Payday 2 is a compelling shooter that can be enjoyed only if you are able to round up three of your mates to play it
Payday 2 looks like what might happen if you crossed the four-player zombie apocalypse shooter, Left 4 Dead, with the Michael Mann movie Heat. In it, players take control of one of four be-suited and masked criminals on a multi-heist crime spree.
Their activities involve sticking up banks, robbing jewellery stores, cracking safes and even smashing up shopping malls. The brief is usually the same throughout (the odd vandalism job notwithstanding): get in, take out the security, keep the civilians calm and on the floor, try to keep everything quiet and make a clean getaway with the loot. If the cops show up, all bets are off.
Payday 2: Features
This was the gaming experience that developer Overkill delivered with the first instalment in this series, Payday: The Heist, which was available as a download-only title. For Payday 2, the developer has gone widescreen, increasing the number of missions, introducing a class-based levelling system and implementing a centralised portal for players to pick jobs from called Crime.net.
Crime.net offers a variety of jobs across several mission types and a decent selection of environment templates. The jobs themselves can range from one-day affairs to more complex scores split over several days. Crime.net also offers information on whether other players are already in the lobby of certain jobs and also what sort of difficulty the players can expect to encounter.
Payday 2: Characters
Naturally, the aim here is to successfully pull off jobs and earn cash, but for Payday 2, the sacks filled with dead presidents aren't an end in themselves.
Players can now spend their hard-earned moolah on items they've unlocked by earning XP: new weapons, weapon mods equipment - bullet-proof vests and so on - and even cosmetic customisation on their freaky jokeshop-kiddie masks.
They're also able to level up the skill tree of whichever character class they've chosen for their criminal. Masterminds are good at crowd control, mending wounds with their medical bags and impersonating unconscious guards.
Enforcers are the team muscle; they have more health than their team mates and they carry an ammo bag.
Ghosts are better at picking locks than their compatriots and they have equipment that allows them to jam surveillance equipment. Finally, Technicians have the best safe-cracking skills and they can also lay down trip mines and gun turrets.
Payday 2: Gameplay
Before we go any further, it's worth pointing out that Payday 2 is designed to be a four-player co-op game, and as such, the best experience you'll have is if you tackle it with three mates. In fact, if you don't have at least two mates to play Payday 2 with, it's hardly worth playing it at all.
The reason for this is that the friendly AI is utterly useless. The only task it can perform is shooting at enemies.
Sure, this is handy when things escalate from a stealth heist job into a full-scale firefight with the cops. But the fact that the AI can't do anything to aid the player at all besides this is maddening when you consider the amount of teamwork required to successfully pull off a job without it descending into World War III.
If you have a crew of friends and you've cased your target properly and you've planned a coordinated attack in which each player has a specific role - and they stick to i- ñ Payday 2 offers a sublime experience. The key hook in this game is the quest for the perfect heist. The search for the job where all of the players act as a unit and no alarm gets tripped.
The one time that the Mastermind keeps the bank's patrons in check, the Ghost takes out the bank's cameras, the Technician bores through the vault's locks and the Enforcer clips that pesky citizen walking past outside, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Since the game reshuffles the placement of cameras, immediate threats and AI drones in each mission, every heist is something of a juggling act. The fact that four players have to accomplish different tasks under the threat of impending calamity ratchets up the tension of each job to nail-shredding levels.
It's such a compelling experience that it even allows you to ignore some of the game's absolutely appalling visuals.
Payday 2: Verdict
Payday 2, then, is aimed squarely at core players who appreciate an open-ended challenge. While it certainly shares some traits with the aforementioned Left 4 Dead series and Heat, its mission structure reminds us of Hitman: Blood Money, in that there's no one way to beat every mission.
Like all great bank jobs, Payday 2 requires planning, patience, nerves of steel and above all else, a crew of professionals who you'd trust to have your back.
Payday 2 release date: Out now
Payday 2 price: £25