Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back
Much like the president from Resident Evil 6, the last generation of games has risen from the dead to feast on the living. We’ve seen so many remasters, remaster collections, and straight ports in the past year that it feels like the new generation of consoles exists solely to eulogize the previous lineup; these black, monolithic boxes are more sleek gravestones than video game machines.
This trend continues with Payday 2: Crimewave Edition, one of the aforementioned straight ports. Crimewave’s visuals are a notch above the version of Payday 2 released on the last generation of hardware, in fairness. But the wealth of new content is worth a look if you haven’t played since launch, and the game still has a rock-solid core. If you’re looking for a multiplayer shooter on current-gen consoles, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
Also, you can play as John Wick.
Payday 2: Crimewave Edition (Xbox One [reviewed], PS4)
Developer: Overkill Software
Publisher: 505 Games
Released: June 12, 2015
In Payday 2, you’re a gang of criminals in Washington, D.C, intimately familiar with the ins and outs of crime and crime-related activities. You and three friends (or AI partners if that’s how you roll) apply this skillset liberally, transforming places where once there was no crime into a veritable haven of villainy. In some ways, you could say the Payday Pals are some kind of wave…of crime. These dirty deeds range from bank robbery, to jewelry store robbery, to museum robbery, to art gallery robbery, to murder. To be fair, unless your team is quite good, each mission ends with a sizable body count, so there’s murder to be found in just about every mission.
This is a sticking point with Payday 2 — it’s very difficult to pull off a controlled heist. Even if you’re rolling with a team of people you know and everybody’s using microphones, there are still a lot of unknown factors and most of the best stealth gear is locked behind dozens of hours worth of progress. Since the core shooting is tight and responsive, stealth attempts quickly transitioning into explosive gunfights was never a genuine problem. At first blush, locking different approaches behind progression is at the very least disingenuous, but if you’re going to be playing the game for that long anyway, rewarding time spent with variety is a smart play. But in this case, appreciating design must take a backseat to player enjoyment. Pistol suppressors — a crucial tool for stealth missions — are either the luck of the draw or hidden behind some labyrinth of menus. It’s impossible to tell which.
Although there’s a limited pool of missions, I never saw them all in my 16 hours with the game. This is partially because I spent time grinding out shorter, easier missions for cash and experience, but there’s still a fairly respectable amount of content available. Since Crimewave Edition comes with all the DLC released up to that point, there’s a lot even beyond the missions. There’s more guns, a new character class, and even new characters (including a female member of the Payday Pals, and the boogeyman himself: John Wick).
Something also has to be said for the game’s atmosphere. When the relentless, driving soundtrack kicks in right as a fresh wave of pigs rush your crew, it’s hard to not get swept up in the moment. I’ll always choose stealth over action, but I never felt the need to restart a heist in Payday 2 because I had grown accustomed to the combat — it had become a regular part of life in this fictional capital. Maybe there’s something there about the normalization of violence, about how the endless war of attrition between the law and those who operate outside it only serves to perpetuate a culture of death — when the authorities perform a show of force, perhaps they are creating the very criminals they seek to apprehend.
Look, there are a lot of re-releases in stores right now, and even more coming this year. More often than not, they are slight, if competent, upgrades from the last batch of consoles. They’ve got nothing on the PC versions, but not everyone can afford a monster rig. Payday 2 is reasonably engaging, and the Crimewave Edition works as advertised. The framerate is solid, which is a nice bonus. But this is still a slightly new wrapper on a two-year-old game. Know this, at the very least: if you choose to skip this game in the hopes of drawing a line in the sand regarding split-gen ports, there are worse titles to pass over.