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Opinions 12 June 2023, 15:36

author: Mike Manka

We Played Phantom Liberty - Taking Cyberpunk to 2.0

Almost 2 hours spent in Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty allowed me to find out that it's not only a new story added to the game, but also a ton of tweaks that will pleasantly surprise returning players.

The release of Cyberpunk 2077 was far from perfect – the game struggled with a mass of bugs, unfulfilled promises and too much hype generated during the marketing campaign, which first raised players' expectations and then became a victim of the actual production values. My adventure with the PC version before the release was relatively trouble-free compared to what was later described on the web. Years after the premiere, I stick to my opinion – it's a brilliantly created world, which while exploring it offers a variety of remarkable stories and the numerous patches have been convincing unsatisfied players to change their opinions about it.

Two and a half years after the release of Cyberpunk 2077 we are finally closer to the DLC launch date – I recently had a chance to test the nearly hour-long demo twice, which introduced me to the story of Phantom Liberty and showed what the developers have been working on over the past months. And believe me, additional quests and a new location are just part of the attractions waiting for us. Since now, I shall refer to the game as "Cyberpunk 2.0," for my own needs.

What, where, and when?

The action of Phantom Liberty takes place during the events of the main plot of Cyberpunk. You have two options – either go through enough of the main storyline to gain access to the add-on (you will need to complete at least the mission in Konpeki Plaza), or launch the add-on independently, with a prepared character – similarly to the case of The Witcher 3. After that, there is nothing left to do but to follow the spy-political story, which will lead our character to the NUSA president who is in danger and of course let us visit a completely new location in the Night City called Dogtown.

Dogtown is an isolated oasis from the rest of the city, filled with dirt, gloom, lawlessness, and freshness waiting for us during the game: weapons, vehicles, and side activities such as red smoke-marked drops or courier missions. There will be plenty of opportunities to feel like the character of a spy thriller. After all, it's up to us whether President Rosalind Myers will survive. Moreover, character played by Idris Elba seems to be a peculiar mix of James Bond and Ethan Hawk – if only the closet ran out of tuxedos and the martini was exchanged for a less sublime beverage. One might say that CD Projekt RED has decided to offer us a very cliché story, but familiar with the narrative method and plot content that studio has offered us in their previous titles – I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be far from typical.

Attention, minor spoilers!

I will tell you a bit about the story content of the demo – though without going into details. I started the game already on the dirty streets of Dogtown, which means that the plot itself is still being kept a secret by the developers in order not to spoil the surprise for us. What I know for sure is that V is contacted by a netrunner – a female called Songbird. She stays with President Myers aboard the Presidential Space Force plane, which, after being attacked, crashes in the Night City area.

Songbird knows about the Relic in our head and wants to help if we're gonna do something to save the president and her friend in one. Our job is to get to the roof of one of the buildings in crowded Dogtown. The gameplay at this point focuses on V's vertical movement and resembles Dying Light more than the familiar Cyberpunk. Once we get there, we witness the attack against presidential plane. The sequence ends with an emergency landing/crashing of it among the dark streets of Dogtown. Few seconds later we rush to help while our target is being attacked by Barghest soldiers – a local faction led by one Kurt Hansen. This man will cause us a lot of trouble.

Once we reach Myers, the demo cuts off and takes us through time, giving players a chance to explore Dogtown freely. In the final version, the time-skip will not happen and our next mission will be the search for a safe house for Mrs. Myers. After everything, we receive a task: to find Solomon Reed, a dormant agent, who will reveal himself only when we call him from an exceptionally archaic phone. The meet with Reed actually looks like something out of a spy movie – we walk onto a crowded basketball court and few seconds later someone suddenly sits behind us, puts a gun under our ribs demanding the information about who sent us. When we speak about it bluntly, he states that he doesn't know such a person and neither do we (because, you know, someone can listen). Still with our backs turned to Reed, we are instructed to go to his car separately, keeping an eye on whether we are tailgating.

End of minor spoilers.

Idris Elba as Solomon Reed fits very well into the role written for him. Reserved, composed and probably with too many years spend in government service. The contrast in the approach to save Myers between Reed and V is sometimes disarming, especially when Johnny Silverhand interferes, as a military deserter who definitely doesn't have a good opinion about cooperating with politicians and people on their leashes.

