Three Frugal Gaming Writers Look at the Gift That Just Keeps Giving: Payday 2 on PC
I have a secret that I would like to confess, I rob banks. I frighten people and when things go wrong I’m more than happy to cut you down in a hail of bullets. Greed has taken its hold on me and no matter how hard a try, I just can’t stop. I want more, bigger risks means bigger pay-offs and no matter how much I steal, it’s never enough.
It wasn’t always like this, until recently I was a law abiding citizen, quiet and unassuming, happy to help others. It all changed when I got my hands on Payday 2 and I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. My first few heists were an unqualified failure, I was an amateur, clumsy in my approach and just as hopeless in execution. My criminal career was due to be a short and humiliating one, that was until my friends and I formed our very own crew. They had also become tired with the same generic shooter and craved something a little different. Our crime spree had begun and shows no signs of ending any time soon.
So, what is it that makes this game so addictive? Why, after over 200 hours, will I never waver when someone suggests that we should rob a bank, fence some overpriced art or cook some meth ? Well, that’s a good question and if you will allow me a few minutes of your time, I will try to explain.
Let’s start with the customisation. The amount of choice is overwhelming. Each weapon can be altered with different attachments, each one effecting how or when it will be used. For example, a sniper rifle can be modified for maximum yield of damage, but you try and walk into a bank trying to conceal the mighty Thanatos rifle and the first thing you will hear will be wailing sirens and screaming patrons, probably best to leave this one at home. Or, if you just can’t say no, why don’t you wait outside and find a vantage point, at least this way you won’t be spotted and you can provide covering fire if need be. Let the less suspicious members of the team do their thing.
This leads nicely into the skill trees. Each successful crime is not just rewarded with cash, there are also experience points. Accumulate enough and you will gain a level, each level grants a point to spend in one of the five trees, each dedicated to a certain style. The points unlock various skills within each discipline. Silent Ghosts, violent Enforcers, electronic wizard Technicians, situational and support Masterminds and the recent addition Fugitive, all can be combined to create your idea of the perfect criminal. It’s worth noting that the bunch of merry heisters you affiliate with will have a major impact on how you choose which character developments to employ, you will want to be a valuable member of the team and not a liability. Nobody wants to be that guy.
Moving swiftly on we arrive at the masks, no self-respecting criminal wants there digitised boat race plastered all over crimewatch, those e-fits are horrendous, so a mask seems like the logical choice and overkill have excelled themselves here. From the downright terrifying to the absolutely absurd, each mask can be altered with different materials, various patterns and a combination of colours to make each mask unique, the wealth of choice borders on the ridiculous. The ooo’s and aaah’s that greet a well-made mask are incredibly gratifying, nearly as much as the laughter that echoes with the reveal of something utterly foolish.
Now that we’ve covered the customisation it’s onto the heists themselves, there’s no point being all dressed up with nowhere to go. Using a system called Crimenet, a virtual website, jobs present themselves and vary in length and difficulty. The relatively short jewellery store or bank jobs are ever present as are the more complex crimes such as ‘Rats’ where your tasked with cooking meth, which you sell to a gang of heavily armed crooks to gain information about an informant that you have been tasked to kill. Each job has four different difficulty settings which adds to the challenge and keeps things interesting as the higher difficulty levels can be very punishing.
So with all that being said, it’s back the original question, why do we keep coming back for more? Well Payday 2’s magnetism is what I’ve previously mentioned and more. Yes the amount of options with regards to loadouts and skills is impressive, the masks are a stroke of genius, the variation in heists is excellent and yes it’s fun to play the bad guy, but it’s more than that. To be a successful criminal takes practise and above all else teamwork. It’s the feeling of working together which holds the biggest draw for me. If you are to pull of the perfect heist you will need to put your trust in others and when it all goes to plan there is nothing more satisfying. There have been many occasions where the greed has been too much for some, or a simple misstep has had drastic consequences, there was even one occasion where the wrong button press resulted in a grenade being thrown in the middle of an excellently planned and executed bank robbery, hilarious and terrifying in equal measure.
Payday 2 is easily one of my favourite games of all time. The PC version continues to be excellently supported by the developers, there is a constant stream of DLC and updates to keep everything fresh. The game feels very polished and it’s very satisfying to play, but as I’ve said previously it’s much more than that. Payday 2 is absolutely greater than the sum of its parts.
My first foray into the Payday universe was brief, challenging and distinctive, sure I’ve committed crimes in San Andreas & Stilwater before, but specific organised villainy involving a team working towards a set objective, as opposed to dicking around in a sandbox environment, this was new.
Payday was on my radar for a while before I managed to get involved and with the help of a PS3 and PS+ subscription my new career in criminality was born.
My total game time on the original was less than 5 hours, the single player mode tried to convince me there was an ‘I’ in team, and I was left doing all the legwork whilst Hoxton, Wolf and Chains acted as distractions and human shields whilst I ran the show.
