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Payday 2 Review: You’re gonna need a crew

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Payday-2 Box Art

Payday 2
Price: $39.99
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Publisher (Developer): 505 Games (Overkill Software)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes.

I got a chance to play Payday 2  (badly, I confess) at E3 2013. Since then, this heist game has turned into such a hit that publisher 505 Games didn’t ship enough copies, leaving many would be bank robbers empty handed. It is available as a download, so if you have the space on your hard drive that is a good way to go. We can safely say that Overkill has a product the masses want. Just don’t steal one, please.

There is a large number of games out there that indulge a crime fantasy, probably too many. But most are solo affairs. Payday 2 is first and foremost for multiplayer. There is a single-player option, but your AI teammates leave much to be desired. They’re decent for reviving fallen teammembers and shooting waves of enemies, but fail or refuse to attempt any task more complex. If you get detained by the cops in single player, consider even the easiest of heists over.

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Building a crew.

Multiplayer is where Payday 2 is designed to have its most appeal. This isn’t a military shooter. Running and gunning alone will not get you the fat stacks of cash bank robbers crave. Somebody needs to be monitoring the thermal drill working into the vault. Another person has to deal with hostages. They are the primary means of keeping the cops at bay, so it’s imperative to keep as many for as long as you can. Take too long at any job and you will be overrun. First it’s bank security guards, then local cops, then SWAT. I think they may have sent the Autobots after me during one botched robbery.

You need some reliable friends willing to make the purchase with you to truly get the most out of Payday 2. That said, this is a game and an experience you can proudly recommend to friends. It’s best to be communicating constantly. That’s really true of any multiplayer effort, but especially so here. In some shooters, one guy killing everybody can carry an entire team to victory. That won’t fly in this crime caper. I played on PlayStation 3, and this is a console where it’s that much more important to bring your own gang. PS3 players, for whatever reason, tend to be a more quiet bunch than PC or Xbox Live. I don’t know why that is and this isn’t the time to get deeply into it. The forums are a good place to find crew members.

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The thrill of the heist

Perhaps the best part of any game, especially in this era of sandbox experiences, is choice. Overkill realized during the first Payday they gave you lots of cash but not that much to spend it on. You can now customize your criminal from the type of gun you want to the mask you wear. There is also a skill tree with four different types of bad guy: mastermind, enforcer, ghost and technician. It is possible to mix and match from the skill trees to become the crook you secretly dream of being. Payday 2‘s city needs a better class of criminal, you’re going to give it to them.

There is a greater variety of missions this time around too. You won’t just crack bank vaults in Payday 2. There are jewelry store jobs, art theft and times when you just go into a place and bust everything up because somebody didn’t pay protection money. These missions are all ranked by a star system. Take on bigger missions and earn more cash and experience, allowing you to unlock better equipment, new weapons and new personalization items.

With Payday 2, it’s really time to get paid.

Payday 2 is the fulfillment of every heist fantasy you’ve ever had. The planning, the sneaking and the inevitable gun battle with the cops when you have exhausted all other options. It is not perfect. There are some bugs here and there, but not enough to detract from the experience if you enjoy this type of game. Coming at the end of this console generation, Payday 2 will not take home any graphics awards.  Players mostly interested in a compelling single player offering shouldn’t partake. Those looking to gather three friends and relive their favorite scenes from “Heat” or “The Italian Job” should get a hold of this game immediately.

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