Payday 2 review for PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Platform: PS3
Also On: Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Overkill
Medium: Blu-ray/Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

While Payday 2 offers up an offline mode where you can fill the 3 co-op spots with A.I. controlled thieves as you take on various heists and robberies, it?s certainly not something I?d suggest doing. I came to this realization when attempting to review the game on PS3 last week. I was stuck playing the game alone for the most part due to some serious matchmaking issues on PSN. Those have thankfully been patched, but it was a long enough bout with the offline mode to really make it stand out as exceptionally bad.

The majority of the issues when playing Payday 2 offline without friends in tow stems from the absolutely awful A.I. that control your teammates. While it?s easy to pass Payday 2 off as just another FPS at first glance, it?s less focused on racking up kills and centered more on accomplishing objectives across a number of various missions. Some of these are simple affairs like knocking over jewelry stores, while others can be multi-day art heists, meth cooks, and other nefarious deeds. Sadly the accompanying A.I. isn?t up to the task for any of these events. They exist simply to absorb bullets and shoot some back, unable to pick up bags of money, restrain civilians or act independently whatsoever. And considering this is absolutely vital for some of the tougher missions in Payday 2, it makes me question why there?s an offline mode present at all if it?s virtually unplayable past the minor smash and grabs at the start.

payday-2_jewelry_store_heist_cleanIt?s even less compelling to play by yourself considering how much fun the game is when you do have friends or strangers accompanying you. It?s the difference between night and day, transforming arduous, overly long heists into well-oiled machines with the right amount of teamwork. Seeing a planned out bank robbery in motion with Payday 2 is a thing of beauty, watching as every member of your gang does their part when it comes to knocking out security cameras, apprehending random passerby and binding them in place, or forcing security guards to handcuff themselves before sounding alarms. And if things go south, which they often do, making a hectic run for the escape van as armored SWAT teams drop in from all sides is about as exciting as an online experience can get.

I whole-heartedly endorse Payday 2 as an online experience. It?s unlike any other shooter you?re likely to play, and despite some repetition from doing the same set of heists over and over again, you?ll have a hard time putting it down. If you?re able to get a group of dedicated, microphone wielding friends together you?ll get even more enjoyment out of this. It seriously is one of the most satisfying co-op experiences I?ve had this generation, and is absolutely worth checking out if you have the ability to play the game with others.

payday-2_meatlocker_face_the_crowdBut Payday 2 does have some flaws accompanying it, most of which are tied into the leveling/skill point allocation and item purchasing mechanics. In Payday 2 you can earn skill points with every level up earned, which can be poured into four different skill trees. These trees focus on different styles of play, like stealth or technical abilities revolving around tools like drills and C4. The concept for the four skill trees are great, but needing to spend money on top of skill points earned seems like overkill.

At the start of the game you?re not rolling in dough from the early missions completed, most of the smash and grab heists you?ll start off with are only going to net you $3,000 to $5,000 in spending cash at the start. But with early automatic weapons costing around or over $100,000 it?ll be some time before you can really afford anything worthwhile.  It can also take a lot of skill points before you?ll start to see the really useful sections of the four skill trees become available, which really hurts the overall pacing of Payday 2 quite a bit.

payday-2_jewelry_store_shootoutIt?s also not the prettiest game in the world, which I?d be more forgiving of if it weren?t for the abundance of random visual bugs. You?ll see some funny stuff happen often enough, enemies and other characters clipping through objects is a natural occurrence, along with some physics shenanigans with bodies flailing about in unconvincing ways. You?ll also catch enemies just magically spawning, sometimes getting the unfortunate drop on you because you just passed by an empty space now occupied by four or more SWAT guys with shotguns. I also ran into some audio bugs, where I?d get the background music but absolutely no sound effects, making it a little harder to realize when I was being shot at with no gunfire to back up my impending death.

Payday 2 is a game that I really enjoy when it?s working right, which is definitely more often than not at this point. It had a rocky launch week with some broken matchmaking on PSN, but again this seems to be pretty well fixed. However, and I can?t emphasis this enough, you should really only give this game a go if you?re going to play with others. This is not a single player experience that fares well, to the point that the option could be excised completely and I would not miss it a bit. But if you?re looking for a unique co-op based shooter with a heavy focus on teamwork and objective based gameplay, you?ll have a tough time doing better than Payday 2.

Grade: C+