Collaboration is key in this thoughtful shooter.
Game review: Payday 2 Crimewave Edition
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed) / Playstation 4
ORIGINALLY released for the last generation of consoles in 2013, the co-operative first person shooter was unfairly overlooked by most gamers, perhaps largely on account of the genre in which it is pigeonholed. There are guns, loud bangs and mayhem aplenty in Payday, but get below its surface and you will find a considerably more thoughtful and nuanced offering than first appears. Updated with HD visuals and a welter of DLC content, this is largely the same game as two years ago - no bad thing.
With no traditional campaign, the game takes the form of a series of heists in various locales, such as banks and jewellery stores, that open up as you and your squad complete successive raids, improve your skills and acquire ever more lethal weaponry and equipment. You begin your criminal career looting safe deposit boxes. In time, you find yourself immersed in sprawling capers set in Las Vegas casinos or on a remote rail line preparing to hold up a train.
Applying the usual FPS strategies will get you killed
Compared to recent cops and robbers style offerings - the heist missions in Grand Theft Auto 5 Online, for example, or Battlefield Hardline - the game does not allow you get away with crashing in all guns blazing, even though its shooting mechanics are satisfyingly robust. Applying the traditional rules and strategies of an FPS will get you killed repeatedly and whereas other team-based games allow you a chance of success despite being landed with unhelpful colleagues, Payday punishes any fraternity with a weak link.
Timing and tactics are paramount. You must decide when to stay behind your sights and fend off increasingly aggressive SWAT teams, and when to dash to cover and repair a malfunctioning drill being used to break open a safe. With four players, communication and delegation is vital. If all of you want to be the gunslinging hero, then chances are you will end the game in cuffs, or worse, a coffin.
A game that values intelligence deserves to find a wide audience
A few technical issues surrounding in-game chat have been ironed out and the game flows well, with the matchmaking system up to scratch. However, the interactive map known as Crime.net that is used to navigate between heists feels unnecessarily convoluted and, on Xbox One at least, is prone to freezing for long, frustrating spells. But with promises to continually update the game, it is hoped these minor problems will be resolved.
Where its debut was met with an underwhelming reception, Payday deserves to find a new audience second time over. Amongst a glut of thoughtless shooters, it is a game that values collaboration and intelligence without sacrificing the thrills.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Constant communication with your teammates is essential. Check in every ten seconds or so and let them know what you are doing.
Payday has no time for bravado. If you are going to be exposed, make sure your crew is providing covering fire.
Tempting though it may be to shoot cameras, guards are quick notice any damage to surveillance equipment and will raise the alarm.