Payday 2

8 Overall Score
Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 10/10

Unique, solid FPS | Interesting, varied customization options | Wolf on the dance floor

Stuttery animations, again | Repetitive stages | No true single-player component

Game Info

GAME NAME: Payday 2

DEVELOPER(S): OVERKILL Software

PUBLISHER(S): Starbreeze Studio

PLATFORM(S): PC, PS3, XBox 360

GENRE(S): Action FPS

RELEASE DATE(S): August 13, 2013

How many times can a person play the exact same level in a game?  In sequential games, for example, you need to play it every time.  World 1-1 in Super Mario Brothers, for example.  I’d wager that you, dear reader of GameGravy, can map out that entire stage in your mind, play it with your eyes closed, and hit the very top of the flag.  Because you have to – you cannot get further in the game without getting past 1-1.

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Payday 2 asks you to play the same stage on repeat.  And, in many instances, if you want to play a different stage, you’ll be playing that same stage anyway.  Forced choice, as it were.

The sequel to the cinematic crime shooter Payday: The Heist, Payday 2 puts us back behind the masks of our four anti-heros (Dallas, Wolf, Chains, and Hoxton, for those of you who forgot).  Once again, you and your crew is tasked with pulling off crimes set up by your earpiece man Bain.  Objectives must be accomplished, cops must be dealt with, and in general, things must be heisted.

Stages vary between some small-time stuff (robbing a coffee shop) to bigger, more detailed crimes – such as a three-stage caper culminating in ziplining stolen gold out of a Senator’s loft and into your safehouse.  Unfortunately, much of the cinematic appeal of the first game is lost here.  Whereas the bank stage in the original game was straight out of Michael Mann’s crime epic Heat, the one bank in Payday 2 is a tiny branch bank in the ‘burbs.  The huge diamond heist ripped from Die Hard has been replaced with breaking into a Kay Jewelers to steal some watches.  This would be mostly forgivable if there was a greater variety of stages – however, that jewelery store shows up in another stage, with only a few slight tweaks.  The branch bank?  It shows up in 4 different versions, with only very minor changes.  The multi-stage jobs are where the greatest variety (and payouts) comes from.  Great risk great reward, and all that.  Just get ready for that damn jewelery store.  You’ll be there a lot.

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The game does add some new stuff though, such as the ability to complete many stages in stealth – not having to deal with the cops is always a good thing.  A levelling system not tied to money (as the first game) frees up your cash to buy and customize weapons, which is now mutually exclusive from the levelling.  And at the top levels, you won’t have people with identical setups.  A new class system divides everything up into for archtypes, allowing for some additional perks and customization.  So you can be a sneaky-type who runs fast and can slip past cameras, or you can be the behemoth toting a concrete saw (handy for opening up delicious ATMs) and mammoth shotguns, or anything in between.  The customization extends to masks as well.  You’re not just “the clown gang” anymore – although cops may still call you that – you can be the “John Dillenger/Cthulhu/clown/Dr. Doom gang” if you see fit.  Add additional paint jobs, tattoos, and materials and you’ve got a Borderlands 2-number of combinations.  Aside from the beginning stuff, it’s very likely that you’ll make a mask that you will never see another person carrying.

As mentioned earlier though, all this customization makes the game lose some of its cinematic feel.  Gone are the rain panchos of Green Bridge or the pool repair uniforms of Counterfeit.  It’s all suits and kevlar now.  Again, the stage design feels less movie-like as well.  And while the graphics have been retooled and updated a bit, the same issues as the first game crop up.  When the action gets heavy, opponents teleport around.  There’s some slight clipping, and every once in a while the escape vehicle will be invisible to a player or two.  Client-side stuff, I’m sure.  But still infuriating when you’re almost done and the helicopter is MIA.  Menu design is pretty painful, too – especially on the XBox, which hasn’t received any patches to bring the game up to speed (but more on that in a few).  Stage selection seems to fit with the mythos the game wants to have – jobs pop up briefly, requiring you to sign on to them before they vanish – but a stage selection system would go a really long way if you just want to brush up on how to rob a nightclub.

The sound design hits a home run again, though.  As in the first game, you’re tasked by your fixer Bain to get these jobs going.  He’ll talk you through some stages, drop hints, and generally let you know when things are about to kick off.  The heisters themselves are a little quieter this time around, and a few of the voice actors have changed – explained in the game as being arrested or retiring – but the quality is great.  Alex the fool idiot who drops your ammo in trees, Bile the expert pilot, and a dozen or so bit players round out the speaking roles.  A varied soundtrack goes along to get your blood going when the cops show up, and subdues a bit when things are quiet.  There are occasional sound issues (sometimes a tune won’t start until a new phase of the stage begins), but their sound guy, Simon Viklund, is Jesper Kyd-level good.

While there is a single-player option, this game is designed for multiplayer co-op through and through.  Your AI slugs will do next to nothing to help, aside from take some bullets and occasionally revive you.  At least they stay out of the way if you’re trying to be sneaky though.  Play it online with friends.  Or random strangers.  Really, anything besides single-player.  Although there’s no split-screen, there are generally plenty of matches rolling at any given time, if you’re willing to rob that same bank again.

Something to definitely note about this game, though.  As of this review (May 2014), the PC version of the game is quite different from the console versions.  The PC has had something like 25 patches, various DLC stages, new enemy types, and extra weapons – not to mention some serious core gameplay changes, such as the stealth process and the melee game – that have made it a far different beast from the console releases.  The XBox has never been patched, resulting in a number of day 1 bugs that haven’t been attended to.  And the PS3 version (which I play) has some slight retooling of the menus and one extra stage.  As much as I enjoy the game, I absolutely cannot reccommend it to an XBox 360 player.  PS3 seems fine (although some bug fixes and DLC would be appreciated), and the PC version is the big boy.

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The Recommendation
Fans of Payday: The Heist will make this game a no-brainer buy.  Steam has deeply-discounted sales of the game every once in a while, and the PS3 version is good enough for some fun heisting.  If you’ve got a few friends – or are willing to make some new ones – this is a snappy little FPS that’s really unlike anything else out there, aside from maybe Kane and Lynch 2’s online stuff.  But good luck finding anyone with that game anymore.  Don’t buy Payday 2 on XBox 360, though.

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Author: James View all posts by
Dangerously fat. Twitter: @hypersaline

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