Following the release of Left 4 Dead we saw a new benchmark for cooperative multiplayer games. When Payday: The Heist was first announced, many gamers looked at it as an attempt to rip off Left 4 Dead by replacing zombies with cops. But through patches and new content, Overkill Software turned Payday into its own unique game aimed at challenging players.
With Payday 2, the developers have stepped up their game, but as they say — There is no such thing as a perfect crime.
For those who missed the first Payday, the series is about four player co-op, where you and your friends will attempt to complete a variety of heists while dealing with the police. In the first game, these heists were mainly horde mode type scenarios, where you had to deal with wave after wave of police until you could complete your objective.
If Payday was the developers building the plane, Payday 2 is them going on an around the world voyage, as there is so much different compared to the first game.
The first game was designed as a series of non-interconnected events: You set up a lobby, pick a difficulty and wait for friends or random people to join. Payday 2 is all about a larger Meta-game like design around the game’s crime tool: “Crime.Net.”
After clicking on Crime.Net, you’ll be taken to a map of Washington as heists will pop up every few seconds. Each heist represents a lobby with either people already in and playing, or empty ones that you can hold for your friends. Unlike the first Payday, you don’t choose the difficulty and instead the heists on the map will continue to circulate between new heists and harder variants of others.
In the first game, character progression was tied to three skill trees (with a fourth made available via DLC.) This time, the developers have branched out into four completely unique skill trees with more bonuses and tools between them.
Masterminds can take guards and other security as hostage and can control the situation more. Enforcers get bonuses with weapons and armor and can take apart safes with their saw.
Technicians get trip mines, sentry guns and can use C4 to blow apart doors. And ghosts are the best at sneaking and performing actions without getting caught.
Leveling up will now award you skill points that can be used to unlock new perks on each tree. You have the option to focus on one tree or spread your skill points around to create a custom character for you. If this sounds like a RPG to you then you’re not alone, as Payday 2′s biggest reinvention is the addition of RPG-like content.
The most substantial new progression system is the “Payday” mode where you’ll acquire random loot after a heist. Each player will pick from one of three facedown cards to determine their award of a new weapon mod, new masks/mask component or a cash award.
Weapon mods can be attached to the guns you can buy and enhance them in a variety of ways: From silencers, to bigger magazines, stocks and more. Mask components allow you to customize any of the masks you find in terms of color, material and pattern that you’ll wear during a heist.
The loot system and level of customization and personalization in Payday 2 is definitely the biggest success for Overkill with the game. But getting dressed up is only important if you have someplace to go and Payday 2 has you covered on that front.
Looking back at the first Payday, the heists were all individualized, but limited in their design and variability. With Payday 2, the designers have opted for shorter chunks with more elements. Heists are now separated between single day and multi-day heists. The former are similar to the heists from the first game, with the entire heist taking place on a single map.
Multi-day heists involve multiple maps with elements from one day affecting subsequent days. For instance, one day will have to trying to cook meth while defending the lab from the cops and the next day has you trading said meth for information that will clue you in on where the final day will take place. These heists are also worth several times more experience and money compared to single day heists.
Each map has more variants this time around: from the overall structure of the building, number of guards, objective locations and so on. This helps to keep the heists more replayable compared to the first game.
For players looking for more risk, they can sometimes find “pro mode” versions of a heist where they are worth a lot more, but you can’t retry them if you fail and will have to hopefully find them again on the map.
So far there is a lot to love about Payday 2 but there are a variety of issues that may undermine what Overkill has done.
Since release, fans have noticed a variety of issues, some minor and some not so much.
Additional content in the form of customizing your safe-house is not in yet at the time of this post and one of the enemies from the first game: the cloaker has been removed until Overkill can balance it correctly.
Beyond those issues there are a variety of design and technical issues present in the game. People have been reporting connectivity issues and being dropped or unable to join games.
Each lobby becomes hosted by one of the players and if they leave at anytime, the whole heist shuts down, even if the team is on the last day of a multi-day heist. Many enemies have multiple invincible frames of animation and their ability to spawn out of thin air can make heists even more difficult.
There have been reports of bugs with the scripting such as missions not being completed or an objective doesn’t work.
In terms of basic UI design, in no particular order: You can’t see who is talking with a mic, no easy way to directly compare weapons or mods, the game doesn’t explained what all the weapon stats are or what they do.
Game design is a bit tricky but as it stands there is an overall consensus that not all the classes are balanced at the moment. The biggest issue in terms of design has to be stealth vs. action.
As it stands there is a lot more work that goes into performing a heist stealth fully and currently only one map actively rewards the player with additional loot for doing it without getting caught. The rest of the time, most players find it easier and quicker to go in guns blazing and render the majority of the ghost’s abilities useless.
On the flip side, when you are trying to sneak in, it renders players who built towards technical or enforcer mostly useless. As only ghosts and masterminds get skills directly related to going around stealth fully.
The developers have recently tried to make stealth more appealing by making the appearance of getaway maps more frequent if you fight the police.
But most fans aren’t in favor of in a sense, being punished for getting into a shootout.
The progression model in terms of weapons and skills is great, but there is a sizeable gap in terms of new heists once you hit level 30. Of course as Overkill continues to add new content, this won’t remain an issue forever. But for now, it feels like a vast portion of the progression model is MIA.
Ultimately, comparing Payday 1 to Payday 2 can be tough. Payday 1 out of the box had its design pretty much nailed down from the start. But on the other hand, Payday 2 is a lot more ambitious out of the gate and as a foundation for more content, has far more potential to grow.
The game has already received numerous changes to balance, difficulty and even stage design. But besides the addition of one new heist, Overkill is going to have to add a lot more to make gamers want to return to the scene of the crime.