13 Mar 2018

Payday 2 Switch Review

It's no secret that Payday 2 has been a hit with PC gamers. In almost five years it has obtained over 170 content updates, received numerous positive reviews, hosted LAN tournaments and is consistently in the top 20 most played games on Steam. The console version has had a wonkier history. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions received only a single content update before developer Overkill Software shifted focus towards the Xbox One and PS4. There, the game still didn't receive the same kind of love as it does on PC, with there being long periods between each update. In one case, console players had to wait over a year for new content. So when Overkill announced last year that Payday 2 would be coming to the Nintendo Switch, many people including myself had their eyebrows raised in deep suspicion.

I'm a firm believer in turning over new leafs, and what better place to prove that than on a new platform? The Switch version was ported over by Sheffield-based studio Sumo Digital, which already has experience with the platform after releasing Snake Pass last year. Upon launching the game, you can tell how well-done the port is. It runs at a steady 30 frames-per-second with a 900p resolution in docked mode (720p in handheld), which is impressive considering the hardware it runs on. Everything from the menus to the audio feels really polished and impressive for a game of this scope.
Sumo Digital and Overkill Software have also taken advantage of some of the Switch's more unique features. The menus utilise the touch screen capabilities of the console while the HD rumble is effectively used during play to feel realistic and natural. Getting shot at or interacting with an object will trigger this, but the effect is most impressive when you're bleeding out, where the rumble simulates a beating heart that gets more intense as you spend more time on the ground. It's a very minor thing, but I believe it is my favourite aspect of this port. I'm hoping they decide to add gyro-aiming to the game sometime down the line, however, because that feature worked really well for DOOM.

Joining the character roster is Joy, part of the Switch timed-exclusive content that comes with the game. Joy brings the Hacker perk deck with her along with a new submachine gun. The new deck utilises pocket electronic jammers to interfere with nearby devices as well as using feedback loops to temporarily incapacitate enemy cops. The item itself is similar to the ECM device that is already in the game, but the deck also gives further bonuses such as granting dodge to friendly players or regenerating health. Hacker certainly isn't the strongest in the game, but it's a fun experimental idea and a way of breathing new life into an item that doesn't see much love. Joy is rather bland character that spouts off meme-esque lines, but her one redeeming feature is the LED mask she wears that briefly flashes between different headwear of the other Payday gang members. Ultimately, the Switch tie-in feels forced and doesn't really contribute to the lore of Payday 2
There was some controversy in the week leading up to release when it appeared the game was lacking content that can be found on other platforms. Payday 2 on Switch features everything released up to around the "Hoxton's Housewarming Party" event which PC players received in October 2016, and console gamers got a few months later. This also means a lot of bugs and components from the game at that point are also present in this version, including the slow artificial intelligence, the desync when playing online, and the unfair disadvantages of its highest difficulty, One Down.

Despite that, this version of the game is still in a very good place. It features over fifty heists to play, along with hundreds of weapons and masks. It's not the best it can be, but it will certainly be able to offer hours of fun, and I say this as someone who has logged over 2000 hours on the PC version. It's allowed me to begin a fresh playthrough on this game back from the Level 1, and along with the ability to play on the go means banks can now be robbed while you're out and about.
Whether you're a long-term fan or a newcomer to the series, Payday 2 on the Nintendo Switch is an impressive entry to the platform's ever-growing library. The performance of the port proves the game still has some relevance in 2018, however the long list of problems that were in other versions of the game are still present here, and unless you really want to play this in handheld mode, it's hard to justify purchasing it when there are better versions of the game out there.

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