Co-operative titles are a mainstay of our play sessions here at StickTwiddlers HQ. Rather then explaining in great detail just how many times we have consensual sex in the missionary position with each others parents, or having well thought out discussions regarding our stance on each others sexual orientation as we play against one another, we prefer to all hold hands and play together as a team. Recently – and pleasingly I might add – consoles have been including a lot of co-operative play options and have started to catch up on the PC, which normally had a bit of a monoploy on co-operative titles. Payday 2 is one of those titles that’s made the jump from PC and PS3 to a full retail release spanning PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 – but perhaps it’s a leap that should not have been made.
The original Payday game is perhaps one of my favourite co-op titles on PC. It has the ability to entertain almost any group of players with it’s diverse gameplay, and despite being a couple of years old now, it still looks good and feels solid. It should stand to reason then that Payday 2 will be, at the very least, just as good as the original if not better. Unfortunately, for the Xbox 360 version at least, it seems that this is not the case.
The problems started right off the bat. We wanted to play Payday 2 how it should be played, which is with three of your mates. With merriment and mirth we partied up and got ready to steal some cash and call each other names such as ‘Mr Indigo’ and ‘Big Poppa’. Unfortunately our excitement was short lived as we struggled, fought and swore with the UI to try and get a game going. You would think setting up a match would be simple. Invite your party to a game, select a heist, engage fun receptors. But no. Instead we had to find an empty game in CrimeNet already set up and waiting for players, one of us had to join the game, then we could invite the rest of our party. It’s unnecessary, feels awkward for no good reason and set the tone for the rest of our experience.
Once we eventually got a game going, the experience was less then enthralling. It’s a given that this type of game is always going to give a deliver a better experience once the player has developed a sense of just how the game wants to be played, and the limitations that surround the toolkit provided. However, what I did not expect was for the four of us to consistently and repeatedly spend 10 minutes ‘casing the joint’ before coming up with a plan and then spending another 5 minutes getting into position before the execution, only to find out that the game did not want us to play that way and ending up in police shootout which mirrored a really bad ‘Horde Mode’. And that’s not us being bad at the game, that’s the designers making bad choices.
Let me give you an example. In one mission, we had to steal as much jewellery as possible from a store. After looking around the place, we noticed two guards patrolling the back area. If we could take them down, it was a simple jump through the window into the managers office, disable the alarms and rob the place before scarpering. But no, no no no we can’t be having that. We approached the guard from behind, ready to choke him out tie up the body but the game wont let you do any actions at all without wearing your mask. So instead of going all Sam Fisher on this rent-a-cop, we stopped to pull on our mask screaming ‘Get down!’ at the top our voice. The guard responded by Chuck Norris punching while simultaneously cuffing us. Cue the aforementioned cop shoot out and – yet again – we were forced to reload.
As for the cops arriving on the scene, I’m not sure if the game is supposed to be set in some sort of dystopian nightmare but boy are they a bit edgy. In one case, we had done nothing but smash a few windows and shouted at a few people but within seconds the entire state police force were outside, shooting at everyone regardless of hostages or not. Bugs also rear their heads in these situations as well, as it appears the game can only handle a certain amount of characters on screen at once. Any more then that and they go a bit mental, resorting to standing inside walls and climbing up on each others shoulders. And that’s not a joke.
The graphical glitches in the Xbox 360 version of the game also bled into my problems with the lack of strategy involved. During the jewellery store heist, we decided that the best plan of action was two of us to go in through the back whilst the other two ran crowd control at the front of the store. As we had a problem with escaping civilians, blocking the front door seemed like a viable option, however the store seemed to be having a special sale for ghosts and each daring civilian bolted right through us and into the street, alerting the coppers.
There is an upgrade and customisation system in Payday 2 where players are able to unlock new items and equipment that can help you start to achieve the level of tactical play that we were heading for. However, it does involved an absolutely massive amount of grinding, and being a sequel to the original Payday, we expected our characters to have a little more experience robbing banks and stores than your everyday crook. A little more variety in terms of how you can play from the very outset would have been hugely preferable as opposed to running and gunning for 30 levels.
Horrible UI, lack of direction and graphical problems aside, we did have a lot of fun with Payday 2. Each hour which went by was filled with much laughter. The problem is that more often than not we found that our laughter was caused by a something bizarre in the game, such as the fact that we could only carry two zip ties but an infinite amount of huge and cumbersome drill rigs, or the aforementioned ‘Police Gymnastic Display Unit’. Payday 2 on the Xbox 360 feels buggy, unfinished and very last gen, and we can’t help but think that the sequel would have been much better off being a PC exclusive, regardless of how much it pains us to suggest it.
Payday 2 is out now for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.