(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
- The Game Itself
- 4 Stars
- The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
- 3.5 Stars
- The Audio: Rating the Sound
- 4 Stars
- Replay Factor
- 4.5 Stars
- Bottom Line
- Street Date:
- August 13th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Mike Flacy
- Review Date:1
- August 13th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox 360
- 505 Games
- Overkill Games
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
Likely inspired from films such as Heat or The Dark Knight as well as the brilliant bank heist level in Grand Theft Auto IV, the original Payday: The Heist broke out in 2011 as a download only title and caught the interest of PC gamers around the globe. Fast forward a couple years and the creators have launched Payday 2 on the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. At its core, Payday 2 is a cooperative game designed to be played with three friends in order to strategically enter a bank and keep the situation under control while robbing the joint for the maximum amount of loot.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Similar to Left 4 Dead, the Payday franchise is light on backstory and focuses on multiplayer co-op action to drive the narrative. Players take control of one of four characters, Dallas, Chains, Hoxton, and Wolf and each character has a specific specialty. The Mastermind attempts to keep the hostages under control and can heal other players when under fire from the police. The Enforcer is a heavily armored weapons specialist that offers up ammo resupply to players and can suppress incoming forces. The Technician is the safecracker that has an expertise in explosives and the long range rifle as well as a handy sentry gun to protect him when cracking the vault. Finally, the Ghost is a stealth specialist that can disable electronics, pick locks and dispatch guards silently without alerting bank employees.
When launching a new heist, players connect to an online virtual map called Crime.net. The maps contain all ongoing missions, some of which are a single level and others that are broken into several stages. In addition, there are levels that require knocking off multiple targets at the same time; definitely a task that requires a coordinated effort between team members. The multi-stage missions can be particularly entertaining, especially when your entire team sticks around for the whole narrative. Interestingly, the same mission changes significantly on a new playthrough due to alternative camera placements, an increased number of guards, a change in the placement of the getaway van and other dynamic factors that are altered on each load.
While some missions are clearly designed to be played with intimidation and lots of gunfire, there are a large number that can be approached with stealth in mind. While stealth is a more difficult route, sneaking through a bank without alerting the staff can be incredibly exhilarating. If you can manage to take out the guards, disable the alarms and keep the hostages under control, the police response is significantly less forceful and it's easier to make the escape at the end of the heist.
As your team completes these missions, players are awarded with money, some of which is stored in an offshore account and some of which can be spent on upgrades such as new equipment or skills. If you are focusing on a specific specialty, earning skill points to rank up your character is vital. Personally, I've been focusing on the Technician and unlocking skills like drill efficiency, sentry targeting and an increased number of trip mines to protect my location.
Sadly, it's nearly impossible to play Payday 2 without co-op partners. Similar to the first game, the artificial intelligence is completely brain dead. Don't bother attempting to rely on A.I. teammates to do anything during the heist. You basically need to be a one-man show and simply hide behind your idiotic partners when the police show up to shut down your bumbling operation. The A.I. is horrible about completing objectives and carrying the loot; frankly it's not even worth playing without a full team of co-op friends.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Visually, this game isn't going to win any major awards. While the outdoor environments are well designed, the indoor sections of the levels are relatively sparse and character models of the civilians are repeated over and over. This is likely the case in order to bring the focus to the actual gunfights. Regarding hit detection, the engine is significantly better than the original Payday. It's definitely easier to fend off an incoming attack of police forces.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Alternatively, your sound system will be put to the test with the large variety of sound effects, specifically gunfire. The development team did a fantastic job capturing the same type of ringing shots you heard in the urban heist scene of Heat. The quality of the voiceovers is also solid, but there's not a large variety of them. It's actually better to focus on the voices of your teammates. The music fits the style of the game, but isn't particularly interesting.
The success of any mission in Payday 2 is heavily dependent on the quality of your co-op partners. Specifically, it a team member is spending more time popping off shots at the cops rather than cracking the vault, that's a recipe for disaster. Anyone that expects to jump into the game and play it like Call of Duty will piss of their fellow teammates and likely get booted from the team on future missions. Teams are often suspicious of new players and are quick to boot them if they feel like they can't manage the situation.
That being said, putting together a successful team that communicates with each other and performs their job is highly rewarding. The key is to keep each other informed of guard positions, the activity of the police outside of the bank, the stress level of the hostages inside the bank and the progress of cracking the vault. Pursuing the perfect heist is really what will make you keep coming back for more. It's extremely addictive after you have had a taste.
Payday 2 is not without faults, but the positive aspects of the game outweigh the negative. You should only pick up this game if you plan to play it online and playing over Xbox Live is preferably due to Microsoft's native platform for voice communication. In addition, the dynamic level loading system means you will be able to replay the same mission repeatedly and experience a new result each time. If you are a fan of first person shooters and strategic thinking, you will have a blast with Payday 2.
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