The original Payday: The Heist was a keenly welcomed but ultimately disappointing videogame. Presenting the simulation of bank robberies but often failing to differentiate this from other more generalised first-person shooter experiences. Payday 2 however, rectifies this though a thorough revision of both the in-game and external design, leading to a more captivating, believable co-operative heist experience.
Before even starting the videogame – with no background information or details on how the videogame will play – the player is asked if they wish to visit the safe house. There’s no context on what this could possibly mean or result in, but the player is wise to do so as it’s from safe house that the players learns every from where the story left off to how to put on your mask to . Sadly doing so immediately throws the poison of invisible walls at the player. The reasons for doing so are plain to see but it’s odd that the developers simply didn’t rearrange the introduction or simple start the player inside the safe house on order to totally avoid committing a crime against videogame design before the player conducted any virtual lawbreaking of their own.
Once beyond the tutorial the videogame offers two variations of the core gameplay mode, Crime.Net and Crime.Net Offline. Positioned in that order, it’s clear that Payday 2 was never intended to be a single-player experience. This is about co-operative gameplay between likeminded players from start to finish: play well as a team and you’ll be rewarded far more significantly. Which is a good thing really, as playing by yourself is a monotonous and often tedious experience.
Payday 2 feature a storyline that, while interesting in places, the videogame would arguably be just as strong without it. Simply setting the player about numerous different tasks conceived as part of the criminal gang. You’re no diamond thief and certainly not the most respected of your private club and so you start small, a remuneration for your employer’s lack of protection money or a jewellery store robbery, but work hard and you’ll make new contacts, slowly climbing up the criminality ladder. With this is mind, it’s best to bring along your friends not just so you’ve got another mind to share the burden, but also because the artificial intelligence of your teammates is woeful.
The player will set about tasks such as drilling into safes and planting explosives, though the random nature of Payday 2’s design will often see such activities fail. This is a great idea when it calls a player away from their current engagement and the team decides who should take the risk, but in single-player your teammates aren’t intelligent enough to even notice that you’re drilling, let alone attempt to split from the pack unnoticed by the encroaching law officers and restart a jammed drill. The player is responsible for literally everything, and though the videogame’s combat is decidedly easier for it, it’s undeniably better to have working hands on side rather than simple moving gun turrets.
When playing the true Crime.Net everything falls into place. You’d still be best advised to play with friends and progress steadily together but it is wholly possible to set up an open lobby and play with others of any level. You can play missions you haven’t reached previously or offer such an opportunity to others. Highlighting your progress thus far is your player level, increasing after each successful mission by way of the experience earned within. Players will move through levels and unlock skill points along the way, allowing them to customise their character with a variety of special abilities and bonuses from four different trees. The videogame is designed in such a way that the player will never be able to earn every skill, and as such it’s better to choose a specialisation early on and stick with that; while having your friends take a different path, of course.
Having a group of friends of similar ability play Payday 2 seriously is a genuine thrill. Close in it’s enjoyment to that of an intentionally challenging run through of a chapter on Left 4 Dead, Payday 2 gives the players all the tools they need to engage in virtual subterfuge and become a skilled villain. It’s most certainly flawed, but any player invested in new experiences will overlook this is light of the significant advancements made since the first title and the potential that OVERKILL could possibly reach with subsequent releases.
The visual quality of Payday 2 is undoubtedly one of the issues that will be raised more often than not. Low resolution textures and regular drops in framerate; originally intended to be delivered as a digital title, Payday 2 bares all the hallmarks of a videogame that had been intentionally limited in its graphical prowess to make room for it’s staggeringly huge range of weapons, modifications and masks: further aspects of customisation that will become integral to each player’s personal progression designs.
A hugely expansive videogame that does a good job of presenting a virtual heist with enough room for win-or-fail to be determined by poor judgement rather than poor players, Payday 2 is most certainly a very enjoyable videogame experience. It’s never going to rival the likes of Call of Duty or Battlefield in the tail end of the year but it most certainly will find a welcoming audience in this open summer season. And what’s more, it’s unlikely that any of them will begrudge Payday 2’s move from digital to retail, as in the shift it’s become a much deeper experience. Value for money is often a key issue these days, and Payday 2 packs it in spades.