As a student there were times in those winter months, where you were on your last tin of baked beans, with the last five pound note put aside for some cheap £1 pints. The heating was off and hope had all gone. Then, you thought to yourself, if only. If only I could rob a bank. That would solve all my problems.
Flash forward to now and the release of Payday 2. Developed by Overkill Software and published by 505 Games. This is a game that will let you live out your illegal desires legally and probably (I mean hopefully, I mean will) be the closest you come to pulling a real bank heist.
Designed very much to be a co-operative gaming experience the game is a first person shooter that involves players teaming up and completing various different heists. This can range from robbing a bank or a jewellery store to executing a mall job or even a drug exchange at a marina docks. Whatever kind of illegal bank rolling you want to do, Payday 2 has likely got a mission to satisfy that thirst.
When you jump into the game you are given a quick and simple tutorial of what you can do and straight away the potential of the game comes to life with the huge array of customisability that it has to offer. As you wonder around your safe house you are shown the normal unlocks you would expect such as your armoury where your guns are stored or modified and your mask shop where you can customise your mask through unlocking different materials and heists at the end of each campaign.
The mask feature is a great idea as it lets players be creative and also enhances the online experience when you meet others and see the grotesque clowns or alternative creations that other players sordid minds have created.
Another positive aspect of the unlock system are the skills trees which is a new feature to the Payday games. Split into four different trees, Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician and Ghost, the skills can be mixed and matches to the player’s preference. The skills under each heading vary in some way but include abilities such as sprinting for longer periods of time, dealing more damage, being able to carry more loot or walking faster when carrying more loot.
Unfortunately the unlock system and potential is where the positives of the game quickly end because the actual gaming experience fails to deliver.
Choosing a mission through the crimenet mission select screen you can choose your crew. Here you can go into a mission yourself or buddy up with some people online. You can see missions that are currently underway and join in mid-way through however I always preferred the start from scratch experience when choosing a mission. I had always planned on being the leader and figurehead when I robbed the bank.
If you choose a mission and go it alone you can choose which member of the crew you are. The only real differentiating feature I found on this was the guns that you have, and obviously you can customise these anyway if you have bought or unlocked any guns in previous missions. The mask also changes but again this is something you can customise through playing the game.
When you get into the game the graphics are very two thousand and late. The look and feel of the game is unsatisfying and feels like something players would have expected if buying a new release a few years ago. However any complaint with the graphics is overshadowed by the awful AI that you are lumbered with.
Most missions start off with you and your crew casing the job, walking around and camouflaging yourself with the bystanders. At this point your AI do very little to support you and this is where working with friends online and talking to one another will help make the experience a more enjoyable one.
The disappointing thing I found was that no matter how much you cased the job, speccing it out, choosing your route into the vault or store, whether it is through the roof, the office window or the front door, ultimately you had to pull on the mask and take on the assault head on, full combat. There seemed to be no real stealth option.
This is where the AI falls down again because as you get surrounded by police and chaos ensues, the AI do very little to hold off the law enforcement or help you carry the loot from the job. Instead they will run around like headless chickens or get themselves killed nearly instantaneously.
Luckily there is a drop in / drop out system that lets players join your game and I found that the missions I played through (on nearly every occasion) filled up pretty quickly. This meant I had some half decent support instead of the frustrating and disappointing AI that Overkill Software had lumbered me with.
There is a frustration on the drop in / drop out option as well though, as when someone joins the mission, it does hold the game for a minute or so. This can be frustrating if you are mid combat or mid (loot) throw as it can cause slowdown and also sometimes result in you taking one too many hits than you had planned. When you then think that you could have your game stopped three times if the whole crew are player characters that see the mission through to the end, this slowdown can become frustrating.
Overall, it’s easier to highlight the flaws of Payday 2 which is a shame. The idea and premise is a good one and when online with some mates it is a good bit of fun. Unfortunately though the poor AI, lack of any single player campaign and average graphics mean it will be unlikely to be a mainstay within my Xbox disc tray. The Payday franchise definitely has plenty of potential and I would be interested to see what improvements they could make if there was a third game however for me Payday 2 failed to deliver on some key points.