Co-op cops ‘n’ robbers finally comes to the Xbox One and PS4, but how does it shape up to previous versions?

The original Payday was a download-only PC and PlayStation 3 game where you worked as a team with three other players to perform a series of daring heists and bank jobs. But despite some good ideas it felt undercooked, as if it was the multiplayer mode to some other single-player game. It was a success though and Payday 2 went mulitformat, and was bumped up to a retail release. This is essentially a HD remaster of that game for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

The game puts you in the shoes of a member of this network of mask-wearing hoodlums and allows you to wreak havoc across the city as you rob banks, kidnap VIPs and unleash mayhem in general, all in the pursuit of large duffel bags of money. Accumulation of blood money is the main objective of Payday 2. There is no plot or character development other than becoming richer and becoming more skilled, allowing one to pull off riskier and more rewarding jobs.

You can play the game offline on your own, but it’s nothing we’d recommend and there’s certainly no traditional story mode to play on your own – just a simulation of the main game with computer controlled allies. Previously that wasn’t necessarily a criticism, as the last gen version was sold at a semi-budget price, but this remaster seems to have somehow crept up to full price.

Each heist can take part across multiple days, with the build-up and planning being just as important as executing the final theft. You can case the location of each job beforehand, cutting through wire fences, unlocking doors, and making sure you can get in an out as easily and quickly as possible.

Some of the longer jobs involve not only robbery but fencing the stolen goods afterwards. This in turn allows for even more scenarios to be borrowed from Heat, as you’re double-crossed and then have to organise a payback to get your money.

The refreshed PS4 and Xbox One version of this anarchic co-op shooter is worth staking out for those who missed it first time around

There are multiple character classes to play as, with newly expanded skill trees, and as you’d imagine each can be levelled up and customised as you earn money and experience. After a successful mission you then have the opportunity to spend your ill-gotten gains on everything from building blueprints to computer-controlled sniper support. In fact the game really only gets interesting once you’ve invested enough hours to get the more unusual late-game bonuses.

The problem is that although the details of what you’re doing change – from robbing a nightclub to a good old-fashioned bank job – the mechanics don’t. An awful lot of the game simply boils down to defending your position from an infinite wave of police as a timer slowly counts down and very often stops. When it’s done you make your way to your escape route and the chance to do it all again in different surroundings.

Although stealth is the way forward when breaking in, it generally goes wrong and before you know it there are multiple guns being pointed at you and your goons.

You unlock skills as you play more, making experienced players a valuable commodity in the game. A team of level 10 players will see a huge boost to their performance if a level 50 player joins in their caper, with more skills available to the higher level player (say, faster drill repair) and a general improvement in performance for the whole team as a result. In any other game this would be a terrible imbalance, but when you’re only competing against the AI, it matters not.

These constant improvements and changes to your abilities – and the fact you unlock multiple character slots from level 50 on – means there is a reason to keep playing the same heists over and again. You can try different approaches with different skills, test out new weapon combos and even risk trying to stealth your way through a mission (you can do it, but you’ll likely fail).

Even seeing the same levels on repeat doesn’t get old, as the experience of robbing a bank, trashing a mall for protection money, releasing a prisoner, or whatever else you’re getting up to, is always fun as a team. There’s the personal challenge of trying to do it again, but better, as well as the constant battle to have all four members of your team on the same page. It doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s something truly special.

Payday 2: Crimewave Edition for us ticks all the required boxes, the inclusion of eight DLC heist packs is welcome, but they’re not new content. Being able to pre-plan your heist is useful, but it previously featured on the PC version of the game.

However, if you missed it first time around, Payday 2 is absolutely worth playing – especially for those who have been enjoying GTA Online’s heists, or still dream of a world in which Kane and Lynch: Dead Men wasn’t a gigantic missed opportunity.

What this game brings is something that remains startlingly elusive in the modern canon: a co-op experience that genuinely requires you to work together. For a wildly violent first-person shooter, Payday 2 sure does promote a heartwarming spirit of unity.

If you want to live out your fantasies of being a famous bank-robber, buy this game.