Following a problematic launch, Cyberpunk 2077 is experiencing a second youth (here is the review of Cyberpunk 2077). Thanks to the efforts of CD Projekt RED, in fact, the ambitious RPG based on the imagery of the board game created by Mike Pondsmith is now a much more robust and refined creature than it was three years ago. Following a series of important updates, culminating with the colossal Update 2.0, the Polish company is ready to launch the first expansion dedicated to Cyberpunk 2077, Phantom Liberty, into the world (trial of Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty is just a click away) . This is paid content that brings with it a completely new storyline, a new portion of the map that can be freely explored and many other additional elements designed to enrich the experience.
In testing this adventure we were able to ascertain how CD Projekt RED’s undeniable ability to outline such an engaging dystopian universe has remained absolutely intact. Phantom Liberty is a political techno-thriller that visibly draws inspiration from the great classics of the genre such as the literary works of Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy, seasoning them with ingredients typical of Fleming’s 007 and declining them according to the traditional stylistic features of the world of Night City. A noir-tinged spy story that, we are sure, will leave its mark in the hearts of fans.
Idris Elba rubs the scene
It all starts with a phone call. During one of our mercenary V’s missions on the streets of Night City, shortly before one of the endings that we were able to experience in the base game, we are contacted by a mysterious netrunner with the code name ‘Songbird’ who claims to know the whole truth on the Relic, the Arasaka biochip implanted in the protagonist’s brain which risks killing him at any moment.
The girl, incredibly, also declares that she has a solution, a definitive way out to get rid of this terrifying time bomb once and for all, a ray of hope that stands out against the dark clouds that hover over the future of our chromed alter -ego. All we have to do is meet her in the slums of Dogtown, the most dilapidated neighborhood in all of Night City, an authentic favela held in the steel grip of the ferocious paramilitary organization Barghest, led by Colonel Kurt Hansen.
Once we arrive on site, however, here’s the first twist. The Space Force One presidential plane carrying the president of the New United States of America, Rosalind Myers, is hit by a missile of unknown origin and begins to fall towards the ground of Dogtown. Songbird contacts us again and asks us to rush to save the woman before the Barghest militiamen can reach her and capture her, triggering a potential international diplomatic incident that could throw society into the abyss of a new world conflict.
After having engaged in a furious firefight with Hansen’s men and having rescued the VIP, we are faced with the real narrative pivot of the expansion: Songbird disappears without a trace and, with her, also our hopes of a future without Relic . V’s adventure begins here, a high-voltage investigation into the fibers of the criminal undergrowth of Dogtown with the aim of finding the netrunner and leaving behind the omens of death that grip us. A daring prologue, that of Phantom Liberty, which soon leads us to meet the first of the key characters of this DLC: the president of NUSA Rosalind Myers. Just like most of the other supporting characters that we got to know during our raids, Myers also has a multifaceted character: she is aware of the institutional importance of her role but ready to act using unconventional methods to preserve the semblance of civilization that the NUSA represent in the drifting world of Cyberpunk. One of these methods results in recruiting special agent Solomon Reed, a sleeper cell of the government agency FIA (the equivalent of the better-known CIA), with the features of the famous Hollywood actor Idris Elba.
The latter undoubtedly embodies the most magnetic personality of all the new features presented by Phantom Liberty: not only a man devastated by guilt over a troubled past, but also our best chance to track down Songbird. Elba brings Reed to the screen with an excellent performance that manages to give the character considerable credibility as well as an unusual psychological depth. Both in the dialogues and in the more action-oriented sequences, the actor perfectly embodies the temperament of a spy experienced in countless field missions, some of which did not have the epilogue he had hoped for.
Furthermore, the numerous multiple choice conversations, all supported by an excellent dubbing in Italian (in which the voices of Luca Ward and Alberto Angrisano stand out), enjoy a first-rate acting quality which helps to correctly place the player in the context of political thriller that the writers at CD Projekt RED wanted to make. To this must be added the already praised qualities of the screenplay which, through a skilful interweaving of political intrigues, betrayals and high-adrenaline situations, outline a story full of twists and turns and with heavy moral implications.
On several occasions, in fact, users will be called upon to make very tough decisions which will have a considerable impact on the developments of the narrative, on the evolution of the game world and, naturally, also on its possible epilogues. All things considered, Phantom Liberty is content with considerable production value that embellishes Cyberpunk 2077’s offering with a fast-paced narrative segment that will keep you glued to the screen for the approximately 7/8 hours needed to reach the end credits.
