Introduced by one Keanu Reeves, Xbox Games Showcase just brought us a new look at Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, an enormous new expansion coming to Xbox Series X|S on September 26. I was lucky enough to go hands-on with Phantom Liberty in a rip-roaring half-hour of first gameplay.
But let’s set things up: V, still stricken with a Relic chip slowly eating him away, is whipped into a conspiracy, with shadowy elements of the (all-new) Pacifica Combat Zone vying to kill off the President of the New United States. V’s guided by a new character, Songbird, who appears to have as much access to his head as Johnny Silverhand, phasing in and out of view as she helps him. CD Projekt Red has promised a full spy-thriller in Phantom Liberty, and the glimpse I got doubles down on that.
Beginning with Songbird helping V to reach a roof in the Dogtown area, the demo is rife with moments of pure action cinema – a dramatic crash as the President’s personal plane (Space Force One, perhaps?) is shot down on its way out of orbit and careens inches above your head, a pitched battle between robotic guards and would-be assassins, and ends just as you convince the President you’re there to save her… and immediately get engulfed in an explosion. It’s a demo that sets this expansion’s stall out – Phantom Liberty will be all-action, swapping Cyberpunk’s moodier moments to become an all-out thriller.
I play as a tanky Solo, toting a shotgun, a devastating light machine gun that comes with the added bonus of setting my targets on fire, and a sledgehammer for those more… intimate moments. I’m immediately rewarded for my choice, being thrown into firefight after firefight (and making liberal use of the Berserk mod my pre-built character comes equipped with). It’ll be interesting to return to these action set-pieces with my own Netrunner save – scattered cover will make for a lovely experiment in predator stealth.
Between the gunplay, I get a look at Phantom Liberty’s quieter moments, too. I pass through the Dogtown Black Market, a location that’s clearly learned from Cyberpunk’s players that some of its greatest achievements lie in world-building. The Market is a wonder of dingy chic, packed with chattering, gleaming NPCs, lit gorgeously, and stuffed with detail. Even speaking to the local weapons dealer offers meaningful interaction, as he shows off his mods, explains how he’s cyberkinetically connected to every piece he has on sale, and even gives me a demonstration of his elbow-mounted flamethrowers.
It looks to offer a new side to the game’s already spectacular world – a darker, seemingly more dangerous location to test out your chosen brand of augmented damage dealing. I get less of a chance to see the changes the developers have made to the sandbox itself, but we’re promised new weapons, new cyberware, reworked police systems, and vehicle-to-vehicle combat.
Conspicuously absent from my demo is Solomon Reed, a new character played by Idris Elba. It’s a wonderful show of confidence – CD Projekt Red is clearly content to show off its expansion on its own merits as a game, not just as a vehicle for its latest Hollywood star. From the little I’ve played, that decision is validated – this is a very new side to Cyberpunk 2077, and I’m eager to see more of what it has to offer.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty will be released for Xbox Series X|S on September 26.
CD PROJEKT RED
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