When the first Payday was released a couple of years ago, it totally passed me by. I knew what it was, and I knew that it looked interesting, but being a primarily multiplayer game, and knowing very few people that actually played multiplayer-only titles, I had no choice but to let it go without so much as a passing glance. Well, things have changed since then; my friends list is full of people that regularly play multiplayer-only games and, furthermore, it’s full of people who played the first Payday and loved it. With that in mind, I was more than ready to jump into its sequel and plan some heists.
As you may have guessed – or already knew – Payday is a game where you work together with a group of three other people to plan and carry out heists on a variety of locations. The catch is that if you haven’t planned everything down to the last detail, complete with contingency plans should everything go pear-shaped, then you’re going to quickly find yourself on the nasty end of a police officer’s side-arm, which you want to avoid at all costs.
Payday 2 takes place in the city of Washington DC and tasks you with selecting a crime to take on from the newly-added Crime Net interface. In this interface you can see a selection of crimes to commit and locations that can be robbed. The difficulty and risk of each mission is displayed underneath the location – with the amount of white stars indicating the level of challenge, and the yellow stars indicating the ‘Risk’ modifier. In short, the more yellow stars, the more difficult the mission is, resulting in a bigger payday. It’s very easy to look at a mission that has a high risk factor and assume that you’re going to be able to do it just because you think you’re good at the game, but there are various different factors that make it more than just a little harder.
Firstly, it will be much trickier to complete the mission due to an increase in the quantity of items that you’re required to steal. Instead of three bags of jewellery, it’s six. Instead of $50,000, it’s $200,000. On top of that there’s the increased police presence, the fact that they’ll be quicker to deploy the SWAT teams, and more intelligent A.I. Selecting a mission with a high risk factor isn’t for the feint of heart. It’s solely for the people who already work well in a team, who know what each person is doing and when they’re doing it – the high risk missions are for the professionals, and the professionals alone.
Another impressive addition to Payday 2 is the skill tree system. With this, you can make yourself an even more valuable member of any team you choose to join. Just like in any video game with RPG elements, you will be awarded a skill point each time you level up, before choosing which specialisation this skill point goes in to. The choices are Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician or Ghost, with each bringing something particularly special to the table. For example, the first point in the Mastermind tree allows you to throw down a bag full of health packs, something that’s especially useful when you’re trying your the riskier missions. The base of each tree is a staple ability for each of the players – such as the Mastermind’s bag of health – after this, the tree splits off into three further specialisations, allowing you to really decide how you want your particular team-member to play. The new system really makes you to feel like you’re a part of the game, instead of just controlling a character within it. Everything you do is your choice, from the specialisation right down to the mask you’re wearing.
Masks are fully customisable in Payday 2, and you’ll be able to collect different bases, different colours to apply to them and even different stencils to make them truly your own. The now almost iconic masks of the four main characters are instantly recognisable but Overkill have added that extra layer of customisation to help push forward the idea that it’s you, not the character, that’s planning and carrying out these heists. You never know, if you’re good enough, maybe your custom mask will be as famous in the community as the original protagonists’. The downside to the masks is that the cost of them – which is really quite expensive – makes them feel like they’d be more at home in a free-to-play game, where you’re asked to fork out extraordinary prices for something that shouldn’t cost that much. In reality, it’s more catered towards the people who can spend a lot of time in the game, amassing vast quantities of cash, and being able to essentially waste some of it on meaningless mask customisation. However, if that’s your thing, then Payday 2 caters for it. It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste – it’s not to mine – but there’s nothing wrong with trying to please everyone, especially when it doesn’t take anything away from the gameplay experience.
With a game called Payday, money is obviously the most important element. How much you’re going to get paid will decide which mission you’re going to do, how much risk you’re going to take on and even whether or not you attempt to grab even more than you need to. Money in the game – just as in life – dictates everything that you do, have done and are able to do in the future. When you complete a heist, you will get a certain amount of money based on a couple of things: firstly, how much you were supposed to get in order to clear the mission, then how much extra cash and items you were able to grab while you were doing so. These two numbers are added together to create the amount of cash that you were able to steal – however, this isn’t what you’ll get. Just like if you were to rob a place in real life, the money would be “dirty” and you wouldn’t be able spend any of it until it had been laundered. In the case of Payday 2, you only get a very small fraction of the money that you were able to steal, with the rest going into an offshore account ready to be laundered. This mechanic automatically makes the items in the store – the new weapons, the modifications, masks, etc – much more valuable as you’re actually going to have to work for them. A life of crime isn’t so appealing now, is it?
The rest of the game plays the same, with a couple of small but important changes such as the bags of “loot” now being throwable and the gunplay being tightened and improved. You’re still essentially going into a location, scouting it for alarms, cameras, security guards, etc, and then putting on your mask and making the day your own personal payday. It’s an impressive game, and one that’s going to be enjoyed by a good number of people. The fact that it’s now a retail release, and potential players will see it sitting on the shelf at their local video game retailer gives it the opportunity it deserves.
VERDICT: Payday 2 is a hugely enjoyable game, and it’s obvious that the developers have thought long and hard about every single aspect of the gameplay, keeping everything that worked from the previous game and doing away with, or improving, all of the other aspects. The opportunity to play the game offline is nice, but the A.I. is often so bad that you’d probably be better off taking on the heist on your own. At the massively cheaper price point (£22.99 on Amazon.co.uk at the time of writing), there should be a decent amount of people playing the game.
Everyone loves a good Payday.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.