Payday 2‘s Switch announcement was one of the most surprising news stories from the end of 2017, mostly due to the fact that this is one of the least Nintendo-friendly games I’ve seen in a while. An online multiplayer-focused heist-centered shooter, full of guns, gore and swearing, and making fun of political figures with its hilarious masks. That was surely one of the last games I’d ever imagine to come out for Nintendo’s new hybrid console, but I’m glad it did. While far from a masterpiece, Payday 2 for the Switch turned out to be a much more interesting experience than I could have ever imagined.
Moments of pure tension
My pre-release skepticism started due to my previous experiences with other ports of more complex and graphically demanding games to the Switch. Monster Energy Supercross was just hideous to look at. Troll and I ran, at best, at around 15 frames per second. FIFA 18 suffered from inferior graphics and removed content. Needless to say, I was already expecting the game to run poorly and have a ton of graphical issues. That . . . wasn’t the case.
Payday 2 runs pretty well on Switch hardware. Sure, the game isn’t exactly a visual masterpiece, as it is a game from the last generation. However I can’t deny my relief due to the fact that it looks fairly decent, with a good amount of particle and lighting effects and a rock-solid framerate. It’s locked at 30fps, but then again, so were the PS4 and Xbox One versions. The only in-game aspects that actually look very ugly are the NPCs, namely civilians and cops. You might not even notice them while you play the game, but as soon as I checked my footage and screenshots for this article, I was astonished with how Dreamcast-ish-at-best some of those NPCs looked!
Started from the bottom
By far, the best aspect in Payday 2 is its sound department, namely its soundtrack. While the voice acting is good enough (not overly memorable, though), the soundtrack really stole the show. The game masterfully knows when to start playing some high-octane tunes the moment cops start shooting at you or the moment you start running away to your getaway vehicle, for instance.
What you probably want to know the most is if the gameplay holds up on a portable. Thankfully, it does, but not without a fair share of issues.
The controls aren’t bad at all. They’re responsive enough, though the fact the Switch doesn’t have proper analog triggers will always haunt me when playing a shooter on that console. Payday 2 has the quintessential control scheme from any other shooter out there, so you know what to expect. With the exception of some tiny targets that are really annoying to aim at (such as the lockpick prompts), you won’t have many issues here.
Now we stealin’!
The main question is: is it still fun on the Switch? Yes it is, but weirdly enough, the solo missions were the most entertaining aspect of the game, mainly due to the Switch’s portable nature. Payday 2‘s solo missions are easy to setup, fast to load and can be beaten in about 15 to 20 minutes. Waiting for a movie to begin? Waiting in line for something? Got 20 minutes to spare? You can easily do a mission whenever and wherever you want, without the need to worry about online connectivity. The best part about it is that the game doesn’t drain the console’s battery nor does it turn the Switch into a portable oven when played on handheld mode. Sure, this mode isn’t perfect due to some AI issues (your teammates and the cops can be a bit dim-witted at times), but it’s actually pretty fun and tense when it needs to be.
My online experience with Payday 2 was also better than expected. There was a little lagging, but then again servers weren’t full yet. The mode itself ran fine on the Switch, but there was a massive problem with it and that’s not actually the developer’s fault, but Nintendo’s fault: voice chat, or the lack thereof. Payday 2 is a teamwork-heavy experience and being able to talk to your teammates is a crucial element. Nintendo’s backwards mentality towards online chat makes it nigh impossible for you to communicate with your teammates. In order to compensate for this, the Switch version of Payday 2 comes with local multiplayer as well, each player on his/her own Switch in the same network. The idea is as good as it sounds.
Finally, there’s the issue regarding the game’s progression system, something that has been criticized in other versions. Thankfully, this iteration of Payday 2 comes with most of the previous DLC packs included for free, so there’s no need to worry about spending extra cash on a fancy mask. The game doesn’t give you a lot of money after each heist, so leveling up and getting extra gear can be a slightly slow task. I wouldn’t say the game requires grinding, as doing heists aren’t a repetitive task, but be prepared to spend some time robbing banks and jewelry stores before being able to buy a brand new AK.
Yeah, forget strategy, let’s just go full guns blazing!
I was really surprised with how entertaining Payday 2 turned out to be, especially when doing solo missions on handheld mode. It really fit well with the Switch’s portable nature. Online play was also entertaining, but the Switch’s lack of proper online chat made the experience a lot less interesting than on other consoles. Despite those issues and the slow progression system, I had a good time with Payday 2. It is, so far, one of the best ports of a more complex game to the Nintendo Switch, without a doubt.
While some assets feature simple shapes and textures, the overall game looks decent enough, albeit clearly last-gen. The game’s framerate is robust.
It’s your typical FPS setup, fairly easy to learn and responsive. Aiming sensitivity is decent. Properly looking at a smaller target can be a bit tricky at times.
While the voice acting was above average but not wow-inducing, the soundtrack was a massive surprise, being the best aspect in the game.
Solo play is surprisingly fun, albeit easy, and while online play is a blast, and functional, the Switch’s asinine voice chat setup hinders the experience a bit.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Also available on: PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
Copy of Pay Day 2 provided by publisher.