The plot addresses intriguing themes such as the sense of belonging to a country reduced to the shadow of itself, the meaning of free will in a world dominated by mega corporations and the importance of freeing oneself from the torments of the past to face the future with renewed courage . Of course, the quality of the narrative suffers a slight decline in the central portion of the story, before recovering in the explosive finale and there continue to be the now well-known artificial methods to prolong the duration of the experience (such as the need to wait several days between a chapter and the other or to participate in a certain number of secondary missions before continuing) but it is still a purchase that we highly recommend to anyone who appreciated the original epic of V on the streets of Night City.
From a ludic point of view, Phantom Liberty has its roots in the renewed gameplay structure introduced by Update 2.0 of Cyberpunk 2077 but also includes some exclusive content for patrons of this paid expansion. The first and perhaps most relevant in the gameplay economy is the inevitable increase in the level cap which is set at 60, which allows us to dramatically enhance the combat abilities of our V, thanks also to the new upgrade system.
As if that wasn’t enough, CD Projekt RED has taken great care to incorporate an additional branch of the Skill Tree called ‘Relic’ which allows you to unlock new abilities linked to the biochip grafted into the protagonist’s skull. Unlike the other categories of the Skill Tree, however, those linked to the use of the Relic cannot be obtained by spending Talent Points but only by recovering specific resources positioned in predetermined points on the map.
These range from the devastating Jailbreak which increases the potential of all Cyberware from arms to the Vulnerability Analysis which reveals the enemies’ weak points, passing through the useful Emergency Optical Mimicry and much more. This is an excellent way to vary the range of offensive and defensive possibilities available to the player as well as to always create new builds suitable for every type of need. As for the side missions designed for the Dogtown territory, Phantom Liberty offers dozens of different contracts with the fixers (mainly coming from the enigmatic Mister Hands), some optional tasks and two completely new activities: Courier and Airdrop.
The first type includes tasks that require you to recover specific vehicles and transport them in one piece to the garages of El Capitan, attempting to navigate traffic and survive the incursions of rival gangs. To complete the missions related to Airdrops, however, we will have to infiltrate outposts defended by large groups of opponents, bypassing or eliminating them all with the aim of gaining access to supply crates dropped from above. They are two pleasant variations on the theme, well blended in the playful formula of Cyberpunk 2077, which often reward with high-value objects and equipment, useful for maximizing the combative parameters of our alter-ego. Nothing particularly revolutionary, of course, but we appreciated the Polish company’s attempt to refresh the content offering of its RPG also from the point of view of optional activities.
Note of merit also for the new boss fights, all exciting to experience and enhanced by good choreography: the first, for example, showcases impressive environmental destructibility, with the enemy capable of razing columns, walls and shelters of any kind to the ground to by means of violent lead discharges or with a devastating laser cannon. Really not bad. The circle is closed by a plethora of new weapons and tools of all kinds, among which powerful rocket launchers to be mounted on vehicles to sow chaos in the city and a futuristic gadget that allows V to momentarily change his characteristics to insinuate himself into hostile areas without arouse suspicion, just like the best of spies.
Technique and art
We close the discussion by briefly talking about the technical sector which, as it is easy to imagine, benefits from all the updates published over the last year, on the basis of which CD Projekt RED was able to create a graphically breathtaking DLC. Dogtown, as we anticipated, is a decadent place where social divisions are even more accentuated than those already significantly present in the rest of Night City.
The marked contrast between the squalor of the slums and the sumptuous Black Sapphire club, an authentic melting pot of all the most prominent figures of the city’s jet set, creates a disheartening but also terribly realistic dualism, which gives the new neighborhood a personality all its own.
Radio broadcasts are also enriched with three new stations: Growl FM, which, despite what the name suggests, does not only deal with Death Metal; Dark Star Radio, whose songs are characterized by the extensive use of synthesizers and electronic sampling and, finally, Impulse Radio, whose musical rotation was handled by the good Idris Elba himself who, in addition to being an excellent actor, is also a talented DJ. For the rest, Cyberpunk 2077 currently shows off its best graphics ever, with a skilful use of Ray Tracing, high-quality polygonal modeling and global lighting managed to perfection by the fourth iteration of the REDengine which moves a dense imagery without hesitation of details, vibrant and colorful.