Starbreeze Studios aren’t exactly newcomers to the field of virtual reality (VR), having collaborated on VR titles like John Wick Chronicles as well as developing its own head-mounted display, StarVR. Even so, it still came as a surprise when the studio announced back in May that it was working on a VR version of its 2013 smash hit, Payday 2, and that the VR version would be a free update. A month later the studio then made the gaming community even happier by making five million copies of Payday 2 available for free.
Payday 2 VR is a four-player co-op first-person shooter (FPS) that revolves around your crack team of criminals pulling off various heists, bank jobs, and other nefarious activities, earning loot and gaining experience to buy better equipment to pull off even more outlandish raids.
Having such a strong community following Starbreeze Studios hasn’t rushed to implement Payday 2 VR into the main PC videogame just yet, starting proceedings off in beta to gauge reactions to the VR version. That being said, the studio hasn’t watered down the original title in any way to make it suitable for VR, merely used what it has already learnt to adapt the popular title for immersive headsets – which is very popular at the moment, just look at The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR for example.
This has and hasn’t quite worked on several fronts. Firstly movement, this is always a major consideration in VR over standard videogames because of what players find comfortable. Starbreeze has gone for the tried and tested – albeit safe option – of teleportation, giving you a marker on the floor which extends to a reasonable distance. Unfortunately, at this time this is the only option available to players, there’s no smooth locomotion options in the menu. Whilst this is understandable, when a robbery goes awry and all hell breaks loose, with cops attacking from all angles, trying to teleport about quickly becomes haphazard, jarring, and most importantly not that fun.
There are times when you want to quickly strafe behind cover or move backwards down a hallway with the loot providing covering fire. Yes, having roomscale allows you to physically duck behind cover but if the teleport doesn’t quite reach – or worse puts you on top of a counter or table – you can then become a sitting duck. So hopefully Payday 2 VR will see more movement options as development continues.
Also the belt around your waist is a series of panels which need to be highlighted before they can be used, switching between guns, selecting your fist and other options. This does feel somewhat tacked on, easy to use when it’s calm, slightly more finicky when in the middle of a gunfight.
All that being said, for a beta title that’s free-to-play you shouldn’t miss out on playing Payday 2 VR because it still captures what made the original so great. There’s a wealth of content available, tons of missions and customisation options. While you can try and plan your heists, even trying to be stealthy, unless you’re an elite Payday 2 veteran most missions will tend to end in an all-out massacre, running around trying to complete objectives whilst a relentless swarm of police descend upon you.
As you may expect there are still bugs and glitches to be found – trying to grab loot can sometimes be awkward – yet these aren’t gameplay breaking. Among the endless wave shooters that litter content libraries what Payday 2 VR offers VR gamers is variety, the ability to get involved, making split second decisions that can make or break a heist, offering a challenge that doesn’t just involve being able to shoot someone in the head. Payday 2 VR is the type of experience VR needs, hopefully Starbreeze Studios can shape it into one of the best.