As a law abiding citizen, committing robbery is probably the last thing on your mind. That said, somewhere inside your deepest thoughts – whether you'd admit it or not – you've probably pondered what it would be like to throw off the shackles of society's laws, and turn to a life crime. In Payday 2: Crimewave Edition for the PlayStation 4 you can exercise your dark side, trying your hand at a wide variety of criminal escapades, all without the risk of having to explain to you loved ones that you might not be around for seven to ten years.
Logging in to the title's game browser – the appropriately named CRIME.NET – you're presented with a wide selection of heists, which not only include all of those found in the original PlayStation 3 release, but also a fair few that have only been available for the PC version of the game up to this point. Taking on jobs ranging from your straight-forward bank robbery to a spot of electoral fraud, you can form a crew with up to three other players to try and take on your desired score.
At its heart, Payday 2 is an online co-op shooter, and while it does allow you to take on heists on your own with the not-so able assistance of some bots, any time spent in the company of its dopey AI will ensure that you ensure to play with real people whenever possible.
As a result of working with different players, even taking on the same scenario can still feel quite different each time. This sense of the unexpected is built further as certain parts of a missions will shift around, meaning that you never know just what to expect. The location of vaults, cameras, guards, and civilians can all change, either making things easier or harder for your crew, and it's this variability along with the tension that it brings that'll keep you coming back for just one more job.
Many heists can be beaten without the authorities ever being aware, and when you do ride off into the sunset loaded with riches having not fired a single shot, it's incredibly satisfying. Don't get too excited, though, as this is the exception rather than the rule, as civilians, guards, security cameras, and all sorts of other complications are waiting to trip up your posse of bandits.
As if this wasn't already enough to contend with, Payday 2 does a really bad job of teaching you its rules. As a result there's a lot of on-the-job training, which you'll run into by blundering into the view of cameras or failing to stop civilians from calling the police. More annoyingly, you'll occasionally get spotted through walls and ceilings with very little clue if you did something wrong or just happened to stumble on a bug.
Now, this all probably sounds like a thoroughly unenjoyable experience, but in reality it's the complete opposite. When a heist goes awry there's just as much fun to be had as when you pull it off without a hitch, so it's easy to forget any frustrations you may have with the sneakier aspects. When things do inevitably go loud you'll have to work quite a bit harder if you want to get paid, and as the police start to arrive on the scene your gang will need to get ready for the battle ahead.
With all guns blazing, your aim is to keep the law at bay long enough to complete each stage of the robbery. Whether drilling vaults, cooking meth, or smashing up a mall, it all takes time, and the longer you're exposed to the onslaught, the less likely you are to make it out. This is especially the case on higher difficulties when special law enforcement units start appearing on the scene, which can tear you to pieces in no time at all if you're not careful.
It can be quite stressful when you're pinned down by the sheer number of enemies coming for you, so you'll be thankful that there's a nice ebb and flow to the action, allowing you to get just enough of a breather between each assault for you to take stock and think about your next move. The problem is there's always more ill-gotten gains than your crew can easily carry away in one go, and this is when greed kicks in, tempting you – often unwisely – to brave the gauntlet for just one more bag of loot. As a result there'll be numerous times you'll be kicking yourself after you pass up the chance to make your escape, only for your cadre to end up in handcuffs.
Failing a heist means none of your team gain any experience or money to spend on the numerous character upgrades and weapons available, and it can be especially painful when you fail one of the lengthier missions at the final hurdle. As with other online co-op titles, playing your part is important, and while the reliance on different character classes is not even close to that of a game like Evolve, there'll be times when you'll be relying on other members of your squad to keep you in the fight. This can be a little aggravating at times, especially when you've run out of ammunition and the only member of your team carrying a supply is blissfully unaware, forcing you to take a backseat until they wake up.
As you complete missions, you'll level up your character, unlocking new weapons and skill points to spend in one of the five different skill trees: Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician, Ghost, and Fugitive. Sensibly, you're not locked into one skill tree, so you're able to use points to gain abilities from any branch that may suit your own play style, even creating multiple builds – once your character reaches a certain level – so that you can switch easily in between jobs and equip the one that best suits the mission ahead.
As your pile of cash grows back at your safe house, you'll be spending it not only alongside skill points to unlock abilities, but to also buy additional weaponry. Most guns carry a hefty price tag, so you'll need to save up to buy some of the higher level weapons, or if you want to customise your arsenal with any modifications such as sights or silencers.
One odd design decision is that in order to customise your guns or masks, you must first acquire the parts that you need through a random award you're given at the end of a successful heist. This can mean that despite being desperate to add a red dot sight or a bigger clip to your favourite gun, you'll have to wait for one to randomly drop, as well as stumping up the requisite amount of cash. This only succeeds in adding a bit more of a grind for players on top of the already present levelling system, and quickly becomes a point of irritation.
Graphically the game has been given a bump in resolution to 1080p, while it also sports a much more stable frame rate compared to its last-gen version. The trouble is that it still looks as dated as you'd expect for game that was hardly a graphical powerhouse the first time around. Despite this lack of visual flair, though, it does manage to deliver in terms of its presentation in other ways, with some excellent level design, and a thumping dynamic soundtrack that matches the game's mood perfectly, building in intensity as the action – and your stress levels – ramp up.
Even with all of its problems, it's really hard not to fall a little bit in love with Payday 2: Crimewave Edition – purely from the thrill of pulling off capers with a crew. Even with some odd design decisions, lacklustre graphics, and frustrating stealth, when it's all mixed together you actually get one of the most enjoyable co-operative shooters out there, which can even give the likes of Left 4 Dead a run for its money. So, if you skipped this game last generation or have been going straight since its last outing, it's well worth turning to a life of crime and stealing away this shooter for your PS4.