I always thought the perfect bonding experience between friends would be committing a string of well coordinated bank robberies. PAYDAY 2 brings back the joy and suspense of taking things that don’t belong to you.
The PAYDAY gang of Dallas, Chains, Hoxton, and Wolf are back to rob Washington D.C. of all its money, art and meth. Yep, meth. PAYDAY 2 pretty much pulls from most fan-favorite heist movies and delivers a powerfully fun time despite some frustrating technical issues.
You get your missions by visiting Crime.net, which is essentially Google Maps for grand larceny. You’ll get different pop-up notifications for numerous jobs, mostly involving you breaking into places and bringing back something you don’t own for your troubles. Some jobs are hosted by other players with difficulty modifiers for better rewards. You also have this fancy hideout where you can count your money, see all the weapons you’ve bought and check out your own firing range.
There is an offline version of Crime.net that you need to stay away from since you’ll be straddled with three A.I partners that are worse than awful in all combat scenarios. This is a game meant to be played with a full group of four people. If you have no friends or hate playing with others, this game is not for you.
In PAYDAY 2, you’re on the clock. The idea is to get as much done before a civilian calls 9-1-1 or a camera spots you and then cops show up. The levels have a number of phases that you go through before the ultimate showdown with the police. This is when PAYDAY 2 is at its most enjoyable and feels a lot like a heist movie. The constant clock watching adds a little something to the overall atmosphere of every heist.
Even with the best planning, things can easily go wrong. During an art heist with our very own Features Editor Masoud House, I managed to botch our sneaky approach by accidentally falling through a skylight. This was after I spent all my money paying a dude to give us roof access by leaving a parked truck we could climb. The alarms went off and the paintings we needed to swipe were covered with security bars. If I didn’t screw that up we could have easily just grabbed the paintings we needed without alerting anyone. Instead we were forced to fight our way through the guard staff to a computer terminal where we had to wait a couple of minutes to hack the museum’s painting security measures.
As things continually went south, we were overwhelmed by literally hundreds of SWAT. You can imagine how much of a pain in the ass it was to make multiple trips to a getaway van while shooting through dozens of coppers.
The four job classes you can level up all serve their purpose during a robbery–both in the robbery phase and the eventual “fight off all the cops” portion of your mission. Ghosts can quietly take out guards and stealth their way to disable cameras. The Mastermind is basically key for crowd control, keeping hostages from doing something stupid, and healing your guys when need be. Technicians can knock down the time required to drill through safes and lay trip mines. Enforcers can carry more bags of stolen goods and are perfect for fighting off the popo. Ensuring your group sticks to their roles is a must for having a heist to go well.
PAYDAY 2 gives you plenty of freedom on customizing your character and gear. Every time you rank up you’re given a point to drop in any one of the four classes. You can stick to one of the four classes or make a sort of hybrid thief who can do a bit of everything, but never unlocking higher tier stuff.
The worst parts of PAYDAY 2 all fall on the technical side of things. The A.I. for starters is no improvement over the original which is a shame. Enemies almost never take cover. The police’s whole approach to every scenario is throwing a ton of disposable bullet sponge–err cops at it. Unfortunately this makes makes every encounter with the enemy just feel like an endless shooting gallery. You’ll get desensitized to the combat fairly quickly when you’ve killed your 300th cop in less than two hours.
The horrible A.I. isn’t just limited to the enemy. Your teammates’ A.I. is by far the worst I have ever seen. Playing PAYDAY 2 alone with the computer is an exercise in masochism. I’ve seen situations where my companions refused to put on their mask which the only way for them to shoot. The most common lapse of intelligence is the disregard for their own health, meaning they will go out and engage a SWAT team in the open.
Aggressively dumb I can forgive, but what I can’t is the lack of usefulness your computer allies provide when trying to complete an objective. The fact that they won’t carry bags of loot or hack computers leaves you to do all the grunt work on top of trying to fight waves of enemies. This turns missions that would normally take a group of real players 15 minutes of coordinated fun to 45 minutes of hair pulling frustration. If you’re playing with a full group and someone drops, the match is practically over when that person is replace with a robot. There is almost no way to enjoy PAYDAY 2 on your own. Find friends.
On the consoles, you’ll run into some frame rate dips when the cops number over a dozen. There’s some pretty ugly texture work and overall inspired character design. Try not to look at anything too close. The soundtrack on the other hand fits very well. The way the tracks speed up and throw in more bass when the cops are storming your position gives PAYDAY 2 a great action movie vibe. It’s like house music mixed in with some techno that doesn’t make you want to dance or take ecstasy but more like commit crimes with a smile on your face.
The money you earn can go into either the mission or your gear. You can buy pre-mission things like better intel, extra entry points or access to security cameras. An extra entry point would be something like a conveniently placed ladder or an unlocked door. Access to cameras give you a better idea of where guards are patrolling since PAYDAY 2 will randomize enemy and objective locations.
Weapons can purchased, upgraded and augmented to your hearts desire. The large arsenal of sub-machine guns, assault rifles and shotguns offer enough variety to cater to your play style. The added effect the different weapon upgrades have are essential game changers depending on what you get.
For example, an AK-47 is powerful and has a wild recoil making it a pain to fire in controlled bursts. But if you add a steel buttstock and a holopgrapic sight to it, the gun mows down fools with ease. Find that you’re having trouble with guards alerting the police? A silencer on you pistol will make you the most valuable person in the group when you’ve quietly shot out all the cameras. The only problem is that upgrades are super expensive and you’ll find yourself grinding out easy missions half a dozen times before you can afford anything you like.
Masks you unlock as rewards can also be customized with different colors and materials. My orange and blue clown mask cost me a lot of money I could have more intelligently spent on useful weapons but my guy ended up looking pretty boss. The game does a nice job with its “carrot on a stick” reward system by showing you that you’ve unlocked something cool due to your rank but can’t afford it because you’re a broke ass crook.
If you’re fan of PAYDAY and have some friends, then PAYDAY 2 will offer more of the same for you. It does a great job mimicking the thrill of a robbery gone well and the dire suspense when things go belly up. Despite the laughable A.I. and odd technical quirks PAYDAY 2 still manages to be an enjoyable co-op game where doing bad things make you feel good.