They say crime doesn't pay, and perhaps it doesn't. Except in video games of course, where it can actually pay quite handsomely. And especially in Payday 2, which is all about pulling off successful heists and scoring it big.
Boasting the second biggest community on Steam after DoTA, Payday 2 on PC is quite the success story, supported as it is by more than a dozen DLC packs that have been released for the game since its launch in August 2013. Now it's coming to PS4 and Xbox One as Payday 2: Crimewave edition, and will bring with it all of the content that's been created for PC, all-new missions, plus improved graphics.
If you're unfamiliar with Payday 2, it's an FPS heist game developed by Swedish developer Overkill Software/Starbreeze Studios in which up to four players participate cooperatively to successfully complete jobs. And by jobs, we're talking about the major felony kind: these are essentially missions that range from stealing diamonds from museums and turning over banks to helping a master criminal escape from jail. Finishing a job levels up your character and of course earns you money that you can spend on better gear, thus advancing your criminal career and improving the odds of further success in future missions.
I recently got the chance to sit down with the upcoming Xbox One version of the game and played through a couple of its cooperative missions. Coming into the game cold, Payday 2: Crimewave Edition felt almost overwhelming at first. The sheer number of different weapons and loadouts you can equip your character with is quite impressive. Once I'd finished gearing my character – I just chose a basic assault weapon and a backup Chicago-style "typewriter" machine gun – we attempted our first mission, a simple bank job.
After walking through the front door and announcing ourselves – Payday 2 can also be played as a stealth game, but this mission wasn't one of those – we set about gaining access to the vault. Basically, this involved walking around the bank, hacking computers, looking for keycards, opening doors with drills and generally moving from room to room as our team of four completed the different steps required to open the vault. The entire time we were doing this, the bank was under siege by police and SWAT team members, which basically played out like an extended firefight in which the antagonists arrived in waves and had to be taken care of. It was pretty much mayhem, but we managed to keep ourselves alive by taking out our enemies before we finally opened the vault and took the cash, whereupon we had to make our way to a helicopter pickup point so we could be whisked to safety.
A simple first mission, it gave me a good insight into how the game works on a basic level. Since four of us were playing in the same room, it was easy to communicate with one another, and that definitely made the action a lot more enjoyable, since we were able to continually talk to one another and figure out what we were doing. One thing's for sure, this game does require good teamwork, and without any communication I imagine it would be a lot more difficult to do things like figure out who's providing cover, who's going after enemy targets and who's taking care of the different objectives required to complete the mission.
The next mission we tried was a jailbreak, and that was a lot of fun. Basically we had to follow an armored pickup truck down the street, fending off continual attacks by law enforcement. Like the previous level, it was essentially an extended firefight where we had to stop and take care of certain tasks, like moving an abandoned armored car to ensure the road was clear so that we could make our way to the mission goal. There was a little less need for communication this time, since the action was a little more straightforward, and it was possible to see what people were doing most of the time – as opposed to the bank, where players were going to different rooms to complete tasks. The jailbreak mission segued into an additional task that involved raiding an FBI building to steal critical information. That played out like the bank mission again, with lots of tasks to complete while fighting off a very heavy law enforcement presence that included SWAT team members with bulletproof shields who were particularly challenging to take down.
After the session, I had a pretty good idea what the game is all about. It's fun for sure, and I can see why it's become such a hit on PC. The cooperative gameplay is intense and gives you a lot to take care of as you're tackling your mission. If you're not taking down the police and SWAT threats, you're searching for items or trying to figure out how to do something, such as securing a password so you can gain access to a computer.
With only a month to go until its launch, Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is looking pretty good. Graphically, it's a little on the weak side - looking more like a beefed-up last generation game, rather than something that has been built from the ground up as something completely new. However, while its looks are a little disappointing, its content is exceptionally strong. With an impressive number of missions and very deep customization elements, the gameplay certainly seems to have plenty of replay value, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the finished game comes together when it's released on June 16th.