2011’s Payday: The Heist thrust gamers into the roles of four masked bank robbers who inevitably found themselves wading through endless masses of riot police to accomplish their objective. Those players looking for the stealthier approach may have found their game in Overkill Interactive’s sequel, simply titled Payday 2. Released on Aug. 13, the game has already proved itself popular with gamers, spreading almost entirely on word of mouth and making a profit before the game had even released.
Once again up to four players, either randomly thrown together or a group of friends, take on the role of four mask wearing, gun toting criminals looking to make themselves some money through less than legal means. Where the original Payday has a small number of missions, Payday 2 brings a wide selection and variety of missions to the table for players to tackle in any way they see fit. From a simple jewelry store heist and straightforward bank robbery to stealing precious paintings and frantically fleeing police while schlepping several large bags of cocaine to an escape boat, Overkill has definitely provided players with plenty of bang for their buck. While many missions are one-off heists, some jobs the players undertake are much longer, spanning multiple levels with a variety of gameplay and a serious payout at the end.
A notable difference from the original title is the emphasis on the option to play the game stealthily. It is now not only possible but beneficial for players to prevent alarms and police attention, allowing them to grab as much loot as they can carry. The ability to handcuff civilians with zip ties and maintain control over the crowd can provide more opportunities for players to completely clean a level of goodies; however, cops, cameras, and civilians wandering the street are a constant threat, and it doesn’t take much to bring the attention of the police to the gamer’s illicit activities.
No level has to be approached from the stealthy angle; players can run in guns blazing if they choose. Some levels, especially the multi-phase heists, even jump into the action with the police hot on the player’s heels. Levels also have a measure of randomness to them, with guard placement and layout varying with each playthrough to add an element of surprise and challenge to each encounter. Each mission can also be taken under three different levels of increased difficulty: hard, very hard, and the dreaded Overkill. The difficulty increase comes with more initial guards, more difficult objectives, a better equipped and more relentlessly brutal police response, and a massive bonus of cash and experience at the end of it all if the players pull it off. With all the objectives and angles for players to handle, the increased variety of gameplay is a marked improvement for the title.
Something completely new to Payday is the systems for character loadout and customization. Completing missions and earning experience unlocks the game’s arsenal of guns, gadgets, and gizmos for players, as well as a number of new masks and cosmetic customizations for them. While earning levels the players also earn points to spend in the game’s four skill trees, which enhance the character’s abilities and add new skills to utilize in heists. Mastermind focuses on manipulation, allowing players to intimidate guards into cuffing themselves or persuade NPCs into reviving a downed player. The Technician tree focuses on various explosives and gadgets, allowing players to deploy automated sentry turrets and fix malfunctioning drills faster. Ghosts are, unsurprisingly, focused on stealth and infiltration, silently eliminating enemies and cracking safes. Finally, the Enforcer tree turns players into beefy heavy hitters, carrying bigger guns and taking more hits before going down.
Overall, the game is exceptionally polished. The level design is meticulous, with small details and Easter eggs abound and plenty of paths for players to follow. The soundtrack is well made and fits the tone of the game, as well as adding excitement to heists when the music builds in intensity during big police assaults. The randomness of unlocking weapon attachments and masks adds to the excitement, but outside of suppressors and scopes the attachments don’t really make major changes to the weapons. Payday 2 is definitely a game made for friends, with a heavy emphasis on coordination and teamwork to successfully pull off the vari