Overkill’s Payday 2 aims to improve on the basic game featured in the original Payday game, and with its focus on robberies and heists, does this first person shooter accomplish its goals or create much frustration amongst some players.
Payday 2 is a big improvement over the original in terms of its interface and how players enter a safe house to practice the skills needed for a basic job. The opening tutorial is quite thorough and sets the scene nicely which is good, and allows players to get used to the basic elements of the game. Once the Crime dot net is accessed, either offline or online, the game begins to heat up but also shows its cracks.
There’s two elements to the game, offline and online with the latter being the real mode to play, except, the solo offering for those players who can’t connect online or simply don’t wish to play with other gamers, is a throwaway effort that annoys as much as it entertains.
Whilst it’s very possible to complete jobs offline with the AI team mates, the lack of depth and programming really lets the mode down. Let’s rewind a moment.
Once a job is selected from the Crime dot net interface and players choose their weapons – which can be upgraded with found parts – armor and gadgets, the game enters a recon stage. It’s here where players can move around fairly freely to get an idea on what they are up against in terms of security and any civilians. Tripping the alarms in Payday 2 simply means being flooded with all sorts of police and SWAT teams and turns the game into a horde mode survival type affair with various objectives, mostly revolving around moving items from one location to another. The clever part comes when players are able to not trip any alarms.
So you would expect that the perfect heist is where players are able to control the situation and not trigger any alarms – accomplished by keeping any wandering civilians tied up or under control and making sure any security is dealt with first. Whilst playing with human side kicks, this is fairly easy to do with a bit of knowledge of the levels. When playing solo, becomes incredibly difficult due to restrictions placed on the player as if a full team is playing. The problem lies in the fact that Overkill have ignored putting in any AI routines that aid the player beyond helping when downed, and shooting at the enemy. So things like moving money bags to the escape vehicle rests solely on the player. The game feels like it is simply not designed for one player to move many bags from one location to another and becomes very frustrating on the tougher jobs. So the question remains, why include a solo element in the first place if the focus in on online multiplayer?
Further annoyances with the game’s solo offering is the incredibly poor hit detection and lack of bullet penetration. Enemies are built like tanks, often taking so many hits before being killed, and then when it matters, hits don’t register and makes for a sloppy gameplay experience.
Payday 2 uses a leveling up system where each level grants a skill point which can be used in several disciplines. These are tailored to various play styles, but the problem lies for solo players is the length of time it takes to actually level up and unlock the skills which benefit the solo player more. Oddities such as not being able to hide bodies, or KO civilians rather than kill them seem at odds with the solo game. With multiplayer, other players are able to tie up civilians, rendering the need to kill less of a factor. So in a nutshell, unless the game is patched to fix the AI or offer better chances for offline players, this game might be worth avoiding. What you’re left with as a solo player is a likeable game full of cool ideas, yet badly executed, making for a love hate relationship with the game.
Payday 2 comes alive when jumping in to jobs with other human players, in fact, the game is designed to be played this way. When a team of four competent players tackle jobs, the game offers far more reward and simply plays better as players control the civilians, help each other move the loot and generally kill more effectively when the alarms are triggered and all hell breaks loose. The element of a mistake being made and then having to shoot your way out is excellent, and really feels like a heist gone wrong– making mission completion feel all the more sweeter.
Graphically Payday 2 sports some pleasant visuals across its varied locales, and runs smoothly considering how hectic events can become. It’s not the best looking game, or offers the widest play areas to run around in – invisible walls make themselves well known – but looks and plays smoothly enough.
The audio is likely to grate or pump players up depending on their preferences; with its adaptable soundtrack keeping pace with the action the choice of tunes can be overwhelming – requiring muting in the options or simply turned down a little. The voice acting is fairly good, although a few more lines of dialogue during missions would have added a little more character.
Payday 2 is fairly simplistic in its structure, complete jobs, earn experience, level up to get better skills, tackle tougher jobs. Easy. Although it does take a while level up and therefore provides a lot of replay value. What’s neat is the fact that there’s a random element to the levels so that it’s not quite the same each time and thus keeping players on their toes.
To conclude, Payday 2 is a cool game and competent improvement over the original, but perhaps lacking for solo players due to no real effort being placed into making the game work properly. The game does have its issues which cause frustration, so if you can overlook those then there’s an enjoyable game here. Payday 2 really comes alive online, and it’s here where the most fun can be had, even more so if players are all using mics effectively.
Should you buy Payday 2, very much so if you’re looking for some online team based shooting action set in a cool environment, and perhaps not if you’re wanting to play entirely offline.
Score 8/10 – review by Robert Cram