Payday 2: Crimewave Edition Review

By Keith Gray, 1 year ago
Payday 2: Crimewave Edition has now been released on Xbox One to follow the sequel that was initially released on the Xbox 360 in 2013. The franchise was originally available on PC and this latest release in the series is our chance to see whether crime pays on the newest console generation or whether we should all stick to a regular day job.

Payday 2 Crimewave Edition

Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is a four-player co-op, first-person shooter that sees a wily band of crooks rekindle their love of heists in Washington D.C. The co-op action gets started on the fictional website, Crime.net, that serves as the game’s online menu system. Crime.net offers up public contracts that are available as players set up chosen heists of varying difficulties. In reality, it is much easier to go down the route of getting a bunch of friends together to play as the heist selection map suffered serious connection issues any time the other three members of our group tried to connect to a random heist. Fortunately, with a strong enough connection to the servers, I was able to get a heist up and running and invite my partners in crime to get started. As first impressions go, having that much difficulty getting a chosen heist started in the first place may leave a bitter taste for some players; I count myself as one of the lucky few.

Pick a heist, any heistPick a heist, any heist

The premise of each heist is pretty simple, and as any decent gang of thieves would expect: Case the joint first to decide on the best plan of both attack and subsequent escape, slip on your uber-customisable mask, get the job done by any means necessary, and get out pronto with all the bags of loot or personnel you can handle. There is a nice variety of heist types available, from straightforward bank heists to drug trafficking, and the more elaborate and often stealth-laden attempts at election rigging. All of those heist types come included in the game courtesy of Payday 2: Crimewave Edition benefiting from several contracts from the previous games making an appearance as a plethora of DLC content to keep even the most seasoned criminals busy. Heists aren’t the only thing that there is plenty of though, as the game includes new playable characters and other unlockables, including masks, weapon attachments, and gadgets.

Although Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is touted as a four-player co-op title, there is the option to play the game as a single player with two friendly AI compatriots for company, in the Crime.net Offline mode. To be quite frank though, it is best not to waste your time with the Offline mode as the friendly AI do a good job of making Dumb and Dumber look Mensa-style clever. Granted, they do a great job of following you around like a loyal pet and playing doctor when you need them but that is where their usefulness ends. This creates a great deal of frustration, but if we want to be cynical about that aspect of the game then it could be seen as deliberate. Certainly, the harder difficulty heists will prove nigh on impossible if you rely on the friendly AI to help out, but it does go a long way to pushing gamers to play Payday 2: Crimewave Edition in the way the development team must have always intended; encouraging a culture of co-operation, communication, and teamwork. The police AI and security guards, with the exception of the heavy armoured, juggernaut-like reinforcements, exude an almost equal amount of stupidity to the extent that they often barge into a room on mass with no planning or thought process only to be gleefully decimated by the crooks. This further enhances my earlier assertion that being able to outwit and outflank your adversaries as a human team will bring unrivalled success.

Nice mask you have there, my friendNice mask you have there, my friend

After overcoming the steep initial learning curve and really getting into a cohesive partnership where understanding objectives, drilling vaults, picking door locks, opening security deposits, and securing target personnel start to feel like an easy day job, you will begin to see the fruits of your labour as your spendable cash and offshore account balances start to pile up, along with an ever increasing amount of experience being gained for each heist you pull off. The experience system works much like many other first-person shooters, such as the Battlefield series. The experience points gained for successful heist completion are quickly converted into skill points in the well-constructed skills and perk deck interface. The skill points are utilised to improve gang members’ attributes, upgrade equipment and gadgets, and reduce vulnerability during police assaults. The range and extent of skills and perks that are possible across the five character classes, including the new Fugitive class, are welcome. However, simply unlocking the weapons or gadgets on the basis of experience rank is not enough. Having done so, you are asked to part with a disproportionate amount of hard-earned cash to actually be able to use said items; in some cases, weapon attachments are substantially more costly than the weapon they are supposed to improve. As a result, players will often find themselves having to play the same heists numerous times to have sufficient cash reserves to purchase the weapons, equipment, or skills and perks they need to get through more difficult heist levels. This will naturally mean that the game has plenty of replayability, but some gamers could become disinterested due to the resulting repetitiveness.

