I don’t really know anyone who dislikes a good heist movie. From classic con jobs like The Sting and the Ocean films to a more direct robbery like Heat, there’s always a great sense of camaraderie, clever calculation, and conflict that draws people in. There have been few attempts to translate this popular genre into video games, but Overkill Software has started to make a name for themselves doing just that. Their 2011 title, PAYDAY: The Heist, was met with mixed reviews; the concept was solid, but there were bugs that kept the game from being great. It did well enough, however, to justify a sequel. PAYDAY 2 takes what Overkill started building with The Heist and improved, like a good sequel should.
That doesn’t mean the game is perfect, however.
I’m going to start, as I sometimes do, with the problems so that I can get them out of the way. First and foremost, this game is better when played with a full team of actual players; ideally a group you communicate well with and make plans for approaching each situation. You can play solo, or with random matchmaking, but you run into some problems. With random matchmaking, you’re obviously faced with the unpredictable nature of the Internet hordes. You can come across a good mix of people, but it’s less common than the alternative. Additionally, any drop-in or drop-out in matchmaking freezes the game for everyone until the connection or disconnection is complete; it can be incredibly jarring to momentum. To avoid that, you can play solo, but then you’re dealing with bot controlled partners that have limited functionality Multiple bags of loot that need to be transported under heavy fire? Yeah…you’re transporting them on your own, one by one.
If you’re playing an ideal game with a full crew of people that you’re capable of planning and communicating with clearly, then you pretty much manage to skip past all of the bad stuff about this game and make your way into something really fantastic.
There are various levels that serve as the environments for your many missions. Objective and placement (items, goals, people) are specific to the mission, not the level, so you’ll find a lot of variety as you play in spite of visiting a lot of the same general places. As you play, you level and earn money, which you use to unlock all manner of customizable masks, weapons, and skills. The masks are great for the more artistically inclined as a way of setting their character apart. The weapon upgrades can drastically change how you play the game; lower mods for a stealthier, less effective weapon, or more mods for a more effective, but more visible weapon, and other factors. The skills also drastically change how you play, as you can specialize in four different fields; Enforcer (combat), Engineer (drills and weapons), Mastermind (support), and Ghost (stealth). A group of friends who level intelligently can have a truly powerful crew of criminals.
If you’re playing with the right people, the game is almost seamless. If you’re playing with random matchmaking, you take the risk of playing with people from…the Internet…and you deal with big drop-in/out freezes, so you might have a bit more trouble. If you’re playing on your own, it’s a decent game, but gods help you, because your AI partners won’t. It’s definitely an improvement from its progenitor, though, and overall, it’s an excellent heist title that makes you feel like Robert DeNiro and Val Kilmer (cool Val, though).
[learn_more caption=”Review Results”][one_half]Pros:
- Breathtaking visuals and animation
- Fluid gameplay and impeccable level design
- An incredible amount of content and replay value
- I really wish they would finally add an online component to co-op and multiplayer, because I do want to experience it with friends.
To see where this review score falls in our scoring range, please read our review scale guidelines.[/learn_more]
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