Payday 2 does pick up on a lot of new ideas to enhance the gameplay experience, which makes things feel quite a bit more in depth compared to the original. While all the new ideas improve the experience, it can’t help but feel like it reaches a point where there just didn’t seem to be enough missions to satisfy your career in crime. This leaves it feeling like a somewhat incomplete sequel, and more or less keeps us waiting on future DLC to arrive.
The PayDay series started out as something very original. Overkill Software was definitely onto something when they got the idea for putting two things together, Heists and Co-op. Now at first it wasn’t perfect, but it definitely caught the attention of many who liked the idea and supported it. It was a cooperative experience like no other, and it would not go unnoticed. Still it pains me to say that I never truly got into Payday: The Heist only because I couldn’t quite get used to the idea myself and at first I wasn’t a huge fan of the AI system either. Still it went on to be a huge success, which brings us to the release of the official sequel.
PayDay 2: The Heist the successor to the original brings with it the hopes of adding something new to the mix, while maintaining the original formula that made the first game so great. Right off the bat the game presents itself as being some pretty serious business. It tends to be much more cinematic and visually driven based off of live action role-play, which was a nicely added touch to make the game seem a little more genuine overall.
When it comes down to story, there never really was one to begin with, more so than just a bigger goal in mind. You continue your days of crime, playing as one of the four original characters, Dallas, Hoxton, Wolf, and Chains as they descend upon Washington DC for the ultimate crime sprees. The game starts you off with a tutorial in the form of a hideout or base of operations that briefly goes over everything you need to know. It’s quick and simple to say the least, and mainly informs you of the basics of how you will operate on missions. Speaking of missions, while at the safe house, you are introduced to a network known as CrimeNet. This dynamic contract database allows for easy access to freely choose your own missions, whether it’s robbing a local Jewelry Store or tearing up a local Shopping Mall to send a message. You might even think you got what it takes to empty out a major bank for that big score. Still you’ll probably want to start out small and work your way up to the big leagues which is what the general game premise is all about.
The variety in types of missions is quite entertaining but it’s all about accomplishing the bigger heists once you reach a certain point in the game. Starting out though it can be quite a challenge, since you can expect most of your heists to break out into a gunfight with law enforcement. Not only that but expect a bit of waiting game as you drill your way into vaults or highly secured doors, in which at that point you can’t help but feel like your a terrible criminal. You realize that it ain’t no easy task to begin a life of crime, but in the end your hard work starts to pay off. As you complete missions on a day to day basis, you will earn a set amount of spending cash while the rest is stored into your offshore account. This adds more to the realism of what this game is pertaining to while also making it a challenge for you to earn enough spending cash on the side. Since earning cash is one of the highlights of the game, you’ll probably want to spend it on some upgraded weapons. There’s definitely an interesting array of weapons to choose from, each one containing a bunch of mods to give you that extra edge. Don’t be surprised though if you have to earn some serious cash to afford all your side purchases, which can be difficult early on. Experience points are also earned after every mission allowing you to earn reputation levels, which grants you access to skill points to begin customizing your character’s abilities.
There are four skill trees to choose from, and the way it is setup is so that each tree is specific to one character and his individual set of skills. You may choose from:
The Mastermind – Being the brains of the operation, you have access to a deployable Doctor Bag (first aid kit) which can be picked up by you and your crew for healing.
The Enforcer – The brawn of the operation has access to a deployable ammo bag, which can be extremely useful in dire situations.
The Technician – Exactly what it sounds like, although you do gain access to Trip Mine deployable C4 which packs a wallop.
The Ghost – More known for staying in the shadows, you gain access to the ECM jammer equipment which allows you to block out any incoming or outgoing signals such as cell phones or alarms.
The leveling system is way more in depth compared to the first game and you aren’t completely held down to one set skill tree. This in turn gives you more control over how you want your character to be useful overall. One example of this would be to put points in the Ghost tree to play more stealthily, while also putting points in the Mastermind tree so that you may intimidate guards or civilians with ease. Mixing and matching skills definitely lets you play how you want to, while also helping you to be more capable on your own in many different situations.
The gameplay is by far a huge improvement on the last one; with gun play that feels precise a good amount of the time. While it’s on consoles, expect aim assist to be on, but otherwise you might find it to be quite difficult without it. It does take a good amount of skill even with aim assist to become a pro at the game. An interesting aspect of the gameplay is how many ways you can approach a situation, whether it be slow and stealthy, or guns blazing. Either way you choose, it better be done professionally – otherwise things can go wrong at any moment.
As much as I think the AI has improved over the first game it still has its set of issues in just how well it reacts to your actions. Still the FBI and S.W.A.T will surely give you a run for your money…quite literally. The difficulty does get pretty brutal at the most crucial moments when it counts, and unless you have the right kind of team and firepower, you’re probably going to end up going into custody. Also if you’re trying to play solo in offline mode, I probably wouldn’t even bother since the ally AI is probably the least helpful there.
The graphics engine isn’t a huge improvement over the first game, but it doesn’t hurt the overall effect that it gives you. Harnessing the second generation Diesel Engine 2.0, PayDay 2 seems to hold up pretty well in most instances you encounter. The only time you might experience any sort of frame rate drop is if your in the middle of a deployed smoke grenade, or a player online drops into your game which really isn’t a big deal. If anything the biggest issue with the graphics would have to be that you occasionally have to deal with enemy AI who like to phase through or into walls, which just isn’t fair honestly.
Considering that there was hardly any music in the first game, the sequel does a very job of improving in that area. Mostly, the soundtrack is toned down but when the action heats up and you have the FBI on your tail, it starts to get amped up with some intense dubstep which gets the blood going. I find it’s the little things like this that count the most and this certainly was a much needed change. The voice acting and sound effects are very believable with the script provided by Overkill and the main characters, as a result, they have personality. It’s almost as if you’re a part of a real life Heist sort of movie.
The online system works very well, and with CrimeNet, it’s very easy to jump in with friends who are in a mission on the fly. The same works for just about anybody who is playing except when a room might be blocking you from joining or they are looking for someone of a higher reputation level. Either way, the online setup very well, after a recent patch, and if you don’t want to play alongside AI bots, you have the option of doing that too. I think one of my biggest gripes was that local co-op feature was never included, making it purely online if you want to play with friends. This happened to be one of my dislikes from the first game and I was hoping that Overkill would consider adding that feature to consoles for the sequel.
The replay value is pretty decent but could be a lot better due to the limited amount of missions there are in total. One of the ways Overkill extends missions is by always changing the order of objectives in maps, so basically no mission is always the same. The alteration of scenarios actually can be a hassle to deal with at times but if you look at it from a realistic point of view, it makes perfect sense so that your forced to plan ahead of every mission. The level cap limit is 100, but I say good luck getting there since it is somewhat of a grind about halfway. While you might be going for max level, finding all the unlockables such as rare masks or attachments, its sure to keep you busy for a long time.
PayDay 2 is an absolute blast to coordinate and play cooperatively with friends and is quite a huge improvement over the first in more ways than one. It’s not exactly a perfect sequel since it does suffer from some minor bugs and glitches which will hopefully be dealt within due time. The fact that it feels a bit empty once you reach a certain point in your time playing, can be a problem for some since it tends to lose its interest. On the other hand, dedicated players who are out to explore every little bit of the game won’t mind as much. I feel that PayDay 2: The Heist is great experience for anyone who may have missed out on playing the first one, while also seems to give returning fans some satisfaction.
A review code for PayDay 2: The Heist on PlayStation 3 was provided by 505 Games.