PAYDAY was an awesome use of Valve’s Left 4 Dead formula in a heist movie setting. It expanded on that formula with immersive objectives. As well as a cool hostage exchange for lives system.
PAYDAY was also notoriously difficult, forcing players to play on hard, and ultra hard difficulty settings on most of the missions. Does PAYDAY 2 build on this? Yes it does. In many ways.
PROS: Improvements galore.
CONS: High difficulty.
HOLY PORTING BATMAN: PAYDAY makes it’s first Xbox 360 showing.
PAYDAY 2 picks up some time after the first game, when your old contact sends you to a secret safe house, and reveals that underneath is an elaborate set of vaults, firing ranges, and more. This brief tutorial is also your hub center, allowing you to manage money you’ve amassed, test weapons you’ve unlocked, and even customize your masks worn during heists.
It even launches the missions from an in game laptop. This is also one part of the game where it is a huge update over the original: Mission Variety. PAYDAY 2 goes well beyond robbing a bank, or stealing priceless jewels from an aristocrat. Of course you will be doing those too. But in one mission you’ll be stealing priceless art. Another will have you trying to frame a political figure so that you can blackmail him into giving you millions of dollars. The content is vastly expanded upon here. In between missions you will also get cards that randomly give you money you can use to buy customization options or equipment. Sometimes the cards are upgrades for weapons you may or may not have yet unlocked. Other times it will give you materials to tweak the look of your various masks.
Like PAYDAY, this game has a weapon unlock tree, but this has also been expanded to give you points you can use to unlock special abilities. You can also upgrade the ones you’ve unlocked with more points if you don’t want to use them on other abilities. It gives players the option to fine tune their character a little more than other games, coming a little bit closer to modern RPGs in a sense. But you won’t be worrying about managing HP or casting attack points. Instead you’ll be worrying about managing ammunition bags, health bags, and hoping at least one of the four of you make it out alive.
Once again, you will find yourself challenged by the difficulty of getting away. This has been expanded upon as well. In some missions, it isn’t enough to break in, drill into a vault, and by some divine intervention make it to the escape point. The game will insist that the escape van crashed, and that you have to do an entire level centered around finding your scattered loot, then finding another escape route. Sometimes the game decides you need a three part mission.
Fortunately, the mission briefings do tell you if it’s a multipart mission or not, but that’s not where the difficulty ends. A large part of the difficulty again, comes from a combination of gear, and how many players are playing. When you first start the game, you won’t have very good gear. Fail to pull off the heist flawlessly with said gear, and cops will swarm the scene fairly quickly. With four players you can dig deep, plan together, and have at least one person survive. Less than a full four player roster though, and things get tough pretty fast.
That’s because the AI in this game mostly went to the police forces. You can board up windows, take out cameras, and perform other tasks to keep the boys in blue at bay. But they will almost always have a plan B up their sleeve. This is also a continued cue from the Left 4 Dead inspiration. Because once again there will be higher ranked special police divisions showing up. There are Taser cops who electrocute you. There are S.W.A.T officers who break down your barricades, and take more punishment. There are Sam Fisher inspired guys coming in through the ceilings. There are Bulldozer Bomb Squad guys who will kill you faster than you can say “Big Daddy”. The AI partners you have however, are much worse in comparison. That isn’t to say it’s terrible. In most cases it will try to take the bullets for you, or help you up if you’ve been gunned down. But it often times gets itself killed trying to defeat cops. Constantly.
Fortunately if the cops do manage to take you down, and you are incarcerated, the game still has the hostage negotiation mechanic fully in place from the last game. Provided at least one person in your party (Unless it’s an AI partner to which it simply tells you “Game Over”) is still trying to deal with Johnny Law, your freedom can be exchanged for one hostage (Provided you remembered to tie up hostages during the mission). The other players will get a prompt to untie a hostage, and you will spawn in after a timer countdown.
Visuals, and sounds are also improved over PAYDAY: The Heist. There are more lighting effects, sounds have a bit more punch, and the game models have also been improved. There are a few minor clipping glitches here, and there. But since release the developers have been putting out timely patches to fix some of these, and other bugs.
PAYDAY 2 is one of those sequels where it really ups the ante in terms of content, and other improvements. However, it is also one of those sequels where if you didn’t like the original game it isn’t going to change your mind. While none of the missions force you to play on harder settings, payouts, and item drops are so much better on the harder settings you’ll sometimes feel it’s the only way to have an impact. As such the difficulty is quite high. For those who play on lower difficulty though, PAYDAY 2 still isn’t a cakewalk. This is a game you will lose in a lot. The fun comes from perseverance, getting determined enough to find a strategy to pull it off. Even if you have to lose 100 times before you win even once.
It isn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, it just isn’t for everyone. Especially those who are looking for an easy to win style of game. But if you love a challenge, and you love movies about the outlaw who goes down in a blaze of glory this may be your game. If you loved PAYDAY: The Heist, PAYDAY 2 is the game for you.
Final Score: 8 out of 10 (Awesome, but you have to love a challenge.)
*Special thanks to my friend Jason for taking the screenshots again after mine were lost*