Over the last few years, I have developed a soft spot for Overkill Software’s flawed (yet ridiculously fun) Payday games. I overlooked the flaws of the first two games, because the developers dared to carve out a new niche (out of an already over-populated crowd of co-op games).
In many ways, I consider them the leaders of the pack when it comes to the “heist simulator”. We have seen some interesting titles that deal with exploring the criminal mind – from Grand Theft Auto to even the ill-fated Battlefield Hardline. In fact, you could even say that there exist a continuum of titles that deal with this topic; some are more successful than others, whereas others fail to excite. There’s no question that Grand Theft Auto leads the pack, but when you consider GTA 5’s online component, it’s definitely not a “dedicated heist simulator”. You can plan a heist, but it lacks the complexity and mission variety that is found in the Payday games. It’s in this single aspect that Overkill Software’s games have truly excelled.
The current iteration of Payday 2, called Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is an HD update (exclusive to current-gen consoles). It features an enhanced graphic engine. The kind that comes with the usual visual perks that you’d expect from a game that gets the remastered treatment. Long-time readers (of my reviews) will be eager to point out that I’ve never been a graphics nut, but even though the game has been remastered, it shows its age… or at least its last-gen origins. The simple truth is that Payday 2 is not a game that you’ll use to showcase the power of your Xbox One or PS4. But, it is a game that tries to seduce you again, by whispering sweet nothings in your ear, because you played it on PC, PS3 or Xbox 360.
The graphics boost won’t excite many, but beyond the new spit shine, the new version benefits from being packed to the brim with additional content. This includes 8 new heist packs, 10 new challenges, additional weapon packs, new masks and an additional Skill Tree. The new Fugitive Skill Tree joins the Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician and Ghost Skill Trees to add even more options for customisation. As the name suggests, the Fugitive Skill Tree focuses on survivability – with perks that greatly improve how easily you can adapt to whatever this game throws at you.
The missions or jobs (new and old) vary greatly in scope, and more importantly in how you can complete them. In Payday 2, you can join a team of criminals on jobs that can take the form of a quick 20 minute bank robbery or a lengthy and complex mission that runs over seven (in-game) days. Depending on the skill levels of your team or even their temperament, you can either unleash your inner criminal mastermind (by planning and performing a stealthy caper) or take the “more demented” route (like a Batman supervillain) by storming your enemies with all guns blazing. There exist a steady learning curve in the missions, with the shorter jobs helping you gain experience to tackle the longer and more complicated missions. It’s one of those rare games where it pays to learn from more experienced players as they plan out the jobs.
There is a lot to praise about this version of Payday 2, however the wheels tend to come off where it truly matters. At its core, Payday is an online team-based game. It is possible to attempt some of the jobs or missions on your own (with the help of AI squad mates), but this is a title that demands to be played with others. It’s in this regard that Overkill Software dropped the ball.
The Payday 2 community has always struggled to accommodate newcomers or low-level players. The number of times I was kicked for being a “low” level 45 (even though I’ve honed my skills in multiple game sessions), literally broke my heart. On the other hand, I sympathise with higher-levelled players, because nothing is more frustrating than having to babysit a lower-levelled team member in a mission that they’re clearly not prepared (or correctly geared) for. However, this all boils down to a lobby and matchmaking system that does not cater for all the nuances of online play. How jobs are delivered to you are seemingly oblivious of your own skill level or character level. While the issue with the lobby and matchmaking system is nothing new, it is a shame that it wasn’t addressed for this HD remaster.
Related to the matchmaking system is a frustrating bug where most of the sessions that you try to join, you’re confronted with an error message. This means that for the vast majority of your time with Payday 2, you’ll be staring at error messages. It doesn’t get better beyond that either, because when you finally join a session, you may find yourself a victim of a session-ending bug. In a few of my attempts to complete a specific mission (where you have to help breakout one of your allies, Hoxton), my team would always get stuck at the halfway mark. And, by stuck I mean literally stuck. The enemies would stop spawning, and there was nothing left to do but restart the session. Other in-game bugs crop up from time to time, from being unable to drop or throw picked up items, to a really annoying bug where you’re unable to interact with items.
While Payday 2: Crimewave Edition promises to be a worthy update to a beloved last-gen title,it’s difficult to recommend it in its current state. It may improve with future patches or content releases, but as it stands Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is a buggy and frustrating mess. It’s a real shame, because this version is packed to the brim with content, and when you can finally join a session the game play is as brilliant as ever.
Last Updated: August 21, 2015