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Payday 2: Crimewave Edition Review

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Take the satchel of diamonds and scram

★★★★

There’s a definite whiff of the old chicken and-egg question to Payday 2: Crimewave Edition. Those who have never previously encountered it might think it’s uncomfortably similar to GTA Online’s Heists, but publisher 505 Games could equally point out that the original Payday arrived in 2011, two years before GTA V. In any case, the two resemble each other very closely – they both cast you as a member of a four-player co-operative team of ne’er-do-wells, planning and executing increasingly complex heists, and feature ever-more elaborate masks and exotic weaponry as you level up.

Payday 2: Crimewave Edition may not possess the sheer glamour of GTA Online’s Heists, but it feels much more like an entity in its own right. It begins with a brief tutorial in which you’re instructed in the dark arts of robbery, such as learning different ways to open locked doors and safes (the length of time you have to devote to each is often critical in the game), neutralising alarms and, of course, wielding weaponry. When you’re satisfied you’ve got to grips with the controls and conventions, it’s time to get stuck into some major larceny, via a system called Crime.net. This provides an almost bewildering array of potential heists, but they’re graded according to your level, so it’s easy to pick out the basic ones before working your way up to Ocean’s Eleven-style territory.

You can jump straight into the more unambitious heists without much thought, but you soon learn that doing so bypasses one of the game’s most addictive aspects: the ability to plan your approach, which is more than a little reminiscent of Rainbow Six (except, of course, you’re playing a baddie). There, you can set up ammo and health drops, stealth around doing things like unlocking doors and cutting holes in wire fences, and bribe insiders at the establishments you’re planning to rip off.

Then it’s a case of buddying up with three other players in the lobby, before the fun begins. As with all online-only four-player co-op games, that’s a bit of a lottery, so Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will always be at its best when you’re playing it with your mates. That said, the teamwork aspect becomes much more critical after you’ve found your feet and levelled up somewhat; the early missions are fairly forgiving. Plus, of course, you can revive team-mates who have been downed, and The Dentist – the shadowy figure overseeing your heists – can bail you out of jail if you get arrested.

Even at first, the heists are satisfyingly long, and as you level up, they become more complicated and imaginative. The levelling-up process is pretty quick, bringing with it a welter of weapon and ability upgrades. Which is just as well, since the game doesn’t fully hit its straps until you get to level 50. By the time you get that far, though, you’ll be fully hooked, and will have explored the vast quantities of extra content the Crimewave Edition offers, which mostly consists of new heists, weapons and masks (including some taken from Hotline Miami 2), as well as an all-new character-class who is a getaway specialist.

Graphically, Payday 2: Crimewave Edition isn’t as impressive as GTA Online, but neither is it unduly ugly, and the game’s artificial intelligence isn’t the best, so the ability to run through heists offline with AI bots is a non-starter. However, if you have a regular crew of gamers with whom you like to play – and fancy a vicarious virtual criminal career – Payday 2: Crimewave Edition offers a thoroughly addictive, surprisingly deep and pretty good-value option. Potentially something of a cult hit in the making.

You can jump straight into the more unambitious heists without much thought, but you soon learn that doing so bypasses one of the game’s most addictive aspects: the ability to plan your approach, which is more than a little reminiscent of Rainbow Six (except, of course, you’re playing a baddie). There, you can set up ammo and health drops, stealth around doing things like unlocking doors and cutting holes in wire fences, and bribe insiders at the establishments you’re planning to rip off.

Then it’s a case of buddying up with three other players in the lobby, before the fun begins. As with all online-only four-player co-op games, that’s a bit of a lottery, so Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will always be at its best when you’re playing it with your mates. That said, the teamwork aspect becomes much more critical after you’ve found your feet and levelled up somewhat; the early missions are fairly forgiving. Plus, of course, you can revive team-mates who have been downed, and The Dentist – the shadowy figure overseeing your heists – can bail you out of jail if you get arrested.

Even at first, the heists are satisfyingly long, and as you level up, they become more complicated and imaginative. The levelling-up process is pretty quick, bringing with it a welter of weapon and ability upgrades. Which is just as well, since the game doesn’t fully hit its straps until you get to level 50. By the time you get that far, though, you’ll be fully hooked, and will have explored the vast quantities of extra content the Crimewave Edition offers, which mostly consists of new heists, weapons and masks (including some taken from Hotline Miami 2), as well as an all-new character-class who is a getaway specialist.

Graphically, Payday 2: Crimewave Edition isn’t as impressive as GTA Online, but neither is it unduly ugly, and the game’s artificial intelligence isn’t the best, so the ability to run through heists offline with AI bots is a non-starter. However, if you have a regular crew of gamers with whom you like to play – and fancy a vicarious virtual criminal career – Payday 2: Crimewave Edition offers a thoroughly addictive, surprisingly deep and pretty good-value option. Potentially something of a cult hit in the making.

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