Payday 2 Nintendo Switch review: Masks up, folks; we’re cracking a vault!

Credits: OVERKILL /

Payday 2 is a stand-out game in terms of cooperative play and randomly generated heist missions. Through the use of unique talent trees, gameplay mechanics, and cooperative play, Payday 2 seeks to add an entirely new fanbase through its release on the Nintendo Switch.

Developer: OVERKILL
Publisher: Starbreeze Studios
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: February 23, 2018

For nearly five years, I’ve been a busy heister. I’ve robbed banks, jewelry stores; I’ve even helped smuggle enough “snow” that even Scarface would have cried tears of joy. Over the course of those years, Payday 2 has been a thrilling experience for me. Having the chance to take on the role of a professional criminal, it’s an experience unlike any other.

With the news breaking that Payday 2 would be heading to the Nintendo Switch, I once more decided to grab my favorite pair of blue rubber gloves, my trusty mask, and once more prepared myself for another round of gambits. The last thing needed would be to make the call that would rally the old team back together for one last string of unforgettable heists. After all, we’d just seen both Hoxton and Houston get released from jail after our failed attempt to steal a Christmas tree and all its goodies from a mall.

Credits: OVERKILL /

It’s hard not to have some reservations about the release of Payday 2 on a console with half the power of its current-gen competitors. While the game itself isn’t nearly as demanding as say DOOM or Skyrim, there’s still a lot going on, and the fact this is a dedicated first-person shooter brought in minor concerns on how the game would handle and perform while on the go. To my surprise, the Switch handles the game rather well, sitting on par with the game’s release versions on PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. Even the missions that had been released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2017 were no minor setbacks, either; the system handled bullets flying everywhere rather well.

Payday 2 performance is just about as you’d expect it on the Nintendo Switch.

Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch does see minor setbacks with this very version. Steady framerate drops became consistent when 20-30 SWAT team members filled the screen. Even during portions of the game’s stealth tutorial gave me frame rates that would be consistent with single-digit counters. While this minor hiccup would correct itself with a simple return to the main menu, it brought up a concern about the game’s future performance. After all, this was only within my first half-hour of gameplay and it didn’t give high hopes for my experience later on.

After 32 hours of gameplay, I quickly learned that Payday 2 on the Nintendo Switch is no slouch, and those minor performance hiccups I had were just that; minor. Payday 2 would carry on to deliver one of the most solid experiences I’ve had with OVERKILL’s title.

Payday 2 performance is just about as you’d expect it on the Nintendo Switch. Frame rates seemingly stayed around its 30fps limit, with occasional dips below that targeted performances while outputting at 720p resolution in handheld mode and 1080p while docked. While SWAT members and hostages did become easier to see when docked, the experience was fairly comparable between the two display modes. Combat was fast, it was frantic, and heists were still as enjoyable as I remember them being.

Credits: OVERKILL /

In my experience with past versions of the game, the rumble effects were never this solid, nor were they able to deliver such an authentic experience. With the HD Rumble system Nintendo has created, everything game action feels distinct.

Picking locks are often hinted at through small and minor vibrations. Firing a gun is a heavy rumble, one that is accentuated by the rumble going from the top triggers to the bottom of the controller. Being hit by oncoming fire is easily noted by which Joy-Con rumbles first, giving you an idea of where enemy fire is coming from. OVERKILL’s use of the HD Rumble feature is something noteworthy; something that the developer should continue to utilize over the span of the Nintendo Switch version’s life.

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  • While the game is noteworthy for many of its achievements in the transition to portability, there are a few reservations I still have about playing on the go. Battery life is problematic, averaging between 4-5 hours at most. With most missions averaging between 30-45 minutes, it’s hard to really enjoy what they have to offer when having to monitor if you can even make it all the way through. While the Nintendo Switch version, in my opinion, is the most optimal way to enjoy the PayDay 2 experience, there are still minor drawbacks regarding the title, and not all of them include the concern of battery life.

    The more time I spent with the game on the go and in my room, the need for more polish remained a constant theme throughout my 32 hours of play. While the minor frame rate issues I mentioned had somehow alleviated themselves, it’s hard not to take note of the outdated graphics plus the year of missing content that the other console versions already have. Object textures and lighting effects are equivalent to the PlayStation 3 release of the game, in my opinion.

    To further prove my point on the shortcomings of the game (at the time or review), testing the game’s online features proved difficult. Only once did I even manage to group up with another reviewer in my region. Even while teamed up with him or her, I quickly learned just how outdated the AI actually is. More often than not, the other reviewer and I spent quite a bit of time having to call out for assistance from these two auto-piloted characters, both that would sometimes randomly shoot at the floor or a wall. Other times we’d find them running in place against a pillar. Toss in the fact the AI controlled cops would ignore your AI controller partners and it would certainly feel that Payday 2 was a game released in 2013, rather than a brand new release.

    Sure, I can acknowledge that Payday 2 is a co-op focused game, but let’s be real; it’s time for an overhauled AI, which is something OVERKILL could certainly do in order to improve the overall experience for Nintendo Switch owners. This isn’t saying that the entire game is absolutely broken due to a faulty AI; PayDay 2 is an insane thrill. It’s an experience unlike any other and is one of the best co-op title son the Nintendo Switch. It’s a mixed bag of tricks, one where not a single mission will ever play the same, and neither will the players you encounter.

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    OVERKILL. . Payday 2. 7. While PayDay 2 certainly needs a touch of polish and a bit more love given to it, OVERKILL has a solid game on their hands. If they give the Nintendo Switch version the continued support they gave the previously-released versions of the game, I see a great, and beautiful future ahead.

    A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.