Game Review: Payday 2 (PC/PS3/Xbox360)
The original Payday is a downloadable title that gathered somewhat of a cult following and proved to be a digital download success. So with the sequel, Overkill Software wanted to top what they had achieved, by simply being Bigger and Better. To do this it was not only time for Payday 2 to evolve its gameplay and in-game content, it was time for the franchise to move into the world of retail, as well as remain in the digital world.
The Payday series has never had a core storyline, it relies on the thrill of the heist and pure multiplayer fun, and Payday 2 is no exception. Payday 2 will once again give gamers the opportunity to team up with friends and fellow gamers across the online gaming community to perform the perfect bank heist, rob a jewellery store, hit the local nightclub and more. There’s no question that Payday 2 is one of the most thrilling multiplayer games on the market, so let’s find out why.
Firstly, Payday 2 isn’t the prettiest game on the market, but to be fair, in this very crowded and competitive world, it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. That’s not to say that Payday 2 isn’t a good looking game, because it is and it serves its purpose more than adequately. In Payday 2’s defence this is a game that doesn’t have the biggest budget, and developers 505 Software have adapted to their strengths and have made Payday 2 look as good as it can. Payday 2 is a perfect example of the age old gaming argument, Graphics vs. Gameplay. Personally I believe graphics play a huge part in a gamers motivation to make the purchase, after all it’s a natural instinct to make a judgement based on appearance.
Though it has to be said that Payday 2’s visuals do not need to blow any other game out of the water, because Payday 2 is first and foremost about the enjoyment of teaming up with friends for the thrill of the heist. While the visuals are a far stretch away from the big budget rivals in its genre, few of those rivals can reach the kind of excitement that Payday 2 achieves. The presentation has also had a worthy upgrade, from the moment you fire up the game and the awesome intro hits town, you know instantly that Payday 2 is after your attention.
Payday 2 allows you to pick from four character classes, Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician and Ghost. Each come with their own special abilities and perks, some of the class names do speak for themselves, but I will briefly run through each anyway. There are loads of perks available to purchase (once you reach the required rank), so here are just a few of them for each class. The Mastermind allows you to have such perks as better unlocking ability, Smooth Talker (which can result in guards giving you ammo). The Enforcer allows you to have skills such as Overkill (increased damage), Gun Accuracy and Fully Loaded (extra ammo). Technician gives you the ability to place extra sentry guns, place additional Trip Mines and more. Finally the Ghost will allow you to lock-pick faster (which is very handy), have silent melee kills, move faster and much more. As I’ve mentioned, each class allows you to acquire far more skills than you’ve read above (in fact too many to mention), so I shall leave those bad boys for you to discover.
While Payday 2 not having a campaign may sound a little strange, the truth is that it doesn’t need one, or require one. Instead you’ll work on a mission to mission basis (or should I say heist to heist basis). How this will work is through Crime.net, here you will be able to select from a range of heists varying from the common convenience robbery, bank heists, jewellery stores, straight on through to Meth Lab and Museum raids. In Crime.net you will have an open map and a huge range of jobs to pick from, each with various objectives, obstacles, difficulty and payday earnings. The most basic of heists such as the jewellery stores for example will often require you to scope the store, check out the security guards and if at all possible, plan the best get in and get out.
Should you tackle one of the heists with the biggest payday, the greater the objectives and obstacles will be. Take the meth labs for example, you may think that you visit the location, storm into the drug dealer’s premises, grab the goods and get paid, but things are a little more complicated than that. For example, you will not only have to gain access to the premises, but you will have to find the ingredients and cook up the meth whilst taking on any alerted armed police. Unless you are fortunate to have a team full of experts, nothing will go according to plan and that’s where Payday 2’s excitement cranks it up a notch. It doesn’t matter what heist you’re taking on, whether it be a convenience store or museum raid, things will go tits up and you will have the armed police trying their utmost to make sure that your heist team do not get away with the goods at hand.
Heists can not only range in difficulty, but they will also range from one to three days (or stages of 1 to 3 if you will). Robbing a store will often take one ‘Payday’, whereas the meth labs or museum heists will take up to three. Take the meth labs for example. Day One: You arrive at the location, cook up the meth, fight off waves of armed police and hopefully survive. Day Two: Your getaway vehicle crashes and the armed police are hot on your tail and it’s a frantic scramble to fight them off and find a safe haven. Day Three: Meet the dealers which you were stealing the meth for, exchange the drugs and get paid, job done (though it’s always never as simple as that).
The best way to approach just about every job is by utilising your best stealth skills. Scope out an area, sneak in, watch out for guards and straying civilian eyes, find the safe and leave. But no matter how well you attempt to perfect a heist, the chances are that you will catch an eye of the guard, security camera or even trip an alarm. This is where Payday 2 really gets hectic and any perfection plans that you may have had, will go out the window. Suddenly it becomes a frantic scramble to take on the SWAT that is storming the premises and cops waiting outside to plant a shotgun in your face. All this while trying to crack a safe, revive your downed teammates and more. I’m yet to perform a perfect heist myself and as much satisfaction that I’m sure I would gain, I would find it difficult to top the kind of excitement of a heist gone wrong, getting you and your teammates out alive and acquiring that all important Payday.
