PayDay 2 Review – Can Overkill Pull Off The Perfect Heist?
When I first discovered the original title, PayDay: The Heist, I was convinced that Overkill had given birth to something a little special. Although the first game lacked any serious meat in terms of AAA quality, it had a certain charm to it. The lack of features, repetition in the maps and questionable player progression led many to believe it would be the birth and death of a new IP. However, after selling in excess of 700,000 copies Overkill announced its successor, PayDay2.
When I took the time to think about the foundations put in place by the original game, I struggled to cage my fanboy urges. The potential for the PayDay games to become a huge franchise is not up for debate. The game has the ideas, it has the imagination and it gives players a true feeling of what’s possible with future games. However, how does it stand today? Can Overkill pull off the perfect heist or will they find themselves 1 C4 short of an open safe?
PayDay 2 Trailer
PayDay 2 Honest Game Review
Having a serious lack of any real experience with the original game I done what any self respecting co-op player would do, I dived into the tutorial first. I use the term tutorial very loosely as it doesn’t really cover any serious mechanics of the game. It shows the basics, gives you the opportunity to fire off some rounds, crack a safe, open a door, it covers its bases. However, it doesn’t show you anything about the interaction with civilians, guards and the police and it gives you next to no tools for learning how to stealth an operation. Following the rather lackluster approach to learning I decided to try single player.
PayDay 2 features offline play with optional AI companions forming a 4-man team. This is not the way to enjoy the game. The AI is unable to do anything other than shoot. They don’t grab the money spilling from the bank vault, they don’t tie civilians and you’re unable to give them any commands other than “come here”, which they choose to ignore most of the time. So my first experience in single player was frustrating, almost to the point of just turning it off.
I approached the bank in casing mode, a passive ability that allows you to case the area; taking note of security cameras, guard position and objectives. Sadly I got a little too close to a guard and I was discovered, then all hell broke loose. Civilians were running around like headless chickens, guards were ripping through my almost non-existent armor and my AI chums were still making their way into the bank. After scrambling to take out the guards I took to breaking the vault. This process involves using a Thermal Drill which takes around 350 seconds to penetrate the door. During this time I was tasked with defending our location from a constant onslaught of police. I managed to survive long enough to break in, greeted by piles of Benjamin’s as tall as Mount Olympus. Green with greed I started to bag up the cash only to find I was restricted to carrying a single pile, while the other 4 piles sat on the table. This meant I had to take each bag to a van outside, individually, while dozens of police officers were trying to take me down. Again, frustrating and an incredible waste of time.
Disheartened I decided to try my hand at the online co-op, this is what PayDay 2 was designed for. After just 2 missions it was clear the offline mode was there purely for practice or to appease those that dislike online content. The multiplayer aspect is one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had through the Steam client. I entered a lobby with 3 other players using VOIP to discuss the next assignment, a 3-day Heist that involved cooking meth in a farmhouse lab.
The experience was mental. The lab is located on the top floor and ingredients are scattered throughout the area. We had to ensure we used the correct ingredients at the correct time, all the while defending ourselves from the onslaught of the police forces. Riot Shielded officers were attacking the stairs, heavily armored units breaking through the windows and snipers taking potshots whenever we showed them too much; and this was just the first day of the 3-day Heist.
Other Heists proved to be just as exciting. Whether you’re robbing a jewellery store, breaking into a bank vault or protecting a van of Cocaine from rival mobsters, every single mission is intense from start to finish. The game does currently suffer from a lack of maps as every bank is the game, every jewellery store is the same, although there are very small variations in regards to guards, cameras and objective locations.
The real gem here is the character progression and rewards. Players can collect an impressive variety of guns, each of which can be customized with up to 5 attachments. Custom masks are also available, allowing players to choose a base mask, material, pattern and color. The combinations alone create thousands of unique possibilities for your characters look. The items are earned after completing a mission and selecting a random card, although slightly annoying at times this system creates a real urge to complete mission after mission; hoping for that rare attachment or cool looking mask.
Skills and abilities also play a large role. Players earn skill points for each level they achieve. These skill points can be distributed freely between 4 different skill trees. The skills vary greatly, from offering C4 to blow apart vaults to buffs and additional ammo for your allies. To seriously consider stealthing missions players will need a group of friends invested in multiple skill trees.
This is another thrilling aspect of PayDay 2. I was lucky enough to play alongside Johnny Hurricane and a couple of our community members, each ensuring we invested in separate trees. This meant each of us had a unique role during every Heist. I was in charge of controlling the civilian populace, keeping them out of the line of fire and ensuring we had enough hostages to trade should one of us get arrested. All the while two others would be attempting to get into other entrances to disable guards and security devices, all with the hopes of escaping without alerting the police. Although extremely difficult and sometimes frustrating, the feeling of accomplishment after successfully performing stealth objectives was more than worth the time and effort.
Although I would convince any co-op fans to purchase PayDay 2 the game does have some problems, and some rather big ones at that. The biggest issue, and what should have been a much higher priority considering the genre, the FPS mechanics. In today’s industry players have certain expectations of specific genres and when other FPS titles do such a great job at the basics, it’s fair to say players would expect similar from PayDay 2. Although the animations, weapon sound effects and models are all of a high standard there’s a serious issue with hit detection and object collision.
As a basic example; a police officer decides to hide behind a street light, a tiny metal post sticking out of the ground that reveals everything from his shoes to his helmet. However, upon attempting to release an entire world of pain onto his right foot I was met with disbelief and he simply sat there and smirked. Despite the fact that I could see several parts of his body and had a clear line of sight from my weapon, I could simply do no damage. This issue is reoccurring on several objects on the game, all sharing similarities with the small metal post.
Another area that sees this issue rearing its ugly head is windows and cars. Gamers were first introduced to the headshot into moving vehicles mechanic many years ago. The time of boasting your single shot kill at a target driving 30MPH has come and gone, it’s normal now, it happens. But not in PayDay 2. As the police arrive in their cars they are immune to damage, as are their vehicles, so you just waste ammo for the hell of it. This becomes an even bigger problem when the police decide to use their vehicles as cover. It doesn’t matter if they’re hiding behind a car door with a broken window, you simply cannot shoot through the gap. There’s not really any excuse for this in today’s market, it’s a problem and a big one.
You’ve probably read through this review expecting a pretty big beating in the review score and you may be surprised to see the final rating, but I think it’s justified. PayDay 2 has some big problems, some problems we shouldn’t see in games releasing in 2013. However, despite the big issues it suffers the game still manages to deliver entertainment on a level I haven’t seen in years. The co-op game play, the character progression, the massive extension in epeen after you rob a bank; it all comes together to deliver a complete package.
The fact the game has issues at a core level, the experience itself gives credit to the developers for the effort and innovation they’ve put in to deliver a fresh, worthy sequel. If you’re thinking of playing alone, don’t bother. But if you have a few friends looking for a great time, PayDay 2 is a must-have game that will keep you all entertained for months to come. c