Launched in the summer of 2013 as a follow up to the successful Payday: The Heist, Payday 2 follows in its multiplayer-focused store robbing, train raiding, heist planning footsteps. However, rather than following in its predecessor’s footsteps, did it instead merely retread them?
Polish can go a Long Way
I should have known that I wasn’t in for the greatest experiences when I initially had problems even getting past the tutorial. I set aside 10 minutes to do it before going out one day, completed it successfully – but then when I returned later I was forced to do it again. Having explored the safe house for a second time and completing a simple jewellery store robbery, imagine my frustration when, upon logging in for a third time, I was once again told to go through the tutorial.
Payday 2 is not a new game. It’s been out for two and a half years now. That’s why I found the bugs that I experience in the first couple of missions to be near unforgivable. My first questionable experience was being handcuffed by what appeared to be a security guard with aspirations of becoming a paratrooper – assailing me from above when he glitched through the ceiling and seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
In the same mission I struggled to figure out exactly how the eyeballs of security guards work. Stand in plain sight in the back office of a store while they stare gormlessly at you and everything’s fine – but hiding around a corner I was spotted through and the guard’s suspicion meter quickly rose.
The allied AI isn’t much better than the enemy AI, either. Prepare to have your carefully planned heist ruined by your gangmates getting stuck behind a door, or randomly charging through rooms past bewildered security guards. Watch as they stand stock-still out in the open while you come under heavy arms fire.
Fun with Friends?
Perhaps my biggest gripe with the game is that it relies on the players’ friends far too much in order to produce enjoyable gameplay. When you’ve got a gang online and the tension is spreading from person to person, it becomes a completely different game. The problem is I think that’s a lazy way out. Playing on your own quickly brings the games issues to the fore – and there are many – it’s not a good stealth game. It’s not a good shooter. The AI is too random and buggy for it to succeed as a stealth game, and the gunplay is far too loose and unrefined for it to be a good shooter.
Then there’s the business model. After promising since launch that they wouldn’t introduce microtransactions that offered better weapons, they did just that in October 2015. After quickly reneging in the face of a furious player base, they made another misstep by announcing DLC that contained stat boosting items.
Release Date: 13/08/2013
Available on: Linux, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, Windows, PC Download
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To Iterate or not to Iterate?
What’s more frustrating with Payday 2 is that these are largely the same issues that people had with the original Payday. Overkill didn’t push the boat out at all when it came to iterating on their formula, and it shows. Another complaint that veterans had was that most missions revolved around waiting for drills to finish their task – which is another thing that Payday 2 does not address at all.
The Good Stuff
Payday 2 isn’t all bad, though. It’s certainly a unique game with mechanics that have been well thought out regardless of the quality of execution. Being able to actively case a job before and then seamlessly starting it by donning a mask is a very clever and non-gamey implementation. The numerous ways in which goods can be stolen, ranging from simple smash and grabs to drilling through safes. Guards can be cuffed to make sure they don’t spoil your afternoon or do something interminably pesky like alerting the police. Or you can just shoot them. Payday 2 doesn’t shy away from offering the player a choice and that is easily its greatest legitimate strength.
There’s a ton of content and different challenges available for you and your mates to play through, with a clear progression of difficulty, meaning that your team can gradually work up to the super challenging and rewarding missions. If you do get into it, Payday 2 is certainly a game that will offer plenty of time for the money spent. You can go from robbing a bog standard store in one mission to reliving the days of Ronnie Biggs and raiding trains.
Truth be told, I’m saddened by the direction that Overkill Software seem to be taking with Payday 2. Adding pay to win elements is a sure fire way to cut your player base while making the game an unattractive to proposition to potential new players. Focusing on DLC while there are still obvious issues with AI isn’t exactly a great image to put forward, either. If you have a group of friends who all seem to love the idea, the game can be picked up on sale frequently. For the solo player, Payday 2 is worth skipping.
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PAYDAY 2 is developed by OVERKILL.