Anyone who’s ever taken in a crime show on TV or at the movies knows that the key to a successful heist is your crew. You need the smartest, the fastest, the deadliest people to do a job “right,” we’re told. And the creators of PAYDAY 2: Crimewave Edition pretty much base their entire game on that philosophy. The gameplay here is only as good as the team you’re playing with. Especially when it comes to that “deadliest” part.
The story side of this title is pretty thin pickings. The single-player campaign journey features a group of thieves in Washington, D.C., and has you play as a have-gun-will-pilfer bad guy who wants to start raking in big I-can-retire-at-30-and-live-on-my-own-island kind of cash. To get to that point, you take mission contracts from a mysterious person named Bain, who heads up something called crime.net and offers an interactive map full of heists of varying difficulties.
Truthfully, though, PAYDAY 2: Crimewave Edition doesn’t view its clunky single-player stuff as anything much more than simple training material. This game is all about the online multiplayer co-op missions. And that side of play is as straightforward and streamlined as a bullet to the forehead: Pick a mission, work as a team, get the loot and stay alive.
You and a crew of three other online players are given generally deadly missions that range from jewelry store smash-and-grabs to art gallery thefts to bank heists to nightclub burglaries to prison breaks to illegal narcotics smugglings.
You are a thief and a killer.
And you act like it.
Players start out as civilians who are dropped in to case a joint, scouting out cameras, guard locations, locked doors, vaults and other area-unique features. That Bain guy whispers a number of here’s-how-you-can-do-it clues in your ear as you move—along with, of course, spurts of f- and s-words. After that, it’s all about assigning jobs, slipping on masks and starting your own personal crime wave.
Things then shift from pure slip-and-scout strategizing to fast-paced, high-tension thefts. And that’s where the team you’re matched up with becomes so important. The missions will normally involve picking locks, tying up potential hostages and murdering a good portion of the guards on hand, for instance. But if someone makes a few ham-fisted choices, things invariably end up as a full sprint, kill-’em-all gun battle, with wave after wave of increasingly powerful police units being called in to stop you from getting away with your purloined prize or reaching your grievous goal.
Armaments cover the bloody gamut from assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns and handguns to a group of melee weapons that includes batons, knives, machetes and shovels. It should be noted that the game does generally frown on using that weaponry to kill “innocents”—meaning anybody who’s not wearing a badge or romping around as a rival gangbanger. (High dollar “cleaner costs” are deducted from your haul if you blast a civilian on the street, for instance.) But you’re outright rewarded for splattering and splashing the brains and blood of anyone else you might choose, especially those men and women in blue.
Which of course becomes PAYDAY 2: Crimewave Edition’s biggest and most glaring issue. For all of its teamwork coolness, this is a bloody shooter that’s all about repeatedly plotting out the ruthless murder of anybody standing between you and your illicit loot. That means you won’t find any grand heroes on display or even any good guys here—at least not who are on your side. There are just groups and gaggles of heartless criminals doing heartless things, woo-hooing the grisly outcome with stacks of stolen cash.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.