Before Grand Theft Auto 5 had you heisting your way across its maps, Payday 2 had already capitalised on it, screaming ‘first’ from behind a terrifying clown mask. Stretching the idea of team-based jewellery grabs, bank robberies and escort missions across its entire premise, Payday 2 was widely and unfairly overlooked upon its first release in 2013.
Regardless, it’s a tense, ambitious, exciting, but flawed multiplayer shooter that favours pounding dance beats and wave-based action over any real narrative structure and manages to transition to next-gen with dignity, clumping together DLC missions and HD visuals that’ll hopefully widen its appeal.
Like all good success stories – ODB featuring Kelis, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Florence and that bastarding machine - the key here is collaboration, as waves upon waves of increasingly hard to kill coppers descend upon your carefully planned (see: slapdash) missions and you’re left having to defend a drill making its way slowly through a vault door.
Missions are all seemingly unconnected, but success allows you and your team to level up and unlock better skills and equipment that’ll see you climb the immoral ladder of crime from its petty first rungs to high-tech thievery at the apex.
What separates Payday 2 from contemporaries like GTA 5 is that it punishes teams with weak links, relying heavily on communicative and harmonious gangs to succeed. As a result, running and gunning is simply out of the question and it won’t be long before those team members are bleeding out on the tarmac, desperate for a sympathetic pal to revive them like helpless Leeroy Jenkinses.
When all that works, it really works, and Payday 2 can become an exhilarating party game with buds. Its good intentions are often tripped up by random matchmaking though, with unhelpful players spoiling the unity of the team and an online system called Crime.net that, for the moment, is prone to bugs and freezes.
As far as FPS mechanics go, the aiming is fairly suspect and general movement can feel a lot less fluid than triple-A shooters. Additionally, waiting on the aforementioned drill to cut through a vault as it breaks down time and time again is never a fun bit of repetitive gaming you’ll write fan fiction about on your Tumblr.
Payday 2 is curiously likeable despite these flaws, though. It’s not the slickest shooter kicking around, but there’s a lot going on under the bonnet. Given that this is pretty much a straight lift from its original 2013 form with some smoother polygons, it holds up well and there’s a feeling it might finally smash and grab the series the attention it deserves.
Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is available now for PS4 and Xbox One.