Payday 2 – PS3
Platform: PlayStation 3 (PSN)
Developer: Overkill Software
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Nerd Rating: 7.5/10
Reviewed by Ali
Payday 2 is a one of those rare video games where your gaming experience is entirely related to the way you play the game. In fact the only way to properly review Payday 2 is to play it the way it was meant to be played, with friends. Unfortunately I don’t have any friends so I had to make due with complete strangers on the internet. What followed were some of the most fun and interesting experiences I’ve had with multiplayer gaming. Grab a mask and join the heist in Payday 2.
You’re part of a 4 man team and play as either Dallas, Hoxton, Chains, or Wolf. The only differences are in personality and mask, nothing that actually effects gameplay. Jobs and contracts are given to your team by a shadowy boss figure named Bain. There are only around 10 different jobs/contracts to accept, but each job can be altered for difficulty resulting in more money and XP. When I first started I only played the default settings to get a better understanding of what the jobs were, but as I progressed I found myself choosing higher difficulties to reap the rewards and ultimately the rewards are the most satisfying part of Payday 2.
That’s right, just like if you were to do a real heist the payday is the best part, minus the cool clothes and cold empty attitude you have towards life, this of course based solely off my knowledge from Michael Mann films. After a job and congratulations from Bain, you get money, XP, and an attempt at an unlockable item done through a “pick a card” game. This “pick a card” lottery can win you extra money, XP, or cool masks. But most importantly, the chance to unlock certain weapon mods. Unfortunately if you have my luck you’ll never get the weapons attachments you want. Ever.
Using XP to build your character is the most satisfying aspect of Payday 2. You can become any type of criminal you want. You can become an enforcer and shoot your way out of any situation. You can become a ghost to get in and out without the police ever knowing. The amount of upgradable abilities is overwhelming. When I first started playing I chose to become a technician. My goal was to become a C4 explosives expert. So I played day and night trying to obtain enough XP to get the C4 ability perk. When I finally did it was such a satisfying experience. Complete strangers on the internet were actually glad to have me on their team. “Hey C4 guy, come blow open this safe over here!” It felt good to be wanted.
It wasn’t until I joined an expert team of criminals that I knew I was just an amateur thief. I was the Hamburgler. I was too Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon when I should have been more Vivica A. Fox in Set it Off. They were taking out cell phones with ECM jammers, forcing civilians to get down from 20 feet away, and opening safety deposit boxes with circular saws. When the job was done I ended up collecting the most XP and money I had ever obtained on a contract. I was working with pros and I was completely out of my element. So I went back to the old drawing board and respec’d my skill tree. Pretty soon I was the mastermind of the crew. I was the one shouting out commands and telling the C4 guy to blow open safes. But that’s the great thing about Payday 2, you can play it any way you like.
The jobs themselves range from your classic bank robbery and jewel heists to more elaborate jobs like cooking meth, trading it to street gangs for information, and using that information to defuse a bus full of C4 explosives and steal the cash inside. Some missions require you to have previous knowledge of how to complete certain tasks. One mission had us searching for a certain fusion engine in a basement full of similar engines, but picking the correct one requires you to know what you’re doing or the job will take a lot longer than it should. Each job can be altered in difficulty for bigger rewards, but this means tougher enemies, enemies like Taser Cops who can incapacitate you easily and the Bulldozer, a special police unit with extremely heavy armor. It can be risky to set the difficulty too high considering you get nothing if you fail, but the higher the risk the higher the reward. The amount of depth in each contract is fantastic, though not obvious at first. There are many different ways to complete a mission and it all relates to how you and your crew decide to play the game.
The sound design in Payday 2 is a real highlight. Bullets whizzing by and weapons fire sound authentic and make you feel like you’re Val Kilmer in the movie Heat. The music changes pace when there’s a rush of enemies and sound cues help you identify certain situations like tasers or security cameras spotting you. The graphics are decent enough, but nothing spectacular. The civilian animations are stiff and unnatural, but the police tactical unit animations are much more realistic and lifelike. Enemy AI do a good enough job in engaging you, but the sheer number of enemy waves is the real challenge. If you’re playing single player you’ll have an extremely difficult time in completing jobs on your own. Your bot team doesn’t help you carry bags, they don’t drop ammo or interact with mission objectives that are essential in most jobs, so forget the single player experience unless you just want to grind for quick cash and XP. This is an online multiplayer game and that’s the way it should be played.
The PS3 version I played did have its issues. Payday 2 froze several times during my time playing online. Talking to other online players they had the same issue where they or a host was kicked sending them back to the main menu. It can be frustrating, but be prepared for it. The biggest downside of Payday 2 is the presentation. Aside from a few short live action clips that play during your mission descriptions, there’s really no story to draw you into the game or to care about any of the characters. I’m not saying that it’s all that important in this type of online multiplayer game, but the story and characters were a significant part of the movie Heat which this game clearly takes its inspiration from. In Payday 2 you just pick your job from the central hub called Crime.net and that’s it. Even the safe house is completely useless and serves no real purpose. One of the live action actors in the game I recognized was Bokeem Woodbine from the 1998 classic The Big Hit. Either he’s fallen off the celebrity grade list so far that he’s doing 5 seconds snippets in video games now or he was hired for a bigger role in the story that was cut from the final release of the game. After a little research (Google) I found out there’s actually a Payday 2 web series that the clips were taken from. Why not include some of that in the game? In any case I hope they incorporate more of a central story in any future installments.
In the end Payday 2 is one of the best online co-op games I’ve played in a long time. It’s fun, addictive, and intense. There’s a large enough variety of weapons to use and the amount of customization of masks is endless. This game is free for PlayStation Plus members and a recommended download for anyone looking for an action-packed, real-world, online co-op experience. But you have to treat Payday 2 as if you’re planning a real heist. You pick the right team and the right tools for the right job. Who said crime doesn’t pay?
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