Genre First Person Shooter / Platforms PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Developer Overkill Software / Publisher 505 Games
Platform Played On PC
One could argue that crimes in video games aren’t remotely new. If we were to take a look at pretty much every title out there, we’d notice that every last one of them involves some kind of crime from an individual’s point of view. That said, the industry doesn’t feature so many games which put a specific emphasis on out-of-the-law activities such as heists, or robberies. As a result, back in 2011, developer Overkill Software tried to shake things up by introducing us to PayDay: The Heist. While the title includes fresh and interesting ideas, the execution simply isn’t on par with them. That being said, I am glad to announce that its follow-up, PayDay 2, is miles bigger, and better.
PayDay 2’s premise is fairly simple: get in, steal whatever you can, and get out. Of course, the title includes more variations to this activity, but overall, the game is all about committing more and more crimes, in order to get better and take on even more dangerous tasks. On that level, PayDay 2 can somehow be compared to the likes of Borderlands, as the incentive to start yet another mission is leveling up and gaining new stuff (more on that later).
While the game doesn’t feature an overall story, PayDay 2 presents you with different heist and robbery scenarios, each having its own small plot. These synopses are quite varied, at least in their locations. The game features, for example, an airport from which you need to steal or destroy some weapons, a gallery which needs to be emptied of some of its paintings; smuggling coke through a dock is also on your schedule, as well as infiltrating an FBI building. Obviously, PayDay 2 presents you with a bank heist as well. I’m somehow surprised that there aren’t more of these bank-related “activities,” but then again, variety is something very important in a game like this.
Before going in, the game advises you to take a tour through your safe-house. This training level, which happens to be found under the disguise of a laundry, serves as a tutorial in which you can practice your abilities, such as lock-picking doors, blowing them up, drilling safes, in addition to admiring your collection of guns and masks, and also practicing your shooting skills.
Everything in PayDay 2 is done through Crime.net. This feature represents the game’s underground criminal service, through which you’ll find your assignments. Missions are randomly generated on Crime.net’s digital map. Interesting enough, these jobs aren’t static; they’ll only be available for about half a minute, after which they disappear, only to be replaced with others. Some missions even have a broader plot, so they’ll go on for several levels (or days, as they’re called, in-game). Last day is called “payday.” Each level comes with new objectives in new areas.
Most missions only ask you to get a certain amount of money, weapons etc. It’s up to you if you decide to get greedy and increase your chances of getting caught for that extra swag. All the money, weapons etc. you collect go into loot-bags. For a more realistic approach, picking them up will slow you down. Additionally, all your weapons have a certain weight to them, with recoils comparable to those found in the Battlefield franchise. If you happen to get arrested, you will be negotiated back (read: respawn). The more hostages you have, the faster you will get back to robbing stuff. Additionally, you have to be careful around civilians, as killing them will cut some cash from your overall profit. The police forces come in waves, so after defeating a “swarm,” you will have a few seconds of breathing until the next wave arrives. You can also reset your entire progress if you feel like starting from scratch.
One of PayDay 2′s main attractions is its randomly generated world. Every time you replay a level, something is different. The cameras, safes, or even the guards may be posted at totally different locations, as well as the exit points. The cops may also breach different walls, and if you manage to contain the situation as best as possible (read: tie-up civilians, shoot cameras, silently kill the guards) you might also not be confronted with so many reinforcements.
After gaining a new level (or advancing your reputation, as the game calls it) you’ll be rewarded with experience and, of course, money. Additionally, you’ll also unlock new equipment for purchasing (e.g.: weapons, armor, masks).
Earning more and more experience leads to gaining skill-points. To access new abilities, you will need to spend both said skill-points, and some cash. There are 4 types of robbers in which you can invest your skill-points and money: mastermind, enforcer, technician, and ghost. The ghost, as the name implies, is the type of robber used to sneaking around, placing jamming devices, lock-picking doors much faster etc. The technician is the one specialised in using trip mines, sentries, and is more effective with drilling. The enforcer is your typical juggernaut. Unlocking his abilities will reduce the recoil on your weapons, give you the ability to carry two bags of ammo, and you’ll also get to use a special weapon. Finally, the mastermind, as the name implies (again), is the jack-of-all-trades. While the abilities of the others are more specific to their individual characters, the mastermind’s skills will allow you to faster revive crew members, increase your reload speed, or even get help from your hostages (see the Stockholm syndrome).
