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Hands On: PayDay 2

July 22, 2013, Author: Matt Parker

It’s safe to say that the days of always being the ‘good guy’ in video-games is over. Every other title has you playing as a scumbag that you’d want locked up if they existed in the real world.

Whatever it is that makes being bad so good, I don’t know. What I do know is that the hugely successful heist-em-up Payday is getting a sequel and I was lucky enough to play it recently. So put your hands up. Don’t give me no funny business. Read my preview. Do it. Do it now!

For the uninitiated, here’s a quick rundown of what Payday is. Basically, it’s a 4 player co-op shooter where you carry out different heists. Rob a bank, steal some of this, nick some of that; you get the picture. It boils down to working as a team, controlling hostages and shooting it out with the law if and when they turn up. Many likened it to Left 4 Dead, but with cops and robbers, and that’s not a bad summary. One that flatters Payday, and rightly so.

Paperwork can be a killer.

Paperwork can be a killer.

It wasn’t without its faults, nothing is; but the original’s potential shone through, which led to it becoming a commercial and critical success in 2011. That’ll be why we now have Payday 2, which is crammed full of new features and really builds on what’s gone before it.

Each mission starts with a little preamble which helps set the scene and explain your objectives. Missions can be won or lost at this stage, as picking the right gear and coming up with a plan of attack is important. One of my missions went south very quickly thanks to the fact I went in geared up dressed in full body armour. Naturally, the guards immediately thought I was suspicious and the alarms were blaring before I could even shout “get down on the ground!”.

For those of you looking for the next big shooter, please move along. It’s not to say that the game doesn’t play well as a shooter, because it does; it’s just that the shooting isn’t the game’s main event. The reason this isn’t ‘just a shooter’ is because the enjoyment comes from the sense of tension and power you feel as the level starts.

Heists begin with scoping out the level. Walking around without your mask on will ensure people pay you no attention (unless, as mentioned, you’re dressed like you’re about to diffuse an IED). Figuring out where guards patrol and where cameras are placed is a vital aspect of the game. When you think you’ve got it sussed and are ready to roll, the masks go on and the guns come out.

Security guards are easily handled and civilians will quake in fear. Intelligence that you purchased before the mission started has made you aware of where the security key cards are located and everything’s going to plan.

Shopping like this will save you a whole lot of money.

Shopping like this will save you a whole lot of money.

This control of the situation is quickly shattered and replaced with fear and disarray. Alarms will almost invariably go off and armoured security will turn up. I’m no pro when it comes to first-person shooters, but even seasoned FPS players will find a real challenge within Payday 2. Getting rich was never going to be easy.

When it comes down to it, that’s the crux of the game. Money. It’s always about how much cash you can get out of the completion of each mission. Extra bundles of cash litter most levels and it’ll be this cash which you use to upgrade your character. The game contains a tech-tree that most RPGs would be proud of.

Masks don't give you special powers - they just look really, really cool.

Masks don’t give you special powers; they just look really, really cool.

It’s these extra skills that add another layer to the game’s already serious need for planning and prep. Having someone who can control hostages may help complete your mission whilst a teammate’s ability to knock out cameras without shooting a weapon could save your bacon. Payday 2 is as cerebral as it is visceral.

Of course, for those of you thinking that you’ll be able to ‘learn’ each level, I’ve got some news. Each level contains several random elements. Cameras, guards and other key aspects of the mission will change around each time you play the game. This isn’t just a case of items getting placed differently, but it also applies to the police’s efforts to stop you. In one art gallery based mission I had the police blow a hole in the wall and attack us. The next time they decided to abseil through the ceiling.

Some levels also span over several days. This means there’s several segments to the overall job. For example, on the first day you raid an art gallery and then on the second day you do the drop-off. Even within these days there’s an element of uncertainty as my team botched up the gallery section, which meant we got chased down and had to do an extra shoot-out section.

I'm no expert but this looks like a heist gone wrong.

I’m no expert, but this looks like a heist gone wrong.

Even without the game changing how each level works each time you play it, the odds of you figuring out each mission’s ins and outs is remote. This is a game that’s overflowing with content, one of the main reasons it’s now a full retail game and no longer only a digital download. There are roughly 30 missions within the game, a huge number of weapons and a serious range of masks to be collected.

With not a lot of time until the game’s release, Payday 2 is shaping up to be an improvement to the original in nearly every way. It’s looking like the team at Overkill Software have gone and got another hit on their hands.

[In the interest of transparency I feel I should tell you I was given a bottle of water and took a banana without permission whilst at this event. If you consider that being 'bought off' please never visit this site again.]

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