Very few gamers consider a life of crime as a viable way to earn a living. The risk/reward potential is very poor. Given today’s technological advances, increased security, and punishment for getting caught, a life of crime is much less appealing when it could mean a lifetime behind bars or an early grave. But the beauty of gaming is that gamers can experience something like crime without any risk to themselves while having fun in the process. Released this past August, Payday 2 provides just such an experience.
Payday 2 is a game about committing crime…and lots of it. Players take on the role of career criminals involved in a criminal network surrounding the Washington, D.C. metro area. This network known as Crime.Net is responsible for a string of robberies, bank heists, cartel activity, and political upheaval. Having decided to forgo earning a living the honest way, four men resort to crime just to make a buck. These men, Dallas, Hoxton, Wolf, and Chains, work together planning and carrying out these crimes to get rich. Whether robbing banks, providing protection for drug smuggling, or framing a dirty politician, Payday 2 is about making a lot of money through illegal activities.
The basic idea behind Payday 2 is simple: carry out jobs, make money, build your reputation, and become an infamous criminal. Each job comes with a set of objectives required for earning your pay. Some jobs last one day while others take multiple days. Usually, the longer it takes to complete a job, the higher the payout. Of course, players have the opportunity to make more money during each job than just the base payout and this is how the biggest fortunes are earned. To show you how this all works out, let’s look at the job “Framing Frame.”
The premise behind Framing Frame is to frame a dirty Senator to hopefully remove him from office and make his party look bad. The job takes three days to complete. The first day involves breaking into an art gallery to steal paintings the politician wants to purchase. Players only need four marked paintings to advance to the next day, but can grab as many marked paintings as are in the art gallery (up to five extra paintings). On day two, players exchange the paintings for money bags. However, unbeknownst to the politician, hidden cameras have been put in the paintings, providing easy reconnaissance of his apartment. On day three, the players break into the politician’s apartment to frame him by leaving behind cocaine. If done stealthily, players have the opportunity to break into the Senator’s vault to steal gold recently acquired from underhanded dealings.
With it being a pro job and on the hardest difficulty, players can make upwards of five million or more on Framing Frame if they grab all the paintings and the gold. If players simply take four paintings and not steal any gold, they will only make two million or less. The choice is up to the players. But for each choice there is a consequence and a higher risk of getting caught and failing a job.
In addition to completing jobs and leveling, players can unlock new weapons, weapon mods, and masks along the way. The masks are purely cosmetic and confer no advantage to the players. However, weapons and weapon mods are very useful when the heat is on. From automatics to shotguns, pistols to SMGs, there are a good number of weapons to choose from along with weapon modding potential. The only catch is that mods and masks cannot be purchased. At the end of every payday, there is a card round where players choose one of three cards. These cards hold cash and experience boosts, weapon mods, masks, and mask materials. Overtime, players collect more and more customizations that provide a nice aspect to the game.
What I like about Payday 2
Payday 2 is simply fun to play. Since committing a crime in real life would not be wise or “fun,” doing it in a video game is the next best thing. The sense of accomplishment from pulling off a successful heist is great. Building that huge cash stack, collecting weapon mods and masks, earning achievements…it’s just like any other game you play for props. But, it’s all done from the perspective of a criminal rather than a hero. This bad boy type of scenario is fresh to anyone who never has dabbled on the “bad side” in games before.
Difficulty settings not only let players choose how hard they want a mission to be, but also give greater rewards for those who aim higher. There are four settings: Normal, Hard, Very Hard, and Overkill. By choosing a difficulty greater than Normal, players get a nice experience and profit multiplier. This gives a great incentive to try harder missions rather than repeating easy missions over and over. Even low levels can get in on more difficult jobs if a reputation limit is not set by the host, speeding up leveling exponentially and giving a nice chunk of change for starting out.
One nice thing the game does much better than the original Payday is that many jobs can be stealthed (performed without getting caught). If you are good enough and lucky, you can pull off a job without the cops ever knowing you are there. The advantage to this is that you don’t have to fight waves and waves of police just to score a little money. And let me tell you…it doesn’t take long to grow tired of fighting off hundreds of cops job after job. By stealthing, you are able to make money without having to do a whole lot of work or give a lot of attention. Generally, stealthing a mission takes longer than going in loud and proud, but more experienced players will know what to do.
Also, the DLC packs for the game are not that expensive at all. This is a huge plus for me. While the DLC don’t add a whole lot to the game, they are at least priced that way as well. You won’t pay $20 just for a map and a weapon or two. In a time when developers price gouge, it’s nice to find someone who actually gives a fair price for the content they give.
What I don’t like as much?
While Payday 2 is better than its predecessor in nearly every regard, there are still a lot of changes that need to be made to make it better still.
First and most apparent, most people agree the singleplayer AI is just too dumb. You’re better off soloing a job as your AI counterparts do nothing whatsoever to help. And the opposing AI is just as bad. Frankly, guards and police act stupid. They don’t shoot at you immediately unless you shoot at them first. Overall, the AI just needs more work to be more realistic, responsive, and smarter. I’m not saying it has to be Skynet, but it needs a little more intelligence than a sheep. Sure, I want to successfully pull of crimes, but make it a little more challenging and more risky.
Second, players should be able to put on or take off their mask whenever they please during a heist. Once a player puts on a mask, they are unable to go back into casing mode. However, I see no reason why in real life you would not be able to take your mask back off if no one has seen you. This is just a little nitpicky thing, but Payday 2 has quite a few of these little problems.
Third, Payday 2 lacks the freedom to reorganize your inventory. By this, I mean players ought to be able to rearrange their inventories to move masks and weapons around wherever they want them. This is especially important as it makes it easier for players to access their equipment more readily rather than have to search through each page or tab to find what they want to use.
Fourth, the game lacks realism in a lot of ways. Now, I don’t rob banks and I likely never will. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t know the difference behind a very lenient crime game and a harsh one. Overkill (the developer) needs to strive to make the Payday series more realistic with every addition. Guards should be able to spot you if they are looking in your direction with nothing between you and them. More people should roam the streets, not just a few. As is, the game is a bit too easy. Killing a civilian should result in higher costs or a temporary ban from playing games for a certain amount of time. As it is now, people do not have an issue with killing civilians who may be trying to call the cops or who can’t be tied down because players have run out of cable ties. More realism overall is a must.
All in all, Payday 2 is a great game. I wasn’t initially sure if I would find it enjoyable. But 65 hours later over the past couple weeks and I’m still hooked. Payday 2 is in many respects similar to co-op shooters like Left 4 Dead. However, with item customization, progress tracking, and stealthable missions, Payday 2 is a co-op game unlike any other out there. I highly recommend giving the game a try or watching a some gameplay videos to see how much fun it can be.