A gritty co-operative blaster where you assume the role of professional criminal, plan daring heists, then dodge a maelstrom of bullets as you try to escape with as much loot as you can carry, Payday 2 is a budget-priced delight that excels when you have a trio of human companions to watch your back. But while the game’s four-way shootouts are a hoot, this caper’s biggest crime is its delinquent single-player campaign.
Although Payday 2’s basic set-up will be familiar to fans of its beloved-yet-flawed predecessor, fresh intensity comes with the option to choose from four different character classes. From Enforcers who act as muscle to keep the police at bay, to Technicians whose panache with a drill can make bank raids quicker and less messy, working with other players to balance your skills and hatch flawless felonies is a welcome addition to the bloodshed, and also offers long-term engagement as you can use accumulated experience points to craft the perfect criminal.
An enhanced – if somewhat clumsy – mission select system, where you can choose jobs of varying lengths and difficulty, also adds depth as you collude with your ragtag team to decide which crimes best suit your expertise, and the option to spend your ill-gotten gains on personalising your character and creating custom masks also adds longevity to the experience. But clever team and character-building aside, what’s most fun about Payday 2 is stepping into the unknown and trying to make your illicit schemes run like clockwork, though the game’s dynamic scenarios and random events can scupper even the best laid plans and leave you and your team exposed as the law swoops in.
Sadly, though, if you take the thrill of working alongside human players out of the equation, Payday 2 quickly falls apart.
For solo gamers weaned on Call Of Duty who expect dazzling eye candy from their blasters, the game’s juddering animations and muddy environments are deeply disappointing and offer few visual thrills. Worse, while the single-player campaign also requires you to work alongside fellow criminals, the AI of computer-controlled comrades is shockingly poor, with accomplices refusing to follow orders or stay out of the line of fire, regularly getting stuck in the scenery and becoming locked in endless animations. And while unsatisfying visuals and lame AI also taint the co-op game, these nagging issues are easy to ignore when you’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your pals and reassessing your plans on the hoof as bullets crisscross the air around you.