Published on September 4th, 2013 | by Don Parsons1
Payday 2 Review
Summary: Payday 2 offers a very dynamic and enjoyable game, and has the same addictive qualities of competitive games without actually playing against other players.
My primary interest being competitive shooters such as Battlefield and Call of Duty, I always find it difficult to get into co-op shooters where you bring a few buddies and go against the AI. Neither the zombie modes of Call of Duty nor facing an onslaught in Left for Dead really appeal to me. They lack the key elements that hook me into the competitive side of games: progressive unlocks and diverse gameplay. Overkill Studios has taken that progressive unlock system and coupled it with dynamic gameplay to create an addictive co-op experience.
The first Payday was a learning experience for Overkill. The shooting felt off, the game lacked customization, and simply felt like a downloadable title. Don’t get me wrong: it was a fun game for the price, but I was a little worried when I found out the sequel was going to be a full retail release. As it turned out, I had no reason to to be concerned.
Much like the original Payday, Payday 2 sends you on various heists and other illegal jobs to gain fortune. At any given time, I had a handful of options for jobs. Overkill designed Crime.net as a mission selection interface, so out the door went the old, bland menu-based way of doing things from the previous installment.. Most missions in the beginning are single day jobs, like robbing a jewelry store or holding up a bank. As you level up, though, more complex and difficult jobs open up that span multiple days and objectives. Of course, the more difficult the job, the higher the payout.
The tricky part was keeping myself in the proper pay grade. If I took a job that I, or my comrades, couldn’t do, there was no payout and very little experience. It was frustrating when one person messed up and cost the whole party a win. At one point, I was faced with running back to save two fallen teammates or finish running to the objective. I ran back, noticed a swarm of SWAT members around them, and ran to the van. We may not have received the “all members alive” bonus, but at least we walked away with something. It’s an understandable penalty, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.
One night, I played the same job on the same difficulty half a dozen times.because part of the beauty of Payday 2 is how the map is dynamically generated each time. Every single time was a different experience. Once,, there was a vault in the manager’s office to drill into for extra cash. Another time, I got shocked when setting up the thermal drill so I had to run to the roof to disable the power. The location of the main vault varies, so there were times I had to board up a window facing the drill so I had a little cover. It makes replaying stages much enjoyable, as the subtle tweaks can change things drastically.
Also game changer is the partner AI. If you don’t like playing with random people, are feeling anti-social, or just don’t have friends playing Payday 2, you can solo the game with two partner AI bots. There were just times that my AI-partners in crime would just infuriate me. The simpler levels can be breezed through with little help from them, but as the stages got more complex and harder, they proved very unreliable. Thankfully, partnering up with random people can be very rewarding even without a mic. Communication helps a lot, sure, but it isn’t necessary at all to have a great time.
Once I tasted the big payouts, I couldn’t go back to the small potatoes stuff. Going from $20K to $1M in spending cash is a huge difference. But I wasn’t only rewarded with cash and experience; after each successful job I could pick one of three cards. This plays a hand in the customization of the game, and goes as far as determining weapon attachments as you’ll either get cash, a mask component, or a weapon attachment. At level 40, I had never once gotten a lump sum of money, and had only received one mask mold. It makes for a unique experience. I have not seen the same exact mask more than once as of this review.
I’m okay with the mask parts being randomly distributed. The weapon attachments, on the other hand, are probably my biggest issue with Payday 2. In fact, I’d go as far as saying they were my only real problem with Payday 2. Every single card drop, I was begging and hoping for a scope of some sort for my assault rifles. The shooting may be improved compared to the last game, but I generally always prefer having a red dot sight or some other scope for distance shooting. Having to rely on random drops is a let down, especially when sharing those drops with mask components (which there are a ton of) and cash drops. I just wanted to buy a few weapon mods and move on about my business of looting banks and trafficking drugs.
Payday 2 surprised me in a lot of ways. It’s very apparent that Overkill Studios was not satisfied with the first Payday game, and they made sure to make the sequel leaps and bounds better. Packed with more content and providing a refined experience all around, Payday 2 deserves to get some attention before the flood of games this fall.
This review was based on gameplay for the Playstation 3 home console with material provided by the publisher. Payday 2 is also available on the PC and Xbox 360 home console. For more on our review process, please click here.