Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty takes players through treacherous quests to unlock a new city and ending
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty is almost upon us, and the Epic Games Store had the chance to sit down and try the new expansion early. In Phantom Liberty, you play as V, just as you do in the original game. This time you’re taking advice not just from Keanu Reeves—or Johnny Silverhand as he’s known in-game—but also Song So Mi or “Songbird,” a mysterious woman who appears on the periphery of your cybernetic gear. Songbird assigns you a series of quests, and you have to take care not to fall to an ill-fated death while jumping over platforms, dodging obstacles, and piecing together what this netrunner’s motivations truly are.
“Phantom Liberty is the culmination of years of hard work on the part of all of our teams. We’re thrilled to finally put this expansion into the hands of our players, chock-full of new stories, characters, gameplay elements, and technical improvements,” Game Director Gabe Amatangelo wrote in a statement.
Say “Hello” to Solomon Reed
Seven years ago Songbird betrayed Idris Elba’s Solomon Reed, as depicted in the trailer below. As he reminisced about the quesadillas Songbird had once taken him to eat, she suspiciously didn’t seem to remember this same memory. Moments later she locks him in a train car, surrounded by enemies. At first, Reed is able to hold his own, but soon the sheer numbers overwhelm him, and he’s beaten to the ground, then shot and nearly killed.
Cyberpunk fans commenting on the trailer online didn’t seem to worry about the lack of context shown in the cinematic, instead noting that they loved the mystery, Elba’s acting, and the brutal scenes of violence that seemed to permeate Songbird’s origin story.
Fortunately, you’ll be seeing more of Elba’s Reed in the expansion.
Welcome to Dogtown
When you boot-up Phantom Liberty, you have the choice of either starting from the beginning of the game or loading up the new expansion content directly using either your existing character or a new one created from scratch. I chose to play starting at the new expansion and with a new character, which automatically begins somewhat leveled up. That meant I was able to customize my skills, building out a character who was (for instance) strong enough to shove a car down a platform to form a makeshift bridge.
You also select whether you’d like to role-play as a nomad, a street kid, or a corporate employee who journeys around Night City, running errands in a world with neon lights, gangs, and more.
At its heart, Phantom Liberty is a story of espionage and spies. Your guide to this new facet of Cyberpunk 2077 is Songbird, an accomplished netrunner recruited to the New United States of America’s FIA by Solomon Reed. Like Johnny Silverhand in the original Cyberpunk 2077 story, Songbird’s instructions come from inside your head.
Not too much is known about Songbird, voiced by Christine Minji Chang, but you get a sense that she can’t be trusted. It’s not just the moment seen in the trailer where she turned on Elba either, she’s also potentially the source of a pounding headache for our character.
Upon waking in Phantom Liberty, you make your way to the newly unlocked city of Dogtown. The new locale is full of militant enemies, but you carefully begin following Songbird’s instructions and slowly piece together the trail of clues. Elba’s character, Reed, can also be found in Dogtown. He’s getting by as a bouncer following the aftermath of the attack seen in the aforementioned trailer.
Version 2.0 rerolls the whole game
Phantom Liberty also includes some gameplay overhauls that are free to all Cyberpunk 2077 players, even those who don’t opt to pick up the expansion. Perhaps the biggest change coming to everyone is a complete overhaul of the perks system, essentially replacing all of the previous perks with new ones. The team said the purpose of the rework was to open up gameplay options that would eventually lead to more defined playstyles.
This has the knock-on effect of also bringing with it a number of new custom animations—and of course, tweaking everything from combat and hacking to the way you move through the city.
Another major change is vehicular combat. The big news here is that you can now fire guns while driving cars and riding bikes, enabling you to aim and shoot at enemies' tires and fuel tanks. You can even ram enemy cars or make use of cars equipped with mounted guns. Finally, if you’d rather focus on your driving abilities during combat, you can use Quickhacks to do things like force an enemy car to pop its emergency brake, self-destruct, or floor it, as one of the Cyberpunk developers did here.
Police response has also been tweaked to track your actions over time and raise their interest according to what you’re up to. As your heat increases, improved AI means that police get more aggressive, deploy stronger units, use barricades, and generally use smarter tactics to hunt you down.
Other changes include how immersive your visits to the Ripperdoc will be, and a rework of Cyberware and armor. Cyberware is now limited, tied to your character’s level. Armor is tied to Cyberware rather than clothing.
Finally, stamina is no longer drained when you sprint. Instead that happens when you fire guns and dash.
The Phantom Liberty expansion marks the last step in a more than decade-long journey. CD Projekt Red started consulting in 2012 with Mike Pondsmith, the creator of the original Cyberpunk tabletop role-playing franchise. Cyberpunk 2077 was initially due out in April 2020 but experienced several delays. Hiring famous actors like Reeves and Elba, as well as putting on a massive marketing campaign, chipped away at CD Projekt’s bottom line. Michał Nowakowski, CD Projekt’s Senior Vice President of Business Development told me back in 2020 that the game had a “substantial” budget and a team of over 500 developers.
A launch plagued with bugs dominated the headlines when the game was released. The world of Cyberpunk 2077 was huge and the company credited some of the initial issues to having to prepare so many different versions of the game for multiple platforms—and in a year with new console releases, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5.
But CD Projekt’s persistence (and not a few patches) smoothed out the game’s initial trouble spots. The game now has a score of 86 on Metacritic.
“During our first foray into Night City, we couldn’t have expected how much that experience would affect us,” Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty Game Director Gabe Amatangelo wrote in an introduction to the expansion. “Since then, we’ve learned plenty, but one thing never changes—our passion for creating games. Phantom Liberty is the best example of that passion.”
While this appears to be the first and last paid expansion for Cyberpunk 2077, developer CD Projekt Red has been busy expanding the game’s universe in a variety of other ways. That includes Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, the well-received animated show on Netflix, plus a number of free updates that fixed bugs and added elements to Cyberpunk 2077 itself.
In August, the publisher also put out Cyberpunk 2077: No Coincidence, a novel written by Polish science fiction author Rafał Kosik. The audiobook is narrated by Cherami Leigh, who also voices a version of Cyberpunk 2077’s protagonist V. While the events of No Coincidence are set in Night City, the characters and plot are very different from Phantom Liberty. They’re both gritty and action-packed but otherwise have no bearing on each other.
With the Phantom Liberty expansion now behind it, the studio is focusing its energy on a sequel to the game. No release date has been announced.
You can pick up Cyberpunk 2077, the Cyberpunk 2077 and Phantom Liberty bundle, and the Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty expansion on the Epic Games Store.