Payday 2 Review
You need friends to play Payday 2. Let’s not mess about here, it’s a co-op game and without that necessary combination of teamwork and mad skillz you just won’t survive.
So if you don’t have friends, don’t play Payday 2.
The AI is less that stellar – allied or opposed – but with the help of a friend or three you’ll find Payday 2 is one of the most compelling and, frankly, entertaining games you’ll play all year.
But if you missed out on the first Payday then here’s the lowdown: as part of a squad of four you set about taking on a series of varying heists – from robbing stores to escaping from the cops with bags of coke – in the bid to earn all the money.
Fairly simple, then? No.
After you’ve tested the waters with the basic difficulty and moved onto higher levels then Payday 2 really begins to shine. It is at its best when you notch it up onto the higher difficulties, and will take brains as much as brawn to survive these battles.
The Brawn Of Payday 2
The cops will come. It’s inevitable. You can’t rifle through a senator’s secrets or raid an FBI office and not expect a bit of attention.
And when they do come, they sure don’t let up. This basic mechanic hasn’t really changed from the original Payday and the comparisons to Left 4 Dead still stand.
Each stage is designed with a specific set of objectives in mind, and though the locations of those objectives do change within the level – a vault might be in a different side of the building, for example – you’ll need a level of planning all the same.
Here you’ll have a decision to storm the front, assault quietly from the back or a mixture of the two – which will require heavy co-ordination with your team-mates.
Almost every mission features moments where you have nothing else to do but defend, sections where you’ll need to wait for a timer of some kind to complete before you’ve got the goods and need to get the hell out of there.
It might not sound very thrilling, but this basically gives Payday 2 an opportunity to send vast numbers of coppers your way in the hopes that they might end your smash and grab routine.
You’ll battle through various waves of police assaults, and again the results are randomised.
You could be pit against tougher officers, they could spawn from a completely different side of the map and even the tactics they use to assault your location change from each and every game.
So you’ve got to make sure that not only are your preparations up to snuff, but so are your team-mates. The lone wolf who races off to try and wipe out an incoming force will die, and as you stick your neck out to help them you likely will too.
That recreation of the age-old last ditch effort to grab the loot and run hasn’t been mastered quite as well as Payday 2’s more difficult stages. It’s as much a race against time as it is your dwindling ammo stocks and failing health bars.
The Brains Of Payday 2
If it sounds like Payday 2 can seem a little overwhelming then, yes, at first it can be. With initially little more than an objective to follow, Payday 2 leaves it up to you to figure out the strategy.
Your first attempt at a mission likely won’t go so well, but the more you play the more you become clued up on what could happen, and how best to counter that.
When you and your team – again, we’re just assuming you’re playing online – know the level inside out and everything just works, you’ll feel invincible.
The perfect heist is rare, but it’s a possibility and can only happen when you and your team have the knowledge, experience and skills to overcome the odds. It’s a thrill few games can offer.
And that’s saying nothing of the stealth sections. The mere mention of such a thing might make you grit your teeth – videogames are well-known for shonky stealth sections – but Payday 2 manages to, surprisingly, offer a successful alternative to all out gunfire.
Why co-op stealth gaming hasn’t been done properly before we’ll never know, but Payday 2 makes sure that – if that’s how you want to play – then that’s an option too.
Some missions are obviously set up for stealth – such as the art gallery level – but even more traditional, combat-heavy missions can be completed with a little more subtlety if you practice enough.
Get spotted inside the art gallery, for example, and the barriers will raise and you’ll need to fight your way out. Complete it with stealth and the theft is considerably quicker, though not necessarily easier.
And a slight twist on the original Payday also means you can grab more loot than you need for the job itself; thereby earning you a little extra moolah to spend on upgrades, masks and weapons.
Grinding In Payday 2
All these extras are rather expensive, however, and you won’t be able to afford many of them early on. There’s a grind to Payday 2 that could put off a few on the less devoted players.
Reaching the higher levels will take a considerable amount of time, though completing harder difficulties vastly increases the amount of XP and money you earn from each mission.
Additionally some items are locked behind a randomised card game that appears at the end of every successful mission. Pick one card, get a reward.
These are more often than not optional extras, such as masks and colours, but even weapon attachments are kept behind this randomised selection and – as a result – can leave you missing the one thing you actually want.
While we’re on the negatives it’s probably worth mentioning that Payday 2’s AI is, well, honestly it’s just bad. Playing with AI is practically a no-go, and though it is possible you won’t get nearly the efficiency out of them that you would a set of team-mates.
Often they’ll even prove a hindrance, as the enemy will almost always target you instead of an AI member, they’ll mess around with your bags – rather than actually deposit them at the escape van – and generally prove a nuisance.
Enemies aren’t much better, rolling into the open, standing on top of cars just because and failing to stick to any sort of typical assault rules and tactics – such as the shield guy who, for some reason, thinks it’s smart to turn his back to you for no reason.
Payday 2 isn’t a looker, either. We played on the Xbox 360 version and while there are areas that look decent, it isn’t especially attractive. Some areas are little more than grey, untextured blocks too – and if you’re a bit of a graphics snob this will put you off.
But all other sensible minded gamers should know that none of these faults are, really, that big a deal. Payday 2 really is one of the best experiences we’ve played in a very long time.
It might not have the same quality as Left 4 Dead, but Payday 2 more than matches that unique brand of co-operative gameplay.
And Overkill Software doesn’t have nearly the budget that Valve has, so the efforts put into Payday 2 are impressive indeed. This is a budget-priced game, with more longevity and fun than a large portion of ‘triple A’ games. Buy it.
Version tested: Xbox 360