PAYDAY 2 Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC
PAYDAY 2 Box Art
System: PS3*, Xbox 360, PC
Dev: Overkill Software/Starbreeze Studios
Pub: 505 Games
Release: August 13, 2013
Players: 1-4
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes
Become a Career Criminal
by Joshua Bruce

For many people, the line between becoming a criminal and remaining a socially acceptable citizen is a fine line to walk. Everyone has the capability of going from “Average Joe” to the realm of illegality with one ill-placed choice, and PAYDAY 2 capitalizes on the criminal in all of us.

As I began to play PAYDAY 2, I found this ethical quandary quite easy to overcome. Because, believe it or not, I don’t find that my actions in video games mimic or determine my “real life” choices. Go figure. With my conscience clear, my gun loaded, and my mask on, I commenced to lay waste to an army of less-than-smart boys in blue and steal millions and millions of dollars. Happy days indeed.

But before you get started on your own campaign of criminality, there is something you should know. You will want, if not require, a couple of friends to play this game with you in order to experience it at its fullest. Yes, you can play it solo. But would you want to? Most likely not. The AI teammates that are supplied for your heists are almost useless at best and utter hindrances at worst. These neophyte bad guys probably don’t know how to tie their own shoes, much less help you complete any objective within any given heist scenario. They are moderately useful as bullet-sponges for the cops, and they sometimes help you up whenever you inadvertently get planted on your backside by the fuzz, but that is about it. You can’t assign them tasks; they won’t control the crowd of hostages; they won’t even carry bags of loot. Honestly, it might have been easier to just forego the team altogether, robbing and pillaging all by your lonesome. To sum it up, these guys are about as useless as an ejection seat on a helicopter. Just let that one soak in for a second. There you go.

Just as I was about to surrender to this exercise in futility, my colleague and editor, Mr. Cloyd, hopped online to give me a helping hand in my designs on underworld mischief. And here, loyal readers, is where it got fun.

Not only did having a team member that wasn’t completely useless help my frustration immensely, it actually made the game fun. A lot of fun, in fact. Objectives that were previously almost impossible became much easier to complete. Heists became a little more about planning the entry and control points, keeping hostages, and using strategy to outwit and take down the dimwitted AI police that seemed to have a death wish they satisfied by running headlong into the bullets coming from the business end of my rifle.

PAYDAY 2 Screenshot

Before, my idiotic AI partners in crime had no specialties to help with the heist in any dynamic way; they were just another hired gun. But when other people get involved in the gameplay, you suddenly have specialized heisters with interesting contributions to bring to the table. Initially, players will be able to pick one of four specialties–Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician, and Ghost. These easily traversable skill trees, if you want to call them that, add characteristics that make each character more useful to the mission at hand. Abilities range from medic and ammo bags to turrets and explosives, and they all have their uses during your heist. Need to disable a security camera? Need to cover a back entrance with a trip mine? With a few strategically placed skill points, the world is your oyster.

But it’s not all about bank heists in PAYDAY 2. While it is one of the staples of the game, and consequently one of the biggest scores, there are a variety of mission types and locations to help build your offshore bank account. Throughout your adventures in crime-land, you will find yourself taking on frame jobs, running guns, busting up the local mall, and cooking meth (I’m not kidding) alongside your more traditional heists: banks, jewelry stores, and store robberies. Something I would have loved to have seen, though, would have been some convenience- and liquor-store robberies. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know why I feel this way, I just do. Don’t judge me.

PAYDAY 2 Screenshot

Pulling off a successful heist is satisfying, to say the least, especially if you do it right. But no matter what type of job you decide to pull, the gameplay will turn into one of two games. Game #1 is the objective-based robbery simulator that has all its members doing their job. Game #2 ends up being a horde mode of police officers as you watch your drill slowly crack whatever lock you have to break to progress through the job. As before, this is always more fun with a friend or two, due to the fact that every job turns into game #2 if played by yourself. Even if a game with friends does end up being the horde-mode experience, at least you can communicate and plan your escape, something sorely missing from solo play.

And then there is the rest of PAYDAY 2.

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