Cyberpunk 2.0

Some changes have also been made in the gameplay. Did it annoy you, for example, with the attribute menu, in which we had five sections to choose from, and there was clearly room for a sixth? Finally, we get what we've been waiting for, along with the added Relic section which allows us to even better customize our character to the desired playstyle. The number of Perks of specific categories has been reduced, making them even more valuable. Everything to make our character's build even more suitable to our expectations.

After visiting the implant section, I noticed that things are also a bit different there. Now on the left side we will find the bar that probably tells us the maximum amount of chromium in our body. Does it indicate a safe limit, protecting us from cyberpsychosis? I'm just guessing. Without a doubt, the developers will explain this in the near future, I just didn't have time to ask about this particular element due to the amount of information and a rather short presentation time.

The changes also included netrunning – when scanning an opponent in advance, we clearly see the split into detectable hacks and those after which no one will track us down. This introduces an additional tactical layer to using netrunning, because now it may not be worth risking a detection... So in that case, an old-school bullet in the head? Now we can be sure if such a method will be lethal, because when aiming while hiding, the indicator will show us what part of the HP will be taken away from the enemy. Keeping in mind that Cyberpunk is an RPG where damage is based on points and stats, we must remember that not every shot will be lethal. It all depends on the DPS of our weapon and the level of the enemy. This change, however, allows us to assess whether a head shot is enough to eliminate the enemy without provoking a fight, or whether it is not and we will start a hell with everyone. It's a small thing, but it is nice.

The item card also looks different on the inventory screen – on one hand, it seems like there is more information on it, and on the other – it has become more easier to read. It's simpler now to compare the statistics of each weapon. The massive collecting of MaxDocs, or inhalers used for treatment, has also disappeared. Instead, in the demo, you could see that there were two MaxDocks on hand. After using one of them, the stock renewed over time and we had a complete supply again. On the one hand, the immersion element disappears, because the inhalers replenish themselves out of nowhere. But on the other, we will not constantly spam with treatment. Now we have to wait until the our first aid is refilled.

New cars have been added to the game, and the appearance of our phone has been redesigned, making it much more convenient to use now. The dialog interface looks slightly different, but this is absolutely a minor detail. We also got the change that had to come – a functional police force. No more teleporting behind our backs. Now the services actually arrive on the crime scene, and with a high wanted level – it becomes a serious problem. In addition, the artificial intelligence of the opponents was improved, and we can now shoot from behind the wheel of the vehicle – although I didn't have the opportunity to test it myself. I'm just relying on the words of the developers. This is no longer the same Cyberpunk that came out in December 2020 – it's not even the same Cyberpunk that you know from version 1.6.

To wait or not to wait?

What I've seen so far of the upcoming Phantom Liberty has put me in a very positive mood. If the situation with The Witcher 3 repeats itself – meaning the story of the expansion will draw me in much more than the base game – then on the day of the premiere I will once again sink into the world of Cyberpunk. The atmosphere of the main plot is incredibly dense, and the redesigned systems are such a improvement. It can already be assumed that the promised changes are coming.

Of course, it is too early to pass the final judgment on the add-on and each of its elements. After all, I spent only two hours with the game, going through the same short demo twice. We will wait until September 26th for the final verdict, but for now I can say that Phantom Liberty is worth waiting for. In conversations with the developers, you can feel their confidence that by showing this DLC to the media now, they are calm about the quality of the production, which will soon be released on the market. It makes me happy. There is still a lot of place in my life for new stories from Night City.

Mike Manka

Mike Manka

He started his adventure with GRYOnline.pl in April 2015 by responding to emails and preparing reports in Excel. Later, he worked on the Gameplay.pl service, the Editorials at Gamepressure.com and its YouTube channel, in the meantime developing his skills at tvgry.pl. Since 2019, he has been responsible for creating and developing the tvfilmy channel, and since 2022 he has been the editor in charge of the video department, which currently includes tvgry, tvgry+, tvfilmy and tvtech. He owes his employment at GRYOnline.pl partially thanks to English philology. Even though he is currently working on many things, gaming still remains closest to his heart. In his free time, he reads books, watches series, and plays several instruments. He has been dreaming of owning a Mustang for years.


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