The very best bank jobs are well planned, well structured and well thought out. Masterminds join forces with fugitives, technicians and enforcers, hiding away until each and every man knows his job to a tee and the time is right for his expertise to come to the fore. Payday 2: Crimewave Edition takes everything you thought you knew about robbing banks and puts your skills to the test…and the efficiency of your friends. Yes, you’re going to need friends!

Payday 2 originally released on the last generation of consoles to something of a slow handclap. Whilst some quarters praised it, others dismissed it completely out of hand, preferring to wait, and wait, and wait some more for the GTA Online Heists to become reality. But now it’s time to crack on with another payday; one that on paper at least, looks to be bringing plenty of rewards your way.

However, Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is a strange old game. Sometimes it excels and brings about huge swathes of excitement and that adrenaline fueled rush that only the best bank jobs can bring. Whilst at other times, everything slows to a halt, frustrating even the most hardened of criminals.

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The Crimewave Edition brings all the previously released content, adds in some new characters and throws a big tin of gloss paint over proceedings. The main aim however stays exactly the same; carry out heists, rob banks, break into armoured trucks and steal jewels and cash to your hearts content. With very little in the way of a proper storyline running through the background, the Crimewave Edition constantly bores down to grabbing three mates, picking a random mission and going out in a blaze of glory. And if you do that, then you can be sure to find a tense, but ultimately pretty fun experience. As long as you don’t take things too seriously.

Crime.net is where the meat and drink of Payday 2 is found. Whilst the map screen containing all the available jobs unfortunately freezes for anything up to 20 seconds at a time, bringing plenty of frustration the way of the player, if you can look past that, you’ll find it containing what seems like hundreds of missions. The network flags up those missions that are simple to complete, others that will see you come up against a bit of a tougher police force, and more still that will only pay out if you do your homework, plan for each and every scenario and push your skills – and indeed your luck – to the utter limits. With various XP and cash rewards on offer for every heist that you carry out, the more you succeed, the greater the prize.

For the most part, anyone with a slightly switched on mind will find the easiest jobs pretty simple to complete, with the AI police force that you go up against not being of a very high calibre either in terms of quality or quantity. Picking off a jewelry store is straightforward enough and whether you decide to go in all guns blazing through the front door, or take the stealthy approach and enter through the side, taking note of surveillance cameras as you go, it’ll be no time at all before you’re waiting for the escape truck to arrive in order for you to reap the rewards.

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We find things moving up a notch or two with some of the harder missions though, with raids on large art galleries and whole malls needing much more than a bullet or two. Careful planning is required for these tougher jobs and thankfully the inclusion of a pre-planning stage prior to your motley crew going live is a good one. The chance to stake out the area, checking out the blueprints and lie of the land before you head on into what will nine times out of ten turn into a bloody battle, is essential. It’s about this time when a group of well spoken, clued up friends can become Payday legends, each knowing his or her job and sticking to it rigorously. If however one part of the team goes walkabout, then you can be sure the rest of the group will struggle.

With certain missions being spread out across more than one day, the cash and experience rewards increase dramatically whenever you embark on a job that requires the team to work together over the course of a few in-game days. It’s these missions that really give you the opportunity to level up your characters skills and weaponry, with numerous routes and playstyles to choose from for each and every job in hand. Whether you decide to concentrate on becoming a ghost-like cat-burglar, slowly maneuvering your way around with little chance to be spotted, or take on the roles of the mastermind, enforcer or technician, your skills will be invaluable to the success of the team as a whole. The new skillset of Fugitive is also a lovely inclusion as keeping away from the law and ensuring your escape route is a simple one is always good for team morale!

Payday 2 utterly excels in teasing you with skill trees that are both obtainable and interesting; giving you more enthusiasm than would otherwise be the case to get on down and hit the banks. The inclusion of numerous weapons, equipment and the glorious Payday masks ensure that there will be times when all you want to do is hit the next armoured truck in the hope that it drops you a big enough reward to level up once more.

The thing is, without these levels, there is very little to keep going back to Payday 2 for. In fact, the issues that are present instead cancel out near on every single positive action.

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I’ll start with the biggest problem, and if I’m being honest, the one real issue that attempts to ruin the whole damn thing. The AI.

Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is geared completely towards four friends working in conjunction with each other, helping out when the going gets tough and covering backs when the drills are getting to work. And for the most part, as long as you get a group of talkative friends, things work well. However, go along with the offline version of the Crime network, or only manage to persuede one or two friends to join you, and you’ll be in for a whole heap of trouble as your fellow crims either flatly refuse to help out, or just don’t have the brainpower necessary to complete even the most simple of tasks. Whilst your artifical partners in crime will happily take on the police whilst you get down to the real nitty gritty of safe cracking, essentially a single player will find themselves having to cope with everything that is thrown at them. It’s pretty tricky to fight your way through some of the larger missions when you have two guys alongside who are pretty oblivious to everything going on around them.

Thankfully though, the AI on the other side isn’t much cop either (pardon the pun). Whilst I have to admit to seeing some of the sharpish shooting snipers this side of Sniper Elite being present on certain missions, for the most part, the police force found in Payday 2 quite obviously need to go back to the shooting range. With numerous officers running around like headless chickens, not knowing when to fire or when to stand gormlessly staring at you, you’ll find that you can quite happily sit and crack a safe or stick a drill on a van door without too much worry that you’re going to get picked off. Indeed, even if you hide yourself in a room whilst you wait for a safe door to succumb to your drilling efforts, there are times when you still don’t even need to worry about the trigger finger as the police are more than happy to stand by and watch you grab the cash and make a sprint for it. There are times when a game is only as good as the characters involved and with Payday 2, if you’re a single player, then it’s near on impossible to get involved.

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With the visuals also not up to the standard we now expect with a new generation title – and yes, I acknowledge that this is a revamp – even a cheap price point can’t push Payday 2 Crimewave Edition into must buy territory. Characters morphing through each other, standing in a wall – yes, that’s IN a wall – or flatout refusing to go down a ladder no matter how many bullets are being fired over their head, and you’ll quickly get the idea that as a solo player experience, it’s probably best left well alone.

But hey, grab some friends or take pot luck finding a decent stranger or two on Xbox Live and you’ll have a jolly good time…because that’s when you’ll find the tense times become enjoyable times. And enjoyable times become rewarding times – in more ways than one.

Just as long as you ignore the AI incompetence, are happy to work around the constant freezing of Crime.net and treat even the most serious of bank jobs as a laugh, then Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is worth a little look!

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