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Review

Payday 2 Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: August 23, 2013
  • X360

Payday 2 brings crime to life with an alluring intensity that entertains in spite of some rough edges.

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In crime, as in game development, things don't always go as planned. A suspicious passerby might call the cops in early, and then those cops might phase through a wall. The loot you expect to find might not be there, and the end-of-heist reward you're hoping for might never arrive. Civilians might try to flee in the middle of a firefight, or they might disappear through the floor. And yet, despite the potential pitfalls and the actual flaws of Payday 2, things have a way of coming together. The tension of planning and keeping things quiet, the excitement of asserting control when all hell breaks loose, and the satisfaction of a successful score outshine any dull spots, making Payday 2 an immensely enjoyable way to team up for a life of crime.

As part of the four-man crew of Hoxton, Chains, Dallas, and Wolf, you are contracted to do jobs by a dude named Bain. He sets you up with various shady characters and presents you with a city map of constantly changing opportunities. There are around 10 distinct jobs that pop up regularly with varying difficulty levels that affect how hard and how lucrative they will be. Some are stand-alone gigs, like bank heists, store robberies, and nightclub burglaries, while others span multiple days and involve stealing art, cooking meth, transporting drugs, dealing with gang members, and stealing from senators.

Mission objectives are generally clear, though there are a number of subtleties to contend with as well. Some challenges can be mastered by experience; it won't take you long to memorize the floor plan of the bank, and you quickly become familiar with the penalty for setting off alarms in the art gallery. Others require you to be flexible; cameras and security guards aren't always in the same place, and even doors, safes, and getaway spots can vary from mission to mission. This mix of constancy and variability does a great job of making you feel more confident with each mission while simultaneously keeping you on your toes. You can never be perfectly prepared for a job, and that's the way it should be.

Unfortunately, there are also some things that are more difficult to prepare for. Strange happenings with civilian and police character models, walls that you can pull solid objects through, and other technical oddities crop up throughout Payday 2. They usually have only minor effects on your criminal activity, but they do add a sour note to the otherwise welcome unpredictability. Such issues aren't likely to derail your heists, but they are occasionally enough to turn your stealthy infiltration into a messy affair.

Keeping things quiet is one of the biggest challenges of Payday 2 because so much can go wrong. A suspicious civilian might see you put on your mask. A security camera might spot you at a distance. A guard might round the corner when you're not expecting it. The guy on the radio might not believe you when you pretend to be the guard you just knocked out. Or someone, somewhere might hear the tinkling of broken glass, and before you know it, the cops are on their way and your escape van has bugged out. Completing a job without the cavalry showing up triggers a rush of giddy satisfaction, but more often than not, you're going to have to shoot your way out.

Once the alarm has sounded, the cops are on their way, but you can still manage the situation. Taking civilian hostages delays the armed escalation, keeping the really tough enemies at bay for a while. Moving your loot to a defensible position, closing the metal shutters on a store, or finding planks to board up a window can help you hold out while you wait for your drill or lock pick or computer hack to work its magic. Meanwhile, the cops come at you, and you gun them down in droves. The gunplay is solid and the AI is aggressive, but combat is more of a war of attrition than a contest of skill. Stick around long enough, and you will inevitably be overrun, no matter how skillfully you delay and fend off the advancing waves. On tougher jobs, there is more loot to grab than you can easily get away with, tempting you to try to hold out a bit longer to get a fatter payday. Get too greedy, however, and all is lost. Payday 2 channels this classic criminal conundrum nicely, right down to the heated mid-battle disagreements between team members.

And you must have human team members if you hope to succeed at any but the most basic jobs. Friendly AI characters shoot cops and revive downed players just fine, but they don't attempt much else. Playing with a team allows you to plan your approach, adapt to the situation better, and get away with more loot. The limited number of maps means that most players have a good idea what to do and when to do it, but being able to communicate is still very important. The PC is the best platform to find talkative teammates using either voice or text chat. The Xbox 360 is the runner-up thanks to the prevalent headsets, while the PlayStation 3 lags far behind with very few talkative players.

Being on the same page as your crewmates also allows you to bring complementary skills to each job. The basic equipment options let you replenish health, resupply ammunition, jam electronic signals, or set explosive traps. As you level up and earn money and experience points, you unlock new purchasable weapons for your arsenal and are rewarded with skill points that you can put toward a variety of abilities which also cost money. (Sense a theme?) Some of these skills merely make you better at what you can already do, letting you do more damage and take less, move more quickly and quietly, and perform a variety of contextual actions more efficiently.

Other skills open up entirely new strategic possibilities. Wielding a saw as your primary weapon lets you cut through some doors and crack open ATMs. Why kill a guard when you can intimidate him into handcuffing himself or convince him to fight on your side? Reviving teammates from a distance, converting your trip mines into safe-blowing charges, equipping an automatic sentry gun, and bagging and hiding bodies are just some of the other abilities that can completely change the tempo of your jobs. It's rewarding to work toward new skills and exciting to put them into action.

