When it was originally released in August 2013, Payday 2 was highly praised by critics for its co-operative gameplay, combining tense stealth with heart-pounding first person shooting action.
Profitable from day one, its developer, Overkill Software, has since supported the title tremendously, providing free content and sizable patches alongside a steady release of paid DLC. With the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions creaking along however, Overkill have now seen fit to release the title on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, bundling all the DLC released to date as well as upgrading the visuals to bring it in line with its PC counterpart. Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is undoubtedly a great proposition for newcomers and hardcore fans of the title that are still beavering away at their last gen iterations, but unfortunately the game still has some underlying issues that can sometimes seriously hinder your enjoyment of its unique experience.
For anyone that has never heard of or played Payday 2, the premise is simple. You and a team of three other masked villains take on various jobs, usually involving stealing money or other valuables, but there is a little variation in there just to mix things up a little. Each job generally sees you spending some initial time casing the location, looking for threats and opportunities before donning your masks to get down to action. Should you complete your task, you then have to successfully make your escape. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? In reality it’s anything but: completing your task without raising alarm is gravely difficult, meaning that after casing the joint you’ve usually got to complete your objective and escape whilst facing waves of increasingly tooled-up armed forces. Whilst experienced, well-coordinated teams can indeed stealth their way to success, for most the game descends quickly into madness, a tug of war between your masked ensemble of goons and a seemingly never-ending stream of officers of the law. Whichever way you complete your job, one thing is certain: you’ll end with a smile on your face a sense of satisfaction at a job well done.
To say that effective communication and working as a team is important to succeed in Payday 2 is probably an understatement. Whilst you can take on missions on your own – with AI taking control of your other three teammates – it’s not recommended, as your computer-controlled buddies are next to useless, practically leaving you to complete all the tasks single-handedly and therefore adding another layer of difficulty into the mix. This game should really be viewed as an online-only title and it’s on this basis that you should probably make your decision whether this game is for you. Job success depends heavily on your team’s ability to co-ordinate effectively, especially at higher difficulty levels where you can’t just blunder your way to a modest payout, necessitating making use of each individual’s strengths and weaknesses to achieve your goal.
Having played the PlayStation 3 version of Payday 2 at launch, I was glad to see that numerous changes had been made to the game in order to hasten your character development and also the rate at which you accumulate cold, hard, spendable cash. Awarded at the end of each job, your hard-earned experience and cash is necessary to buy and upgrade a huge amount of skills, equipment and customisation options, all allowing you to create a unique criminal avatar. Whether you want to create a villain that flies under the radar, with skills that enable you to overcome obstacles swiftly and silently, or a hulking behemoth, with a great deal of body armour and proficiencies in heavy weaponry is up to you; missions are well designed so that you’ll never hit a brick wall because you’re ill-equipped or unskilled. This is where Payday 2 really shines, as it really allows you to express your individual play style whilst not preventing you from experimenting with other character builds and equipment.
Unfortunately one big issue remains unresolved in this “ultimate edition”: you spend too much time waiting for drills. It seems that nearly every job involves you drilling one or more doors or safes, and at times it can just get a little tedious. Sometimes it can take five minutes for a drill to complete its task, with your team having to defend against a barrage of armed attackers as it spins away. The trouble is the drills are prone to malfunction fairly frequently, and require you to keep a close eye on them in order to restart them should they do so. Granted, there are numerous skills you can buy to increase the efficiency of the drills, but in the grand scheme of things they do little to mitigate the tedium of it all. Lesser issues also remain, such as the fairly bewildering job select screen that displays a random selection of jobs which appear and disappear in a matter of seconds, and average at best visuals and animation that leave a lot to be desired, especially considering it only runs at 30 frames per second.
Overall, whilst Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is not perfect, it’s a unique title that offers an unparalleled co-op experience. It’s not short on content either, with a vast amount of jobs to complete across numerous difficulty levels that cleverly modify the objectives and enemy waves within them rather than just altering damage parameters. It’ll take a huge chunk of time to create the criminal mastermind you desire to be, but for those with the persistence and patience to work through its flaws it’ll be a rewarding journey filled with the joys of success and also the bitter taste of defeat. Just make sure you have a few friends at hand to back you up, or at least a willingness to make new ones, as trying to tackle things alone or with a group of randoms is bound to leave your experience feeling sour.