There are a couple of things that aim to help alleviate the possibility of the heists becoming tedious after several successful, or not so, attempts. The game appears to apply a clever background system that randomises the location or existence of items within a heist level. For example, a handy key card that would save the time-consuming need to drill a vault open could be available in one run-through and then the next time around the heavy duty drill is the only way of prising that vault open because the key card hasn’t been lazily left lying around by a security guard. This subtle use of randomisation in the heists, coupled with the possibility of a stealth approach in some levels, really helps to keep the tasks fresh and makes the game feel like a living thing. It has to be said though that the randomisation is also applied to the patrol paths and location of security guards making stealth tactics tricky to say the least on some occasions.

Mmmm, money, lots of moneyMmmm, money, lots of money

For all the innovation of the skills and perks interface, and several loot bags’ worth of additional content that Payday 2: Crimewave Edition garners from succeeding Payday 2, the game does have the distinct look and feel of a title that was ported from PC and has previously been released on Xbox 360. Despite the developers promising all sorts of graphical upgrades with the game moving to 1080p on the Xbox One, the game runs at a rate of 30 frames per second. The environments feel blocky and uninspiring; the banks and other outlets look like they need some polish, never mind the Payday Gang offering to clean them out! The graphics may well appear to have been pulled straight from previous generation platforms but the same cannot be said of the excellent soundtrack. The thumping bass that hits when the almost inevitable police assault starts in each heist really makes you feel like you will have to battle to escape, even though the police AI do not have quite the same impact when they do arrive. Ultimately, you are left with the impression that if only the graphics matched the in-game score then Payday 2: Crimewave Edition could well have been an outstanding thing of beauty.

The achievements in Payday 2: Crimewave Edition present a real blend of difficulties. A good portion of the achievements are gained from performing specific actions within a particular level rather than the usual requirement to simply complete a heist. The majority of those achievements are a case of following the heist guidelines, but a few are luck-based simply because they tie into how the individual heists are randomised. The remainder of the achievements will only come to the most dedicated and hardened criminal gangs through completion of various difficulty modes, including the aptly named OVERKILL, and culminating in a massive criminal reputation and ultimately becoming infamous.

Job done... now get to the 'copter!Job done... now get to the 'copter!

Overall, for every step forward that Payday 2: Crimewave Edition takes in terms of its clever premise and excellent soundtrack, the title is let down in equal measure. Connection issues in a game that is so reliant on cooperative play to yield success are almost unforgivable. Similarly, the previous generation-looking graphics have the game stumbling backwards before things have barely begun and it never really recovers to become the kind of title we expect to be gracing the Xbox One. Sadly, all the additional content in the world will only prevent the novelty wearing off for so long.

Summary

For all of its promise, Payday 2: Crimewave Edition suffers from the effects of a few too many negatives. When it works well, the co-op style of the action is brilliant, coupled with an exceptional score. Unfortunately, the action-packed heists are often dulled by the poor graphics and downright stupid AI. The higher difficulty levels will require a fair amount of dedication to unlock the equipment needed to complete them, and it's doubtful whether the rewards will merit sticking it out long enough to gain all of the achievements. It seems that Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is another sad case of what could have been, if only the graphics and some other aspects had been treated to an extra coat of polish.
3 / 5
Positives
  • Outstanding soundtrack
  • Good randomisation of individual heists
  • Array of heist locations
Negatives
  • Connection issues
  • Poor graphics
  • Unreliable AI
Ethics Statement
The reviewer has spent around 14 hours tackling various different heists. He spent the bulk of that time aided by three fellow TA staff members. The remainder of that time was spent less successfully, shouting at the silly AI in Offline mode. Only 7 of the game's 42 achievements were looted in the process. All four of the TA staff members were provided with a download code by the publisher for the purpose of this review
Keith Gray
Written by Keith Gray
Keith has been contributing to the news on the TrueGaming Network since 2010. He's the resident fan of racing games. Outside of gaming, Keith is a qualified accountant so numbers really speak to him! Other hobbies include swimming and wheelchair basketball.