Tailoring your weapons to the job at hand can also be gratifying, but the path to satisfaction isn't as reliable. You unlock weapons steadily, but weapon attachments like scopes, suppressors, stocks, barrel extensions, and the like are only doled out in an end-of-round lottery event. You may get a nice new gun attachment, but you might instead end up with a small cash bonus or materials to craft a new mask. Mask crafting is an amusing, if expensive, diversion, but this random reward system can be frustrating for players looking to improve their arsenal. Even a simple suppressor can be hard to come by, making stealthy successes even more unlikely. Some of these imbalances have been addressed in patches, while other issues persist. The PC and PS3 seem to be the most frequently updated versions, with the Xbox 360 yet to receive similar attention.

Though the PC is clearly the best platform for Payday 2, you can have a rollicking good time regardless of what system you're using. The systems and mechanics all have small flaws and limitations, but they come together to set the stage for exciting heists that you'll want to pull again and again. As long as you can find some felons to fight alongside, Payday 2 is an addictive and challenging criminal pursuit.

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The Good
Captures the drama and satisfaction of daring heists
New skills enable new tactics
Element of randomness keeps you on your toes
The Bad
Some randomness is due to bugs
Reward pipeline is problematic
Friendly AI is all but useless
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Payday 2

About the Author

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.

Discussion

15 comments
AnarchyPony
AnarchyPony

It's got some issues. But if you can get some basically competent friends to play with, it's a lot of fun.

nosaj85
nosaj85

Great review. 

I really appreciated that you mentioned the differences in the game support and the level of community interactions on each platform. I've often been left feeling uninformed after watching a review for a game I'm interested in playing and only seeing it from the perspective of a particular platform.

Hope this becomes a trend with you guys.

christie_
christie_

Basicaly this is a game made of 1% of all the things you can do in GTA V?

jerusaelem
jerusaelem

They turned a very awesome concept into a horrifically boring grind. I'm sure most of the bugs will be addressed in future patches, but I doubt I'll still be playing at that point. The grind is just too...dull, and I never thought I'd say that about a game where you rob banks. And why the hell does it cost an additional $50,000 dollars to attach a scope I already own to a gun I already paid $500,000 dollars for? A scope I got after about 75 heists, mind you, with some stupid RNG card game nonsense. Here's a thought: why not have us just use the damn money we stole to buy the upgrades we want? Stupid. The lack of split screen co-op was also extremely perplexing. 

Yet another promising franchise reduced to mediocrity by the very first sequel. It's becoming an alarming trend these days. At least I can still enjoy the first game anway. 7 sounds about right, but about 200 heists in, 7 is going to sound awfully generous. 

synthesis1234
synthesis1234

Worse game ever, to even give this a 7 is being good. To many faults, well bad coding to this game. I advise anyone to not buy this, list of faults is endless, game has great ideas but are poorly executed. Lets start by you can only rob something hold up somewhere when you put your mask on. Walk up to security guard, it will automatically put you in heist mode?? No stealth on this game what so ever, can't knock out public, just kills them and you get fined for that?? Holding a shop up. for some reason will alert all other shops around you when you tell them to get down. Drilling a safe, take nearly 5 mins, not to add that you have to repair the drill 4-5 times!! heists when you start out the jobs the cash you make is just to low to do anything. Say I do a job earn 100g plus I'd get a 15g cut?? upgrading skills costs points and money, if on a level you steal more then the target makes no difference you don't get the extra money, you still get 15g, hardly worth it when your staking up bodys lool no stealth in this game, all just run in shoot shoot, done safe being undercover, still have to run away with the mask on just alerting other people. Terrible game!!! just all the glitchs like people seeing you in the dark from like a mile away ridiculous, can't stealth anywhere in the game at all just rubbish, massive flop this game, last game I buy for xbox, or updating my gold, far as I am concerned bunch of con artists. give it 3 stars.

Smoothus
Smoothus

I'd say the review is spot on. Cerain bugs should not be in a finished product and content in a whole is quite bare bones so i think a 7.0 is justified.

stan_boyd
stan_boyd

Chris we all know the real reason you only gave it a 7.0, because its not CoD.

koolr
koolr

So no comments???????!

slayer1090
slayer1090

@christie_ And it will do a far better job than any heist GTA V can produce. GTA V is going to be like a tech demo of life.

stan_boyd
stan_boyd

@Smoothus yeah cause its not like CoD ever has glitches when it comes out right, you know except those ones that people exploit and use to cheat, and they always give us a ton of new content each year right, oh wait nope just a couple new guns and maps which could just be released as dlc. Yet chris gives every call of duty a great score.

Alucard_Prime
Alucard_Prime

@stan_boyd He still gave it a 7 and based on his written review he is basically recommending the game. At least he did not give it a much lower score, like other Gamespot reviewers.......ie. : oh, a few QTE, lets drop the score by 5 points..... imo Chris is the best reviewer on Gamespot.

wongph
wongph

@Xxthesorrow90xX @synthesis1234 u get more money by playing harder difficulties. also while the game is glitchy the patch schedule is quite tight. and soon there r more free dlcs. finally the game only charges $30 dollars at steam so dont think it as a big budge game

Payday 2 More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • + 3 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Payday 2 is an action-packed, four-player co-op heist shooter that once again lets gamers don the masks of the original Payday crew - Dallas, Hoxton, Wolf and Chains.
    7
    Average User RatingOut of 351 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Payday 2
    Developed by:
    Overkill Software, 505 Games
    Published by:
    505 Games
    Genres:
    3D, Action, Team-Based, Shooter, First-Person
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    All Platforms
    Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes