When the first Payback launched in 2009, it was celebrated as the iPhone’s Grand Theft Auto during a time when most iPhone games were still rinky-dink time-wasters. Thing is, the iPhone’s game tech evolves in dog years, so what was impressive 12 months ago isn’t so hot now that iOS games are comparable to console releases. Payback 2 HD is a decent shooting/racing game, but it looks a bit old and plays a bit sluggishly. It’s definitely not enough to let the Payback franchise reclaim its status as iOS game royalty.
Apex Designs seems to realize that the iOS’s Grand Theft Auto niche has already been filled by, well, Grand Theft Auto. That may be why Payback 2 HD ditches the open-world concept for a ‘Campaign’ mode that sacrifices narrative for a bunch of broken-up missions that rank you according to how well you do.
Ever feel like you’re being pulled in multiple directions at once?
Most of the Campaign missions are variations of ‘walk and shoot’ deathmatches and driving segments. You’re called upon to protect your territory as part of a team, waste your enemies with a specific weapon (flame throwers being the most fun), jump inside a tank and cause merry hell, and more. The racing sequences are pretty standard. You need to come in first, or make sure you’re not last as an elimination timer ticks down, make a sprint to the finish, and other challenges. You and your fellow gangsters are often assigned to one kind of vehicle, and it’s admittedly hilarious to see a bunch of stretch limos get jammed up while attempting to make a sharp turn.
What’s a little sad about Payback 2 HD is that at first glance it appears to offer you a lot of content and cool ideas, but when you really get into it, you realize the seemingly huge choice of stages are all just small variations on nine gameplay modes. What is nice is that you can bounce from mission to mission, which makes it a bit less tedious to gather the necessary stars for unlocking more stages.
“Bonnie! Hey! How’s Clyde?…Oh. Oh dear.”
The App Store certainly has worse games than Payback 2 HD, but given the game’s pedigree, it could have been more. Even without taking the original Payback’s legacy into consideration, the game still has issues with its basic design. Winning a race is literally as easy as pushing forward (you might want to turn on the touch controls in lieu of the tilt controls, though). By contrast, it’s hard to target the (other) bad guys in the game’s on-foot shooting missions– and when you do get a clear shot, it takes a whack of ammo to kill your rival unless you’re packing serious heat, like a rocket launcher. Shooting is also made difficult by the fact that everybody on-screen is tiny and seems to blend in with the dull environments.
If you loved the first Payback, you might want to pick up Payback 2 HD just to compare and contrast– but you might be disappointed. At the time of this writing, even the game’s multiplayer was having connectivity issues. Said issues might be rectified as more people get online to play, though Payback 2 HD’s adopters may also just quickly abandon the game in favor of one of the App Store’s more complex open-world gangster titles.