Payday 2

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Payday 2 review
Christopher Coke

Review

Being a bank robber was never this fun

The Right Men for the Job (Continued)


Missions from this point forward are disappointingly routine, though remain fun. A usual mission involves casing a location and taking out surveillance equipment, putting on your mask, and holding out against waves of enemies until a getaway van arrives. While all of this is happening, you drill safes or blow their doors with C4, move from point to point and guard entrances, and if you're lucky, coordinate with the rest of your group to drop health and ammunition, and provide revives should they be downed in the wave-based assaults of police and SWAT.

This is what PayDay is made of and where team play soars. Character specializations make each element of a heist dynamic. It might take me four minutes to use a drill as a Mastermind, but a properly specced Technician could step in and open the safe far quicker, while I kept him healed. Together with a Ghost, that Technician might sneak in from the back and open the safe without anyone even noticing. This skillful group-play is important because missions can be brutally difficult. Enemies can and will overcome you if you separate from the group. When taken down, you have a brief window to continue firing before your wounds get too grievous and you are taken into custody. When downed, another player can come to your rescue but often at their own peril. Survival requires quick wits and a quicker trigger finger.

This truism is no more apparent than in PayDay's offline mode. The game functions identically to online-play but with AI filling the role of the other three robbers. It works on the easiest levels but makes the game much harder than it needs to be. The game suffers when played offline, and Overkill steadfastly states that online is how PayDay is meant to be played. Even if you never communicate, playing online is better.

Progression in PayDay 2 follows the expected mold of experience, weapons, and unlockable attachments. Dozens of primary and secondary weapons are available, each with its own set of upgrades. Adding a scope to an assault rifle or a silencer to a pistol can have a profound impact on gameplay and there are enough options to support hours and hours of gameplay. Exploring upgrades is a fun process but one gated by money earned through missions. Thankfully, the game isn't stingy with payouts and even offers the chance at extra money and loot through the after-mission PayDays. This system is, in essence, a simple choose-a-card mini-game which then reveals a random bonus. It is simple, but a nice addition all the same.

Learning the Hard Way


Where Payday 2 falls short is its ability to explain itself. The tutorial is sorely lacking and does very little beyond teaching players to shoot and carry bags. The very first mission demonstrates how lacking this is. When I began, I had to scout a location, tie up hostages, steal a keycard, and drill a safe. I had no idea what the suspicion indicators above enemies heads meant until they turned red and began firing at me. When the police finally came, I struggled to hold out, searching around for some kind of indicator on how long the barrage would last. Suffice it to say, I died a lot and felt trialed by fire.

There are other disappointments lurking under the $29.99 surface, but it is hard to penalize a fun game at such an affordable price. Police AI is pretty bad. They will rush from cover to cover and feel realistic up to a point, but then clump on each other in doorways and windows. Meanwhile, their own weapons feel far more effective than your own and will easily lay you out on the ground. Small things, such as the inability to pick up certain money stacks without literally sitting on top of them also niggled.

At another point, I experienced an issue with the keycard not appearing in the mission described above. PayDay 2 admirably renders its layouts dynamically, including its count of enemies, but occasionally this seems to result in difficulty spikes and random bugs. I will happily take dynamism in this case, but in the case of the keycard, it was mission breaking.

Final Thoughts


Overall, PayDay 2 is an easy experience to recommend. The controls are familiar and, more importantly, tight. Make no mistake, Payday 2 is a tough game and demands that its players work together, but when coordinating with a good team, it provides one of the best cooperative experiences this year. Overkill has taken everything that worked in the original and improved upon it. PayDay 2 is deeper, more refined, and offers more replayability, all while coming in at a budget price. It is also technically sound as a rock. That the game's mission system feels familiar only a few hour in is disappointing but forgivable when each remains fun. With a handful of bugs in tow, PayDay 2 isn't the perfect game but it sure is worth the time.

7.5

fun score

Pros

Improved graphics, more depth, lots of fun with a team

Cons

Some bugs, hit-or-miss AI