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Payday 2 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £25
inc VAT

A somewhat flawed co-op romp that somehow still manages to entertain

Have you ever sat through a blockbuster bank heist movie and thought “that’s not how I’d do it”? Payday 2 lets you and three friends put those ideas into practice as you carry out a wave of daring robberies across an unsuspecting city.

At least that’s the idea. You might start each mission with Reservoir Dogs-levels of style and restraint, but one wrong move can dissolve even the best laid plans into a frenzied shootout and mad dash to the getaway van. There’s plenty of variety to the levels, as mission critical items and locations are shuffled every time you play. On your first try, the back door to a bank may be open while a security guard smokes a cigarette, but on your second attempt it may be locked and watched by a CCTV camera. Missions are often spread over several rounds, with different objectives and locations for each.

Payday 2

However, your actions tend to follow the same set patterns. Once you obtain and deploy a mission critical item, which could be a drill for boring through a safe, a keycard to access a restricted area or a computer disk to upload a virus, a timer ticks down as you defend against increasingly challenging waves of police reinforcements. Once the vault is open, door unlocked or PC hacked, you grab the loot and high-tail it to the exit.

Teamwork is crucial if you want to make it out with the cash, as the waves of police get progressively harder until you’re fending off military soldiers in full Hurt Locker-style bomb suits and SWAT teams. If you make it back to the safe house in one piece, the loot is divided amongst the players. In the end though, everyone is out for themselves – only one of you needs to make it to the getaway van to collect the cash, and with plenty of smaller safes, lockboxes and cash drawers to pilfer in each level, players can often get distracted by the short term gains. It’s usually around this time that the SWAT teams, snipers and tear gas arrive, punishing teams that don’t stick together.

Payday 2

The cash you earn can be put towards new weapons, modifications and character customisation, which help you stay inconspicuous until you pull on your mask, or give you more firepower to hold back advancing SWAT teams. There’s a huge amount to unlock so you’ll be playing a while before you get it all.

Beyond cash, you also earn skill points with every successful job you pull off. If you played the original Payday, the introduction of character classes adds a welcome new twist to the team dynamic. With the right balance of skills, your crew of four can supply each other with extra ammunition and medical kits or deploy trip mines and electronics jammers to make each job that little bit easier. However, these really only make a difference once you’ve been playing the game a while, as everything is locked until you reach the highest levels of experience. At the start of the game, it can all feel rather brainless at times.

This is especially true if you’re playing offline with the atrocious computer AI controlling your teammates. They are completely useless until your cover is blown, and then only serve as bullet sponges to keep police off you while you perform every other mission objective. The computer-controlled police have a habit of hitting you through walls and appearing in seemingly impossible places, which feels more than a little unfair. This is a game that’s meant to be played online, preferably with friends that are coordinated using voice chat, but even playing with strangers makes for a better experience than going solo.

Payday 2

There are other sticking points too, mostly centred on the visuals. Certain levels are incredibly dark, and with no flashlight to make it easier to spot your enemies until you unlock it, you can often find yourself picked off by unseen assailants. The lack of a mini map means having to memorise the mission blueprints at the start of a level, or else end up bumping into things while you look for doors in the darkness. Textures in general are average at best but look downright ropey in places. The jerky character animations didn’t do much for our sense of immersion, either.

When Left 4 Dead launched in 2008, it completely redefined the cooperative multiplayer experience with a hectic blend of action and survival. Payday 2 tries something similar, and for the most part pulls it off, but only once you’ve invested a lot of time grinding up through the lower levels.

There’s no option for players to take on the part of the cops, and with no competitive element beyond the mad dash for cash, the only challenge comes from bumping up the difficulty to near impossible levels, which we don’t think has the staying power of Valve’s zombie epic.

If you and your friends can finish Left 4 Dead 2 in your sleep and want a new four player co-op game, Payday 2 could be what you’re after. It lacks a lot of polish, but frantic dashes from bank vaults still gave us a similar adrenalin rush. However, where L4D was playable solo, Payday should truly only be played online.



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