Late 2011 Payday: The Heist hit the PSN and Steam playgrounds. Developed by Overkill Software, a company founded in 2009 and now owned by Starbreeze Studios, the game centered around 4 players working cooperatively to pull off heists to score the big money. It only had 6 to 9 heists available depending on what platform you were playing on and the game was published by Sony and ultimately not on the Xbox Arcade.
In August, Payday 2 came out and this time was published by 505 Games; a company known for its publication of “Terraria.” Unlike its predecessor, Payday 2 came out in physical form but for a cheap $40. Although it struggled in it’s first week due to communication errors between retailers and the publisher. Eventually we got the game in our hands, we popped it in, and started playing.
The game is very easy to navigate. There aren’t a whole lot of different choices when it comes to the menu. Go online, stay offline or explore your skills, inventory or Safehouse. Choosing this option or just jumping in on first boot up will bring you into a unusual kind of tutorial. You are dropped into a random street with a voice talking to you. The voice directs you into a building and asks you to do simple things, teaching you some of the basic controls. Eventually you are brought into the actual fortification. While there, you can look at numerous cool, but meaningless, features. You can practice opening doors but really once you do one or two, you’ve done them all. Go take a look at your safe, which is a plain room to start that shows your balance in the offshore accounts. A showcase room is where all your weapons and custom mask are stored, hanging up on the walls. Although it is difficult to obtain masks and becomes a very expensive aesthetic, being able to show off your collection is a plus. You can tune up your shooting at the built in range, which is actually helpful after buying a new weapon and/or mods. Lastly, from the Safehouse you can go into Crime.net; your hub for all missions.
Crime.net is your go-to screen to start a mission. Online, missions will appear all over the map and will range in difficulty based on those who are hosting said mission. Along with these missions, missions, similar in appearance to the ones shown above, will also appear; allowing you to host your own game and either playing publicly or privately with friends allowing the option of drop in. A feature that is geared to those who love a serious challenge, is the red highlighted missions labeled “Pro Job” (seen lower right above). These are missions that have an increased difficulty and are available at random. If you attempt and fail, you will not be allowed to restart. If you manage to pass and complete the heist, the pay and rewards will reflect the difficulty. All of this is accessible if playing offline, but you can not have any of your friends drop into a game. One improvement made is visible in the number of heists available. With 12 missions total, each with four difficulty settings and some Pro Jobs, there is more than enough to choose from although not all are available from the beginning. Also, small variables in the missions will change if you are playing the same one over and over again; an extra or missing guard or safe or even a blocked alley way. After each mission you receive money and XP based on completion and then you’re given a choice of three cards which then reveal a mod, mask or color scheme/pattern that you now just unlocked and with 25+ weapons to choose from, there is always a need for more mods.
With every level you gain a skill point that can be spent in one of four trees; Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician, or Ghost. Each tree specializes in certain aspects of the game and 1 point in any of them gives you a deploy-able item; medic pack, ammo bag, trip mine or ECM jammer. Although you can only take one kind of deploy-able item per heist, you’re still allowed to branch into different trees to allow for full customization (one technician won’t be like another). With each level of the tree you go up, a new tier bonus is unlocked. These will range from, bullet dodging to faster weapon swapping. Each skill has two levels to them, basic and “aced.” Aced costs more points and money and require that you have previously purchased the basic but give better benefits. Overall the system is well implemented and offers combinations that will differ from your friends but will still be found useful.
Crime.net is a great layout to this missions but there are a few problems. First is not so much as a problem but just a missing part; the story line. For most missions it’s either ignored, confusing, or pretty much absent. Luckily, it doesn’t affect the game to any extent. Another negative thing is the rate that you level up and gain cash. It is painstakingly slow and has no added benefit because of the third negative thing. Yes you unlock more and more great mods and slick masks as you complete the same mission repeatedly; but you still need to buy said mod or color the mask. In the beginning, making it out with 15k is a great round but you quickly find that it takes you 6 to 8 more times to purchase something that will better your combative abilities. It becomes increasingly more frustrating as you gain levels and the weapons and skills keep costing more. Although there are boosting methods out there that are mildly effective which will allow you to gain money and XP simply. Lastly, and possibly the biggest atrocity, is the AI. If you have played this game, you already know that the computer is good for hardly anything. They will SOMETIMES help you up if you are downed, but most of the time they just stand there or get in your way. They can not help progress the mission in any shape or form, including starting/restarting drills, carrying bags, tying up civilians, calming a crowd, answering pagers among other things. This renders playing offline almost obsolete because most heists need three or four things down in succession.
The gameplay itself is very solid but has some glitches. Such as cops jumping through walls or cars or your player getting stuck walking through a doorway. But the shooting is simple enough, like any other FPS, and when downed, you’re able to shoot with your secondary. This is extremely important when playing with bots, who just run around anyways.
Overall the game has some great points such as high replay-ability, fun co-op, a cheap price tag, many weapons, creative skill trees and deep customization. Although has some minor negatives like a plain/absent story and slow progression. The deal breaker with Payday 2, is the lack of a competent AI. It’s a great game if you can convince two or three friends to go out and buy it too. Luckily with a $40 price tag, it may be easier than completing a mission with the bots!