Games Review: Payday 2 (Switch, 2018) is a flawed heist with the occasional big score

Payday 2  bursts onto the Nintendo Switch as one of the most complete packages of the title that you can find score in one initial purchase. Through it’s performance issues and strange omissions of certain DLC packs, Payday 2 is mostly what you expect, but this time, allowing you to take your heists on the go.

Payday 2 packs a ton of content in the initial experience along with around 50 of the DLC packs that have released on both consoles and PC over the past few years. If you don’t own Payday 2 or have never played it, it’s a great way to entice new players and entertain those who are returning at the same time. I must admit, some DLC packs are just plain awesome, such as the biker heists which take place on a moving train, or the ability to play as John Wick. Yeah, you heard that right. However while Payday 2 packs in so much awesomeness alongside the base game, there are some glaring omissions such as the Scarface DLC. You can chalk it up to the fact that these are more recent DLC packs, but seeing as this is a recent release, one would think it would pack in everything up until now. In the end, Switch users see themselves only slightly behind the most updated PC and console counterparts.

However, the Nintendo Switch iteration packs in content that no other version has in the form of Joy, a timed exclusive character with hacking skills that not only make life easier for everyone else, but also provides a support role that allows for greater sense of player agency. And to top it all off, her red and blue mask seems to be cheeky nod to the Switch itself. And to be honest, I love it.

Moving onto the game itself, Payday 2 manages to bring a decent amount of fun to the Nintendo Switch, proving to be one of the better shooters you can buy on the console right now. In saying that, while the game features both online and single-player modes, the single-player portion is bland to say the least. Tacking on a story that sees you returning to the criminal underworld after a stint in jail, Payday 2 delivers its story through menu based exposition that takes place before you start a mission. It’s safe to say the story isn’t the main focus of the title, but it does itself no favours in the process. Levels are randomly generated, and missions are varied, allowing you to partake in missions based around stealth or action, but environments feel bland and claustrophobic at times. The game doesn’t necessarily show you where its borders are, but the fact that you can tell for yourself makes the game feel restricted and confined in more situations than I’d like to admit.

Payday 2 plays well most of the time. The shooting mechanics work well in some places and falter in others. Firstly, the Switch simply controls well, be it in the palm of your hands or docked and on a TV screen. Payday 2 feels responsive and fluid, and while the gunplay isn’t terrible,  guns do feel a little weak at times. While the Switch enables rumble functionality, guns lack the certain punch needed to feel powerful, and therefore realistic. It’s and awkward blend, but it never felt unbearable or frustrating.

Payday 2 runs well enough on the Switch, but don’t expect the visuals to blow you away. What can be likened to a slightly better looking version than those on the PS3/Xbox 360, Payday 2’s downfall is in its performance. While the game tries to maintain a steady 30 frames per second, it does drop on occasion, usually when the action gets heated, which is a shame. As well as this, when playing Payday 2 on a TV, the game inexplicably shifts between resolutions, like it can’t decide if it wants to be 1080p or something less. While neither look terrible, I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice the transition in the form of blurred edges.

Payday 2 offers online play through Crime.Net, a diverse network where you acquire contracts, serving as the game’s mission selection screen. The selection process is similar enough to its single-player counterpart, and games rarely felt laggy in any way. But here, Payday 2 reveals its most unforgivable flaw. No voice chat. Being a cooperative experience of this nature, Payday 2′s complete lack of in game voice chat makes things unnecessarily frustrating. If you’re playing with friends, make sure to coordinate a conference call, because the Nintendo Switch is not doing you any favours. Nintendo have allowed voice chat for Splatoon 2 with its Nintendo Online app, but as this currently only supports Splatoon 2, Starbreeze Studios have stated that they are looking into ways to use Nintendo’s downloadable app for voice chat. While an official Discord server has been launched to combat this issue, the simple fact that the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have voice chat creates a problem for Payday 2 that is not necessarily the fault of Starbreeze Studios, but ultimately endures the same consequences.

Overall, Payday 2 on the Switch is an admirable attempt at an already great heist game. While the Switch version packs a ton of DLC content, what it lacks left me feeling confused and cheated. While the single-player portion is a little bland, multiplayer works great as I experienced hardly any jarring connectivity issues. However, the inexcusable lack of voice chat will leave a bitter taste, and one can only hope that Nintendo can rectify this issue sooner rather than later.

Score: 7.0 out of 10
Highlights: Functional controls, addictive gameplay loop, ton of DLC.
Lowlights: Performance issues, complete lack of in-game voice chat, inexplicably missing some DLC.
Developer: Overkill Software, Starbreeze Studios
Publisher: 505 Games, Sumo Digital, Starbreeze Studios
Available: Now
Platforms: Nintendo Switch

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch with retail code provided by the publisher.