The original Payday was a strangely compelling game. It came out of what seemed like nowhere, had low budget vibes and felt more like a cooperative king of the hill than a game with a lot of variety to its missions. Luckily, the sequel turns a mundane, but promising, idea into what it should have been originally — albeit with some flaws.
Payday 2 is a cooperative heist game. Players choose from crime.net mission contracts, otherwise known as open servers, they would like to pick up. There is then a short amount of time to be briefed on the mission, observe teammates loadouts and coordinate with the team in some way. Typically, the hardest part of the game is coordinating with teammates. A majority of the players don’t seem to have microphones and there is always one person who ignores what little text is sent to other players. This is a big problem as considering it’s a game purely focused on cooperation, people not cooperating to their fullest is a bit of a bummer. When playing, I was discouraged as the game had a similar problem as the last one, where it was impossible to pull off a heist without the game turning into a horde mode. But that only turned out to be the case when players don’t coordinate properly.
After being discouraged by no one coordinating together in public games, I joined in with a couple of people in Teamspeak and tried my luck. What a different experience. Some levels that would take 15 minutes to complete would only take a mere 45 seconds. Unfortunately, the public seems to be unable to figure out stealth or the concept of keeping the crowd in check. That’s the most unfortunate part about the game. Unless you find a group of friends to play with, the gaming experience is mediocre. The shooting feels fine and the leveling up system is interesting enough, but the thrill of the game is from yelling at friends to restart the vault drill or that there is a civilian getting suspicious of the crew’s activity. The public doesn’t respond that way. Sure there might be a lobby where a player might find a group of people willing to work and plan out each mission, but it seems highly unlikely.
What’s worse is the single player aspect of the game is terrible. Team AI is painstakingly dumb and almost makes one wonder why the option to play solo was even added to the game. It should be emphasized on the sale window that the game experience is drastically diminished if not played with an internet connection or friends. It really is that important. One other downside of the game is the graphics. Between basic shapes, low textures and stiff character animations, visually it seems very similar to early Xbox 360 games. Normally I would feel bad knocking this, but the game doesn’t even have that great of an art style to go with it. In game, everything just looks blah. The prettiest part of the game is the menus, which plays oddly looped video footage of a grumpy man chewing gum, but navigation is at least aesthetically pleasing.
At least the sound design makes up for the lack of eye candy. Gun shot sounds are fine tuned to sound realistic depending on the environment they are fired in. The voice acting is solid and the music is well done. Sure some people might call it generic rock and electronic music, but hearing that pump as a heist turns from bad to worse always gets the adrenaline going.
While it may seem like I’m down on the game, nothing could be further from the truth. Actually besides those little quips, it’s actually a well designed game. All of the missions have a lot of variety in them and pulling off a proper heist is oh so satisfying. The online games are lag free given a good host and the leveling up and gun collecting are refreshingly free of any sort of microtransactions. Lots of great features are packed into the game and at only $30, it’s also pretty great deal.
Payday 2 is everything a sequel to a mediocre game should be. While there is still room for the franchise to grow, this is both an entertaining and affordable cooperative shooter. As long as potential buyers know that this is a game best played with friends, they should have a great time. Just make sure they won’t go running ahead setting off any of the security cameras. Jerks.
Version Reviewed: PC