Payday 2 Review

By Darryl Kaye on August 21, 2013

Payday: The Heist released in 2011 and managed to rack up a rather successful amount of sales and a reputation support those sales. When a sequel was announced, it came as no great surprise, apart the news that Sony Online Entertainment were no longer publishing it - that role was handed over to 505 Games. Still, at least Overkill Software are still in charge of development.

Anyone who played the original Payday knows that the story is minimal. In short, you're part of a rather wonderful criminal family who's looking for a nice payday. To gain said payday, you take on contracts that are offered by some nefarious people.

Each contract has its own little sub-story and in the build-up to Payday 2, there was also a web series created. The characters who appeared in this, also appear in the game whenever you're in the planning stages of a mission. It helps to give everything a bit more substance, but it's just basic filler material.

Payday 2 is all about teamwork. Each mission is designed to be tackled by four people and there are four specific roles because of this. Now, that's not to say you need to have a person who's a specialist in each of these fields. In fact, the game has been designed so that you can put skills in whatever tree you want. Each does come with particular benefits if you want to go specifically down one route though.

First-up, there's the Mastermind. This type of individual is all about control. They are able to convert lower-tier police forces to their cause and even convince civilians to come to their aid. When it comes to weapons, Masterminds are geared towards pistols and helping the team as a whole.

Next up is the Enforcer. They're the muscles of the crew and specialise in shotguns. Aside from that, they're also able to wear the most protective armour, but they can also use the OVE-9000 saw - something that's crucial for speeding up certain missions.

The third class is the Technician. They're incredibly useful for speeding up the drilling process and using C4. They can also set up sentry guns, which are nice when trying to cover all your exits.

Ghost is the final class. Their speciality is, as the name implies, not being detected. They're meant to be a stealth-based class, so have technology to blog communications, but they can also pick locks much faster.

Overall, these four classes cover off everything you could possibly want to achieve. However, as you progress through the game the specialisations become much more important if you want to get things done quickly. For example, the Ukranian Job isn't going to be a quick mission if you go in with four Enforcers. However, if you have a high-level Technician, you can be in and out in under 30 seconds.

This time around there are a few more contracts to undertake and the majority of them are rather different. First up, you got the basic contracts like Four Stores, Jewellery Store, Nightclub and Mallcrasher. They're typically quick and easy, but offer quite small rewards because of this. They are also a one-mission job, so there isn't too much riding on it. If you're wanting to set up, you've got Ukrainian Job and Bank Heist. These are still low tier, but are much more serious and the rewards can be huge depending on the speed and difficulty you choose.When you look at the next range of contracts, things get a bit more serious. They no longer involve just one mission and what you achieve in the first part of a contract carries over to the next. Take Watchdogs for example. You're tasked with salvaging a mission that's gone sideways and how much coke you manage to save in the first mission determines how much you can effectively sell off in the second. You've then got other missions such as Big Oil and Framing Frame, which require quite a lot of experience to get right.

To make things even more interesting, there are also Escapes. These can appear during the middle of the harder contracts as a "random encounter", so to speak. In short, your escape didn't go so well and you're tasked with escaping again before you can carry on with the contract.

Even though on paper, it doesn't seem like a lot of missions for a game that thrives on online play, you'd be surprised how much those ten missions can vary. Depending on who you get teamed up with, a mission can take between 30 seconds and 10 minutes. That's part of what makes Payday 2 so appealing. You will rue the day you get paired up with someone who jumps off a balcony to try and make a getaway, but by doing so downs himself and dooms everyone to failure. However, you may also find yourself in a seriously put together crew that just clicks.

Part of this all comes down to the game's different quirks. For example, if you all work as a team, you can control hostages. Doing this will prevent any of them calling the police. However, it can be quite difficult to manage unless you're working as a coordinated outfit. Likewise, all it takes is someone being absent minded to alert the guard who's looking at the security camera monitors.

Finding a decent team is rather hard sometimes though, and there are quite a few problems that arise with the matchmaking. Sometimes you will just find yourself being stuck with AI partners and they're pretty useless. Having human players makes transporting things easier, but the AI just doesn't even bother. It means missions where you have to transport a minimum of 4 bags suddenly become a lot tougher, as instead of having to make one run, you end up having to make two.

Playing with AI increases your chances of being downed, but it will happen a fair amount of the time anyway. Never fear though, because If you get downed you can be revived. However, even if you aren't revived it's not the end of the world unless you're doing a high-risk pro job. In normal missions there's a countdown timer that acts as a respawn, but in all scenarios you can also trade hostages to bring someone back from the brink. This is a solid addition.

The music in Payday 2 is pretty solid. There are quite a few subtle undertones that enable it to make the action much more fast paced and energetic. You don't notice so much when you're in the thick of the action, but if you want to hear how much it changes, just turn off the game'd sound effects, you may well be surprised. When it comes to graphics, everything is pretty decent. There's nothing too ground-breaking, but Payday 2 isn't looking to be at the forefront of that field anyway.The most important graphical element is the ability to customise your mask and that works rather nicely.

It was mentioned earlier about the missions and classes and this is perhaps the only major concern with Payday 2. Is there enough content to keep people coming back. It all depends really. The harder missions can be quite punishing and they probably won't be for everyone. You need a well coordinated team to make them work and if you don't have that, you're kind of stuck doing the easier missions on repeat.

The game does also suit people specialising in classes and respeccing actually consumes quite a lot of money. Obviously as you get more experience money is easier to come by, but still, for a good portion of your early Payday 2 life you need to choose a class and stick to it. If you dump a load of points into a certain spec, or spread yourself too thin, you may find yourself being not that useful in missions and it can be a bit frustrating.

Final Thoughts

Payday 2 is a very solid sequel and in fact, it improves on almost every aspect of the first game. You've got an increased number of contracts and classes and the gameplay melds together rather well. There are some question marks about the game's long-term appeal and how the classes are implemented, but it shouldn't deter you from enjoy what is ultimately a very strong team-based shooter that rewards people for helping.

Strong emphasis on team work, being selfish doesn't help anyone.
Music complements the gameplay superbly.
When you find a team that clicks.
The harder contracts can be rather punishing if you don't have a good team setup.
Realising you might have chosen the wrong character class and you need to re-spec.
When you get stuck playing with the AI.
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