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Payday 2 Review

Posted on August 26, 2013 AT 11:14am

The next time aging politicians want to stir up voters in their twilight years by claiming video games inspire children to act out violently, there’s a good chance they’ll be calling out Overkill Software and 505 Games’ Payday 2.

An intense co-op focused first-person shooter, Payday 2 is a tactical treat for groups of friends who want to live out their Michael Mann fantasies and coordinate masterful robberies. Players can customize their weapons, armor, masks, and skills, creating the modern thief of their dreams. The title is not without its flaws, but once your team is done arguing over which of you gets to play Val Kilmer there is a wealth of strategic strong-arm fun that keeps pulling players back in for one more job.

The crux of Payday 2 revolves around players working their way up the seedy criminal underworld, completing missions while earning experience and money to further customize their characters with skills and sweet aesthetic upgrades. There are four separate skill trees that players can work their way up through, “Mastermind“, “Enforcer“, “Technician“, and “Ghost“, each of which provide increasingly impressive skills that can be unlocked with a combination of earned skill points and cash. My ideal role in a robbery situation is best complimented by the sneaky abilities found in the “Ghost” tree, though skills from all trees can be mixed and matched for some interesting builds for solo or group runs.

If you don’t have a crew of trusted friends watching your back instead of the in-game A.I., Payday 2 can get frustrating in a hurry. Playing through heists offered in the CRIMENET interface by your lonesome only provides you with two computer-controlled cohorts with painfully limited skills to watch your back, while playing online with others increases your party size to four. You’ll need as many alert players as possible to effectively and efficiently rob jewelry stores, night clubs, retail outlets, banks, and other locales.

Missions can get messy in a hurry in Payday 2 without proper preparation, even with a full party of player-controlled robbers. Though you can case an area without your mask on, the actions you are able to perform are quite limited as to not raise any suspicions. Even if you manage to pistol-whip the security guards in a jewelry store, zip-tie the employees, and intimidate all the customers inside to stay on the ground while your buddies are looting cases and drilling into the safe, all it takes is a single wandering pedestrian in the street to call in waves of cops and ruin the element of surprise.

Payday 2 could have definitely used a bit of polishing to fix nagging bugs that would have otherwise made this a universally championed release. Online matchmaking is clunky, as players can essentially hold lobbies hostage by not indicating they’re ready and there is no means of host migration between missions. Running up to your getaway van also doesn’t instantly end a level, another frustrating consideration especially when you’re under fire from S.W.A.T. teams in the street. Overlooking these aspects in lieu of the unbridled fun you and your friends will have scoring tons of cash will lead to a much more pleasurable gaming experience.

Payday 2 is a prime example of incredibly fun co-op gaming, despite a few flaws. Much like actually robbing a bank, Payday 2 excels when skilled friends are backing you up and becomes a bloody tragedy when you run alongside mindless bots who don’t know any better. Gather your crew, stay on point, and watch the payoffs start rolling in.

Payday 2 is now available on Steam, PS3, PlayStation Network, Xbox 360, and Xbox Live.

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