Payday 2 is what little kids dream of when they play cops and robbers. It is a criminal mastermind’s bank robbery fantasy come to life in the form of a four player co-op shooter.
Featuring the original cast from Payday; Dallas, Hoxton, Chains and Wolf embark on another set of jobs to fulfill their insatiable lust for that paper. Overkill has pulled out all the punches and crammed everything they could into Payday 2, leaving players with a beautifully crafted crime simulator that will have everyone clamoring to pull off the perfect job.
To find jobs in Payday 2, Overkill has introduced Crime-Net which is their online matchmaking system for crooks to group up. Thematically it looks and feels like a hacker’s dream with different jobs populating an interactive digital map. The job name, difficulty, pay, and objectives are all displayed when selecting a particular mission. The map will also display how many players are currently in the lobby for that mission, and anyone is welcome to join since there is near-seamless drop in/drop out co-op. If a group of friends are looking to play on their own, the host can disable drop-in and the crew can play in peace. The beauty of Crime-Net is that it feels like a living, breathing criminal underworld. The downside is that if the host is wanting to pull a particular job and it is not available, the group may be waiting a couple minutes for it to appear on the map.
Missions can be done alone, with AI filling in for teammates but be warned: the AI will not fulfill objectives. They won’t carry bags, pick locks, or even tie up hostages. For some reason the AI will go out of its way to save a human player’s life but can’t fix a drill when it breaks down. What it comes down to is that Payday 2 is a tried and true co-op experience, so people please play with friends.
Once a mission is selected players are free to outfit themselves with a variety of weapons, gadgets, and armor before heading out to do crime. The missions have a large variety when compared to the original Payday’s six missions. Lower difficulty jobs involve knocking off jewelry stores or small shops and work their way up to multi-day bank heists and transporting drugs for the cartel. The more involved jobs will have several different locations and increase in complexity. For example, if the second day of the mission goes sour the crew may find themselves having to take a detour and end up in a location that wasn’t in the original plan. The objectives may change halfway through the mission and it is up to the group to coordinate and figure out contingency plans on the fly. While mission variety is an awesome upgrade to Payday 2, maps are recycled quite often, so do not be surprised if the same bank has to be robbed multiple times over the course of a session.
Careful assembly of your squad is necessary, especially for missions that require a specific skillset. Thankfully each player can bring their own set of talents to the table as Payday 2 has four fully customizable skill trees. The Mastermind class can contain a crowd and acts as the team medic. The Technician specializes in demolitions and drills, allowing a team to get into vaults quickly as well as deterring SWAT forces with trip mines and sentry guns. The Enforcer class is the beef of the crew that can lug around bags with ease as well as dish out ammo for allies. The Ghost skill tree grants access to, you guessed it, the stealth class which is competent at picking locks, disabling electronics, and making it look like no one was there.
Completing missions grants experience to the party, with each level gained granting a skill point that can be used in any class tree. Play around with the skill sets because they can be respec’d at any time (for a small fee), granting the freedom to find a preferred class and playstyle. Missions don’t require all four classes to be present, so if four Enforcers want to bash their way to success they can do so, but this isn’t the most efficient way to climb the criminal ladder.
So what is all the cash for after a successful heist? Overkill decided that Payday 2 needed loot drops in addition to their RPG skill system. Cash is no good to a criminal if you can’t spend it on amassing an arsenal of pistols, rifles, shotguns, Kevlar, and customizable masks. The ever-present carrot on a stick is here, with each mission ending with a random drop that ranges from cold hard cash, weapon modifications, or masks (including decals and paint). It feels good to be rewarded for the hard work and terrible life choices, but the random loot system can be aggravating at times. Loot drops are designed to enhance replayability, but random weapon modifications are really hit or miss. Get a certain mod for an unwanted gun and the loot drop becomes less exciting. To boot, each of the mods for both weapons and masks are one time use - so make wise choices when tinkering around in the shop. It is quite deterring when doing a simple mission over and over just looking for a specific item, especially when you need to purchase it after the fact that it’s unlocked. The loot is nice addition to the game, but is certainly lacking and drops are very hit or miss. A trading mechanic could possibly alleviate some of these interesting design choices.
To entice co-op play, more players earns the whole team better rewards. Cash is increased, drops are upgraded, and experience skyrockets when a full crew of humans assembles to take down a job. A well oiled team can finish the lower difficulty heists with ease, sometimes even getting in and out without tripping an alarm. The addition of stealth into Payday 2 is a welcome one, and rewards those of us that prefer a cleaner approach to crime than the regular “guns-a-blazing” method that has been ingrained in the gamer psyche. The game is full of surprises and therein lies the beauty; when a road block pops up (both literally and figuratively) the team must make quick decisions and work together. There is no room for lone wolves, and they are punished for good reason. Players wanting to be a hero are quickly put into custody and are given a time out to think about their actions and how it affected the team. Teams will yell and scream for each other to get to the van, and Payday 2 acts as a catalyst to create stories that can be shared among friends the next day.
Overkill made a huge leap from Payday to this sequel, adding in skill trees, a loot system, stealth, and over 30 playable missions. They have certainly outdone themselves, and even with a couple hiccups, have created a heist simulator that must be experienced. It challenges teams to coordinate and adapt to ever-changing situations, with each job going down differently than the last. At a $30 price tag, it is tough to argue against this one so assemble the best crew and prepare to pull off the perfect heist.
This review was based on the PC version of Payday 2