Payday 2: review

  • Format: PS3 (version reviewed), 360, PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: 505 Games
  • Developer: Overkill Software
  • Players: 1-4
  • Site:

Payday: The Heist was the first game to really capture the feeling of a daring bank raid, but was quickly met with comparisons with Left 4 Dead, thanks to its horde-slaughtering gameplay. Payday 2 still sees you and three comrades shooting and looting, but the variety has spiked through the roof and skewered a passing eagle. It’s clear that Overkill has taken what worked and then drastically fleshed out ideas that were only hinted at in the original.

You aren’t just knocking off banks and other secure locations, but also stealing paintings, cooking meth, escaping police ambushes and even doing smash and grab jewellery heists. All in all there are 30 locations for your criminal mastermind to ravage, each of them accessed via the new interface. Think of it as a cross between Google Maps and Craigslist, but with slightly more reliable information (and crime).

How to get an interest free payday loan

So much of the fun in this game comes from each location’s dynamic mission elements. The bank always looks the same from the outside but the safe may have moved, previously open areas might now be sealed off by fences, and there might even be an extra door to drill through before you can complete the daring raid. It’s incredible how missions you’ve already done can suddenly feel so different due to a changed getaway location or botched objective.

Speaking of botched objectives, our Critical Gamer play test crew became adept at failing even the simplest of tasks. Failure can come from any number of ways, but usually involves getting spotted by the wrong person, making suspicious noises or not following instructions (how were we supposed to know that adding chemical X would blow up a meth lab?) However, rather brilliantly, failure doesn’t always mean game over. It might make security doors and S.W.A.T. teams suddenly slam down all around you, but it changes things up and makes you react to the situation. It can also be very, very funny.

Successfully surviving a heist will reward you with a cut of the money that was promised to you at the start of the mission, acting as your fee. The higher the difficulty and risk of the mission, the more you can charge for your services. However, you also have the opportunity to bolster your payday by lifting additional bags of money and extra mission items. It’s a nice touch that plays into a risk vs reward mind-set.

Things stay calm whilst you remain quiet

Stealth plays a significantly greater role in Payday 2, with many heists hinting that it’s the preferred option. Dodging cameras and civilians can get you so far, as can silently clubbing the occasional guard. Get to your objective unseen and the heavy artillery in your knapsack might even go unfired, resulting in a clean getaway and a hefty payday. It’s a difficult approach to take that almost never works without full voice comms and more luck than a four-leaf leprechaun, but it’s satisfying when you finally manage to pull it off. This approach is made significantly easier with suppressed weapon add-ons, but unfortunately they falls victim to the game’s random gear drop system.

When you reach the end of a heist, each player has a new piece of gear randomly unlocked. However, with such a wide range of weapon mods, masks and aesthetic options available, unlocking that specific suppressor you’ve been eying up becomes a total lottery. This makes obtaining your desired build a very time consuming option. This is further compounded by the fact that you still need to buy the upgrade once you’ve unlocked it, and beyond the basic gear, prices start to soar into silly territory.

It’s always good to be left wanting more by a game, but the pay walls in place for anything that’s even mid-range decent feel a little high. Everything costs money, whether it’s applying a pattern to your mask, putting a better stock on your rifle or even using a skill point you’ve already earned by previously levelling up. With so much reliance on in-game currency for every action, it occasionally feels like a free-play title that forgot to add micro transactions. As such, this game is a massive time sink with a grind threshold similar to that of an MMO. We can’t help but feel a little cheated by having to pay ridiculous sums of money to level up on top of the XP requirement.

There’s often only one escape route, with a lot to shoot through on the way out

We really wish we could leave the criticisms there, but unfortunately there are some glaring issues staring this game in its masked face. The first of which are invisible walls. Several areas of the game world just stop the player in their tracks, with no physical obstacle or explanation. This is quite frustrating, especially if you’re running away from police or initially scouting out a level.

The AI is also atrocious, whether it’s your non-player teammates, hostages dancing in gunfire, or confused police invaders. The police seem to have a playbook of consistently terrible tactical decisions, such as blindly charging into bullets, unfocussed assaults and abseiling into a meat grinder of smoke, hot lead and panic. Your AI teammates are just as rubbish, only suitable for reviving you and drawing gunfire. It’s also frustrating that they outright refuse to help you carry mission loot.

All in all, we really enjoyed Payday 2. It’s a fantastic game that takes the original and makes everything better. However, to get the most of it, you really need to be playing online with the headset plugged in, and better yet with people you know. Heists where you don’t communicate often end up in disaster, resulting in a lower pay out or even total failure. It also pains us to say that we can’t recommend it to casual players, as if you can only spare this title a couple of hours every week, you won’t get far at all and likely give up before you’re anywhere near the bigger unlocks. Payday 2 is a great game that, with a little more polish, could have been even greater.

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Written by Anthony H

Anthony has been playing games for far too much of his life, starting with the MS-DOS classic Mario is Missing. Since then his tastes have evolved to include just about anything, but his soft spot lies with shooters and the odd strategy game. Anthony will inspire you with his prose, uplift you with his wit and lie to you in his biography.

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