Developer: Overkill Software
Publisher: 505 Games
Platform: Windows (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: 13 August 2013
Price: $29.99 (Windows)/ $39.99 (Consoles) – Available for Windows PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
PayDay 2 is the follow up to the 2011 co-op shooter PayDay: The Heist. Though it retains the heist theme from the original game, PayDay 2 is a completely new evolution that took the heist theme from the first game and turned it into a crime simulator.
The story in PayDay 2 is a little vague. Bain returns from PayDay: The Heist as the man behind the scenes. He has set up Crime.NET to provide heist crews an easy access to jobs. The PayDay crew returns from the first game mostly intact. All the same codenames and masks have are back for the exception of Hoxton. Gone is the British accented thief as Dallas’ younger brother now dons Hoxton’s mask. The developers have written up a small back-story for each character that can be read in game.
To get a better handle on the overall plot in PayDay 2, players will need to watch the live action series on YouTube. Clips from the videos themselves are prominently displayed as part of the background in the preparation and stats screens in each round. Characters like Vlad the Ukranian mobster, Hector the Columbian cartel boss, and the corrupt politician known as The Elephant will provide the PayDay crew with most of their jobs. Those characters are fleshed out in the YouTube series. Unfortunately, the videos themselves cannot be found in-game and there are no links to the videos either. Only curious players who look through YouTube will find the videos.
Within the game, the developers prefer to focus on the story surrounding each heist. They range from simple stories like the local bank receiving a large deposit to complex multi-day capers that involve framing a rival politician through his love for expensive art. The plots are straight forward like a good heist film. Overkill Software has created a gritty version of Washington D.C. full of corruption, crime, and drugs.
A lot of the terribly cheesy lines uttered by police in PayDay: The Heist return in PayDay 2 and new lines take the exaggeration a little further. The campiness is a hit and miss. There are some tense moments that feel ruined when the police yell something utterly ridiculous.
PayDay 2 is a co-op first person shooter through and through. The single player experience is exactly the same as the multiplayer experience. If the player does not have friends to play with, they can opt to take along the rather stupid bots or play in public matches. Crime.NET makes it extremely easy to find multiplayer matches. Gamers are presented with a map of Washington D.C. and random jobs will start popping up. Players can start filtering by location, if friends are playing, and jobs that will allow them to host the game. The game will also pick out a random set of jobs they can host. To find different jobs, they player needs to reset the pool by completing another job or restarting the game. The system is supposed to provide a feeling of immersion, but is actually rather frustrating in execution. In later levels, only Overkill difficulty heists are actually profitable in experience and money. The problem is a lot of time is wasted sitting around waiting for these Overkill difficulty jobs to appear on the map. The idea that only certain heists are available at one time is a fun idea, however it would be better if players could choose the difficulty level themselves.
The heists themselves are dynamic beings. Although the goals are the same each time, the levels are generated differently each playthrough. Camera placements, guard strength, civilians population, and objective locations will differ each time the level is played. Although studying the blueprints in the beginning of the game will provide a rough idea of the level, players really never know what they are getting into. The game does encourage players to “case the joint” and gather intelligence before pulling on the masks and starting the heist in earnest.
The game’s level design is very good. Players are given plenty of options on how they want to approach a heist. Certain levels benefit from the stealthy touch while others are best done with violence of action. For more difficult heists, players can spend money earned in previous jobs to buy certain bonuses like better intelligence or access to extra ammunition in the level. Several heists are multi-day operations that require several different levels to complete. Failing an objective may not actually end a level, but rather change the objectives for the next day. Randomly, things can go wrong and suddenly the player is thrust in an extra escape level that tend to be extremely difficult. This provides a level of unpredictably that is just good fun. My only complaint with the level design is that some levels are rehashed. For example, the Jewelry Store and the Ukrainian Job are the same level with some minor adjustments.
There is an extensive amount of customization options available to the players in PayDay 2. Gameplay wise, players are able to purchase guns from a large armoury of weapons. After successfully completing a heist, players are given a “pay day” where they can select one of three playing cards. They will then be randomly awarded a weapon mod, a mask customization item, or bonus money. The weapon mods modify the gun’s stats which provides tons of opportunity for the player to create the perfect weapon to suit their play style. There are tons of weapon mods to collect and attach to the player’s gun. It seems that the only thing Overkill forgot about was the coffee maker.
There are four stat trees players can specialize in to further customize their character. They work like traditional RPG talent trees. Players can pick from the Mastermind tree, which specializes in taking control of the situation and buffing teammates; the Enforcer tree, which can soak incredible amounts of damage and send a hail of bullets at the enemy; the Technician tree, which provide a sentry gun and C4 to break open stubborn doors and safes quickly; and the new Ghost tree, which provides tools for stealth. Talents cost money and skill points that are earned from leveling up. Currently, the game caps out at level 100, which means no player can purchase all of the available skills. Like any good RPG, the most successful parties will have teams of players with specs that synergize well. Skill trees can be respecced, which refunds the skill points spent in the specific tree and some of the money invested in purchasing the skills.
Currently, the game is pretty well balanced. There are definitely certain weapons and skills that could be tweaked slightly. However, the guns handle noticeably different without being too overpowered and no skill tree completely dominates the other. Teams will need to be well balanced to be successful.
The mask customization is a purely cosmetic addition that give players plenty of options to express their creativity. The base masks are a rare drop that can be modified with a variety of materials, colours, and decals. The customization options range from fearsome to plain silly.
PayDay 2’s controls are classic FPS fare. They work well and PC gamers will be able to use either the Xbox 360 controller or the keyboard and mouse combo. The default keys should suit almost all gamers. The controls were very responsive for the most part, however intimidating civilians can be a little rocky at times.
The UI is well designed for co-op gameplay. Important things like special enemies, fellow players, and important objects are highlighted with a coloured outline that is visible no matter where the player is. The status of teammates can be easily found with a quick glance to the bottom of the screen. I really appreciated the fact that players can see the progress of their teammates actions, which prevents multiple players completing the same action at the same time.
PayDay 2’s release is not without problems. There are some bugs of varying severity that were not stomped out during the beta. Some of the larger problems include van doors not always opening in the level Bank Heist which result in significantly less money earned and alarms going off when two players attempt to answer the same pager and both players do not complete the prompt. I personally did not encounter any game breaking errors, but the first day of release was met with some initial rockiness that seems to have settled down.
PayDay 2 looks great and is not too taxing on computer systems. There are some minor visual glitches in some level at close inspection that need to be ironed out. PC gamers will be happy to hear that the PC version has some decent customization options, including the often demanded Field of View slider.
PayDay 2 sports some decent voice acting. Many voice actors have reprised their roles. The sound effects are enjoyable. My only complaint about the audio is that by default it seems to be extremely loud. This probably will not be a problem for console gamers, but for PC gamers, this can be frustrating. This is the first game that I had to turn down the master volume just to hear people talking using their microphones.
For $29.99 on Windows and $39.99 on consoles, PayDay 2 is a boatload of affordable fun. There is enough content and replay value to keep gamers going for hours on end. Single player gamers probably will find some challenge in attempting solo runs of certain heist, but this is a game best enjoyed with friends or players willing to cooperate. For fans of co-op games, PayDay 2 is a no brainer as players will walk out with epic stories to recount. Even when heists go horribly wrong, the game manages to be entertaining. The initial launch has been a little rocky and Crime.NET will become frustrating to higher level players, but PayDay 2 is still worth a purchase.
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