The original Payday: The Heist was a good game that was great for co-op. In many ways, it was a sort of exemplar of what a modern co-op shooter is; it was fun, but didn’t break any boundaries. Payday 2 looks to not only build on what the original established, but to break out of the shadow of other co-op shoot ‘em ups. Considering the quantity of these games lately, this would be no mean feat.
As before, Payday 2 will offer a select number of heists that can be played either with the AI or co-op online. There are a lot of games and films out there with brilliant bank heist scenes; Payday plays off the strange fascination we have with these events and presents us with the opportunity to take part in them. Playing the beta for the first time, it’s clear that developers Overkill have looked back at what made each heist fun in the previous game. Context sensitive actions make a return, like smashing jewelry displays or cracking open deposit boxes, small actions that go a long way to making you feel like a real master criminal. The satisfying gun play is also back in action, the weighty feel of weapons will be familiar to Payday veterans. In reality, the core gameplay is set to be very similar, but that is in no way a bad point, as it was Payday’s satisfying mechanics that won us over back in 2011.
So what’s new this time round? Overkill have essentially taken the original game and made it bigger, more diverse and deeper. In terms of pure size, there are now a lot more heists to choose from. While the actual technical number of heists hasn’t increased much, from 6 to 9, some of them have several levels within them, as you work through each one to achieve a final big bust. Take on The Watchdogs job, for example, and you have to transport a stash of cocaine from the back of a van to a waiting pickup truck on the first day, then take the same coke from the truck to a speed boat the next day. There will be a few of these multi-staged heists in the full game, and no doubt they’ll release more in DLC. On top of this, Overkill have noted that no two heists will be the same, due to a dynamic scenario system where random geometry and rare events change the way the game play out. It’s a good idea, but I’ve yet to see it truly come into effect in the beta.
Diversity is also a key new element to the game. Payday 2 will implement an all new skill system that’s broken up into four main categories: the Technician, the Mastermind, the Ghost and the Enforcer. They all offer different advantages within their respective tech trees; the Mastermind, for instance, allows you to heal teammates and implement more tactical skills like forcing an enemy to surrender. The Technician, on the other hand, gives you access to turrets, mines, ammo and all the C4 you could dream of. Interestingly, you don’t have to stick to one single class; instead you can learn a combination of skills from all of them. Of course, you can just follow one tech tree if you feel like it’s made for you. Diversity can also be found in the missions themselves, the freeform mechanics mean there’s more than one way to go about each level. Many even have the option to take a stealthy approach; although it seems that many of the current collection of players aren’t comfortable with this style.
As well as these new additions, there will be a huge array of customisation options. A brand new selection of weaponry, along with a huge selection of upgrades and additions, can be unlocked with XP. However, as well as the familiar selection of gun and kit options, you’ll also be able to create your own heist mask. After all, there’s nothing thieves like more than arts and crafts. There are a heck of a lot of options for mixing and matching in the beta, so it’s quite fun to walk up to your teammates to inspect the quality of their own custom mask. The ranking up options are also much expanded; you’ll be receiving new items left right and centre and a new random draw system will keep your inventory fully stocked. I was impressed from the beta by how much of the random content was actually useful or cool (weapon add-ons, mask types, extra money).
My time with beta made one thing abundantly clear; through all these new additions combined with the classic Payday mechanics, Overkill really want you to feel the thrill of a hollywood style heist. The sense of tension, built up through a clever wave system and really good dramatic music, is unmatched and I loved every heist I took part in. I’ll hold back on final judgement for the review of the full game, but safe to say I had a lot of fun with the current build. I can’t quite put my finger on what’s so pleasing about this game, but it’s great fun to bust through a bank masked up and ready to go.
Come the 13th of August, the game will also be ready to go as it launches on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3. Thankfully, you have the option to pre-order the game on Steam, which grants you access to the beta that I’ve been enjoying. Keep your eyes out for our review soon.