Payback² HD - The Battle Sandbox Review

By , on October 4, 2012

Payback 2 Pro - The Battle Sandbox
Download on the AppStore
4 out of 5


  • Bite sized, action-packed stages; boils down the GTA flavor to an intense punch.
  • Fun weapons and exciting unique levels; each mission feels hand-tailored.


  • Blocky city construction and awkward camera control; makes it difficult to 'see ahead' at times and can even block out your view entirely in the case of tunnels.
  • Painful audio; very low quality sound-effects come off as piercing/grating at just about any volume level.
  • Hitting people with vehicles is underwhelming; makes vehicles mostly useless barring basic transport.


While not a massive leap forward for the genre as a whole, Payback² makes for a seriously fun distraction if you enjoy always-changing mindless action.

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For gamers like myself, the idea of a truly open-ended experience can be daunting - it’s not that I can’t set myself goals and then achieve them, but that I kind of expect that sort of input from the people who made them game. As such the genre has never really appealed; at least not for an extended period of time. Thankfully there’s always Payback^2 by Apex Design, a resurrected iOS GTA-a-like classic that concentrates on bite-sized action-packed missions while still retaining an open-world flavor.

Gone are the trite storylines that drag you from district to district in a hollow attempt to slowly unravel the full scope of gameplay on offer - in its place are missions that pit you against the AI, either in teams or by yourself. While they’re not always the sharpest tools in the shed, Payback^2 makes up for this by making most scenarios as over-the-top as possible; heck, the first mission places you in a tank against people with pistols (and the occasional passing car).

Control is streamlined to a basic twin-stick setup (though tilting can be substituted for turning in vehicles), placing an emphasis on the action instead. Need to highjack a car? Just tap on it. Need to jump out? Hit the handy button at the top of the screen.

Should you get sick of taking on bots by yourself you can take the game online, pitting yourself and three friends to customized challenges. Feeling a bit antisocial, but think you can do better than the developer at designing scenarios? You can do that too thanks to the custom challenge mode.

If there’s one thing holding back the game it’s the rather dated and functional aesthetic of the visuals. Blocky models, zoomed out perspectives, jagged hills, and civilian-free cities result in a very spartan environment that’s only held together thanks to the wide variety of special effects that will spew-forth from weapons and vehicles alike. It’s not going to win a showcase for artwork, but at least you’ll see the rocket headed towards your face before you explode in a shower of red mist.

Payback^2 is the sort of no-nonsense bite-sized GTA-like companion that has been missing from the App Store. While there’s nothing wrong with engaging in a larger storyline and a larger world, sometimes you just want to run over vehicles with a tank ‘no questions asked’, and I ask you, is that so wrong to want now and then?


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