PayDay 2 Review
Payday 2, the sequel to the surprisingly fun 2011 cooperative shooter from 505 games and Overkill is a lot like its criminal protagonists - rough around the edges and not too easy on the eyes, but ambitious, visceral and of course, a bit unpredictable. The single player game is still lacking, but if you've got a few friends who are willing to put their time and energy into planning and executing the perfect heist, Payday 2 feels an awful lot like your favorite crime movie come to life, and that's a very good thing.
Payday 2 reunites the cast of the original; Dallas, Chains, Hoxton and Wolf, but this time gives them much more to do and of course, much more to steal. Whereas the first game had you going from bank to bank, Payday 2 gives you a ton of locations to ply your amoral craft. From banks to convenience stores and even Chinese restaurants, your virtual criminals will be far bored. Crime.net, an online portal with illegal jobs looking to be filled (you'd think the police would just monitor it right?) is your hub-world of sorts and in a cool twist, missions pop up on the map and pop out as other criminal organizations take them.
"...a lot of these steps often feel laborious..."
While variety may be a strength for Payday 2, it's also a very apparent weakness as most of the missions play out very similarly. Jewelry store, convenience store or bank robbery, you'll get the same amount of police presence when the mission goes wrong (and nine times out of ten they will, but more on that later) and you'll almost always have the same steps to take to achieve your objectives, even if the end result is supposed to be different. Walk in, case the property, get plan of attack, crack safe, get into fire-fight with the cops, finish cracking safe, engage more cops…figure out a quick exit strategy. As a result, a lot of these steps often feel laborious, especially when you've been playing for a while.
The real fun of Payday 2 comes when you pick your crew and you execute a perfect heist. Unlike last year's game, jobs don't have to end in an all-out war with police, and if everyone is on point for their job, you can get in and get out without much commotion. This is harder than it may seem, and it requires a dedicated team but the satisfaction of the payoff is incredible worth it. Of course, there's fun to be had in playing the missions and just going crazy in the process, but this in itself is not easy and it's not quite as rewarding.
Every time you complete a job you'll earn cash to buy new weapons, customize your mask and level up your character. Leveling up is an interesting idea in Payday as higher level crooks are not only more talented, but can get things done faster so playing a game with an extremely high level player often feels like a gift from the gaming gods and will require you to change your strategy dramatically.
"Seriously, don't play the single player game in Payday 2..."
Of course, that all goes to shit when you're playing single player and your only goal becomes compensating for the AI's stupid mistakes and hope to get out alive. Seriously, don't play the single player game in Payday 2 unless you're trying to convince yourself that crime is not a rewarding career. The game is so full of bugs and glitches that are better hidden when playing with human teammates, but become incredibly apparent when playing alone. One of my favorite glitches found us attempting to rob a jewelry store, we all moved into position, everyone except Hoxton who just stood against the outside of the bank and watched the plan fail. I checked a few times to see if he was still there, or if going to see him would trigger some sort of game event, as if it was some sort of story element, but it wasn't, he was just stuck in his animation.
With Payday 2, 505 and Overkill studios have aimed higher and created a game that adds more in almost every category. Payday 2 is bigger, wider and much more ambitious, but it's also a sloppy mess at times. There's a lot to love here, and much more so when you bring friends, but just don't try to jump in without friends.
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