Review: Payday 2

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payday-the-heistWe’re not even going to try to sugar-coat it, with reactive and diverse gameplay as you’re trying to execute a flawless heist, Payday 2 is one of the most feverishly addictive and rewarding games we’ve played. Josh cracks its winning combination and breaks it down.

Time to get to work

Time to go to work

As soon as we hit the job site, everyone begins to move quickly. Time is of the essence with a gig like this. Without a word two of my accomplices dart into an alley beside the jewellery store we’re casing. A single guard patrols the back of the building. Both men assume their positions and wait just out of view, ready to pounce. At the front of the store, myself and a fourth partner in crime enter innocently browsing the store’s merchandise. The plan is simple. The two men at the back take the guard, get into the manager’s office and crack the safe. Out the front we keep the punters under control and if the job goes south, keep the response team in check until the safe is open and empty. In and out.

Unfortunately reality is a cruel mistress, and our fourth man is a low level player who we just grabbed for this job. Unwittingly our tag along tries to walk into the back room of the store and before I can warn him of the consequences, a guard pulls a gun, telling him to back off. Panicking, the player pulls on his mask and draws his weapon. In an instant the game changes from stealthy robbery to out and out clusterfuck and the rest of us are forced to react. I follow suit and the second my mask is on I drop the guard with two rounds from my pistol.

Chaos erupts as patrons begin to scream and run. The newbie knows enough to know what needs to be done and begins waving his gun around, telling everyone to hit the floor. Once everyone is down on the ground, I cable-tie a few hostages as part of my back-up plan in case we need bargaining chips. I grab the dead guard’s radio and convince home base everything is fine. For now there is silence. I duck into the back-room to check on how the other two members of our crew are progressing. The vault isn’t open yet due to a drill jamming. Time is running out.

On the ground!

On the ground!

Out front the blue-flame special newcomer is doing a decent job keeping civilians in check until someone walks past the shop window and peers in. With the best of intentions he runs out onto the street to contain the situation. He fails. The screams of passers-by drown out almost every other sound and inevitably someone calls the cop. The police are on route and will be there in 20 seconds.

I grab one of the guns for hire and head into the alley to set up. Things are about to get bloody. As we toss down ammo bags and health kits, we drop the handguns and switch to more appropriate attire, assault rifles just as a cop car rolls up. We cock our guns and take aim at the unsuspecting patrol car. At that exact inopportune moment our getaway car speeds off and the driver demands we wait five minutes for the heat to die down. Shit is now officially about to hit the fan.

Dance piggy!

Dance piggies, dance

In case you’re wondering, no, this isn’t my favourite match so far, just the last one I played. Few games boast the level of intensity Payday 2 offers. Since the beginning of my criminal career, this game keeps surprising me. As everything you do is random, no two games are ever the same way. This is something I haven’t had in a long time, an engaging and dynamic multiplayer experience. Now, I’m not trying to say Call of Duty and its brethren don’t offer an engaging shooting gallery, it’s just that it’s more about personal achievements, the focus is always on the individual to excel. Even team play is for the benefit of increasing statistics and levelling up. In Payday 2, executing a heist is what you are trying to achieve. Teamwork becomes natural and players are more focused on the job at hand rather than milking their Kill/Death ratios.

Payday 2 is more than just a robbery simulator. Missions often turn violent, not through fault but because of the randomisation of events. It’s open to how you want to play. Some are all about pulling off the perfect crime, and others just want to create chaos. Each mission you play is more than just a fire-fight. It’s a battle of wits and even the most perfect round can fall apart from a simple mistake or accident. This means that no matter what you do, the win is still secured as long as you can finish the job and make it to the extraction point.

The more you play Payday 2, the more you hone your skills and formulate your own unique style. Each job will give you XP allowing you unlock special skills and upgrade equipment. You can focus on aggression, increased damage, using explosive trip mines and improved aiming. Alternately you can opt for the stealthier approach, pushing for more abilities to hack doors and crack safes. I chose to focus my abilities on tactics and planning primarily following the Mastermind skill-tree. My role is to manage crowds, intimidate advancing police and deal with hostages. However, as the skill trees aren’t locked to a particular branch I can switch gears and evolve, taking my criminal’s path through multiple classes if I choose to.

I love the smell of burning money!

I love the smell of burning money!

As you start getting more comfortable with the mechanics, you can then move to more riskier jobs. These can take several days or attract a large amount of heat. You can attempt these at any time but to succeed you’ll need a decent crew with the right equipment, or you can just jump right in, cross your fingers and hope for the best. It’s a classic risk versus reward scenario with fortune usually favouring the well-planned and more experienced players. The bold? Not so much.

Payday 2 takes some of the best elements of team/objective-based shooters throwing players into tight and tense situations forcing them to adapt constantly on the fly. There’s plenty of depth for players wanting to get into customisation and it leaves the path of character development entirely up to the individual player. If you’re looking for a bit more of a strategic element to first-person shooters, Payday 2 offers a breath of fresh air in an otherwise repetitive online world.

8/10

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Joshua Philpott

Tech MacGyver
Games writer, podcaster and tech wizard. Obsessed with obscure horror films, crazy gadgets and caffeine. Passionate, argumentative and open minded. Freelance writer and co-founder rawDLC.

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  • Chad Wheeler

    Yessss! On those occasions when I can get the team together with one of each class, I always have a blast playing Payday 2. To compare it to anything else, I’d say it’s a similar kind of fun to what you get with the Left 4 Dead games. A well executed job is definitely one of the most satisfying things, but when shit hits the fan it becomes kind of like an objective based horde mode.

    So much love for Payday 2.

  • DoGM3At

    Sounds like we need to do some bank robberies together then man!

  • Chad Wheeler

    Hells yeah man! I’ll jump at any chance to play this if it means I get to play in a group.