For those not versed in the psalms of Hoxton, Dallas, Wolf and Chains, Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is far from your average shooter. Sure, it’s in first-person and you do have plenty of boomsticks to your name, but the shootouts are merely a byproduct of being an armed robber. The real meat here is the minutia of the heist itself – cuffing guards and keeping civilians in check while your teammates place an industrial drill on the vault. Fixing the drill when it breaks; checking camera feeds for SWAT teams; bagging cash and carrying them to an escape van. It’s the ultimate experiment in time management and co-operative play as you juggle the risk of transporting more moolah with the escalating police force attempting to stop you.
Overkill plans to support the Crimewave Edition, along with the established PC version, for the next 16 months, so you can commit time to these illegal endeavors safe in the knowledge the game isn’t being forgotten by the developer. In fact the game ships with 50 updates, all of which bring it in line with the well-established PC version. This support will include updates rolled out across PS4, Xbox One and PC (sorry PS3 and Xbox 360, no such support for you), new heists, extra weapons, and enough customisation options such as mask patterns and weapon add-ons to satisfy even the most picky of ex-cons.
Frustratingly, the shooting mechanics of Payday 2 don’t quite pop with the same impact as other shooters such as CoD or Battlefield (hit detection could do with tightening up and bullets don’t quite have the weighty impact they should), but the lack of punch is offset by upgradeable skills and perks unlocked as you complete tougher jobs. Thankfully, the heists themselves – ranging from smashing up malls to robbing industrial trains stranded in mountain passes – are so varied, and the core gameplay so compelling in its simplicity, that you’ll barely notice the weaker gunplay.
This variety can also be a double-edged sword and one that reveals Payday 2’s over-reliance on the same, outdated features. Most of the biggest rewards in the game are sealed behind various safes and vaults, so you’ll need drills to cut through them. These drills usually take a few minutes to complete and will break down ad nauseum. So much so, you’ll spend more time fitting and fixing drills than any other activity in Payday 2 – it’s a mechanic that felt far too prominent two years ago and, frustratingly, Overkill has done little to tone down an element that detracts from the key experience more than it benefits it. It’s not a game-breaker, and certainly manageable if you’re working as part of a cohesive team, but it’s annoyance that could easily have been tempered these couple of years down the line.
Much like Mortal Kombat X and it’s movie-minded additions of Jason ‘Friday The 13th’ Voorhees and the Predator from… er, Predator, Payday 2: Crimewave Edition has its own nods to ‘popular culture’. Well I say ‘popular’ as you can now inexplicably select Keanu Reeves’ dog-loving/bullet-spraying hitman John Wick for a job (or have him join your crew as an AI partner). Another noticeable addition comes in weapon form: Lucille, the infamous barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat from The Walking Dead comics is now available in your melee loadout. Yes, that Lucille...
So what of that new-gen difference? The last-gen console versions were a pale imitation of their PC cousin when it came to visuals – both PS3 and Xbox 360 suffered from muddied textures and considerable pop-in. And while the new Crimewave Edition still isn’t quite as pretty as the one that’s still riding high in the land of the overclockers, it is a noticeable step up for consoles, even if the environments do look a little basic by modern standards.
Pop-in is rarely an issue any more and the jump to 1080p does add a slickness the non-PC versions sorely lacked. Sadly, the game’s still locked at 30fps but this does mean there’s almost no slowdown to be found, even when the game is throwing a small country’s worth of coppers at you. In an industry full of downgrade controversies and broken code, playing a game as solid as this feels like more of a revelation than it really should.
For all those updates and promises of future heists, weapons and mask designs, the same problems inherent to the design of the game are still here two years on. The AI is much more reliable in a fight than it was back in 2013 (especially if you’re playing offline or with a mixture of human and AI teammates online), but remains utterly useless when it comes to completing objectives.
They still follow your every move, drawing police attention as you sprint across the map fixing drills and throwing bags of cash every which way but where. As the strong arm of the law, that AI is just as poor – cops frog-walk into your line of fire, often sitting still long enough for you to kill your umpteenth lawmaker of the match.
Despite the fact this is another entry in a long line of HD ports filling up the back catalogues of Xbox One and PS4, it’s still unlike anything else on current-gen consoles. Find the right team of players, learn the ins and outs of each location and keep your cool, and Payday becomes something GTA Online and Battlefield Hardline’s offerings only ever flirted with – an honest to God crime simulator.
When you get into that criminal mindset, it really is something else. Even so, ultimately the experience offered here is much the same as the one you’ve experienced on last-gen consoles or PC – there are still fundamental gameplay issues and asset quality issues that should have been addressed by now, but it’s still utterly engrossing and a worthy alternative to more traditional shooters that are more interested in K/D ratios and teabagging rights.
For those those with considerable hours clocked on other platforms there’s little to invest in here beyond the promise of future content (especially with no way to transfer progress across, even if you’re thinking of switching from one generation of the same platform to another), but for those completely new to the series and with a shiny new current-gen console under their TV, few last-gen ports are as unique as this.
This game was reviewed on PS4 and Xbox One.