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Payday 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Starbreeze
Developer: Overkill Software
Release Date: Feb. 27, 2018 (US), Feb. 23, 2018 (EU)

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Switch Review - 'Payday 2'

by Andreas Salmen on Feb. 26, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Payday 2 is the next installment in the bank robbery shooter adding new features such as a skill and progression system, as well as four classes/professions, each giving you unique abilities.

Buy Payday 2

It's no secret that Nintendo has been struggling with online multiplayer games on the Switch and its horrible approach to voice chat. This may change in the future when the official online service launches in September, but online games are scarce at the moment. Payday 2 is the first third-party online experience for the Switch, and it was clear from the beginning that its gameplay and concept would eventually suffer under the system's limitations.

Payday 2 was first published over five years ago and has since been released for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The Switch version is the first portable version of the game, and in the end, it'sa solid-looking port and fun multiplayer game with the predicted limitations.

For those unfamiliar with the Payday franchise, it's an online first-person co-op shooter. Players must complete heists to increase their rank and make heaps of money. While the heist missions are varied, they're basically a set of tasks that must be completed while you fight off waves of police forces. There are stealth missions that add a layer of challenge, as a single mistake will basically turn them into regular missions where you have to fight the cops again.

Before jumping into the online experience, we have tocomplete a few solo heists as an introduction to the game mechanics. It all boils down to finding an object or item and either retrieving it or using it to retrieve something else. This may include access codes, drugs, gold, information, jewelry or money. Of course, precious objects don't usually lie out in the open, so we must remove obstacles, which often involves heavy machinery to drill into safes, overriding computer terminals or waiting for a helicopter. This is where a level's "waves" come into play, as they're situations that force us to hang around and defend our current position.

Before each heist, we get a rundown of the objectives, view the team load-out, and purchase special items for our mission. Our options depend on the heist, but they could include ammo and health drops, an uplink into surveillance footage or a supporting sniper. In the classic missions, we start off by scouting the place. Once we're ready, we prepare our masks and start the mission. The co-op aspect comes into play here, as there are several things to do simultaneously; in harder missions, it's vital to be organized and aware of your teammates. One of them may handle crowd control by yelling at civilians and restraining them on the ground. If someone on your team is captured, you can negotiate to exchange civilians for their return. The rest of your crew may look for valuables, open the safe, complete other mission objectives, or secure the perimeter and mark cops. It's entirely your choice how to tackle a given mission, which is one of Payday 2's strengths.

By the end of a contract, all stolen goods are bagged up and loaded into the escape vehicle to complete the mission. While all the money is usually sent to our offshore accounts, a small portion is available in cash. We also earn experience points to level up and unlock weapons and gear, and there's a card draw to unlock a random item. While those are the classic mission structures that Payday is known for, the game has added more variety since its initial launch.

The Switch version comes with over 50 heists that range from the classic bank and jewelry stores to more abstract and action-packed missions, such as robbing art galleries, hijacking a plane, and hacking a server. Most of the contracts are good to great set pieces that are fun and satisfying to play. The feeling of being a highly professional criminal is more satisfying than one may think is possible.

The Switch profits from Payday's long run and has a pretty comprehensive gameplay package. However, this version is far from feature-complete. It's expected that Payday 2 on consoles is behind the PC version, but the Switch version is also behind its console counterparts — although the first update is reportedly in the works. For the $50 price tag, it's not the worst deal, but the uncertainty of whether future updates will be free, paid or both makes it an uncertain purchase. It packs a limited exclusive character with its own skill tree, which is a bonus to make up for other disparities. All things considered, the content is extensive enough that new players won't be disappointed with the amount that's on offer.

Outside of missions, we can level up our characters, invest points in skill trees and perks that increase our abilities, and buy masks, weapons, and weapon mods. We also have access to a safe house to try out different weapons and hang our equipment on the walls. The safehouse can be upgraded as soon as we have enough cash in our offshore accounts. We start new contracts, either online or offline, by accessing Crime.Net, where we choose contracts on an interactive map. We can either host one of the proposed contracts or join an existing game. If we're interested in a specific mission, we can start contracts by paying a small in-game fee.

We're talking about a five-year-old game that's been ported to the Switch, so although it's fun, well-implemented and has enough content, Payday 2 trips itself up in a couple of places. Payday 2 can be played offline, making it a more interesting mode on the Switch than anywhere else due to the system's portable nature. The game is clearly not designed to be played that way, and it shows in the horrible AI. Your teammates stick close to you and shoot at everything that shoots at them, which defeats the entire purpose. If nothing else is available, this may be better than nothing, but don't go into Payday 2 expecting a solid single-player experience away from wi-fi.

The next best thing is to play with strangers online, an experience that also lacks in many regards due to the Switch's online chat limitations. This is not on Payday 2 itself, but it has to be noted, especially since we have no guarantees that this will be rectified soon. Since the Switch version is very appealing to new players who are inexperienced at the game, the lack of options to communicate can be downright frustrating and quickly destroy the fun. A game so reliant on cooperative play needs communication as soon as the difficulty ramps up. Then there is the enemy AI, which is barely better than the teammate AI when played offline, making up their apparent stupidity with increasing armor plates and sheer numbers. They're all cannon fodder.

Visually, Payday 2 is an old game that was never considered pretty or well-polished, and that's not just referring to the visuals but also the frequent glitches and clipping issues that led to enemies getting stuck in walls. Another issue that's not exclusive to the Switch are the floaty controls, which make the gunplay inaccurate. What is exclusive to the Switch are the frame rate drops that occur every so often. When a lot is going on, especially in larger areas, the frame rate drops into the 20s, which is noticeable in-game and can cause frustrating moments. It gets away with it better than other shooters, since you're not playing against other real players, but it's a compromise you have to make and own if you decide to get the Switch version. The game targets 30 fps in handheld and docked mode with a resolution of up to 1080p and 720p, respectively.

Aside from Joy, a timed exclusive playable character, there are two more notable additions to the Switch version of Payday 2. Menus have been reworked to accept touch controls in handheld mode, which wasn't necessary but nice to have. The best addition may be the HD Rumble integration into nearly every aspect of the game. Jumping, reloading, shooting and your heartbeat are all translated into HD rumble, which makes the gunplay feel more impactful and visceral. Unlike Doom or Splatoon 2, Payday 2 does not offer the option for motion controls.

At the end of the day, Payday 2 for the Nintendo Switch is a comprehensive collection of one of the better co-op shooters in recent years. It hasn't aged well technically, the AI is still pretty dumb, it misses some updates that other versions have, it's inferior in performance, and the Switch still lacks the ability to communicate with strangers, and unfortunately, that takes away a lot of the fun. It's still a fun shooter to play with friends, and even without them, it can hold up reasonably well since the Switch lacks appealing alternatives. If you can look past the steep entry fee and have no other platform to play it on, this will probably do. Otherwise, you're better off picking up one of the other versions, since offline play and portability are not much of a benefit for Payday 2 on the Switch.

Score: 6.8/10

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