When Payday 2 was first announced I have to admit I was a little shocked at first. From what I had gathered the original Payday didn’t sell massively well and although it had a great premise the overall experience wasn’t executed too well. After the initial shock though I was somewhat pleased as the thought of the studio getting another stab at making bank robberies fun called to my inner seven year old who use to love role-playing scenarios like these with friends.
The game is a team based shooter where you play one of the four returning characters, Dallas, Chains, Wolf and Hoxton who are out to make their fortune committing various crimes. Each character has their own skill tree which will help pull off the job at hand.
The Mastermind (Dallas) is the medic whose upgrade tree focuses around interaction with civilians and assault rifles.The Enforcer (Chains) is the ammunition re-supplier who can specialise in shotguns and also is able to gain access to a saw to speed up opening safes and deposit boxes. The Technician (Wolf) is the tool/explosives expert who also has the opportunity to unlock a sentry gun and drill upgrades, and finally The Ghost (Hoxton) who is the stealth character, able to jam electrical equipment and use their skill tree to upgrade silenced weapons and earn more money from a heist.
As part of the four man crew you are contracted jobs by your contact named Bain. These will vary from knocking off jewelry stores and banks, to ferrying coke around and cooking crystal meth. There are eleven contracts to be completed in Payday 2 which may not seem like a lot but some of these are broken up over a number of days. Bank jobs and jewelry stores are your basic smash and grab one day contracts, whereas other contracts will have you stealing something on the first day, transporting it on the second day and on the third day completing the exchange and getting your money. The longest contract in the game takes part over seven days. The game also randomizes the levels each time you play, so security guards, bank vaults, drop off points and extraction zones are never in the same place which helps mix up the levels and tactics you use during each contract.
To get into a game, a map of Washington D.C. is populated with random contracts showing players in the game, payday (how much money/XP you will gain from the successful job) and difficulty. The problem here is that the map continues to populate randomly and most of the time much of the lobby information overlaps each other making it difficult to distinguish the information.
Once in a lobby, you are then able to discuss with your team members who needs to be doing what and what classes are needed. It’s then time to jump in and execute your “perfect” plan.
After casing the bank for a minute you put on your masks, jam the camera overlooking the side entrance to the bank and pick the lock. One of your partners has acquired a key card to the security office and you both sneak in; he opens the door to the security office and silently takes out the guard in there, and you then discuss what you are going to do next. The next thing you know, you hear gunfire, the alarms are tripped and now the police are on their way and the shooting starts.
This is how many of the games I have played on Payday 2 go. But this isn’t always a bad thing, the suspense of trying to pull off a perfect job is great, but when the bullets start flying and the music amps up, the game does a great job of getting the adrenalin pumping until you either escape, or are all taken down.
After each successful heist the cash is divided up and your XP rewarded. You are then given the chance to unlock some items to purchase via a lottery system. These items can be attachments for a certain weapon, cosmetic items to customise your current mask or a completely new mask. Once unlocked you then have to have enough money to purchase what you have unlocked. This system can be a little frustrating as it doesn’t allow you to customise your armory to your playstyle and I had reached level twenty five before I was able to purchase my first silencer and properly help in a stealthy job.
If you are hoping to play this game in a single player capacity though, dont bother. The friendly AI in the game is pretty much terrible, and although they will help you with taking down the police and revive you if you go down, when it comes to completing anything objective based you’re on your own. This left me having to make numerous trips to the getaway vehicle with the loot whilst they wandered about in the open getting taken down, or drills not being restarted until I managed to get back to them and do it myself. These issues make the single player portion of the game pretty much unplayable.
The game does have drop in drop out co-op which saves you having to wait for a full lobby before starting a game, and a single AI character joins in so three players isn’t too much of a problem. One big issue with this is that when someone does join, it pauses the whole game and shatters all the immersion which the game generally does so well. This break will also reset anything you are doing like picking locks or reviving teammates which although only takes 30 seconds, can be very frustrating.
As well as the AI I have come across various other bugs including enemies walking through walls and some frame rate issues at times. The game also stumbles when it comes to presentation; the outside areas of the maps look good with high levels of details and some really nice lighting – just what you would expect from a FPS from this generation. It’s when you step inside a building that most things take a dive in quality. Interiors are extremely rigid and some of the texture quality drops so much it makes you wonder if you’re playing games from several years ago.
Overall Payday 2 is not a perfect game. Its poor AI and various bugs can at times make it really frustrating, but when you have three other players all working in tandem and communicating well you can look past the issues it has and the game becomes a solid shooter and one of the best multiplayer experiences I have had in a long time. If you’re planning on playing offline I’d stay well clear, but if you’re planning on being more sociable and can ignore the various smaller issues then you’ll have a ball.
Reviewed on PS3