Payday 2 bursts it’s way on to the next generation of consoles, bringing it’s own brand of heisting to the PS4 and Xbox One. For those of you who don’t know, Payday 2 is a cooperative first person shooter, in which you are tasked with planning and executing the perfect heist across a range of different scenario’s – Bank Jobs, Jewellery Stores, even Shopping Malls make an appearance to create a range of objective based missions that are a little slow to get going, but once a few have been completed (meaning more cash to buy better guns and upgrades) Payday 2 really does begin to shine.
Starting out as a relative unknown, completing missions quickly unlocks perks and gadgets to better aid you on your current job and along your path to criminal mastermind, levelling up both your character skills and equipment along the way. I initially made the mistake of trying to do a few select missions stealthily, thinking of myself more cat burglar than brute, but I quickly realised that in order to make progress I would have to start loud and heavy to make my way up the food chain and unlock the necessary perks and equipment that would allow me to evolve into the ultimate crook, and this is something Payday 2 really does well. I found myself keeping an eye on the money I was pocketing throughout each mission, which is then used to buy weapons and equipment, and Payday 2 does make you feel like the money you earn (which handily pops up on the screen whenever you pick up a wad of cash or throw a sack of stolen goods in the back of your getaway van) actually means something – a recent mission had me rob a bank’s safety deposit boxes, and I found I was mentally pushing myself to take the few seconds it took to pick a lock in order to steal just one more, that quickly became two or three.
With the right gear and equipment, missions quickly take on a new shape, and I soon found I was scrolling through the menus looking for equipment that would make each mission easier depending on my style of play – silencers for weapons, the ability to carry more cable ties to cuff hostages as I barrelled through a Jewellery store. After each mission you earn experience based on various tasks performed each mission, and also the money you manage to secure. This experience is then used to level up your character and allows you to buy skills that each help you depending on your play style – want to pick locks quicker to lower the chance of being caught? Then the Ghost skills are your friend. Perhaps you want to go in loud, using your weapons at any given opportunity? Then you’re more of an Enforcer kind of player, and Payday 2 has stacks of options across 5 different categories to account for all types of players. In fact, the amount of options for customisation is a little too intimidating at first, with page after page of add ons for everything from the weapons you take out into the field to the mask you put on when you start each heist – all are customisable in some way or another, and this does take a bit of getting used to, especially when such an emphasis is on online and cooperative play – I initially spent a lot of my time playing missions offline, with AI team members instead of actual players in order to gather some much needed experience and money in order to better equip myself when I finally took the plunge and dived into an online match, where obviously stakes are higher and rewards that all the more satisfying.
Jumping into missions is quick and easy, through the imaginary Crime.net game hub, a fictional website that frequently updates with locations of various missions including their difficulty and potential payout. Starting on the easier ones to get a bank of cash and then progressing to the harder missions would be my recommended route, but you may feel the desire to jump straight in and plough ahead for the bigger cash reward, the choice is yours. Crime.net has both an offline and an online mode, so should you wish to play alone or with friends the choice is open to you. On the few missions I did play online I found play to be quick and smooth, but as I have already said I held back from jumping online at first until I felt I had got to grips with the controls and had sorted myself out with a half-decent loadout – no one wants to be the weight around a team’s neck, holding them back or slowing them down, and with the sense of urgency each mission has and the level of cash to be gained, you can’t help but feel slightly intimidated the first time you fire up your first online game, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Jumping online is pretty straight forward, but no less daunting. Each mission is basically a capture the flag or secure the objective sort of mission, so if you have played any kind of multiplayer shooter you will be at home here, but with Payday 2 the focus is on cooperation, as teams are no bigger than 4, so communication and team work are pretty essential success criteria. Hesits are thrilling and exciting to play, with a few options for how each could be completed depending on your skill and ability, and this is not just dependent on you, but on your crew of 4 other players, as you each rush around cuffing hostages, picking locks, drilling into safes, or if you prefer, blowing them up with C4. Working together is fun, and this ties in to what I was saying earlier – you want as much money as you can, to unlock as much as you can, so you can do this all again with better gear later on.
If, like me, you’re a little picky about who you communicate with online you mind find that Payday 2 does not quite reach the heights you know it is capable of, like walking up a mountain and being able to see the peak before having to return to the car, you know what it should be doing but it just isn’t. With the right online friends to play with, I can see Payday 2 being unbelievably fun and enjoyable but this was one aspect of the game I did not get to fully experience, instead settling for strangers flung together for a few brief flings via matchmaking before going our separate ways either flush with cash or embarrassment, depending on the outcome of each heist. I still found each mission enjoyable, but Payday 2 is clearly designed to be played with friends, and I will continue to pester mine to get it so that I can truly get my teeth into exactly what Payday 2 has to offer.
Each mission comes with a difficulty rating shown by the number of skulls under it’s mission title on the Crime.net hub, alongside any rewards available upon completion. Each are also accompanied by a brief audio message that serves to provide some background to each one, helping set up the scenario or salve your conscience – your not some faceless crook, but instead robbing russian mobsters (for other mobsters) or breaking into faceless buildings to steal from jewellery from footballers wives. These set ups occur as you tweak your loadout, essentially the soundtrack to the lobby as you wait for each match to begin, and to be perfectly honest, I rarely paid attention to any of these set ups, knowing that ultimately the formula was still the same mission to mission – get in, get the money (or jewellery or drugs) and get out, and even on the few missions where this deviated slightly, objectives and waypoints routinely flash up to update you on what you currently should be doing so it is neigh impossible to get lost. The downside to this is that if Payday 2 has any story to it at all, I failed to follow it as each set up is so easy to ignore without the traditional cut scene or introductory video that we have all become accustomed to, and that speaks more about us as expectant consumers than Payday 2, who have ultimately tried something a bit different by trying to tell a story around the conventions of a multiplayer game, but I digress.
So, after all my waffle should you spend you hard earned cash on Payday 2? Payday 2 is a fun game, and the shooting and core mechanics of the gameplay are solid, if you enjoy objective based shooters yes, you will find something to like here, but what will raise the game from good to amazing is if you and a few friends make the plunge. Offline games work well, and can be pretty much completed working solo using the AI to provide cover of pick you up should you get downed, but the potential for Payday 2 to come alive lies with the online element, and in co-op play. Playing online is no less enjoyable with randoms via matchmaking don’t get me wrong, but I still won’t give up pestering my mates to buy, knowing just around the corner could be that one big score.
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