The original Payday is one of my favorite, least-played games. The concept by itself is both unique and interesting, and had I been able to find more people willing to participate in a life of crime with me, I would probably still be playing it. Overkill Software has returned with a follow-up to their crime simulation with more job types and a larger audience thanks to now being on multiple consoles. While these changes are all appreciated, players still need to have three friends to really enjoy what Payday 2 offers up.
One of the biggest concerns I had coming in was the step up scale for Payday 2. The original game was a download-only title that was priced accordingly at $15. For the sequel 505 and Overkill are crafting retail discs, and charging $40 for console retail, and $30 for PC download, so at least twice the price. My concerns were quickly laid to rest when I discovered that there is a lot more content packed into Payday 2, as well as a host of different game types than its predecessor.
Payday is a crime simulation for lack of a better term. Think of Left 4 Dead, but instead of shooting zombies, I was robbing banks and stealing fine art. The focus is solely on co-op; working with other players to perform various tasks that are imperative to finishing the mission. For example, one player may need to secure hostages, while another may need to start working on cutting through a safe. Relying on AI partners is simply not an option. Simple jobs that require little planning may work, but once I got into the multiple day missions, not having a human team makes it impossible to progress.
This is one of Payday 2’s strengths, and weaknesses. The new job format lends itself to some truly incredible scenarios. Jobs require careful planning, and when pulled off, are immensely satisfying. Some jobs span over multiple days, taking all things into consideration. Once I was able to learn the mechanics, and spec my character accordingly thanks to the new class system, everything just fell into place.
Where that falls apart is when the player’s crew is unavailable to play. Going into Payday 2 players need to realize that everything rests on the quality of teammates, and even with randoms it is better than trying to fly solo.
The previous outing offered up nine missions, whereas Payday 2 more than triples that with a massive 30 to tackle. These range from simple tasks, to multiple-day heists. Each one carries a star rating that notes its difficulty and rewards. I loved that I could take on any particular job at any given time. It felt organic, and allowed me to tackle things in the order I wanted to. Again, the three-to-five star missions are near impossible without three dedicated teammates, so I suggest not even attempting those without a solid crew.
I am still unsure why Overkill even bothered to toss in a single player option at all. It almost deteriorates the best parts of the experience. Leaving it in does a huge disservice to people’s opinion of the quality. Playing it solo is an entirely different endeavor, and one I preferred not to have. Everything about the way jobs were dealt out through the safe house felt like it was ripped out of my favorite crime movies. This subtle charm let me forget that the production values were less than stellar. Payday 2 hits all the right notes when it works.
Speaking of production, Payday 2 really suffers when it comes to visual fidelity. Let’s not beat around the bush, this game is ugly at times. Poor textures and goofy animations abound. Thankfully it isn’t a focal point, and it never took me out of the experience. Jobs are delivered in cheesy phone calls, but that adds to its charm. Nothing ever felt overly serious, or offensive, and I was constantly focused on just how much fun I was having.
Another major improvement from the first game was the shooting mechanics. The original felt stiff at times, and less like a traditional shooter. This time around everything had a nice snap to it, making firefights much more enjoyable. It is still weird to see animations simply happen such as tying up hostages, but again the visuals are not this title’s strongest asset.
Payday 2 is a great game when you have the right participants. This is a co-op game, and that cannot be stressed enough. If you intend to go in solo, there is little here to warrant a purchase. However, if you have a regular crew of three friends willing to take on heists with you, there is little else like this experience. Not to mention it is extremely fun when played right.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.