Payday 2 is full of gaming memories, no matter how well or wrong a heist goes, you will always find a talking point to reminisce and that’s something that very few games can have. When jobs are complete and you get paid, you can then spend the hard earned cash on skill upgrades, weapon mods, customise face masks, purchase and upgrade various pieces of equipment to make the next heist a little easier. You can see just about everything that you’ve purchased in your Safe House.
The Safe House will store all your equipment and gear and display it on the wall for you to stand and admire. Though it’s fair to say that there’s a lot more to the Safe House then storing your goodies. For starters you can fine tune your heist skills on the firing range, learn how to pick the toughest locks and crack the meanest safes. As you work your way up the crime ladder, your Safe House will also upgrade and will represent you’re in-game riches.
It has to be said though, that despite the many great moments that Payday 2 generates, it’s certainly not without its faults. We must remember that first and foremost Payday 2 is made to be a multiplayer game and while you can play it on your lonesome, I couldn’t urge you enough to play this with other gamers online, preferably with friends. The reason that I urge you to play with others is that the computer A.I is incredibly dumb; basically these are really simple bots. A heist will always require four gamers, any remaining characters that are not controlled by real players, will become bots. Unlike actually gamers, the bots will not calm civilians or tell them to get down, they will not crack a safe or restart a drill. Basically they are there to shoot and shoot alone. The poor A.I bots are not just with heist team members, the A.I that is there to stop you is almost as bad. Cops lining up to shoot you from outside a bank, will clamber on to car bonnets and when the SWAT storms the premises, at times they will line up behind one another in a compact room, which just makes you wish you had a hand grenade at the ready.
Then on the third and final day of the heist, the mission involved breaking into a house to steal some very expensive goods. The best way to approach the mission was to sneak in without triggering any alarms, avoid the guards, take the goods and get out. Barry and I did just that, until a random that was teamed with us decided to shoot a guard in the head, which triggered the alarms and the SWAT was called to the scene. To say that we were cursing this gamer, is an understatement. For that reason alone that is why I urge you to play and practise with your friends, so then at least you know that you will be on the same page. Another problem that I found with Payday 2 is the loss of connection.
Games like Halo or Call of Duty have what is called ‘host migration’. What this means is that the gamer in the lobby with the best internet connection will be picked to be the host. Should that person then leave, the next best connection will be selected to be the host. Payday 2 does not feature host migration, so as a result should the host leave or lose connection, you will all be booted to the main menu, when this is at the end of a three day heist, it can get very frustrating. I don’t know if host migration could be incorporated into the game with a patch at a later date, but for a game that is designed to be played online, it could really do with this feature.
Payday 2 has a soundtrack that is an example of how to use music in a videogame to compliment the gameplay. As you begin a heist, you won’t notice the in-game soundtrack all that much. That soon changes as events unfold, for example at the beginning of the heist, all is calm and things are going swimmingly. Then you catch the eye of an on looking security guard and the alarm is triggered. You and your teammates then perk up like jacked up meerkats and as you do, so does the in-game soundtrack as it picks up to a fast and frantic pace. This is a clever method used by the developers which runs perfectly in cohesion with the in-game events and is a prime example of how to use an in-game soundtrack the smart way.
There’s a lot within this game that will keep you coming back, other than the enjoyment of team up with friends. Payday 2 has a relatively slow ranking up process, so it will take you awhile to reach the highest rank alone. You can upgrade just about anything in Payday 2 and how you will rank up is via the tried and tested formula of the XP system, similar to that of what you see in the RPG genre and the levelling up system in FPS games such as your Call of Duty’s and Halo’s. The more games you play, the more XP you will earn and as you rank up, more upgrades and equipment will also be unlocked for you to purchase too along the way.
You will be able to purchase a host of skill upgrades, which will not only cost you in-game dosh, but you will also require the set number of skill upgrades to purchase them too. In terms of upgrading equipment, you will first have to unlock the ability to purchase them by reaching a certain rank. Then you will not only be able to purchase new weapons and improved weapons, as each weapon will also be upgradable too via in-game mods. The mods can range from grips, scope sights, silencers and more. You will also be able to buy improved equipment such as drills, trip mines, bullet proof vests and so much more.
When you finish a heist, you will earn money to spend, but the amount that you make in a heist in comparison to what you get to spend is a different kettle of fish altogether, and this can get a little disheartening. What I mean by this is that you can perform a heist which results in valuables being taken to the value of 100k. Then the money will be split between the team members, then a percentage will be directed into your offshore account. Which results in a vastly smaller amount of earnings to spend then you would have originally hoped.
It would have been nice to have a higher percentage of the earnings to spend on in-game equipment, but then I suppose on the plus side, this also stretches out the longevity of the game. Though when it’s all said and done and you’ve somehow managed to unlock just about everything, it won’t be the in-game purchases and upgrades that keep you coming back to Payday 2, the simple thrill of the heist and joining up with a well oiled team is more than enough motivation to inspire almost any gamer to return back for more.
Very much like your Dead Islands and Left for Dead’s, you will get the most out of Payday 2 when playing with friends. This of course is down to Payday 2 being predominately a multiplayer game, just as with the original game. Payday 2 isn’t a game that you can just walk into and expect perfect results, you have to fine tune your skills and teamwork is of paramount importance. For this reason I would always recommend playing regularly with the same group of friends, rather the online random’s. Soon you will find yourself ranking up, purchasing upgraded equipment and generally become a better team, and when you finally have that moment when you truly ‘click’ together, if you can look past its flaws, Payday 2 is one of the most rewarding online games to date and is full of gaming memories.