Developer: Overkill Games
Publisher: 505 Games
Platforms: PS3, PC, XBOX 360
Release Date: 08/13/12
Rating: M for Mature
This review is based on the PC version of the game
Masks on. Guns drawn. Imposing in my olive drab bullet-proof armor, I shout a civilian to his knees and zip-tie him. Three others clad in similar gear do the same, quickly clearing out the lobby of the local bank. I help in securing some of the windows with wooden planks. One of us four Robin Hoods sets the thermal drill to work on the bank's vault. And then the alarm trips. Ten minutes later I'm running out of ammo and heaving a bag full of gold. Bullets are slamming me from all directions. I toss the bag into the getaway van and barely escape with two guys. The last dude goes down in the street but we have to leave him, cutting down our take. Oops. Welcome to the controlled criminal chaos that is Payday 2.
As you might have guessed from the title, Payday 2 is all about doing dirty work to get paid big bucks. Jobs can range from small jewelry store heists to multi-day arms thefts and painting set-ups. There are numerous options for every mission, including increased difficulties and the Overkill missions, which can only be attempted once. Fail any single day of the Overkill set and you forfeit experience and the titular Payday.
Mission variety is a little lacking at the moment. There are roughly 8 or 10 separate events, though they repeat frequently and rarely feature major randomized changes. A camera or guard might be in a different spot but this barely changes the experience. Thankfully, the developers at Overkill have promised free and paid expansions to get more mileage out of the experience. I really hope the new content arrives soon as the current rotation of maps and missions does get tiresome. That said, I've already invested about 40 hours or so until the main game. That might tell you something about how much fun I've had robbing banks and cooking meth.
Very few jobs in Payday 2 can be done on your own. For that, you need a dependable crew that constantly communicates and moves as one entity. Short of a miracle, you'll never find a group that can pull off a heist without detection. Inevitably, a civilian outside of a heist site will see a body or someone will call the cops. Fortunately, the four robbers are armed to the teeth. Each player can spend his or her take on new weapons and gun parts, crafting the choice firearm. Unfortunately, ammo is a rarity during jobs so it's important to place shots carefully. Wasting a single bullet can leave you desperate when the Bulldozers and Taser cops flood in.
Payday 2 also has a progression system with perks stretched across four major trees. Prefer stealth over combat? Go with the Ghost tree. Like swaying enemy cops to your cause? Level up with Mastermind. Ultimately, I found a combo of the Ghost and Technician trees to be most useful, but it's all about your crew set-up and your own personal play-style. Some trees will offer special equipment like turrets and door-busting C4. Having players with a special set of equipment can make life convenient when heavily-armored cops approach or a vault has a hidden inner door.
Speaking of police, it's important to note that there are multiple cop types, each with their own abilities and nuances. Bulldozers are the nastiest of the bunch, dressed in bulletproof suits and face shields. SWAT officers are weak but pack a considerable punch in groups. Payday 2 will kill you in whatever way it can, throwing droves of heavily armored and accurate foes at you. It's important to balance your need for speed with the need for protection with body armor, lest a bullet cut you down. Enemies will take downed players into custody, though the aforementioned zip-tied hostages can be exchanged during breaks in cop waves.
Trying to play Payday 2 without human players is futile. You only get two AI partners, neither of whom carry upgraded gear or can pick up mission-critical items. They serve as decent meatshields and that's it. Play online if you don't want to beat your head against a wall. Besides, it's far more enjoyable when you can communicate and alert team-mates to impending dangers and changes in the mission.
As you might expect from a $30-MSRP title, Payday 2 isn't a technical stunner. The visuals, while improved over the original title, aren't terribly beautiful. The effects are also decent at best and inoffensive at worst. It's a clean-looking game, which is useful when you need to focus your attention on enemies. The audio is great and has a pulsing electronic soundtrack. The voice-overs are also better than the average phoned-in performance. Again, it's not going to win Oscars but Payday 2 gets the job done.
Unfortunately, Payday 2 isn't the most bug-free of titles. The UI is also a bit of a mess, making it increasingly aggravating to find jobs you want. Missions only pop up on a timed refresh, meaning you have to wait until it disappears for a new job to pop in. Even then, there's no guarantee you'll get the precise mission you want in a timely fashion. If the UI were a tad cleaner and the frustrating bugs ironed out, Payday 2 would be a marvelous experience. That said, Overkill has already shown fantastic dedication to hot fixes and re-balancing patches. Community is at the heart of this game and community feedback helps to drive the patch fixes.
Despite the UI, bugs and lack of technical achievement, Payday 2 is an absolute must-buy if you're an action junky. It's a game of manic chaos and adrenaline-pumping heists, channeling the inner criminal fantasy. While the mission selection is currently slim, the promised DLC and character customization/progression options more than justify the current price. Payday 2 offers a lot of bang for your buck and will command a lot of your time. Take a bite of the poisoned apple and do yourself a favor - buy Payday 2.
+ Great combat
+ Fun and diverse missions
+ Character progression
+ Lots of weapon customization options
- Not enough missions
- The UI is messy
- A bit buggy from time to time
Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)
Payday 2 is that game, the one that will suck you dry if you get hooked. It's thrilling, addicting and a steal if you take the plunge on this heist.