There have been a few heist games that have come out recently like Monaco, which is a novel top-down co-op stealth game. But not everyone likes to sneak around since most want to go in with guns blazing and screaming at the teller to put the money in the bag. Payday: The Heist gave players that kind of experience, and the sequel seeks to improve upon that co-op experience that is both about teamwork and creating chaos.
As the sequel of Payday: The Heist, Overkill Software’s Payday 2 has a lot to prove in order to really stamp the series’ claim on the co-op gaming market. On paper, its premise hold great potential as a game that tells other developers on how to really make a good co-op game. At first glance, its visuals are not to shabby at all with clean and appealing presentation for a heist game, as well as its interfaces being a festival of graphic design that provide necessary information in-game with little excess fat courtesy of Payday 2′s Crime.net.
You can play as one of the four characters, named Dallas, Hoxton, Chains, and Wolf (Technician). As either the Mastermind, Enforcer, Ghost, or Technician, you can do various things to help with the heist, like take hostages, cause distractions, sneak into heavily guarded parts of the location, and so on. Each of them has skill trees that can help out with the job, from providing covering fire to bypassing security systems. All of them also have the potential to grow throughout the game, so there’s investment in picking one over the others.
This motley crew of miscreants do various bank jobs in hopes of earning enough fortune to retire early and kick their feet up in some remote tropical paradise and partake in the hedonistic pleasures that this world has to offer. Of course, they have to get the money first, and it turns out to be a gargantuan task that no one can really plan for. It is said that a plan can’t survive the battlefield, but it’s better to have planned before going to battle than none at all and charging in cold. You’ll get that same sense of tactical challenge in this game as you and your friends come up with various scenarios that no one could have hoped to plan for, but then have to address in some way to get out with the money while still being intact. This is perhaps the closest you can get to reenacting the opening scene in The Dark Knight.
This game isn’t just about getting from point A to B, fetching what needs to be fetched, then taking out whoever gets in the way as you make your getaway. There would be drama courtesy of dynamic events during the whole thing that happens to complicate things, and that can potentially turn what may seem routine into a complete fiasco. For instance, if you don’t disable electronics in the area fast enough, someone can call the cops on you. All the random stuff that can go on makes sure that no two games are exactly the same. They are what make plans go awry in this game, and they work well to punish whoever starts becoming complacent in the game. Unfortunately, some of this randomness is attributed to bugs that may get in the way of gameplay, but not too big as to complete disrupt it.
You really have to play this with other players since the AI partners are just wastes of virtual space that you’ll be frustrated with as you try to save your own hide. But with other human players, you’ll be frustrated with their outright stupidity instead, but at least that’s potentially good stupid fun that you can expect in co-op games. At least you do have skills to play around with for each character, and you then have to synergize with your teammates in order to get the job done. You can gain experience and level up as you play, and the skills that the characters gain later on also bring more tactical options to the table that can change the way you play the game and bring the odds to your favor.
Some may feel that the reward system in the game isn’t to their liking as the proportion between the work put in and what you get may not exactly be fair. But in any case, you still can spend your loot on weapon and equipment upgrades and modifications to do a better job next time. Among all the options you do have, you can only take in a few at your disposal, so you won’t end up with dozens of unlockables that you can just obtain later on. This makes for tough decisions on what will help you out the most on the job, so you have to choose what really is best based on your own needs and previous experience. There are also other customization options, including masks that you can find in heists or even craft yourself to enhance the gameplay experience.
With solid character progression, well-designed gameplay, good degree of unpredictability, and emphasis on team play, Payday 2 is one of the best co-op games you can get your hands on these days. If there really is one fault about this game, it’s that there aren’t a lot of new gameplay features and other extra stuff thrown in to improve upon the first game and to sweeten the deal a bit more. It did add more polish to the original formula, and that’s close enough to not making this a mere carbon copy of Payday: The Heist.
It’s now available for PC and consoles, and it most like have its technical issues ironed out at this point. Take note though that this can only really be worth the money if you have friends to join in on the ride as well, otherwise you have to wait for a sale on it.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8/10