Much like a real-life bank heist, Payday 2 on Nintendo Switch is dependent upon many variables. Are your fellow criminals worth their salt? Is each member of your team properly equipped for the job? Is proper communication being utilized? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you’ll likely find your experience with Payday 2 on Nintendo Switch rather lacking. Though the core experience of pulling off grandiose acts of thievery is fun and engaging, Payday 2 on Switch simply misses the mark in too many places to be considered the definitive version of the title.
At its heart, Payday 2 is a cooperative, first person shooter where the objective is to run bank heists, jewelry thefts, and other odd criminal jobs with a crew of four. Once you learn the basics of the game in its four-act tutorial, Payday 2 turns you loose into carrying out the heists of your choice, with the ability to change your character, gear, and perks along the way.
Ideally, the game should be played with three other human players so you get the most out of the experience. Payday 2 on Nintendo Switch lets you do this either via online or multi-system local multiplayer. The problem here is that, despite its Online app being available for phones, Nintendo Switch still does not give players a simple, effective way to communicate with teammates. That means, unless you’re teaming up with known friends and plan ahead of time to use services like Skype or Discord for team chatter, you’ll be hard-pressed to effectively communicate with your fellow criminals. In one mission, I played with two human teammates, and it took us more than fifteen minutes to figure out what our objective was and where to go, all because we couldn’t communicate with each other. Playing locally is clearly the best way to communicate with your teammates, but that requires each player to have his or her own Switch and a copy of the game, which only increases the barrier to entry.
That’s a problem, because Payday 2, as a single-player game, does not work well. Team AI simply can’t interact with the world in any way aside from shooting people, so if you’re playing solo, you’ll be interacting with all the equipment and moving all the valuables to the getaway van. This is especially troubling for fans hoping to play Payday 2 in handheld mode, because unless you plan to play with friends locally or stay within Wi-Fi range, you’ll have to rely on the game’s less-than-competent AI to aid you. Why couldn’t Overkill have added some sort of command option for AI teammates? For a game that relies on team cohesion, it’s severely lacking in this regard.
When you do have a full team of human players, however, Payday 2 shines. If each person comes equipped with the proper gear and items, your team can run like a well-oiled machine. If any of your crew is inept, however, you’ll find the experience less enjoyable, as stopping your objective to heal a constantly dying teammate, for example, invariably puts a damper on the mission.
As if all that weren’t enough, one thing worth noting is that the Nintendo Switch version of Payday 2 is not the most up-to-date version of the game. The day-one version on Switch includes all the content updates released through mid-2017 on the PC version, which is also behind the Crimewave Edition released on PS4 and Xbox One. Publisher Starbreeze says the team had to port over the version that was current at the time of console submission and promises future updates are still to come for the Switch version. Though that sounds promising, it is dismaying that players who pick the game up for Switch on day one simply will not be playing the most updated version of the game.
All these issues aside, in a vacuum, Payday 2 really is a fun game. The kinetic gunplay feels great, and the dynamic of missions turning on a dime when you trip a security camera and police arrive can turn what could have been a pure stealth endeavor into an all-out firefight. You can feel tensions rising at these critical moments, and it’s situations like these where Payday 2 shines the brightest. Potential payouts are huge, and you can use all the money you acquire to purchase new weapons and weapon mods. The game’s perk system is varied and can really be used to your advantage so you can take on heists with a greater risk-reward dynamic.
Visually, Payday 2 is a mixed bag. While docked, the game runs at 1080p and 30 frames per second, but it doesn’t look all that great. Textures look rather bland by 2018 standards, and character models suffer from the same. Additionally, when aiming down sights, distanced view doesn’t snap into focus like one might expect it to, which is slightly disorienting. When in handheld, the game runs at 720p and 30 frames per second, and while the game’s visuals do look better on the Switch’s smaller screen, I did notice more frequent and severe frame rate dips than when docked. It’s painfully clear this is a port of a 360- or PS3-era game, and the fact that we’re getting a game that very much looks like it was released in 2013 in the year 2018 doesn’t help the game amid its other issues.
Payday 2 on Nintendo Switch takes almost all the good things from its previously released versions and puts it in an inherently flawed package. Though the moment-to-moment gameplay remains as fun as it ever was, too many issues plague the Nintendo Switch version. Outdated visuals, lack of easy and effective team communication, and a gameplay loop that is too innately reliant on having competent teammates—which aren’t guaranteed—are only some of the problems Payday 2 sees on Nintendo Switch. If Nintendo ever allows Payday 2 to utilize its Online voice chat app, then perhaps the game could see renewed life in the future. For now, though, Payday 2 on Nintendo Switch is an okay endeavor at best.
Disclaimer: A review code for Payday 2 was provided by the game’s publisher.