. There is even a series of new missions given to you by Muamar “El Capitan” Reyes which will have you stealing cars, fighting your way though cops and gangs with your stolen wheels, and trying to get them back to one of Reyes’ secret garages before a timer runs out. It seems like Reyes heard about similar, profitable missions over in San Andreas and wanted to bring them to Night City.
So, the 2.0 patch has all good things for the core game, and then you have the actual Phantom Liberty DLC to play with too. I have to say that I was really impressed with the storyline for Phantom Liberty. It was really exciting with quite a few twists and turns, which makes sense given that it all surrounds the world of espionage and spying. It begins when V is contacted by a mysterious person who claims that they can fix their relic problem and asks them to head to Dogtown for a meeting.
It turns out that the person talking with you is actually inside your head, not unlike Johnny Silverhand. But the really crazy thing is that the president of the NUSA is on an airplane that is about to crash in Dogtown following a hack, and the leader of that district wants to capture her using his own private army which patrols and rules the district. So, your very first Phantom Liberty mission in Dogtown (after you finally find a way to sneak inside) is to rescue the president of the United States. It’s like a Hollywood movie, and a good one at that.
Eventually you will be given the opportunity to become a federal agent, basically a spy for the NUSA, and be issued a special coin that kind of acts like a badge to prove that you are working for the president. You then team up with Idris Elba’s character, plus recruit a couple other rag-tag NUSA agents and perform a series of really exciting missions in Dogtown. The new district also has quite a few side missions you can do as well, mostly given to you by the fixer known as Mr. Hands. Those missions are really well-done too, as is almost everything about Phantom Liberty.
Your relic also becomes more than just a platform for Johnny in Phantom Liberty. There are actually skills that it can provide once unlocked as part of the DLC. Those powers can make you almost godlike in certain circumstances. One that I really liked automatically targeted weak points on enemies by highlighting them. When those weak points are shot, not only do you get a critical hit, but you also trigger an EMP blast and cyberwear failure in your target. I combined that with the enhanced deadeye skill in the new skill tree (which is under the Cool group) so that when I aim with a pistol, precision rifle or sniper rifle, time slows down for a few seconds. That makes hitting those weak spots quite easy. Using those powers together allowed me to take out scores of Dogtown soldiers, popping them off one after the other, only stopping to reload. Other relic powers include tricks with mantis blades and enhanced optical camouflage.
I honestly did not plan to go back and play Cyberpunk 2077 again. Having beat it twice already, once on the PC and once on the PlayStation 5, I was pretty much finished with it. But Phantom Liberty convinced me to start over yet again with a new character, and I’m glad that I did. The title is much more exciting and faster-paced now than ever before, and I could not be happier with the Phantom Liberty DLC and its additional content. It almost makes Cyberpunk 2077 a game of the year contender, several years after it actually launched.