The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
After studying the blueprints and
reading the dossier, my crew knows the gameplan. Our job is to snatch
four paintings using whatever means necessary. While the Mastermind
and Ghost pick the side door lock and move into the museum,
the Enforcer and I go up to the roof to get the lay of the land. A
security detail diligently patrols the galleries, while another guard
sits behind the desk in the front entryway. We mark the targets so
the other two know where they are. The getaway van is idling around
the block, waiting for us to make our move.
It doesn't take
long for the heist to head south. The entryways between galleries are
guarded by laser detectors, and while doubling back, a security guard
spots Ghost. He instinctively headshots the poor sap, and the gunshot
echoes down the hallway. So much for stealth. Another guard trips the
security alarm and the entire building goes into lockdown. With all
the paintings now protected by metal bars, we need to drill into the
security room. The cops will be here soon, and we haven't even
grabbed our first painting.
Welcome to the haywire world of Payday
2, where almost nothing goes as planned and every job turns into a
lengthy exchange of bullets with local law enforcement. This sequel
reinforces the addictive gameplay experience of the 2011 original
with 30 mission types (instead of the last game's seven), a deeper
skill/upgrade system, and the refined gunplay necessary to keep up
with the incessant waves of coppers gunning for your head.
Once they set up shop in a safe house
that features interactive tutorials for teaching players the art of
the heist, upstart criminals can look for work on Crime.net, a
LinkedIn of sorts for people who would rather hold up coffee shops
than get a free cup of java at a steady 9-to-5 gig. At the beginning
of your illegal career, you only have a few jobs to choose from, but
as you prove your worth, you gain access to more intricate and
difficult jobs with much higher payouts.
After knocking off jewelry stores and
banks, I was soon involved in much more complex dirty work. During
the three-day art job, we broke into the museum to steal the precious
artwork, embedded small cameras into the frames to track the buyer (a
prominent politician), then broke into his luxury apartment to
download sensitive information from his server. Other freelance gigs
included stealing an engine prototype from an inventor, cooking a
batch of meth during a drug raid, and laying waste to a mall to send
a message to its owner. The mission diversity is a much-needed step
forward for the franchise.
Completing a heist rewards you with the
agreed upon fee (most of which goes into an offshore account you
can't touch), a loot drop, and XP that feeds into your RPG-like
level progression. Each time you rank up, you gain an ability point
you can spend on one of the four skill trees. The Mastermind has a
way with words and can talk a cop into laying down his weapon. The
Technician brings gear like a faster safe drill and a sentry gun. The
Ghost is a vital member if you want to take a stealth approach; he
can disable security cameras and alarm systems. The Enforcer can move
faster while carrying bags and use a portable saw to quickly break
Your ill-gotten gains can be spent on
26 weapons, their varying attachments, and new masks. Weapons are
unlocked for purchase as you level up, but getting good attachments
requires a bit of luck. You receive a new mask material, new mask
colors, or a new attachment during the post-mission loot drop. You
can only purchase barrels, stocks, or sights after you receive them from this randomized system. These upgrades aren't cheap, either - one
weapon sight costs a shocking $240,000. This convoluted reward
structure stands in the way of creating your favored loadout; even
after 20 hours I still didn't have anything close to my ideal gun
The best way to play Payday 2 is with
three other friends; in my experience the teammate AI isn't savvy
enough to keep up on the job. The AI-controlled characters can handle
a gun, but oftentimes wander out of a building into compromising
situations. You can order them to follow you, but they won't
help drag the loot back to the car. This can double or triple the
time it takes to successfully pull off a job while under constant
fire. Since the game punishes failure, offering only a miniscule XP
bump for a botched job, dragging the AI into the fray isn't worth
it. The enemy AI can be similarly harebrained; I caught several SWAT members cluelessly staring into oblivion in the middle of a police assault.
Payday 2 gives players the tools to
attempt stealthy heists (some of which aren't accessible until
you're well into the game's 100 progression levels), but going
the Mission Impossible route requires a refined balance of
patience, coordination, cleverness, and luck beyond that of the
normal player group. I'm
curious to see if anyone can successfully rob a bank or museum
without resorting to violence, because we rarely made it past two-minutes without having cops arrive on the scene.
Pulling off a frictionless heist is the
exception to the rule in Payday 2, but the tension is still palpable
as you try to orchestrate a robbery without getting caught, and the
adrenaline flows steadily as you inevitably repel the barrage of
police waves while trying to make your getaway. The overly expensive
upgrade system and lackluster AI could use some work, but
the minute-to-minute action is thrilling enough to overcome these
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.