Payday 2 Review: Everybody Be Cool, This is a Robbery!

The dollar-charge on skills is a good example of how cash rules everything around me (dolla, dolla bills y’all) in Payday 2. Want to paint a new logo and color on that freaky skull mask? That will run you $64,000. Add a sight to your AK-47? Another $57,000. Buy a new weapon altogether? Expect to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a weapon that packs a punch. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the cash system prohibitive, because a single mission can net you upwards of $50,000 in spending money. I would, however, recommend you choose wisely in how you spend your dough.

Thankfully, there are always more jobs available and more cash, jewels, drugs, guns and information to be stolen. Missions are found on the new Crime.net system, a program created by your unseen but often heard tech buddy, Bain. Across an overhead map of Washington D.C., you can see the mission type, its payout, and its difficulty level — normal, hard, very hard, and my personal favorite, overkill. There are a set number of overall missions (12 by a rough count, but don’t quote me on that), but upping the difficulty level seriously ups the challenge (as well as the potential payout) and in many ways creates a new mission altogether. Not only will you face more enemies as you up the difficulty, they’ll be of the SWAT, Tazer, Bulldozer and Spec-Ops variety instead of simple beat cops.

Don’t even think about taking on hard or above missions all by your lonesome. While your AI companions weren’t the brightest bulbs in the original Payday, they still carried their weight. There were also three of them. This time around, you’re limited to two AI crew members, and they’re about as useful as a pen without ink. Even in the normal difficulty missions, I was challenged to get out alive, mainly because my AI buddies did little more than follow me around like lost puppy criminals. No doubt, Payday was and remains best experienced in co-op. This time around, though, going it the single-player route is an exercise in self-torture.

Good thing there’s plenty to enjoy in co-op. Randomization in spawn points, item placement, and basic map layout is also back in Payday 2, adding even more variety to the static number of levels. Most interesting is the addition of Left 4 Dead-like multi-level jobs that take place over multiple days, anywhere from two to seven. Each of these multi-day missions has a simple core storyline, like helping a drug lord safely get his cocaine across the border, and a tantalizing challenge: You must successfully complete the entire mission, no matter how many days it runs, to get your reward. Fail on day four of a five-day job? Sorry, no payday. It’s a terrific challenge and a nice addition that manages to further heighten the tension in an already sweat-inducing shooter.

Also of note in the multi-day missions: how you complete the job on day one can have an impact, and fundamentally change, the job you receive on day two. For example, if you successfully pull off an art heist without alerting guards, you won’t be ambushed by SWAT when you’re trying to sell the paintings the following day. It’s another nice touch from Overkill that makes Payday 2 feel like a much bigger game than it actually is, while adding significant replayability.

It’s an altogether robust package. As I said, I’ve logged more than 20 hours already, and I feel like I’ve barely skimmed the surface. That you can get it all for the more-than-reasonable price of $30 is fantastic.

Yep, Payday is no longer a simple heist, it’s a full-time career in crime, and I’ve enjoyed strolling through the newly added safe house to grin over my growing pile of cash, assorted weapons, and ghoulish masks. Now Overkill needs to get patching. Payday 2 is a shooter that deserves praise, not four-letter words.

Pros:

  • Tight, tense co-op shooting action
  • Deep character customization system
  • Randomized elements in levels, multi-day missions add variety, replayability

Cons:

  • Numerous bugs and glitches, including a serious connectivity issue
  • Cash system tied to everything, including skill trees
  • Terrible AI companions

Final Score: 85/100


Game Front employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.


Mike Sharkey is a former GameSpy (RIP!) editor. He’s currently contributing to Game Front while catching up on a sizable gaming backlog. Follow @mjsharkey on Twitter.

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