Buying additional weapons, armor, and masks doesn’t stop there. You can upgrade your weapons with different attachments (or mods, as they are called, in-game) like red dots, magazines, silencers, flashlights and many more. Each gun has a lot of customisation options, so the game offers something for every kind of player. Masks can also be given a more personal touch, by customizing them with different materials, patterns, and colors. In addition to weapons and masks, you also get use different types of equipment, from the ghost’s Jammer, which will block any cameras within its range, to the mastermind’s deployable health-bag, the enforcer’s deployable ammo-bag, or the technician’s trip mines.
Besides spending your hard-earned cash on weapons, abilities etc., you can also buy new assets, before the beginning of every mission, receiving additional help. For example, for a specific sum of cash, you will be provided with an additional entry to a museum gallery, or an additional ammo-bag stashed inside the bank which you’re about to rob.
At the end of every “payday,” you will get to choose one of 3 different cards. These represent bonuses which range from extra cash, to a special paint for your masks, a new attachment for your weapons, or even a new mask. Your heist performances, as well as your comrades’, are also rated.
Playing offline is totally unsatisfactory, due to your allies’ incompetence. For example, when heisting a gallery, you cannot get all the paintings in one go; you have to transport them to your van, one by one, making for a tedious backtracking, all because your buddies won’t lift a finger. Additionally, your allies won’t move until the alarm goes off, so you’ll have to do all the hard work yourself. If you happen to get arrested, then it’s “game over man.” In addition to all these problems, they won’t drop bags, nor restart drills, and to top it off, your comrades will barely rush to revive you.
Speaking of AI problems, the enemy’s artificial intelligence is also questionable, although it’s not that bad as the one mentioned above. The enemy AI, be it in single player or multiplayer, while competent enough and actually challenging on higher difficulty settings, seems to also act bipolar: in one instance, they’ll shoot you even through walls, with a sniper’s accuracy, whether in another, they’ll just stumble upon one another as you’ll happily gun them all down with just one cartridge.
PayDay 2 is all about working together with real people, and luckily, this is where it truly shines. All the above problems, except for the cops’ “intelligence,” don’t appear when playing with your friends/strangers. Cooperation is encouraged by giving you the chance of dropping health-bags, ammo-bags, or reviving one another before getting arrested. Be careful though, as the resources in the bags are limited, so you must use them wisely.
Visually speaking, the graphics are nothing to write home about. The exterior places like the streets are fairly standard at best, but luckily, the interiors are much more eye-pleasing. I also noticed some enemies getting stuck in the environment, but it wasn’t something major.
The soundtrack is fantastic. It’s all quiet and gloomy when you’re trying to sneak in, but as the chaos rises, the music turns it up a notch, from house, all the way to dubstep. When the heat is at its highest, the soundtrack actually gives you a boost of excitement which translates into more bodies, more cash, and overall, more fun.
Overall, PayDay 2 is a very enjoyable co-op game, featuring a still-kinda-rarely-executed premise. It’s complex, giving you tons of customisation features, it has quite a few scenarios for you to tackle, it’s randomness means that you’ll need to play each level multiple times to see all its ins and outs, and it features a fantastic soundtrack which is sure to get your blood pumping with excitement. Sure, playing alone is dull (and frustrating), but even with complete strangers, you’ll still have a blast. PayDay 2 represents the definition of a sequel done right!
+ Lots of Scenarios to Tackle
+ Randomly Generated World
+ Deep Customisation Features
+ Genuinely Fun to Play with Real People
+ Awesome Soundtrack
- Weak Ally AI
- Bipolar Enemy AI
In addition to being a PC editor, Vlad Pintea is also a chief of news and reviews here at Analog Addiction, and sometimes he even speaks his own mind. You can contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, on Skype, Steam (all at the same name: vlad94pintea) or Facebook (Vlad Pintea). Have a good day, and remember: stay calm, and keep on gaming!