Review: Payday 2

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Bank heists and rob­be­ries are sur­pri­sin­gly unde­r­u­sed when it comes to video­ga­mes. It’s a shame, sin­ce they’re the per­fect fit for co-ope­ra­ti­ve game­play, with the various roles and objec­tives that a heist would ent­ail. Pay­day 2 makes use of this unde­r­u­sed set­ting, deli­vering a high­ly enjoy­a­ble, but unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly fla­wed, co-op shoo­ter.

Payay 2 (3)

Pay­day 2 lea­ves the core game­play of the ori­gi­nal rela­tively untouched, while adding a lot of new heists and cus­to­mi­sa­ti­on opti­ons. This time around, mis­si­ons are selec­ted from a map screen, with cer­tain mis­si­ons pop­ping up based on your pro­gres­si­on through the game. While it see­med like a neat idea at first, this chan­ge means that you can­not easi­ly select the type of mis­si­on you want, sin­ce you have to wait for it to appe­ar of the map.

Star­ting up mul­ti­play­er matches is also more of a hass­le than it nee­ded to be. You have to select one of the heist from the map befo­re you can even set up a par­ty to play with. Even more annoy­ing is that you can only accept mul­ti­play­er invi­tes from the game its­elf. Once you get into a game howe­ver, the­re are usual­ly n issu­es with con­nec­ting, though the pau­se when someo­ne drops into your game can some­ti­mes be a litt­le too long.

Heists and weapons

The actu­al heists are fair­ly varied, even if the game uses a few too many repeated objec­tive types. From simp­le jewel­lery stores to expen­si­ve pent­houses, there’s a good varie­ty of loca­ti­ons to rob blind. Gra­phi­cal­ly, Pay­day 2 doesn’t real­ly stand out, though it looks decent enough over­all. The­re are a few occa­si­ons whe­re the frame­ra­te is less than stel­lar, usual­ly when many enemies or on screen at once.

You have a decent selec­tion of wea­pons that you can tool up with befo­re a plan­ned heist. Most guns you’d expect to be the­re are inclu­ded, from ass­ault rif­les to shot­guns. The­re aren’t many sur­pri­ses wea­pon choices, though each one feels good to use in a fire­fight. It’s a good thing that gun­play was exe­cu­t­ed well, sin­ce most of you time during a rob­be­ry will be spent fen­ding off an end­less army of various law enforcers.

Payday 2 (1)

You see, many of your objec­tives requi­re you to drill through doors or hack com­pu­ter ter­mi­nals. The­se take a long time to do their jobs, mea­ning that enemies are likely to spot them at some point. While it is pos­si­ble to take guards out wit­hout arou­sing sus­pi­ci­on, most times you will find out that you won’t be able to easi­ly lea­ve with your ill-got­ten gains.

This leads to pro­lon­ged fire­fights with ever har­der enemies. From bog-stan­dard cops to SWAT and FBI mem­bers, you will have kil­led 100s by the time your cri­mi­nal care­er is over. In fact, it often feels like it’s impos­si­ble to avo­id this out­co­me, thanks to the game’s lack of ste­alth mecha­nics. When you mana­ge to make it in and out with wha­te­ver loot you can, wit­hout being atta­cked by every law enforcer in the coun­try, it feels more like luck than skill and per­fect plan­ning.

The unlock dilemma

The unlock sys­tem doesn’t lend its­elf well to ste­alt­hy game­play eit­her. At the end of a suc­cess­ful heist, you get to select one of three cards. Your pick deter­mi­nes what type of item you get, ran­ging from wea­pon attach­ments to mask cus­to­mi­sa­ti­ons. To get a spe­ci­fic part for a gun, you have to hope that you unlock it from what is essen­ti­al a lucky-dip, THEN you have to spend money to actual­ly be able to use that part. It’s a real­ly awk­ward sys­tem that doesn’t feel very intui­ti­ve or rewar­ding.

Payday 2 (2)

At least skill unlocks are more con­ven­tio­nal. Com­ple­ted heists grant you expe­ri­ence points, and money, depen­ding on the dif­fi­cul­ty and risk levels. Hig­her risk levels throw more obsta­cles at you, but also give you mas­si­ve bonu­ses. Expe­ri­ence is used to level up your cha­rac­ter and unlock new skills. Skills use a com­bi­na­ti­on of skill points – which are awar­ded on level up – and money, though the mone­ta­ry cost is next to not­hing after you’ve com­ple­ted a few of the tougher heists.

The­re are four skill groups to choo­se from, each cate­ring to a dif­fe­rent play style. They’re varied enough to make your cha­rac­ter to feel uni­que, and a varied set of skills bet­ween cha­rac­ters is key to bea­ting the har­der heists and acqui­ring the most loot.

This also brings us onto a major gri­pe we have with the game: the AI is hor­ren­dous, for both your crew and enemies. AI crew mem­bers can­not help with any objec­tives you have to com­ple­te, and will often just stand around and allow them­sel­ves to be shot. Sure, you can just play online if you want to avo­id this issue, though if someo­ne lea­ves a game, you will be stuck with the brain-dead AI once again. Enemies aren’t much bet­ter eit­her. It’s com­mon­place to turn a cor­ner and find a group of SWAT mem­bers just sta­ring at a wall. Other times, they’ll be super aggres­si­ve, char­ging and flan­king you, though this doesn’t seem to be deter­mi­ned by the dif­fi­cul­ty level.

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And yet, we still had hours of fun with Pay­day 2. The ter­ri­ble unlock sys­tem and AI didn’t mana­ge to ruin the game as much as they should have, and pul­ling off a suc­cess­ful heist still feels gre­at. For tho­se that want a decent co-op game to spend their time on, you could do much wor­se than Pay­day 2. With a litt­le bit more polish, Pay­day 2 could have been some­thing tru­ly spe­cial, though at pre­sent it is not­hing more than decent.

Pay­day 2
Gen­re: First-Per­son-Shoo­ter
Sys­tem: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Pri­ce: €/£/$30-40 (Disk/digital)
Deveo­l­o­per: Over­skill Soft­ware
Publisher: 505 Games

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