I’m a huge fan of the first Payday game. As a lover of movies like Heat or even opening sequences like the bank robbery in The Dark Knight, the ability to emulate scenes like those in a video game alongside my friends really merged the best aspects of movies and games: the ability to participate in high stakes bank robberies but in a safe environment where you won’t get killed or sent to prison for robbing a bank. I had played the beta for Payday 2 at E3, and that got me hyped for the eventual beta and official release. With Payday 2, I can safely say that Overkill Software has pretty much fixed a lot of flaws and frustrations that I experienced with the first Payday game while improving on its strengths.
Payday 2’s story is very simple for the most part. You and three other people rob banks and stores for a living. That’s pretty much it. Oh, and sometimes you do odd jobs for some Russian guy named Vlad or what appears to be an Al Pacino-looking character named Hector who is part of the Cartel. The one that sells drugs.
Payday 2’s gameplay is similar to its predecessor’s. Payday 2 is first-person shooter focused around robbery and waiting for extraction. Players are given objectives to rob and are given many different ways to approach the objectives ranging from stealth to storming the location and taking hostages. Most of the time you’ll be guarding drills and repairing them while fending off waves of cops that increase in strength the longer you’re in an area. Assault waves occur sporadically where cops will storm the building and attempt to take you out. I like that stealthing is a viable option now, and some enemies have been rebalanced such as the bulldozer. The bulldozer in the first Payday is an unstoppable juggernaut that shoots you with a recoilless shotgun that deals all of your health in damage. Bulldozers in Payday 2 are strong but are much more manageable when you get ambushed by one and you’re alone.
A lot of new features have been added to the game. Weapon and mask customization is available to players, and the experience system has been revamped. Rather than cash directly affecting how much experience you’ll get like in the first Payday, cash is used to purchase new weapons, mods, skills and masks, and experience is gained through completing missions. New weapon mods and masks are picked up at the end of a round where you’re allowed to pick from three random cards that will give a random drop.
The skill tree has been significantly modified. Rather than just leveling up and acquiring a fixed skill, players can spend cash and skill points on any upgrade in one of four skill trees provided that they have sufficient points in prior tiers. This allows for more variety in upgrades such as doing more damage when surrounded by enemies or converting enemies to fight on your side rather than just generic damage boosts or weapon unlocks like in the first game.
The gunplay in the game has been improved as well. Guns feel weightier and can be customized. The sound of the guns feel more realistic and have a bigger punch, and a wider variety of guns can be chosen ranging from new guns such as the G36C or the Desert Eagle. Shooting enemies in this game feels much more satisfying than shooting the airsoft guns of the previous title.
A new way to choose missions is through Crime.net. Crime.net essentially generates random missions of varying difficulties and rewards for you to play through. This keeps the game feeling fresh since you never really know what will be available to you. Some missions are tagged as pro, and pro missions basically make it so that the first assault wave that hits you is never ending, so you have to take the objective while there’s a permanent state of assault. The host can also purchase bonuses like ammo and doctor bags that will be placed on the map so that your heist is easier which is a nice feature because it means you’ll panic less when your ammo runs out, and that happens very frequently.
One of the few issues I have with this game is how grindy it feels. Weapon mods are randomly generated at the end of a mission, so there’s no for sure way to get a mod that you think looks good. In addition to that, if you remove a mod that you had purchased previously, you are required to pay to attach that mod again rather than having it permanently unlocked. I don’t understand why the developers thought this would be an enjoyable feature and all it does is frustrate me because I have to be 100% sure that I’ll never take off a mod so I don’t waste money. There’s no in-game trading either for items, so if you get an item that your friends wants and he has something that you need, then tough luck.
An issue that I experience frequently is enemies spawning out of my escape vehicle. Depending on where the escape vehicle spawns, there will be times when I’ll be waiting for my friends by the escape vehicle when suddenly enemies appear out of thin air and I get downed immediately. It’s stupid that the escape vehicle would ever be placed where the spawns for enemies would be because all it does is cause unnecessary frustration when enemies spawn out of nothing and kill you when you’re waiting to exit the map.
There’s a wide variety of maps for players to choose from, but there isn’t a big bank heist like in the first Payday. While you are able to rob a bank, it is at best a small or medium sized bank that you would expect to see at a strip mall rather than a huge multi-storied bank like the bank in the previous title. This is really unfortunate because while I enjoy robbing jewelry stores and nightclubs, it doesn’t really match up to the feeling of the first mission in Payday: The Heist.
I’m really impressed by this game as a whole. It essentially takes the fun aspects of the first Payday game and improves them. Although I have a few issues with the game, it’s not enough of a detriment to where the game stops being fun. If you’re a fan of the first Payday or just want a fun co-op shooter to play with your friends, then Payday 2 is a solid choice.
Oh yeah, there’s adjustable field of view too, so why wouldn’t you play this game?
Available on: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3; Publisher: 505 Games; Developer: OVERKILL – a Starbreeze Studio; Players: 1-4; Released: August 13, 2013; ESRB: N/A; MSRP: $29.99; Official Site