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Josh West

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty isn't an expansion, it's a rebirth

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 has undergone a radical transformation. If Patch 1.5 carved a path toward redemption for the embattled RPG, then Phantom Liberty is the culmination of a years-long effort. A sprawling expansion which unlocks a new cityscape to explore, a spycraft story starring Hollywood royalty to survive, along with a suite of new abilities and gear to enable a near-total overhaul of your existing character build. Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty isn't messing around. 

It's easy to fall under the spell of Dogtown. Walking the streets of this rusting metropolis, a militia-run stronghold walled off from the rest of Night City, a serious sense of place and purpose emerges – a stale, desperate atmosphere which acts in stark contrast to the wider playspace. It's distinct, and better because of it. "We didn't want to add another district to Night City," says city team coordinator Wiktoria Stachowska. "We wanted something that's fresh and unique, that Night City didn't have before. Phantom Liberty has given us the opportunity to create something totally different."

Barking glad 

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)
Gamescom 2023
(Image credit: Gamescom)

GamesRadar+ is on the ground in Cologne, Germany to play the most anticipated new games of 2023 and beyond. For more hands-on previews, interviews, news, and features, be sure to visit the Gamescom 2023 coverage hub for all of our exclusive access and reporting.  

Totally different is right. Despite being a part of the Pacifica district, Dogtown is full of its own abstractions. It plays by different rules to the outside world, and even from the briefest of exposures to it, it's already clear that it'll be a world worth investing your energy in. The scale is impressive, so too are the smaller interactions between NPCs and the overall vibe of more populated areas. 

With that all said, Dogtown almost feels as if it's a bit of a distraction from the real appeal of this expansion. Many will undoubtedly come to engage a staggeringly-accurate Idris Elba in conversation, and the rest to explore the crumbling superstructures of this new area – pouring scores of hours into its unique gigs, quests, and side-activities. But the real draw is the work that's gone on beneath the surface. A staggering redesign to Cyberpunk 2077's core rhythms, from reworked skill trees and cyberware systems to enhanced progression cycles and combat options. 

I'm not going to be so bold as to suggest that Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty  effectively makes the core an entirely new experience, but some of the changes are stark. The unshackling of armor stats from clothing items is an obvious betterment, so too is the increasing importance of Cyberware implants across viable character builds. We know that one of the upcoming CDPR games is a 2077 sequel, and Phantom Liberty is undoubtedly going to leave Cyberpunk in a better place to iterate from. 

Phantom Liberty doesn't necessarily act like a different game per se, but CD Projekt RED appears to have taken a 'nothing is sacred' approach to everything from health management to how the skill-trees function. What this means is that you'll have a difficult decision to make come September 26, because while you'll feel the impulse to take your end-game character through the mission to save the New United States of America, there is an argument to be made for starting from scratch. Forgoing the immediate rush of chopping it up with Idris and Keanu, and instead allowing the Phantom Liberty storyline to fold in naturally over the course of the adventure. 

The base narrative isn't changing, but our path through could – and with such fundamental alterations to play, why wouldn't I want to go back and experience the entire thing with more robust opportunities for customization and expression? With brand new vehicular combat and an overhaul of the otherwise lackluster 'Wanted' system to make the NCPD more of a threat, I know I'm certainly eager to get back on the streets of Night City this September.

As should you all, regardless of whether you plan on buying Phantom Liberty or not. CDPR has confirmed that all of the core changes coming in patch 2.0 will be available to base game owners too, so even if you aren't up for a little spycraft, you'll be able to feel the results of a renewed and refreshed Cyberpunk 2077.  

Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty will launch on September 26 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X.

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