Whenever a decent Hollywood heist thriller comes to mind, Michael Mann’s Heat from 1995 always manifests itself foremost. With its tense robberies and hi-octane gunfights, Overkill’s best-of Payday collection frequently reaches those heady heights of the Pacino/De Niro classic, but only if you have friends with which to properly realise them.
A visually remastered take of Payday 2 with all the DLC trimmings thrown in for good measure, Payday Crimewave Edition has players taking on a wide number of different heists in the pursuit of the almighty buck and, well, a whole host of shiny new equipment and ability upgrades, too.
From more straightforward criminal activities such as jewellery shop and mall heists, through to more daring fare including drug smuggling, convoy heists and full-on bank robberies, the variance in the type of job that you can accept is pleasingly substantial.
Better yet is the fact that the different heist sorties each require varying levels of skill and approaches to be successfully completed. A robbery of military factory on the docks might demand a stealthy approach, while a full-on assault on a convoy of treasury trucks would instead require a much more confrontational, guns blazing approach in order to get the job done.
Not all of Payday’s heists necessarily prescribe mutually exclusive methods either, and often, when a particular mission is attempted via stealthy means only to devolve into an all-out war on the streets (again, neatly echoing the visceral chaos of Michael Mann’s twenty year old cinematic opus), it’s here that Payday operates at its most engaging best, forcing the player to improvise in order to escape with both the loot and their lives.
In actual fact, it’s that whole risk/reward dynamic which beats ever strongly at the heart of Payday’s trickier scenarios. With the cops swarming the streets and attacking you from every angle, do you escape with the bare minimum amount of loot, or, do you linger a little longer; scooping up every bit of finery that you can while hoping that the fuzz don’t completely overwhelm your team in the process?
Such decision-making is just the tip of a taut, frenetic management metagame that exists beneath Payday’s visceral first-person shooter trappings and it’s an aspect of Overkill’s series that is often overlooked in favour of its more obvious appeal. Of course, it’s not just the lads in blue that you need to worry about either, it’s the actual mechanics of the heist itself as well.
If you’re cracking a safe with a drill for instance, you need to keep one eye on the thing to repair whenever it brakes down since, rather annoyingly, this can and does happen quite often. Additionally, you also need to be on the lookout for a variety of unsecured loot and valuables too; priceless watches, ornate chokers, cash registers and more are all lying around waiting to be scooped up and in doing so, their incremental value adds nicely to your overall heist total. Once again, this also folds quite neatly into the notion of risk/reward and whether that lone remaining gold rolex behind that dark blue wall of guns and riot shields is really worth it or not.
Oh and you’ll be wanting to have good heists too, since each heist or contract that you take on, when fulfilled, provides experience points which can then be invested into a number of different skill trees depending on your preferred playstyle. Payday also provides incentives for better performances during heists, with selected approaches and flawless runs all resulting in a much larger experience point payout for your budding career criminal.
While Payday Crimewave Edition is certainly not without its flaws, none are perhaps more rage inducing than the game’s toweringly stupid and seemingly perpetually stoned AI.
One thing in particular that they seem to have problem with is pathfinding. A simple jaunt out of a building and down the street for example, usually winds up in an unintentionally hilarious spectacle of your CPU-controlled mates running into walls or dry-humping the surrounding scenery like a canine Ron Jeremy on crack. It’s hilarious the first time you see it for sure, however it becomes much less so when the incidents start to creep into double figures and heists end up frequently botched as a result.
A much more dire transgression is the fact that the AI very often stands around doing absolutely nothing when you really need them not to be. Whether you’re face down, riddled with holes and needing a desperate revive or requiring them to share the load on the loot carrying, it’s fair to say that the sight of your AI fellows loitering about playing pocket pool, seemingly oblivious to everything going on around them, quickly becomes almost pad-breakingly infuriating to witness.
So with AI that’s about as useful as a modern day game without a day one patch, it falls to the presence of human comrades to facilitate the proper Payday experience and it’s here that business starts to pick up a fair bit.
When played online with friends and to a lesser extent, random folk, Payday Crimewave Edition begins to blossom into the Heat videogame wannabe that it so wants to be. With steadfast co-ordination between players, the satisfyingly high level of challenge in later heists and just the sheer, unpredictable nature of it all, if you have a constant group of friends for the game then Payday Crimewave Edition becomes a rather special proposition for multiplayer shenanigans indeed.
Elsewhere, an apparently big selling point of the Crimewave Edition is the leap in visual fidelity that the shift to Sony’s new, more powerful home console allows. The visuals, though rendered at 1080p/30ps, still fall somewhat short of what we would expect from the PS4 however. With its last-gen lineage still painfully obvious throughout with some decidedly blocky structures, low-detail textures and stiff animations (not to mention an inconsistent framerate when the screen gets especially busy), Payday was never going to win any awards for its visual presentation, but even so, the final product should still have looked better than a moderately better looking PS3 title.
Certainly, that also begs the question that given how relatively low quality the visuals are, it seems a little puzzling why a split-screen mode wasn’t included. Given that such a move would have bolstered the longevity of the game a great deal and gone some way to dulling Crimewave Edition’s other, more notable flaws, its omission remains rather baffling.
Far away from being a cash-grab then, Payday Crimewave Edition is essentially the definitive version of Payday 2 that you can buy right now. As such, it’s important to remember that this is still Payday 2 and that all those same caveats still apply. With that in mind and assuming you have a reliable group of mates on hand for some happy-go-heisting, feel free to whack an extra point on that score and get stuck in.