Payday 2 as the title suggests is the sequel to Payday: The Heist, released back in 2011 for the PlayStation Network. The original Payday allows players to live out their fantasies as a member of a highly-skilled and well-oiled crime unit engaging in carefully orchestrated hits, complete with custom latex mask and all. Developer Overkill Software had a sound concept, although could have been executed better. Payday 2 steps things up for a fuller, more complete experience with added features and beefed-up content to eliminate all the problems of the original. Still not perfect, but certainly speeding away in the right direction.
Developer: Overkill Software
Publisher: 505 Games
Platform: Windows PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation Network
Players: Single-Player, Co-operative
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release: (INT) August 13th, 2013, (EU) August 16th, 2013, (NA) August 13th, 2013
Dallas, Hoxton, Chains and Wolf return for another round of law-breaking, tackling new missions revolving around bank robberies, breaking and entering, assault, battering, property damage and general nasty behaviour their mothers would be less than proud of. Much of these callous acts we’ve seen before in The Heist, although the random generator is in full effect to keep you on your toes. Missions feature plenty of randomized elements so maps remain interesting enough, although I guarantee that you will start to see locations overlap sooner or later.
For the first time in the franchise, mission selection is handled by the all-new Crime.net, a virtual online feature that tracks current online missions for you to test your organised crime gang against. As Crime.net actively grabs open missions in real-time, available jobs are always changing. There’s plenty of variety on offer from straight forward one stage affairs to story mode crime sprees involving several days of split stages (usually divided between two to seven acts). Naturally some missions are going to be more difficult than others, with the tougher challenges awarding better rewards and stiffer opposition in the form of special enemy encounters.
Although an offline mode is available, the A.I. allies are beyond useless to the point of being unplayable; making co-op the only viable option. A.I. are head-shaking difficult to work with. They aren’t team players who refuse to carry loot and shoot aimlessly unless you give them some sort of direction. Their only real usefulness is hiding behind and using them as a meat shield when a plan starts to unravel.
Suffice to say, Payday 2 is all about the co-op experience and as such you’ll have to work together in your close-knit rag-tag team if you want to make it out without too many bullet holes. Players will need to strategize (whether locally, online co-op, or a combination of both) in order to take on the onslaught of police presence hell-bent on stopping you in your tracks.
As a sequel there are improvements with Payday 2 offering up a richer variety of mission types over its predecessor. Sure, there’s all the fun of bank robberies and stand-offs against law enforcement officers, but there’s also plenty of other illicit acts to engage in, such as performing multiple robberies at once for the multi-tasker, to objective-based racketeering missions, to brewing up your our brand of narcotics for the drug market. Missions that are more flexible than other can be handled how you see fit, whether that be via maximum carnage or a stealth-based approach.
If you choose the forceful route, you’ll be able to unload bullets to your heart’s content and take hostages as human meat shields. Of course the drawback is you’ll be pinned down to your location and have to endure wave upon wave of police assaults before you can initiate a getaway with your loot. The stealth method is a far more difficult proposition which borrows from Snake‘s bag of tricks. You’ll need to sneak past security cameras, take out opponents with quiet attacks and quell suspicion with amusing voice impersonations via communication devices. It’s rather tricky and despite my best efforts, I’m yet to successful complete a missions without detection but it is possible with plenty of practice and patience.
All that ill-gotten cash from successful heists can be used to unlock new skills (both active and passive), new weapons and cosmetic customisations such as new gear and masks. A branching skill tree allows players to target one of four skill types: Mastermind, Engineer, Enforcer and Ghost. Masterminds are capable of dominating enemies and providing ally support; Engineers specialise in drilling vaults, as well as accessing mines and turrets; Enforcers are trigger-happy maniacs, better adept with combat and shotguns; and lastly Ghosts are better suited for stealth and evasive actions.
When it comes to firearms, Payday 2 is littered with choice. Choose from pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and more, and customise them with interchangeable parts randomly awarded at the end of each completed job. The downside to this random approach means it could potentially take longer than you would like to build the perfect killing machine. Even the assortment of masks have been expanded to include more choice than ever before, giving players the option to not only dress up like a deranged clown, but also wear different designs like demon, ghouls and mummies in assorted skins, logos and custom colours.
The environments in Payday 2 are well designed and visually detailed, more so the outdoor locales than inside the dreary confines of a bank. I’m not sure how Overkill could have made it more appealing since the colour options aren’t exactly plentiful as the vast city landscape, but it shame remains a shame since you don’t really spend huge amounts of time strolling outdoors in the sunshine to admire the scenery. Regardless it’s still pleasant to take it in when you and your criminal cohorts aren’t trying to outpace pursuing coppers.
Although living the high-roller lifestyle of a mastermind criminal may seem carefree, be extra mindful of your spending as cash flow can quickly deplete in a world where everything costs money. Unlocking skills, purchasing upgrades and respecing your fugitive is an expense affair in itself. Luckily the stages are well nutted out making each potential smash-and-grab job an adrenaline-filled and highly enjoyable romp. Little details like assessing risk versus reward and bonus unlocks all add to the fun and mayhem, even when things don’t go according to plan.
Issues with match-making dampen Payday 2, which could be a little bit more stream-line in its approach. Jumping into an existing game delays everything as the match gets reworked for the newly added member, but looking at the bigger picture it still functions well enough for it to be forgivable. Minor glitches and bugs sprout up on the odd occasion so I can’t say Payday 2 is perfect, but definitely one of the better offerings with its tense fire-fight action and addictive gaming elements.
Payday 2 is undeniably loads of fun to play. There’s a certain mystique about running one’s own criminal group that is just so appealing, and the level of customisation options will have many players returning for one more job each time. Payday 2 is designed to be played with others and its nowhere more evident than in the single-player experience. Overkill have executed plenty of great ideas well enough in Payday 2 to make it a considered purchase, just make sure you run your hits with others and not on your own.
8.0 – Great. An enjoyable experience, fans and newcomers of the genre will be entertained. Any noticeable flaws are largely outweighed by the positives.