Although the Nintendo Switch has only been on the market for a shade under a year, it has seen its fair share of third-party support, something that was severely lacking on Nintendo’s previous console. The hybrid approach appeals to those looking to play on-the-go, as well as in the comfort of one’s home. Payday 2 may have released five years ago on PC and last generation consoles (PS3 and Xbox 360), but its popularity on PC has yet to falter due to a constant stream of patches and downloadable content. In fact, Overkill Software and Starbreeze Studios have already ported the game to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2015, but due to some much-needed bug fixes, the Crimewave Edition fell behind its PC counterpart in terms of content. Sadly, it looks like the Nintendo Switch build is not only quite outdated but full of bugs and disappointment. Instead of pulling off thrilling heists with friends, narrowly escaping the police, most of my time has been spent trying to free myself from the broken matchmaking, horrendous AI, and uninspiring docked performance woes.
If you are unfamiliar with the co-op shooter, Payday 2 is about pulling off heists of varying difficulty and involvement with friends or AI-controlled partners. While some of the heists play out as simple “smash and grab” jobs, the more elaborate ones can take place over multiple days and locations. Think of it as the difference between someone performing a "smash and grab" job at a local jewelry store versus trying to take down a powerful drug cartel. At times, you’ll attempt to employ strategy and tactics, casing the joint for security guards, cameras, and the best route to take before putting on your mask. Of course, if you forego the simple, yet snazzy, suit option for more protected gear, guards will become suspicious of you sooner. Although the game wants you to utilize stealth at times, ensuring you remain unseen by hiding bodies and answering radios from dead guards so no one becomes the wiser, the action will eventually boil down to you and your team shooting your way to an extraction point.
In Payday 2, players sign up for contracts through Crime.net, randomly displaying a set of contracts and if anyone else is attempting that heist at the same time (online players). Ideally, you’ll join a heist before it begins, letting you plan accordingly with others, however, this is where my troubles began. Outside of joining Marcus directly via a friend’s list invite, I have not been able to enter any games with random players successfully. Whether it was a game with three other players or one with a single player, I have seen three different connection issue messages, including being stuck on the “joining game” screen, forcing you to quit the game.
Most of the missions require you to perform specific tasks, such as cutting fences, unlocking doors, transporting bags of money/gold/drugs, and restarting the drill used to break into vaults. Of course, the drill will inevitably break at the most inauspicious moments. Playing with the AI requires you to perform all of these actions yourself. Attempting to transfer bags of gold through a literal warzone over and over by yourself is not only frustrating but artificially prolongs missions. Making matters worse, they are unable to react fast enough to the waves of enemies, and it was a common occurrence to see them run right past enemies without firing a single shot. I'm not even surprised when I see Dallas remain crouching in a corner or open doorway, repeatedly getting shot while staring at a wall. Not only that, but they won’t deploy any necessary support equipment, such as the doctor bag, sentry gun or ammo bag. Some of things issues have been patched/fixed on the PC build, but the updates are seemingly not included in this build.
Exclusive to the Nintendo Switch version of the game is a LAN adaptation of Crime.net. Up to four players sharing the same network can attempt to score big together without having to play online. There is also an exclusive character - Joy - that has her own set of equipment and weapons, not to mention a really sweet LED mask. I assume that she was named for the Joy-Con controllers, which is ironic because the game does not play well using the detachable controllers. The analog sticks just seem inadequate for precision and holding the Switch unit for prolonged periods feels awkward. If you think you may want to play Payday 2, I highly recommend using a Pro controller. Visually, Payday 2 runs at 720p at 30 frames of second when undocked, but the resolution is bumped up to 900p (upscaled to 1080p) when docked, but suffers from performance issues (frequent dips in frame rate into the 20s) and blurry UI elements.
Payday 2 has a ton of content, adding many pieces that were added to the PC version since the original release. And yet, it is still missing content and some of the quality of life patches that have improved the game when playing with AI companions. Considering the on-the-go nature of the platform, players will be sending a lot of time with the game while not connected to a network, which is arguably the worst way to experience the game. The performance issues, missing content, and brain-dead AI are simply inexcusable. There is also a bug when using the device's rest mode, where the controls become unresponsive until the game is restarted.
Note: Payday 2 was reviewed based on a digital Nintendo Switch copy of the game, provided by the publisher.