Ratatatat. Bang, bang, bang. “Well shit.” I think to myself as I listen to the alarm blaring in the background. Civilians are screaming and running in panic. They’re onto me and the fuzz is on its way. Time for plan B. This is how my first game in Overkill’s Payday 2 started; a spectacular botch job, but this thieving, cop killing, stealth game had me hooked and I wasn’t about to give up just yet.
I played the single player first and the single player game is great. You can do a bunch of really cool heists and you can do them at your own pace without the possibility of some random person screwing it up for you. You can choose to play with the AI on to help you out should things go loud, they serve as a bit of a bullet sponge and they deal a bit of damage too, which sometimes can really help or if you’re really hardcore you can do all of the heists solo with no help whatsoever. Where the game really shines though is playing online with a bunch of other people.The heists are all the same but instead of having AI help you out you can have up to three other real life people. This can be great as you can often meet like-minded individuals through that are good fun to play with and all goes well. At the same time though playing online can mean that now and then you’ll end up with some particularly unsavoury players. I’ve encountered many hackers, trolls and annoying people, which is a shame, as for a game that thrives when with others it can also make it much worse. Another problem is that whatever code Overkill implemented for connecting players together, sometimes it just doesn’t work. Lobbies often become unjoinable. De-synch issues are very common and can break the game somewhat, making it impossible to do anything particularly effectively although this is forgivable however as it isn’t necessarily limited to just Payday 2 but is a common occurrence in most other online games.
One thing to know about this game is that it’s actually quite hard but what makes it so good is that anything the game throws at you, you can overcome with the right planning and skill. Maybe a pinch of luck too. Come to think of it, luck really can change the tide in a heist gone wrong; then again, if you don’t possess a 7 leaf clover or aren’t made of 40% luck then it’s more than likely going to turn the favour against you. What’s that? The van can spawn over there? Past all of those cops, huh? But we have 12 bags to carry… The random element in this game is what always keeps it fresh. Parts of each heist are randomised, such as the locations for cameras, vaults, safes, loot drop offs, escape vehicles etc. Earlier on all of this can be the difference between succeeding and failing miserably but as you get better and find a team that you work well with, it’s surprising what you can accomplish.
There are five difficulties that you can play each heist on, these being normal, hard, very hard, overkill and death wish. The higher the difficulty is, the riskier each heist gets. On normal, most of the time you’ll get nothing more than some basic police and the occasional shield. It’s not an arduous task to keep them at bay but it’s enough for a player just to learn the ropes. In stealth you’ll have less guards too which makes it much easier to go about any nefarious deeds. However, on the highest difficulty setting things start getting complicated but also outrageously fun. The game has a number of special enemies in addition to the handful of varied police units. There are shields and there are tasers, nothing too fancy there. Then there are the cloakers. These ‘Sam Fisher’-esque ninjas seek to ‘stealthily’ take you down when you expect it the least. “Oh, this room looks like it’d be good for us to make our stand!” you say. Wrong. That vent above your head is a time bomb. That door you just walked past, well, let’s just say it’s night time for you. Run past a car as you’re heading to cover? Those sneaky bastards will pop out and jump kick you into the dirt. Lastly there are the bulldozers, which are essentially juggernauts and if you get in their way for too long, you and your crew are going downtown. Or maybe the hospital… In fact most likely the morgue. This combination of special units with the mix of regular cops and SWAT and the random element of the levels themselves make the game an entirely different beast to your average fps. However, whilst it makes for great replayability, if for no reason at all RNGesus doesn’t happen to be smiling down upon you it can make for many a frustrating game. I’ve failed many times simply because the game thought it would be a good idea to spawn a whole posse of special units and have them all clump up to take out my team and me. The problem is it’s not a case of us being unskilled. It’s just RNG pure and simple. If a taser can electrocute you through a legion of cops or a wall whilst snipers or bulldozers mow you down, you can’t do much to avoid it.
In stealth, sometimes the game decides guards should stand still rather than patrol now and then. Fine. Absolutely fine, in fact it makes total sense for them to pause and look around. Although if those guards decide they want to stand still for twenty minutes right in front of your objective then there’s not much that you can do.
From the very start of my Payday 2 adventure till now, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Not all of it, I have to say, it’s provided me with some of the most frustrating moments in my gaming experience however some rough has to come with the smooth after all and for all its flaws there is so much that Payday 2 does right. It’s a game that won’t wow you with its graphics and doesn’t really bring any new tech to the table. It’s not revolutionary but the level of detail in terms of gameplay and function within the game is just fantastic. From the soundtrack, which is frankly one of the best you’ll find around, to the mask and gun customization you can tell that a lot of work has gone into it and I know that it’ll keep me coming back to it for many more months to come.