Payday 2 is the closest thing you’re likely to get to carrying out a bank robbery without getting yourself thrown in jail. It brings the cinematic experience of planning and executing a heist to your living room, and although you’ll never feel as slick as Danny Ocean and chums, you’ll always feel satisfied when successfully completing a job.
Payday 2 throws you into a world of heists, hostages and police shootouts. You’re given a brief introduction to the in-game mechanics at your safehouse and then sent out to find yourself a job. There are 11 mission types which are further expanded upon by different risk ratings and mission goals and can take one day or multiple days to complete. These vary and will have you robbing banks, nabbing jewellery and even cooking meth. You and your crew must complete each mission and make it to ‘Payday’ in order to reap the maximum rewards. As you earn cash you’re able to improve your character’s loadout in the store with different guns, armour and even customisable masks. Most important in your progression through the game are the four skill trees which will provide you with new skills and tools which are vital when hunting the perfect heist.
Payday 2 is a game for four, and that’s really the only way it should be played. As I loaded up for the first time, I decided to have a bash at some of the missions solo. Very soon I wished I hadn’t. You see, the heists in Payday 2 aren’t like your average small town smash and grab jewellery store robbery. To even get through with your crew intact requires a great deal of teamwork and whole lot of luck. When playing solo your AI crew are about as much use as a chocolate teapot. You need them to pacify hostages and disable cameras while you attempt to loot the place; all they do is loiter. Inevitably police are informed of your presence early on and you and your bumbling crew must fight off wave after wave until falling for the final time.
AI problems are not only present with fellow NPC’s but also with the police. As missions progress each wave of police come at you more heavily armoured and in greater numbers.They quite often get stuck on objects and tend to just rush you at close quarters; it never quite feels like they’re doing anything unique. You’re often left feeling that the AI could have come straight from a game a game from half a decade ago.
The retro stylings don’t end there and Payday 2 leaves a lot to be desired visually too. When we tested the Xbox 360 version we noticed it had some occasional graphical issues and it doesn’t have the polished look of a lot of games out there. But by all accounts these graphical issues can appear regardless of your chosen platform. That said, once I found myself in the middle of a job I was often too busy to notice these visual flaws.
Though I was initially sceptical of the limited number of missions, they never feel stale. Like Left 4 Dead, each level randomises certain features each time you play. For example, safes might change location, guards may or may not be present, and you might have different objectives. Although a simple mechanism, it helps the missions remain fresh and prevents you from becoming too cocky. What really makes Payday 2 replayable is the constant desire to push yourself for that perfect heist. Buddying up with your friends online is all fun and games until one of them gets spotted by the wrong pedestrian, at which point your perfect heist descends into target practice. At times like these it’s best just to switch of the mic and take out your frustration on the cops.
Once this happens you better be ready to defend your loot with everything you’ve got or you’re likely to end up in custody. Cracking that safe, reviving downed teammates, gasping for breath between attacking waves and getting your loot to the getaway vehicle more often than not left me in pieces. Each success left me feeling elated and the sense of relief and achievement is something you don’t often feel with games these days; and that’s how you feel when it goes wrong. The dynamic missions and vast number of possible strategies will keep you coming back for more. Every successful heist will have you analysing your faults in order to better yourself and your crew.
In some missions a firefight is unavoidable and in those you can really feel satisfied in downing wave after wave of enemies as they come at you. The guns look and feel great but are let down by poor hit detection. This will often occur when firing on an enemy behind partial cover and means wasting you limited bullets that don’t hit their intended target no matter how carefully you aim. However minor this might seem, it’s issues like this that prevent Payday from being a great game.
Payday 2 is a game that has its fair share of flaws. Some are easy to ignore, while others will really try your patience. Despite this Overkill have put together a solid game which is both fun and compelling, and for their first physical release that’s a real achievement. While it’s not perfect, the sense of achievement when successfully completing your mission with your crew meant I enjoyed it far more than I first thought I would. However, if you don’t work well with others or if your internet connection is prone to issues, you might want to give it a miss.