Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is the current-gen version of Overkill Software’s cooperative first person shooter. If you’ve played Payday 2 before on Xbox 360, PS3 or PC you’ll know the ‘score’ here but if you haven’t you play as a hardened criminal who takes on various heists. Bank robberies, diamond heists, stealing cocaine, armoured car robberies and liberating munitions from a cargo ship are all on offer here among many others. You take part in these missions with either 2 AI characters helping you out or 3 other online players, or at least that’s the idea – more of that later.
The varying missions are the stars here, and even though it regularly boils down to you sitting around while a drill finishes its job or while a computer gets hacked, things never get dull due to the dynamic AI and the changing maps. Vaults aren’t always in the same place and layouts change as do the placing of security cameras, security guards, keycards and the location of your escape van, yet while there are only a few alterations to each map it does add a refreshing amount of variety. The police and security forces trying to stop you arrive in varying waves as well, helping make every match feel a little different.
The customisation on offer here is also superb. Alongside the huge selection of vastly customisable masks, numerous customisable weapons and loadout, is the skill tree system. There are 5 strands to the upgrade system here: Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician, Ghost and Fugitive. The thing I really like about this system is that you are never tied into just one strand. If you want to have the drill efficiency perk of the Technician and the camera loop perk of the Ghost you can do that providing you have unlocked sufficient perks to be able to get to them. This really helps you to play the way you want: if you want to be a specialist in just one field you can, or if you want to be a jack-of-all-trades that option is also open to you.
The gameplay is also top notch. Your character moves with enough weight that you don’t feel like you’re just floating through the level, yet with enough speed that you don’t resemble a snail. It is fast-paced but never beyond what feels appropriate. The controller map is also your classic first-person-shooter controls including a southpaw option for left-handed players. While there isn’t a complete button remap option, the sensitivity and inversion options will cater to the vast majority of tastes. My only slight niggle about the controls is more an issue with the Xbox One controller itself and that’s when you are picking a lock, particularly the deposit boxes which take a lot longer. You have to hold the right bumper button and it can be a little twitchy. On the odd occasion I found myself very close to completing a pick and then it dropped off and I had to restart.
So far, so good, but now comes the problem and it’s a bit of a kicker. The online just did not work. For the last 5 nights I have tried to enter at least 20 games and out of that 100 attempts I made it into a lobby once and then after 30 seconds lost connection to the host. I then tried hosting my own lobby and I did 5 of these each night keeping it open for at least 10 minutes and I didn’t have a single person join my lobby. My NAT settings were open and I immediately went and tried other online games (Forza, GTA V and CoD Advanced Warfare) and found no problems at all. For a game that is SO online multiplayer focused this is a massive issue.
While it is possible to play the game offline with 2 AI companions by your side, it’s not without some issues. Your AI accomplices are good enough that on standard difficulty they won’t get downed, but they won’t carry any bags of loot or equipment for you. You can get through most of the missions like this but if you up the difficulty you often have to carry 4-6 bags of loot to the van alone. Doing this yourself just takes so long that as the severity of the police response rises, it becomes next to impossible.
I loved this game on the Xbox 360 and pre-ordered it on the Xbox One as soon as I saw it. I really want to recommend this game but I just can’t. I understand that it’s a lot cheaper for developers to set their online service up with peer-to-peer rather than dedicated servers, but in this case it just renders the game worthless. While the offline mode will give you some fun and cool gameplay at the lowest difficulty settings, you’re probably looking at about 50-60 hours of grinding to attain any of the best perks on the skill trees. This game is at its best when you play with 3 friends, beating insurmountable odds to get away with the loot and unfortunately with the broken online mode, you just can’t do that.