Sunday, August 18, 2013
Payday 2 Impressions
So after the disaster that was Bond's attempt at securing a copy of Payday 2 for Xbox 360 on Friday (Gamestop only stocked preorders, everywhere else was sold out), we finally managed to get on last night and log some serious hours with the game. Cliff Notes: buy this game ($40). It has some rough edges, and essentially no offline/single player component, but this game is riotously, I daresay criminally, fun. After only one session I can state with confidence that its one of the most fun coop games Ive ever played.
The progression in this game is slow. As in, dont worry about getting the game a week late, because its a long road to climb to a fully spec'd out character and the difference between a Level 20 and Level 2 (out of 50) character is still quite small - mostly a few class based perks and weapons upgrades. I think, 5 hours into the game, I was still using the default weapons and had no body armor simply because I couldnt afford them. Yes, this is a grinders game for sure.
I had the feeling, several times when playing this last night, that the game is oddly Japanese is some ways. The super-grindey progression, the story, uh, I dont even know what the story is but the characters are awesome, its arcadey and twitchy in its gunplay (think L4D/Counterstrike), it has a whole stealth component which is like an impossible version of Metal Gear, which finally brings me to the the fact that this game is balls-ass hard and totally unforgiving of your stupid mistakes. Over and over again, we would have that feeling of "We got this, piece of cake" about halfway through the mission only to be screaming into the mic 5 minutes later: "Im down, they're everywhere! Save yourself, take the loot and run man!"
Overkill Software did a great job with the difficulty of the game - you can play the missions on default difficulty, which is pretty do-able, or Hard, Very Hard, or Overkill (1, 2, or 3 yellow stars respectively). We managed to complete a few missions on Overkill last night, and every single one of them came down to us reaching the escape van on our last, dying breath.
There are basic generic heist missions which have a base rating of 1-4 white stars, and the yellow difficulty stars stack on top of those. So while taking on a 1 star generic mission on Overkill, for a total of 4 stars, isnt totally impossible, taking on the higher tier story missions with a base rating of 5+ stars on anything higher than Hard requires absolute precision and consummate teamwork to have any chance of survival. But trust me, you need to play most missions on Hard or higher, because it increases your EXP and payout immensely - progression almost grinds to a halt if you play at the default difficulty.
We played one of the unique "story" missions last night, which was a multi-day heist (SPOILER ALERT): On day one, we had to steal or destroy a cache of weapons - simple enough, save for the fact that carrying the highly valuable weapons to steal them slows you down to a crawl that would make Cliffy B cry for his momma, and there are 6 weapons cases to carry while being shot to hell by guards, - another twist which seemed to me a total throwback to Japanese games of yore. Brutal, but not impossible, we managed it. On day two however, we had to break into the FBI offices and steal a server. Sounds simple enough right? Hahahaha. It might have been, except...
You can stealth this mission entirely, but stealth in this game is just insane. We actually managed to get up to the server room undetected, but we couldnt find the keycard so we had to break in using the drill, and were discovered. The server is located behind no less than 3 heavily armored doors which require drilling or C4 (which we havent unlocked). After maybe 20 minutes of drilling and defending an onslaught of cops, FBI agents, SWAT teams and super-heavyduty combat soldiers, with our ammo running low, we grabbed the server, healed up, and made a break for it. The combat got even more intense as we made out way out to the van across the street, with snipers taking aim at our heads and cops flanking us from every direction. Somehow we managed to dodge most of the sniper fire and made it to the van with just a fraction of health left. "Sick! We did it!" I shouted out into my 360 headset. Only, the mission didnt end. Somehow, in deploying the medical pack before our departure, I put the server down, and forgot it. The SWAT teams converged around our van, and everything grew dark. FISSION MAILED. And that was only day 2 of a 3 day heist.
Payday 2 runs admirably on the Xbox 360, but it does have some pretty serious screen tearing and occasional slowdown, although the slowdown is fairly minor and never borderline gamebreaking with regard to input latency/playability like I have seen in other titles such as Ninja Gaiden 2 or Gears 3's Horde mode. However, beyond these flaws, Overkill has done a solid job of porting over their game from the PC to an 8 year old console. The fact that it even runs at all on the 360 is a technical marvel - helped by the fact that its made using the also-aging Source engine and several advanced graphical features arent present at all in the 360 version. Yes, there is ridiculous clipping, sometimes laughable AI, missing animations, strangely absent customization, a need for more missions, and other flaws which betray a significant lack of polish and indicate a rushed job to get this game out before the behemoth that is GTA V is released. But those flaws cant hold this game down, the core mechanics are just too good, and the game is just too much fun to be ruined by myriad, yet minor flaws.