In co-op mode myself and 3 fellow Frugal’s attempted to fumble our way through a bank robbery, avoiding detection proved near impossible, we failed multiple times but I enjoyed the co-op aspect of working towards the same objective, shouting out threats and trying to rescue our criminal brothers when they had been downed. This was my one and only multiplayer session.
So how does Payday 2 compare to this, and how did it hold my attention?, well firstly I’ve now put 60 hours into Payday 2, this may not sound a lot but with my gaming limited these days this is 2nd only to the Battlefield 4, an everyone knows I love Battlefield 4..
The main draw to this game is the customisation, from the inventory, where you have the standard primary/secondary/melee weapons which can be customised even further at a price, to the specialised equipment and armour which can be changed between crimes to suit the job at hand, these include ammo/doctor bags as well as sentry guns and body bags, for when mistakes are made. The armour ranges from a cocky 2 piece suit, up to ballistic vests and ending in a full on bomb suit, donning these effect your detection rating, as a guy stepping up to the counter of a bank in a tactical vest is likely to raise eyebrows, shortly followed by alarm bells.
There are a number of jobs to get involved with using Crime.net which can be selected both off line or on line, where you can either take them on with 3 untrustworthy wise guys, or party up in Steam with your deplorable band of corrupt mobsters, these missions can also be set at certain difficulty levels which can range up to pro jobs with amazing pay, but the price of failure means they cannot be restarted.
Although the objectives are the same their locations within the missions are sometimes varied, so no 2 missions play out exactly the same, in addition to stop people from spamming their favourite or the more rewarding jobs there are either % bonus’ added or removed depending on how many times or how regular you’ve played through them. The graphics I would say are ok, similar to Left for Dead 2, there are better looking games out there but I’ve never seen it as being an issue, the control system whether using a keyboard or controller system is straightforward and like many over shooters, although on a number of occasions I’ve gone to shout down a civilian and accidentally rolled a grenade into a busy bank.
I can’t really recommend this game enough, it’s been my game of year of 2014, an I know it was out last, however my point still stands, go buy it. Leaving you with one final piece of advice, If you’re changing up your 10p’s at Halifax, and the chap next to you has a pinstripe suit and a clown mask, jump to the floor, and do as he says..
‘Smoke billowed from the fresh hole in the wall. Burning debris littered the room, an urban flotsam and jetsam of crumpled concrete and blast-severed limbs. Exactly as Bain predicted, Hoxton and his entourage had been passing as the blast detonated – a note passed through the wall enough to alert our old friend to the imminent danger and allow him to get clear. His Police cohort had not been so lucky, strewn about like blades of grass in a hurricane. One poor bastard yet lived; until I saw him and filled his skull with lead shot. Now was not the time to think about the consequences of murder. We had a job to do, and killing Cops was as much a part of that job as counting out change was to a cashier.
Dallas and the man who’d recently been calling himself Hoxton came in behind me, Wolf bringing up the rear. I was always first in, the most heavily armed and armoured – this was my place within the team. I trusted these men with my life, and we all had our roles to play.
Old Hoxton exclaimed, upon seeing the familiar mask worn by New Hoxton, in his familiar cockney drawl. It was good to hear him take the piss again.
‘You know what, ‘Hoxton’? I’ll call you Houston from now!’
‘Why’s that?’ the freshly-dubbed Houston replied.
‘Because we’ve got a fucking problem mate!’
I couldn’t help but laugh, before a round clipped my armoured shoulder and snatched the laughter from my throat. Here we go again.
My mind settled, cold determination took over. I had to push forward, carving the way for the rest of the team. They were wearing less armour, but had specialised equipment to compensate. Houston and Wolf, carrying automated sentry guns and shaped plastic explosive charges; our technicians. doors? safes? meth labs? Not a problem with this pair around.
Dallas carried medical supplies and had a way with civilians that none of us could match. He kept our spirits high and morale up.
A perfectly matched team, conditioned over more than a hundred hours of heisting together. We knew each other’s movements and methods exactly.
My role was as tip of the spear, wielding a shotgun and sniper rifle, cutting a swathe through any resistance we encountered. I carried the ammo, too.
It was a tense, difficult hour of fighting – relying on the men I considered brothers, fighting at my side, to keep me alive and be mindful when I was not.
We approached the final doorway to our escape, battered and low on ammunition, but alive and together. Leaving the carnage behind, I felt it all fade away and had a look at our rewards.’
At that point I let the others know I needed two minutes, took my headset off and grabbed another bottle of cider.
Payday, man. It’s a co-op experience like no other; a vast, complex web of skill trees and perks, complimented by a full suite of extremely customisable and personalisable equipment. I’m up to 160 or so hours of playing, and every time someone suggests a bit of Heisting, I can’t say no. The friendship and camaraderie bred from the seemingly simple premise of killing and stealing is incredible. It’s constantly changing, supported by Overkill Software to the extreme – a constant stream of new content and changes being made.
How you tackle the heist is up to you – but make sure you bring some friends and remember; the greed is real.
Payday 2: Why We Keep Coming Back For More
Developer: Overkill Software, Starbreeze Studios