PAYDAY 2 was a much anticipated cooperative game among PC gamers. The first one got quite a bit of attention, but is often said to be nothing really special or innovative. Overkill Software was set on changing that, by taking the game to a whole new level. Their goal was to make a very tactical and strategic 4-player co-op game that stands out from the rest of them. PAYDAY 2’s video showcases were indeed very impressive, so let’s see if this game truly delivers.
PAYDAY 2 is available on Steam and uses Steamworks, so no matter what you need a Steam account to play it. Every PC gamer should have one anyway. It’s also available on consoles.
This is purely a goal-oriented co-op game. Although it can be played in single player, it’s highly discouraged. Public multiplayer is also discouraged: unlike most other multiplayer games, PAYDAY 2 requires an immense amount of planning to showcase the game’s distinctiveness, and often just to succeed at all. Therefore, private co-op is the best way to play this game by far. I personally don’t find anything else to be acceptable. Get some friends to play this game with, and make sure they have an attention span that isn’t paper thin.
You take on the role of one of four career criminals: Wolf, Dallas, Hoxton, or Chains. You also get to choose one of four classes, which are done RPG-style. Also like an RPG, the player has an overall level that increases as you earn XP by completing missions, or heists. Each class has unique skills and a unique leveling tree. The classes are:
- Mastermind: Self-explanatory, the mastermind is the brains behind your operations. They get basic buffs for the team, and are more charismatic: with the proper skills, civilians seem to exhibit Stockholm Syndrome and they may revive you. You can also intimidate guards and police officers, once you get the appropriate skill, they get more cable ties for tying down civilians, a medic bag, more persuasive bluffing responses, and more.
- Enforcer: They specialize in weaponry and combat. But here’s a tip, you’ll want to avoid combat situations in this game.
- Technician: A useful class, these people work better with lockpicking and other similar skills, plus they can carry unique items such as sentry guns and trip-mines.
- Ghost: This class specializes in stealth, which becomes very useful once leveled up. They can do things like jam cameras, hide bodies, and much more.
The result of having four distinct and balanced classes is synergy. All four players need to accept and understand their role, and play the game appropriately. This will greatly enhance your success rate.
Your goal in PAYDAY 2 changes for every heist, or mission. There are 12 heists at the moment, with DLC to add more in the future. Some heists are normal, single missions, while there are longer multi-day heists in which the payday accumulates throughout each one, and your actions from previous ones affect the next ones.
However, to add replay value and complexity, each heist has many variations to it. These variations include things like having police officers roaming the area, or sometimes they don’t spawn. Sometimes a bank vault is in one location, sometimes it’s in another. Sometimes there’s a security camera in one location, sometimes it’s somewhere else or gone entirely. Security guards will also have different patrol routes in these variations, pretty much every variable will be different, so your approach will change when revisiting a heist.
When starting the game, you should first visit your safe room as shown above. It will show a basic rundown of how the game works, and teach you the basic mechanics. Let the video do the talking.
You and your crew are career criminals. You are to take different kinds of jobs, or heists, which serve as the mission. Once you complete a heist, you collect your money to buy things like new skills when leveling up, new masks, mask decorations, new weapons, weapon mods, etc. The game has huge emphasis on unlocking these things, much like many modern multiplayer shooters. There are lots of different weapons and weapon attachments, as well as a nearly unlimited amount of ways to decorate your unique mask. This is supposed to make you and your character feel unique.
Heists vary from things like bank robbery, to robbing one or several stores at once, to petty vandalism, to protecting and transporting drugs, and much, much more. You’re basically living the life of a criminal. What you see above is a financially successful heist, and also my first heist in the full game. Though I don’t consider it to be a huge success, since it got violent.
PAYDAY 2 has huge emphasis on stealth and remaining undetected. It wants to be more authentic: picture a bank robbery in real life. The last thing the robbers want is people calling the police or hitting silent alarms, because the result is a firefight, and you’ll be brutally outnumbered as seen above.
You begin most heists in disguise as a normal civilian. This is called casing mode. You can’t do anything suspicious until you put your mask on, which also makes you equip your gun permanently. Here’s where I have a few minor complaints; some heists require a large thermal drill to be used in order to break into a vault. This is in a concealed bag, but you can’t pick up this bag without putting on your mask and breaking your disguise. You also can’t take your mask back off: what if the heist is perfect, and all you have to do now is transport the bags to the car? Ever seen Heat? Those guys took their masks off to bring the bags to the car, you should be able to do the same here.
To avoid combat situations, you’ll want to sneak into your target location, and if anyone sees you, tie them up in a corner or silently kill them. If a group of civilians see you, one person can keep them under control, telling them to keep their heads down, while someone else steals whatever it is you’re stealing, or breaking into a safe or vault.
Remember, there are four people with unique roles: use this to your advantage. The Ghost should sneak into your target area, while disabling cameras or hiding any dead bodies. The Mastermind should take hostages and keep them under control. The Technician should pick locks, or break into safes/vaults. The Enforcer’s presence won’t truly be felt until a combat situation… sometimes he won’t even be needed. If you ever have to incapacitate or kill a guard, be sure to answer their radio and bluff a response to ensure everything is normal.
Some heists cannot be done silently. For these, you’ll want to wear heavy armor and heavier weaponry. Here’s an example of such a heist, in which the goal was to cause at least $15,000 in damages in a local mall.
But most heists can be done without alerting the authorities. You’ll want to wear concealed or no armor for these, and these of course require the most planning and most skill. They’re also the most intense. Here’s an example of a perfect heist.
