After a few years developers Overkill Software has made a tentative second instalment to the Payday franchise with the aptly titled “Payday 2”. Much like its predecessor, Payday 2 is a stealth game merely dressed up as a first person shooter. The aim of the game is to pull off the perfect heist, get in to whatever establishment, breach the vaults or safes and access the money or drugs, bag it all up and leg it to the escape van all whilst not alerting the authorities. The premise of stealthy grand theft is indisputably a good idea however Payday 2 seems to fall short in all the same places as The Heist and inevitably boils down into something else entirely.
Payday isn’t a game that gives itself away easily, in fact the gameplay methods are about as secretive as the characters themselves. Each randomly generated heist requires forethought and care when being played, you survey the map quietly in Casing Mode to ascertain guard and camera locations before putting your mask on and stealthily navigating the map to access the money. Well in theory at least. You’re never told how to get a guard to stand down or how to tie their hands, you’re never told how to disable security cameras or how to get C4 to make clearing doors easier. You have to figure all these imperative skills out through frustrating trial and lots and lots of error. It becomes and addiction, you’ll find yourself begging the host to reset the host everytime someone fluffs up just so it can be done in the suave and stealthy manner it was designed for. This is where Crime.Net (the mission select server) Offline comes in. This allows you to play through the heists on your own, getting familiar with the map layouts and skills needed to pull off the perfect heist, it also offers people with sketchy internet connections to play the game through without being connected to online games. Crime.Net itself is quite a flawed platform however, the missions fade in and fade out of the course of several seconds as and when they become available. The initial ones to appear are of the lower class and are often easier to complete with a low yield whereas the “pro” jobs are relatively few and far between. Although this tends to not be an issue initially, when you’re a higher level looking for a bigger reward you do have to gawp at the pulsating map for a while before something of interest crops up.
Whilst practicing most certainly does make perfect with Payday 2 the game still manages to remain varied and unpredictable even if you’ve meticulously memorized many of the maps. It achieves this through randomization of small yet crucial aspects of each map. Security cameras change angles: they now cover a staircase rather than a corridor, the guards change pathways: new surprises, and vaults can even have secondary doors: crack that drill out again. By doing this you never quite know what you’re up against and casing mode becomes all the more important, things are kept fresh even though you’ll be playing the same mission type a fair few times.
The missions themselves are rather long winded, they typically last around 10-15 minutes depending on the job and require precision to be completed effectively. Playing through the heists online is genuinely good fun, there’s nearly always someone who actually knows what they’re doing. Communication and direction is gained through microphone communication and together the four of you can orchestrate something close to the perfect heist. In reality this is nearly never the case as someone doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing and just open fires causing chaos and degrading the mission into a wave-based police shootout that lasts what feels like hours. This is actually incredibly common in Payday 2 and most missions will break down into this state at some point which is where the real cracks begin to show. As mentioned at the offset, Payday 2 is a stealth game and will be enjoyed most when played stealthily, this is because during the incessant gunning down of police you realize that the game really isn’t a very good first person shooter. The guns have incredibly limited ammo, the graphics are a mess when things get too fast paced and the enemies possess the AI of a brick.
Customization takes a more prevalent role in Payday 2 with weapon gadgets, armor and weapon upgrades, equipment loadouts and a far more intricate levelling system. You’re able to play as one of the four members of the heist each with their own unique skill set such as Wolf who’s the Technician and able to place trip mines to blow apart doors or police alike. Picking the correct member to suit your play method is crucial to be successful especially as each member has their own specific skill tree that offers game-changing upgrades. Once again however, none of this is actually made clear and requires a bit of menu navigation to work out. A simple tutorial wouldn’t go amiss to outline several things, especially for new players to the franchise.
It’s important to mention that the vein-poppingly frustrating drills are present here too. Whilst loaded with millions the crew seems unable to purchase adequate quality drills leaving players constantly having to restart them as they splutter to a stop every 100 seconds or so. Even though there is an upgrade in the skill tree to shorten the drill time it’s locked behind a fair few thousand dollars and hours of game-play. Upgrades aren’t the only thing locked behind the cash wall, guns,gadgets and pretty much everything else will cost and the only way to earn is to play. This means you’ll be finding yourself repeating low-grade missions to scrimp and save just to purchase a new weapon to make completing the higher tier missions even possible. Regardless of any other in-game flaw, the most prevalent one is the over-complicated and unrealistic economy.
If you’re a fan of The Heist then it’s safe to say that you’ll love Payday 2. Not only does it add new maps,weapons and customization to the game but it also possess pretty much all the previous bugs and issues as the first one. Online gameplay is fantastic when choreographed intelligently, a private four-player party with your friends would probably be the perfect scenario. Offline gameplay is a little less enjoyable and will consist of endless restarts or prolonged and eye-rolling shootouts but offers a great environment for you to beef up your skills without angering online players with your ineptness. Ironically if you’re willing to put the work in and decipher the methods of play then you’ll be rewarded handsomely with a thrilling and engaging multiplayer title. It’s certainly rough around the edges but there’s so much merit in what it wants to be that you can’t help but enjoy yourself.
What did you think of Payday 2? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to rate it in the ‘User Rating” in our summary section. Review copy supplied by Bastion.
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