PayDay 2 review

Although it could perhaps have used a bit more time in development, Overkill Software delivers a satisfying co-op heist game in 'Payday 2'.
Although it could perhaps have used a bit more time in development, Overkill Software delivers a satisfying co-op heist game in 'Payday 2'.
Although it could perhaps have used a bit more time in development, Overkill Software delivers a satisfying co-op heist game in 'Payday 2'.

Highs

  • Random elements in each job heavily encourage replayability
  • Co-op is a huge success, offering lots of fun for communicative players
  • Very deep progression system adds a lot of value

Lows

  • Unstable online play means you're always at risk of losing progress
  • An overall lack of polish diminishes the quality of the experience

DT Editors' Rating

A few scattered shrieks accompany the sound of shattering glass but, mercifully, there are no sirens. You hoist your shoulder-slung SMG behind you and quickly shovel jewelry into a nondescript satchel while your accomplices keep things together. One lingers in the back room, minding the drill as it bores through the thick door of a cube-shaped safe. Another stalks back and forth across the jewelry store, shouting at patrons to keep their heads down. The fourth in your group remains out front, running crowd control to prevent passing pedestrians from calling in the fuzz.

The stillness is suddenly broken when a police siren flares up in the distance. And it’s getting closer. Your headset connection to the crew explodes with chatter and shouts of blame. Someone screwed up. Maybe the cellphone-scrambling ECM jammer fried out? Or a lone pedestrian slipped away unnoticed? It doesn’t matter. The heat is incoming, and your heist just went tits up. All you and your crew can really do is secure the hostages, hunker down, and prepare for a siege.

Welcome to Payday 2.

Opportunity makes a thief

Overkill Software delivered on the promise of a fun, co-op-driven steal-a-thon in 2011’s PS3/PC-only Payday: The Heist, and now Payday 2 comes along to evolve some of the earlier effort’s great ideas. This is a much larger endeavor, with the previous game’s loosely structured story discarded completely in favor of a more open-ended framework, which is built around a new mission selection interfacecalled Crime.net.

Crime.net is your portal into the co-op heisting world. Accessing it brings up a city map filled with an assortment of jobs, from single-day smash-and-grabs to elaborate, multi-day gigs. Each job is on a timer; once the timer zeroes out, that job is gone forever. New opportunities are constantly cycling in and out of the map. Each icon conveys basic info about the job: what its name is, how many days it lasts, what difficulty it’s set at, and how many players are currently in the lobby (if any).

The simplest heists are single day ventures, amounting to one “match” from the player’s perspective. Robbery is always on the agenda in some form, but objectives can range from making off with a set number of loot bags to destroying $50,000 worth of mall merchandise. Multi-day missions unfold over multiple, connected “matches,” all of which must be completed in order to receive the full reward.

You might spend 30 minutes or more stealthily setting yourself up for a job, only to lose all when you’re suddenly kicked from the game.

There’s roughly a dozen different job templates in all, though an element of randomness in Payday 2 helps to make even the most familiar robberies feel fresh. People, camera locations, and even map layouts change with each new playthrough. You could play the Jewelry Store smash-and-grab several times in a row, and still have to worry about checking alleys for blocked paths and back rooms for safes as you work to avoid raising alarms.

There’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction felt when you work successfully with your four-person crew to pull off a robbery without alerting anyone. Plenty of co-op games are out there that reward team play, but none quite match Payday 2’s thrill of keeping a crowd under control while you busy yourselves with stealing all of the money. You can always play with fewer than four, either filling out your team with AI allies or going in with a smaller crew, but most of the heists are designed with four human players in mind.

Better burgling

Money is a much more valuable commodity now than it was in the original game thanks to an entirely new system of unlocks. It starts with your four thieves: each one has a particular specialty that spreads out across a skill tree. Reaching a new tier of skills in each tree is a simple matter of spending a certain threshold of points in the tiers below it. Classes must improve separately, but once a skill is unlocked, it remains active (unless you respec) regardless of your loadout or character choice.

Skills are built around making your work on a given job easier. The Mastermind class is a silver-tongued fast-talker; he gets better at intimidating the rabble into not running off and doing his best “Han Solo ‘we’re all fine here, how are you?'” act when speaking into a downed guard’s pager. The Enforcer, on the other hand, brings brute strength that allows him to, say, throw loot bags much further than your average crook. The Technician and Ghost round out your crew, bringing along a love of explosives and a knack for electronics, respectively.

PayDay-2-screenshot-Stealth-Frame

Then you’ve got your loadouts. Primary weapons, secondary weapons, outfits (bulletproof vests and the like), equipment, and masks can all be custom-selected before you step into a new job. Many of these unlock as your XP level rises, though some – notably weapon attachments and masks/mask customization items – only come from random Payday rewards that all players receive at the end of any successful job.

There’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction felt when you work successfully with your four-person crew.

All of this, whether it’s equipping a new weapon, fitting a new attachment, painting your mask, or assigning skill points, costs money. You can respec your skills within a given tree whenever you’d like, but you’ll want to have a hefty supply of cash on hand before you do so. Same goes for attachments; you might prefer to take the silencer off your pistol before a mission that won’t require it, but you’ll have to pay up again later if you want to re-attach it.

Through this, Payday 2 effectively reinforces your endless pursuit of the almighty dollar. Cash is always the resource that you could use more of. Most of your take from a successful job is stashed away in an offshore account that you can’t ever touch – think of it as your high score – so your spending cash tends to dwindle quickly unless you’re careful about saving.

