Payday 2: Crimewave Edition Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One
It’s easy to forget what year it is with the number of ports and remakes going on at the moment. This year has seen films released in the Jurassic Park and Terminator franchises, and Final Fantasy VII was announced at E3; in short, the most popular fashion at the moment (and clearly the most profitable one, too) is rereleasing old material. Bringing 2013’s Payday 2 to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One isn’t likely to send you spiralling back through a time warp, but it might make you wonder if the trend isn’t going too far. Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is far from being a bad game, but it’s also an uneven experience with too few upgrades to sit comfortably on new consoles.
In our original review of Payday 2, we noted the gulf between its online and offline play, and unfortunately the Crimewave Edition does nothing to correct that. In whichever mode you pick, your aim is to pull off heists: robbing banks, jewellery stores, or any other place that has enough cash to pique the curiosity of a professional criminal. There are all sorts of approaches you can take, be it going in all guns blazing or trying to sneak your way in. After casing the joint to check for guards, cameras, and the equipment you’ll need, you can choose the strategy which will work best before pulling on a mask and going for gold.
In online mode, your team is made up of other human players and the gameplay really shines. Working together for a precise, tactical strike, you’ll find yourself taking hostages and drilling into safes to pull of the perfect heist and get out before the cops even arrive. There’s nothing so satisfying as when everything clicks and all the clunky elements of Payday 2 start working together, whether it’s in a tense standoff, fighting your way out in a storm of bullets, or disappearing like a ghost before anyone even realises you’re there.
When you’re not busy breaking the law, you can also explore your safehouse and customise your playstyle. This involves more than just changing your loadout of weapons; you also have a choice of four different skill trees from which you can purchase abilities using your hard earned cash and experience. The Mastermind, for example, lets you more easily control difficult situations, while the Enforcer is more violent and better at solving things through force. By picking and choosing from each skill tree, you can make yourself the perfect criminal for the perfect crime.
The offline mode, however, is a true disappointment because it pretty much never clicks. The main problem is the AI, which could probably win awards for its stupidity. Just as in the original version, you’ll find yourself burdened by teammates with the intelligence of a lobotomised rabbit. Sometimes they’ll stand outside the place you’re hitting and do nothing; sometimes they’ll just run around as if undergoing panic attacks. In firefights they rarely do anything but follow two feet behind you, leaving other exits and locations unguarded just as the police are bringing the heat.
This sort of thing makes the game frustrating right when it should be at its most thrilling – and though most prevalent in the ally AI, it isn’t restricted to them. In one mission we were charged with robbing a nightclub; we stormed in, taking down the gangsters who ran the place and capturing hostages as we went. Breaking into the manager’s office, we began drilling the safe to get the goodies within, and all with no sign of the police. A quick glance over the balcony onto the dancefloor below revealed a SWAT team standing amongst our hostages, doing absolutely nothing. We left them there for the duration of the mission and slipped out the back way.
These moments are a real shame because, as stated, Payday 2 is fantastic when it works properly. There are so many different options for how to carry out a heist, and the game is infinitely replayable thanks to the little changes it makes when you start up a mission, altering the placement of cameras and gates or the location of the money. The problems with the AI were present in the original version and no attempts have been made to correct them, with the result that online mode, though far from perfect, is still phenomenally superior to playing it offline.
So what does the Crimewave Edition introduce that wasn’t present in the first release of the game? The most noticeable thing added is all the DLC that was released, which includes additional heists, weapons, and usable characters. The extra heists and weapons are a welcome addition, improving the game’s variation and content, and therefore the amount of time you’ll want to spend with it, but the new characters add very little. They are effectively just different skins with a small biography behind them – the little story in the game is flimsy enough to fall over in a light breeze – and they only make a difference if you worry about your online appearance.
The Crimewave Edition also makes efforts to improve Payday 2’s appearance, but it still manages to be impressively ugly. As they stand, the graphics would have been worthy of criticism on the PlayStation 3, and on its bigger and better brother they look utterly out of place. You’ll find yourself faced with the blank stares of NPCs who walk with the grace of someone suffering from potent diarrhoea, and who generally fail to look like convincing human beings; textures quickly degrade when you get too close to them and even the gun in your hands won’t look too good. Together with the idiotic AI, the result is that even an upgraded Payday 2 fails to paint a convincingly realistic world.
If you have to choose between the original game and the Crimewave Edition, there’s no doubt that the latter – with its improved graphics and extra content – is the superior. By attempting to find a place on new consoles, however, it subjects itself to higher standards – and critically fails to meet them. No improvements have been made to the AI, thereby leaving the offline mode floundering, and the graphical enhancements simply don’t make it look attractive. Overall, it comes across as a half-hearted attempt to update the game. The inclusion of the DLC is a welcome addition, but Payday 2: Crimewave Edition doesn’t do enough elsewhere to seem like a significant upgrade.