Stealth-oriented heists can also be frustrating, since if one person screws up and is spotted by a camera, civilian, security guard, or police officer, then one of them might ring an alarm, call the police, or call for reinforcements. This results in a shootout. Police will approach the area; if you have tied down hostages, and don’t kill too many cops, this delays the inevitable police assault. But eventually the assault does happen, and cops or SWAT units will storm your location looking to kill you and free hostages. Unfortunately, the game isn’t very realistic in this regard. You can have a bunch of hostages tied down, but cops will still swarm in eventually. You also can’t take hostages with you.
The game appears to be somewhat glitchy too: rarely, an alarm will go off for no reason, soiling your heist if stealth was your plan. It is extremely difficult to do a heist undetected, especially on harder difficulties. Stealth is not nearly as effective as Deus Ex, Dishonored, or Metro: Last Light. If a hair of yours is sticking out behind cover, you’ll be spotted and you’d have about five seconds to get out of sight or else they call for help and police swarm the area.
It is possible to just go in guns blazing, even on stealth-oriented heists. On normal difficulty and lower, this is easy. You’ll be able to survive the waves of cops with no issues, if you’re decent at shooting things. But on harder difficulties, this is extremely difficult since police will call in heavier, armored units that are very hard to kill. There will also be more police assaults, longer police assaults, and you’ll be running out of ammo in no-time. Unlike most modern games, PAYDAY 2 isn’t a modern shoot-em-up. You don’t want to go down this route.
These heists can do down in a million different ways, and can also result in different payouts. If the heist fails, then you earn nothing except a minuscule amount of experience points, which add to your current level, but you’ll also lose a small amount of money. Every heist has a bare minimum requirement: looking at one of the above videos as an example, we had to steal at least eight bags of jewelry. But we went a step further and cleaned the place out, earning even more money.
Don’t let the game fool you: the Offshore bank account can’t be touched. You can’t take that money.
If you’re shot and your health is fully depleted, you’re incapacitated: immobile, lying down on your back, dying but still able to fire your sidearm. Any team member can revive you, but if you go down three times, or if you’re incapacitated for too long, then you’re arrested. If all team members are down or arrested, the heist fails. Though if only 1-3 people are arrested, your group leader, Bain, will negotiate with the police and have you released. Amusingly enough, this “release” just revives you basically, and you’re back to killing cops with your scumbag buddies.
There are so many elements to gameplay in PAYDAY 2, and most of them work like a charm. Aside from the occasional problem of being alerted for no good reason, gameplay is amazing. Shooter mechanics are very good, recoil simulation is well above average and shooting guns is both punchy and satisfying.
It would be nice if we were given even more options, like taking hostages with us, and if police assaults were more realistic. Cops wouldn’t swarm a place if you have a bunch of hostages. Unfortunately killing hostages doesn’t make the cops back off either, though it does result in a big cut from your pay. Again, killing is discouraged for most heists. Killing less people and playing smarter will make your life easier.
Audio & Visuals
PAYDAY 2 doesn’t try to be a graphics marvel. It looks a bit dated overall, in pretty much every way. It also has no in-game anti-aliasing option, but it works very well with sparse grid supersampling so I can’t complain.
Depth of field is overused to the point where it’s unrealistic, specifically when aiming down weapon sights. There’s not much to say about the graphics, it’s mediocre. It isn’t a tech demo, if you’re one of the many who play games primarily for graphics (not sure how this works) then you’ll be disappointed.
Heck, the HUD covers up the lack of graphics detail. I find it to be too large and intrusive, as useful as it is. Sound effects are great though, gunshots are very similar to that of Battlefield 3. It also sports dynamic music, which indicates whether or not you’re alerted, or whether or not a police assault has started (though there are also screen warnings for this).
PAYDAY 2 is currently the strongest candidate for our Best Multiplayer of the Year award, ranking higher than Rising Storm, and the only other foreseeable contender is ArmA 3. The developers wanted to make an innovative game, and they certainly did. It’s one of the most strategic co-op games out there, heavy planning goes a long way. But it’s also strategic in a very different way than any other. PAYDAY 2 is one of few stand-out multiplayer games of all time. It’s lovely to find something that isn’t a mindless casual shooter, and PAYDAY 2 is just that.
The scoring system used will be a slightly different one, used for multiplayer-only games that don’t have a campaign at all.
For a breakdown of our scoring system and how it works, look here.
- Presentation: Like a proper PC game, PAYDAY 2 has lots of options such as crosshair options, field of view slider, and much more. 20/20
- Gameplay: It’s innovative and strategic. It has RPG elements for different playstyles, and it isn’t a watered down casual game like most others. There’s a ton of gameplay diversity, it encourages teamwork unlike 99% of the multiplayer games out there, and it’s very challenging on harder difficulty modes. There is room for a few improvements though; the police is too aggressive for a hostage situation, and stealth is buggy which can cause police to be alerted for no reason. Casing mode could be improved slightly; you should be able to pick up bags while in casing mode, and you should be able to re-enter casing mode if authorities aren’t alerted. 18/20
- Audio: The sounds of gunfire, bullets striking various surfaces, glass breaking, and more are replicated quite well. Sound effects work in this game’s favor, and the dynamic soundtrack fits well too. 19/20
- Visuals: Graphics quality is mediocre. It isn’t particularly good or bad looking, so I’ll just leave it at that. 15/20
- Lasting Appeal: Four classes and playstyles, an RPG-like leveling system, lots of content with free DLC being added all the time, each mission can play out in a multitude of ways, and the non-repetitive gameplay style make PAYDAY 2 one of the longest lasting multiplayer games to date. 19/20
- Total: 91/100 (Greatness)
Some of us here at GND play this game, and other quality PC multiplayer games privately. We’re always up for some ArmA 3, PAYDAY 2, No More Room in Hell, Killing Floor, and Natural Selection 2. No immature crying children, and we play with strategy. If you’d like this kind of mature gaming, register and post in the forums.