Anyone who played the first Payday will be fully aware what they are getting themselves into with Payday 2. However I have to admit, I wasn’t one of those people. And if like me you are completely new to anything Payday, it is a game where you play as one of four heisters, Dallas, Hoxton, Chains or Wolf, tasked with completing numerous robberies and heists, in return for some very handsome paydays. Developed by Overkill Software and published by 505 games, you have probably already gathered that it is the sequel to Payday: The Heist.
It is the kind of game you can spend all night playing with friends, and before you know it, the morning sun is rising once again. Where did all that time go? I found myself stepping into the game with the intentions of playing a couple of heists, those “couple” turned into half dozen which then quickly turned into a dozen.
Payday 2 offers a mixture of different gameplay, and it really is up to the player, or in most cases the team, to decide how to approach each Heist. There’s no doubt that performing a heist without alerting the cops makes life a lot easier, but they are the hardest to pull off. However if you do, it is the most satisfying way to complete a mission. It requires excellent teamwork, communication and preparation. To my surprise, I have achieved this with absolute strangers and have made many friends.
This is an area where Payday 2 really shines in. You have to answer pagers (Radio) of killed guards to prevent the guy back in the control room being suspicious, tying up civilians with cable ties to prevent them from running away and alerting the police, or my personal favourite, chucking the bank manager in a body bag and discarding him a bin so no one gets alerted when they discover his body. I have to admit we did have some fun and laughs with that one – it’s a pretty undignified way to meet your end for the poor old bank manager though.
There is a wide variety of contracts which you can choose from, ranging from Bank Heists and Shop Robberies to Drug trades and even creating your own meth while you hold of the cops in a crackhouse. Each contract is also available to complete on a harder difficulty which rewards you with a huge amount of XP, as well as a very handsome paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, completing missions on Overkill is not easy and is obviously harder than the normal difficulty, but it is done in such a brilliant way that pretty much anyway can take part. The AI aren’t harder to kill than usual, but instead different units who have different tactics and equipment will respond if alerted. These enemies range from your typical Guards, Police and SWAT teams to FBI Agents and Special Ops Units (The latter two responding on harder difficulties)
No two heists are ever the same. While the maps may appear the same each time (for that particular contract) the actual layout of the safes, security cameras and unlocked doors change each play through. It’s important to observe your surrounding first in casing mode. Casing mode allows you to walk around the level and observe what route you are going to take. You have to be careful not to get too close to guards or security cameras as they will become alerted, especially if you have visible body armor on. My only fault would be that at times the alarms seem to get turned on for a reason which leaves everyone scratching our heads, but on the whole, it works as supposed to.
If your not a fan of playing with other players, you can complete heists single handily, or play with the AI. This is an area that Payday 2 doesn’t shine so brightly in however. Your AI heisters aren’t that bad at shooting cops, but what really lets them down is the fact they can’t interact with objectives such as drilling safes, placing jammers, tying down civilians or even carrying loot bags. It’s the loot bags which is the most frustrating, as you will find yourself having to run anywhere from 2 to 8 loot bags back to the escape vehicle to be successful. If you are under heavy fire, not only is it going to take a lot of time, but you also run the risk of being downed. Payday 2 is not a single player game.
The leveling and Skill tree in Payday 2 is something truly great. Real thought has gone into it, and that reflects on the amount of options and customization on offer to the player. There are 4 different skill sets within the skill tree – Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician and Ghost. Within each one, there are 6 tiers, with 3 different skills in each tier, with each skill having 2 levels, with a bonus unlocked for each tier fully unlocked. It would be an understatement to say there is a lot of skills to choose from! It can be overwhelming deciding what to go for, but you can assign skills in each skill set, you are not limited to just one.
So you may now be asking what can you do with all that cash you have earned? Buy better weapons and gear to earn more money, that’s what! Each weapon is also able to be modded, which you can tailor to your playing style. This does cost money, a lot of money. So it’s a good job that Payday 2 is very addicting so you can keep earning that cash and keep buying new and better toys to play with! Spending cash is one area however which could do with being a bit beefed up. While customizing masks and buying mods for your weapons have more than enough on offer, I would have liked to have seen more weapons to be able to purchase, with only about 14 Primary weapons able to be bought. Safehouse customization will be a great way to spend your money, it’s just a shame it didn’t make it into the initial release, but will be added for free in an update.
The story is the weakest link in the Payday chain. Although strictly speaking there is not a campaign mode where one mission leads onto the other, you are free to pick what heists to do and when you want to do them, which makes the implementation of a story that much harder, and for me personally, Payday 2 doesn’t really need it.
When you select a heist, you will hear Bain giving you a backdrop to the heist, who it is who wants the job done and other little snippets. Some heists are a one hit job, such as robbing a Jewelery Store or a Bank Heist for example, but there are also several types of heists which play out of the course of several days. These involve you having to complete several different missions to receive your “contracted” Payday.
Graphically, I enjoyed Payday 2. The environments come to life, especially when in casing mode. Even on the lowest graphical settings, the game still looks pretty impressive. It’s only when you get real close to a phone, TV or computer screen for example when you will see that such items finer details are just blurs, but that’s if your playing on the lowest setting. And my guess is that if you are, you will just be pleased to be able to play Payday 2 and that such minor things will not take away from your experience.
Of course it is not the best looking game out there on PC, but it doesn’t need to be. And besides, gameplay can be so fast and intense that you will rarely find yourself with the time and safety to appreciate the environment
Payday 2 is a game I thoroughly enjoyed, and will continue to do so for a long time to come. It’s been too long since I had so much fun playing with friends, and especially strangers for that matter. If you want a single player game where you perform heists, then this may not be for you unless you are happy with carrying your AI counterparts through the heists. Finding a game is incredibly easy and quick, as is hosting one.
If I am being really picky, and I mean really picky, then I would have liked to have seen more guns available, as well as the ability to swap guns from a fallen SWAT member. Ammo may seem to deplete very quickly, but it adds to the challenges of Payday 2, having to be careful with your ammunition, and making sure at least one member of your team brings an ammo bag! I learned very quickly that I need to improve my accuracy to save ammo which I will for sure need a minute or two later.
Of course there are bugs, but in the hours I have put into Payday 2, I have only had one mission which bugged – and even then it didn’t prevent us from playing. The drill was drilling a door which wasn’t there (But clearly should have been). Oh, and for once we had to go and get the police instead of the other way round!
The variations in gameplay really make Payday 2 truly unique, with each Heist able to be completed a number of ways, there is no right or wrong way to play! If you enjoy Payday: The Heist, you will be in for a treat. If your new to the series like myself and understand it is a co-op game, boy will you love Payday 2!
*Payday 2 Review – Reviewed on PC