Publisher: 505 Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Released: June 2015
Download Size: 9.85GB (PS4)
GET HEISTING, SON!
Simple math: (Dark Knight bank heist – the ensuing string of betrayals) X that shoot-out from Heat + 4-player co-op = Payday 2: Crimewave Edition. An analogy I am sure has been done to death already, but once you’ve experienced the thrill of boosting $1 million in gold from a National Bank and barely escape the almost overwhelming D.C. Police force, you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to. Unless of course, you’ve never seen The Dark Knight or Heat, in which case this will all be new to you.
In fact, depending on what version of Payday you’ve previously played, a lot of this may or may not be new to you anyway. The Crimewave Edition brings the Payday 2 console experience in line with the current PC version, including all the updates, new heists, characters, gear and other luxuries that us console luddites weren’t afforded. Who’s laughing now, hey? Oh, wait, not us unfortunately.
As it stands at the time of writing (June 22nd 2015), joining someone’s game is as laborious and rewarding an activity as smacking your head against a brick wall to see the other side; you might make it through, but you’re getting a severe headache either way. You see, the Crime.Net Online feature, where the game throws you randomly generated contracts, or gives you the opportunity to join fellow Heisters, is broken. Any attempt to navigate the menu is met with constant freezing, the inability to join games, anger, fury and eventual disappointment.
Rather inexplicably though, it’s only joining a game via Crime.Net that’s the issue. Got a friend? Have them host a private match and invite you in. Don’t have a friend? … Well, there’s always the excellent Single Player and the ever reliable A.I, said no Payday player ever. Being relegated to offline play only is a fate worse than death, as the A.I have no redeeming qualities over a human player. Their complete refusal to help complete objectives, defend you with any level of competency whatsoever, relegating you to do the donkey work is, just like the Crime.Net feature you’re also trying to avoid, infuriating.
(Edit: As of the 5th July, this issue has largely been rectified. Matchmaking should work as normal.)
So what do you do when you’ve finally entered a co-op game? GET HEISTING, SON! While the objectives can differ pretty radically between missions, the main point is usually the same: enter room, take hostages, find valuable objects, hold off the police until someone can come and collect said valuable objects, then escape with all your hard earned loot. This formula sees you robbing banks, jewellery stores and even armoured convoys on the highway. Simpler missions act more like a survival or horde instances; Watchdogs starts you off with the loot, tasking you with ferrying it to the drop-off. No civilians, no “casing the joint”, just a straight fight between you and the Police.
The fighting itself boils down to a number of standoffs and armed sieges against the police force, generally as you wait for a drill to open up a safe/vault/door (delete as appropriate), behind which you hope to find an Aladdin’s Cave of booty. It’s a system that’s painstakingly slow in the early going, but you’ll soon be earning skills, perks and equipment can cut the time you spend waiting for your tools to do their job drastically.
Of course, the more you dig into the game, the more there is to find. Sure, you can wander in with your big balls and your size tens, shoot up the place and get down to business, or you can take the more subtle approach. Many missions can be done completely “undetected”, which is to say, the local police precinct don’t catch a word of what you’re up to. It takes the skill and coordination of a well oiled team of four to pull off, something my amateur hour heist crew have yet to accomplish together. One day, we’ll make that clean getaway.
As I’ve mentioned, there’s skills and perks which can turn you from an idiot with a peashooter blundering into a Post Office to the John Dillinger you know you can be. With five upgradable skill trees that, crucially, can be mixed together, you can create a team capable of handling any scenario. Whilst the skills in question don’t exactly break the co-op gaming mold (Tank, Support, Crowd Control and Healer, namely), each has an important role to play for a successful heist, making the creation of a balanced crew paramount, especially for the unforgiving later difficulties.
The new content I mentioned earlier (new being subjective depending on your preferred platform) includes some of the best parts of the Crimewave Edition, not limited to the Diamond Heist and The Big Bank. Both are massive, multi-layered heists that require you to perform multiple tasks before you can even get to the precious Vault, and some careful consideration and pre-planning is required before that.
Here’s an example: The Big Bank Heist generally requires you to take loot from the Vault up to a Helicopter on the roof. Simple enough, except the route up there is long winded and arduous, especially on the higher difficulties. For a fee, you can have a zip line installed from the lobby to the roof, making the journey a lot easier. Or, for a bigger fee, you can have a bus crash through the wall next to the vault, Dark Knight style. It’s when you’re making decisions like this that Payday really comes into its own. A similar situation occurs when you go to a trade meeting in the Rats job, hoping to swap some meth for payment and information. You could make a clean trade and be on your way, or you could kill everyone and take the meth back. For the enterprising amongst you, that choice is obvious, and I’m glad it’s there.
Erratic online features aside, Payday 2 is a steal. With plenty to sink your teeth into, and scalable difficulties which really increase the risk/reward ratio that challenge how greedy you want to be before you escape, there are a few games quite as intense as this, and even less feel so rewarding when they come together. It’s time to break bad…