Best laid plans…

Payday 2 is a tremendous game with a lot of clever ideas built around supporting co-op play, but it’s not nearly as polished as it should be. The user interface is woefully lacking on the Crime.net side; a basic filter allows you to see if friends are playing, but there’s no way to restrict your search to just one job template or difficulty. There’s also no tutorial, a woeful oversight for such a complex game. Contextual command pop-ups help matters, but prepare for a learning curve.

The netcode for both the PC and Xbox 360 versions is lacking as well. Load times are excessively lengthy, especially on the console side. Dropped connections occur semi-frequently, even after a launch day patch was released. You might spend 30 minutes or more stealthily setting yourself up for a job, only to lose all when you’re suddenly kicked from the game. The patch seems to have cleaned things up considerably, but the stability issues are worth noting.

PayDay-2-screenshot-Overpass

Payday 2 also offers a Crime.net Offline mode that allows you to take on any job using bot accomplices rather than humans. Unfortunately, someone seems to have forgotten to program the INTELLIGENCE portion of the friendly AI. They’ll follow you around and shoot back at things, but they won’t pick up loot bags or tie hostages or anything like that. It’s so bad that Crime.net Offline is effectively broken in its current form; most missions are rendered virtually impossible thanks to your useless teammates.

There are also some platform-specific oddities. The Xbox 360 version is just graphically inferior, simple as that. Perhaps it’s a result of just how much number-crunching is being done while you’re playing with all of the random elements, but it’s a surprisingly ugly late-gen console release, at least on Xbox 360.

The PC version, on the other hand, is strangely schizophrenic in the way its controls are set up. There’s no way to switch between keyboard and gamepad controls in-game; you’re stuck with whichever one you start with until you back out to the desktop and reload. The gamepad works well enough in the game, but using it means you sacrifice your ability to use Payday 2’s text chat.

Issues like these can and hopefully will be addressed in time, via patches. Nonetheless, all of it contributes to the less-than-polished feel that you get when you fire up the game for the first time. Especially when you see features like the Safe House, a home base that you can visit between jobs and that you’ll eventually – not yet, but at some unspecified point in the future – be able to customize.

Where to Buy: Amazon

Conclusion

Payday 2 is a tremendously entertaining game when you find yourself in a lobby with three other mic-equipped, communication-friendly players. Overkill expands on its original concept with some terrific new ideas and an overall expansion of what we saw before. The technical shortcomings are mostly minor, but they are undeniably numerous. You’ll overlook them if you love co-op games and have a group to play with, but it’s going to take some patching before Payday 2 can truly be considered “polished.”

Highs

  • Random elements in each job heavily encourage replayability
  • Co-op is a huge success, offering lots of fun for communicative players
  • Very deep progression system adds a lot of value

Lows

  • Unstable online play means you’re always at risk of losing progress
  • An overall lack of polish diminishes the quality of the experience

(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 using a copy provided by the publisher)

Gaming

Overkill’s ‘The Walking Dead’ delayed indefinitely for PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Overkill's The Walking Dead for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have been postponed without a new release date. The co-op zombie shooter suffered massive delays, then received lukewarm reviews once it launched for the PC through Steam.
Deals

Here are 19 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up while on the go (or for some great small gift ideas), we've rounded up 19 must-have gadgets. You'll find everything from a mini gaming controller to a folding Bluetooth keyboard.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Computing

Convert your PDFs into convenient Word documents with Adobe or a free option

PDF files are great, but few document types are as malleable as those specific to Microsoft Word. Here's how to convert a PDF file into a Word document, whether you prefer to use Adobe's software suite or a freemium alternative.
Gaming

How you can give your PS4 a fresh start with a factory reset

Learn the many ways you can factory reset your PS4. From reverting your settings to factory to doing a full wipe and reinstalling the latest PlayStation firmware, we cover it all here, step by step.
Product Review

‘Resident Evil 2' is a terrifying new virus you'll want to catch

Resident Evil 2 brings the Raccoon City incident to a new generation of players, acting both as a nostalgic throwback and a thoroughly modern horror game with some of the best visuals of the generation.
Gaming

Can't stand keyboard gaming on PC? Here's how to use a PS3 controller instead

Properly connecting a PlayStation 3 Controller to a PC is no easy task, especially when you opt for third-party peripherals. Thankfully, our guide will help you through the process.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ update makes you the most dangerous snowman ever

The latest content update for Epic Games' Fortnite adds the Sneaky Snowman item, turning players into stealthy masters of disguise. The update also changes the Sniper Shootout game mode.
Gaming

Having issues with your PS4? Check out our solutions to its most common problems

Just because the PlayStation 4 is a remarkable system doesn't mean that it's immune to the occasional hiccup. Thankfully, we've vetted some of the bigger PS4 problems and found solutions for whatever might ail you.
Gaming

‘Resident Evil 2’ will get free mode called ‘The Ghost Survivors’

Resident Evil 2 will be getting a free post-launch DLC mode which will feature characters not playable in the game's main campaign. No release date has been given for the new mode.
Gaming

These Xbox One exclusives are the definition of quality over quantity

Xbox One has a prestigious collection of handpicked titles that you can't play on other consoles. Here are the latest and greatest Xbox One exclusives, including some that are also available on PC
Product Review

The Digital Storm Aventum X is an unstoppable gaming PC. Trust us, we tried

Packed with dual-Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti graphics card and a 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, the Aventum X is an infinitely upgradeable gaming PC that’s capable of far more performance than you’ll ever need.
Gaming

Have a problem with your Xbox One X? We have the solution

The Xbox One X is a brilliant console, but it's not without its issues, ranging from simple annoyances to severe hardware problems. Here are common Xbox One X problems and how to fix them.