Review: Payday 2

Crime doesn’t always pay, but sometimes it can be fun.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 03/05/2018 19:15 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Unique, co-op focused gameplay; large variety of missions and difficulty options; lots of ways to customize characters for different gameplay approaches.
Poison Mushroom for...
No in-game voice chat; occasional slow down; limited single player appeal.

Hollywood has always romanticized the idea of the heist: a group of expert criminals coming together to pull off complex, daring robberies worth millions of dollars. For anyone who idolizes the crooks in movies like Heat or Reservoir Dogs, Payday 2 presents an interesting opportunity to delve into their own criminal nature without risking flying bullets and years of incarceration. The game itself is pretty much a proven quantity at this point, having earned millions of fans across numerous platforms, so the only question is how well the action translates to Switch.

Rather than presenting a linear story to experience or an open-world to explore, Payday 2 presents an ever-changing selection of heists to partake in as you earn the money and experience needed to upgrade your skills and outfit your character with better weapons and gear. These missions present a variety of different types of heists ranging from simple hold-ups to complex, multiple level affairs spread out over numerous days. Naturally, the more complex the job, the bigger the reward; but they also require much larger time commitments. Also, while there are literally dozens of missions, the game further helps alleviate repetition in many missions by changing up the locations of key items or the types of obstacles you might encounter. The variety is further enhanced thanks to a large selection of difficulty levels that introduce more and tougher varieties of enemies in addition to even more challenging obstacles like tougher safes or more surveillance cameras.

Much of the game’s diversity comes in how it allows you to approach most missions in a number of ways. While some levels demand stealth or calculated precision at the risk of failure, most are very flexible as they adapt to how well you execute your preferred strategy. Going in guns blazing and engaging in a protracted gun fight as you slowly load up bags of gold is as fun as it is intense, but there is also a certain satisfaction you get when you sneak into the back of a jewelry store, steal a priceless tiara, and then escape without raising an alarm. What allows for this diverse approach to gameplay is Payday 2’s surprisingly diverse progression system.

As was mentioned earlier, successful heists reward money and experience that you funnel into your character for customization. Money lets you purchase new guns, armor, gadgets, and other equipment while experience goes into leveling up, which expands your shopping choices and grants skill points. Skills are divided into a wide variety of trees that reinforce certain gameplay styles; one set of skills might help improve accuracy with certain weapons while another grants abilities like lock-picking. While higher end skills in each tree require significant skill point investments, you are free to spread them around as you see fit, thus giving you the option to specialize in a few key areas or create a character who can do a little bit of everything. What’s especially nice is how the game allows for 15 preset load-outs, meaning that if you are prepping for a new mission and you want to change from your heavily armored, machine-gun toting juggernaut to a business suit with small, easily concealed weapons you don’t need to do a bunch of annoying menu diving.

Once you actually boot up a heist, the core mechanics will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played a console FPS in the last 20 years; beyond the usual running and gunning, however, there are plenty of unique gameplay ideas. There are civilians that can be taken hostage, computer systems to hack, locks to pick, safes to drill, cameras to disable, bags of stolen goods to carry, and much, much more. Your particular load-out might limit your options as certain actions require specific skills or equipment, but these factors are all worth considering as they might impact how you choose to approach the objective. From a gameplay perspective, however, the only real issue is that many of these actions are performed by the same button which can sometimes be frustrating. The difference between opening a safe with C4 or a drill is where on the safe you are aiming when you press that button, and seeing how either action has radically different consequences, and this can sometimes to lead to annoying mistakes. When things do go wrong and the cops are called in, the gunplay is solid, albeit a little on the loose side as some guns don’t feel quite as accurate as they should without investing heavily in particular perks or gun upgrades.

Unfortunately, the biggest issue inĀ Payday 2 is more a fault of the system than the game itself. While you can play it by yourself, the game is clearly designed to be played with a coordinated group of other players. Some of the simpler missions work fine alone, but seeing how the AI is only capable of providing backup in the event of a firefight, your options for tackling objectives are limited to just how you equipped your character. The bigger heists feature multiple objectives that really require groups that start planning things out before the level even starts as a diverse team in terms of equipment and abilities. The game does support local wireless play which is fantastic, but most people will likely wind up playing online where there is no option for voice chat. While there are plenty of apps and programs friends can use to allow communication outside the game itself, it really is unfortunate that players have to take this extra step.

With regards to presentation, it’s apparent that Payday 2 is a few years old and no longer on the cutting edge, but for the most part it looks and sounds pretty good. The game also generally runs quite well, though I did experience some slowdown a few times when playing at higher difficulties when swarms of cops came running in. Musically the game is perfectly fine if not somewhat uninspired, though I did find the default music volume to be surprisingly loud as it covered up the solid sound effects and voice acting.

Payday 2 remains a unique experience in the FPS genre thanks to its subject matter and dedicated approach to team work. And while quite a bit has been said about how this Switch version isn’t up to date with all the content released on other platforms, the package doesn’t feel incomplete or even light on material as there is still lots to do. Furthermore, the game executes all the core mechanics well and looks good while doing it. Aside from a handful of small yet noticeable issues, the biggest problem remains the lack of in-game voice chat. Altogether, this means that this version of Payday 2 might not be the best way to experience the game, but it is certainly serviceable for those willing to go the extra mile to arrange for other voice chat solutions.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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