Today we’re reviewing Payday 2 by Overkill, a game about committing major heists with your fellow players. You’ll rob stores, nightclubs, art galleries and others in the pursuit of cold hard cash. You’ll start with a basic rifle, pistol, and two-piece suit, slowly working your way up to wearing full body armor, setting down sentry guns, and helping teammates back up just by yelling in their general direction.
Payday 2 is obviously drawing from Left 4 Dead in many aspects, but they take it in a new and interesting direction. Instead of simply moving from point A to point B, players have to defend locations in the map as they secure loot from their target, then carry it to an escape vehicle. The bag-throwing does get a little old, and I’m not entirely convinced it’s necessary, seeing as the first game got by without it. At least it helps you realize just how much stuff you’re stealing.
For me personally, the big draw of this game is the combat. It has a system of regenerating armor and static health, which encourages attacking quickly then pulling back into cover. Additionally, once the gang has been detected, police will launch an assault every so often, trying to overwhelm you with sheer numbers. This isn’t Call of Duty, where you kill a few guys from behind cover, move up to the next piece, and repeat. This is “Hold the trigger down as more cops than you would find in a small country to try to charge down your throat.”
This is combined with a very enjoyable weapon and skill customization system. The skills are split between 4 major categories (Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician, and Ghost), and it’s impossible to take every skill, so players have to either specialize and be the best possible ____, or go for a more balanced approach that gives them the flexibility to handle any heist they might encounter.
The weapons have a ridiculous number of available parts, though most of them fall into “Makes the gun stronger, but harder to conceal” or accomplishing the opposite. My only complaint here is that most weapon mods are just randomly awarded at the end of missions. So I’ve got 5 copies of a part I don’t use anyway, while I’m still waiting for a proper stock to put on the same weapon. Some of the DLC has tried to counter this by making the mods obtainable in the levels, or linking them to achievements… if you read my previous Payday 2 article, you know how I feel about the latter. Still, they’re trying to address a problem with their game and should thus be commended.
The game’s environments and enemies look good too, with different tiers of enemies sporting increasing amounts of armor until one of the top-tier police units can shrug off rounds that hit center mass, encouraging careful shot placement. One odd quirk though, legs don’t have hitboxes which breaks the immersion just a tad. Most of the environments are, understandably, banks and store fronts set in urban areas. That said they also include private mansions, massive banks with old architecture and a railway in the middle of nowhere.
Higher difficulties and extended sieges bring special units, not dissimilar to the special infected of L4D. We’ve got a ‘Bulldozer’ that takes the entire team’s firepower and laughs as he approaches with a shotgun, a ‘Taser’ that can incapacitate from a decent range, ‘Shields’ to just be obnoxiously hard to kill, and the ‘Cloaker’. Cloakers are like a Witches with an electronic war cry. This guy will pop out from under cars, out of ceiling vents, and behind doorways. All to charge you and deliver a one-hit-knockout round-house kick to the face while screaming like a banshee. Did I mention they like to show up in groups, letting you feel safe after shooting one right before his friend attacks from behind?
The fact that Overkill delivers enemies that terrify even veteran players without feeling too cheap is a testament to their game-making abilities. This is because each special has a logical weakness. Cloakers give their position away with their electronics, Shields can be flanked, and Bulldozers can be evaded by walking in the opposite direction. These enemies are entirely manageable, but will utterly thrash players that overestimate themselves and run off alone.
The DLC runs the spectrum from “why on earth would you do this?” to “this is really good.” There’s a bunch of it, too, with plans to add increasing amounts in the future. That said, this is one of the better DLC implementations I’ve seen. Any player can get access to the new maps if they find someone hosting it, essentially dropping the number of people that need to buy each DLC to one in four. It’s also priced more cheaply than most. And, my personal favorite, they’ve set up an event where, depending on the number of people joining the game’s steam group, more content is given to all players for free. It’s win-win strategies such as this that make me support the company even when they stumble.
I’ve previously complained about developers not being responsive enough. That is why it is refreshing to see, in my opinion, these devs in particular doing a better job. They added a new stealth only heist for the people that enjoy sneaking. They’ve started adding back single-day heists, a concept from the original that was not carried over. They’ve added machine guns, sniper rifles, and more shotguns to help cater to everyone’s tastes in weaponry. Also, a good amount of the content they added is utterly free for all players, the ratio of paid to free DLC being about 1:1 overall.
EDIT- As a friend of mine pointed out, there is 1 major point I forgot to mention in my original review- The console versions of the game, available for the Xbox360 and PS3, are woefully out of date. It’s uncertain if this is the result of the expenses of deploying patches on those systems, or other issues, but it is something that needs to be said. Be careful if you want to buy those versions of the game, as they do not have all of the DLC available.
Payday 2 is available on steam for ~$30, with each DLC costing between 5 and 7 dollars.