Payday 2 is a cooperative multiplayer-focused first-person shooter RPG where you are part of the Payday gang of heisters completing contracts for various people. Pick your character, train your skills and arm yourself as you see fit. Then go forth and steal artworks with stealth, empty vaults of banks or fight your way through the FBI to steal their server. There are plenty of contracts to complete.
John Wick! To be honest, I only bought Payday 2 because of John Wick. Although Keanu Reeves did not provide the voice for the game’s character, he still sounded good. The graphical portrayal of John Wick does look like Keanu Reeves’s Wick though.
John Woo! He is not in the game, but his influential dual-wielding gunplay is. The dual wielding works more like Stranglehold and less like Just Cause 2. That is, you can only dual wield the same type of gun in both hands. Only pistols and sub-machine guns can be dual wielded, but there are enough skills, perks and modifications to make them fun to use. Now, if only they had the slow motion side diving action…
Although the number of maps are limited, every contract has some elements of randomness. Even if you restart a contract, things change and you have to work your strategy differently (if you decide to use any).
There is some good humour in the game. There are funny contracts, funny weapons, funny masks and then there is Jimmy. All of the heisters I have used sound all so serious or maniacal. Jimmy, who is supposed to be a maniac, simply sounds hilarious to me. Some of his speech does sound normal, but I just cannot help chuckling every time I play as him. I am also surprised John Wick has not killed him!
Except for a story, Payday 2 has all the elements of a full-blown RPG. As you complete contracts, you gain experience, level up and improve skills and perks. You also get money from contracts to buy or upgrade weapons. There are also plenty of things to collect for customising your character’s masks.
Even without any DLCs, there are plenty of weapons, upgrades, contracts and perks to choose from. Of course, DLCs do add more variety.
There are tutorial missions that teach about the different things you can do in the game. It does not teach the basics of first-person shooters so if you do not know what is WASD, you may have some trouble at the beginning.
Payday 2 is like the opposite of SWAT 4. I mean opposite in every sense of the word. Not only do you play heisters instead of SWAT, but the realism of SWAT 4 is thrown out the window to give Payday 2 a great blast of simpler shooting fun. There is still enough realism in Payday 2 to make you think, but most of the game works like Hollywood action movies.
The graphics are excellent. Everything from courier packages to weapons look excellent. The animations are also excellent. There are graphical glitches here and there, but most of the time things just look beautiful.
The audio sounds wonderful. The guns sound great. The speech sound great. The only thing that I was a little bit disappointed with is the lack of surround sound coming through my Logitech G35.
The dynamic music is not something I would listen to outside of the game, but it does sound good and enhances the game’s atmosphere. I had to turn down the volume quite a bit as I could not hear the sound of my own guns.
I did not get a good impression on first launch. When I first started the game, it asked me if I would like to go to the basic heist mission (tutorial). I clicked yes. Then it asked if I would like to go to the safe house because I have not been there yet. I clicked yes. Then it presented a day 1 screen with Bain’s Safe House with some explanations of what it is and what can be done there. After looking around I clicked ready and NOTHING HAPPENED! I spent ten minutes looking around more trying to figure what I was supposed to do. Eventually, I gave up and went to the options and restarted the game. This time when the Day 1 mission screen appeared, there was speech with whom I assume was Bain talking. When he finished talking, I clicked ready and immediately I was taken to the actual tutorial mission. I really hope they have fixed this in one of the many patches since I started.
During the stealth portions of the game, you have to hide the bodies of people that you have silently whacked. This involves putting them in a body bag and dumping the body somewhere that no one will accidentally discover. Unfortunately, when you are out of body bags, that’s it, you cannot do anything with the body. As professional killers, I do not understand why you cannot drag the body without a bag and hide it anyway. Riddick can do it! OK, there is the question of leaving a blood trail, which leads to another undoable action. Why can’t these professional killers whack a guard from behind silently and without a mess, like Riddick? These lack of actions does make the stealth portions of Payday 2 more challenging, so some players might like it. For me, it is just extra frustration.
Argh! Invisible walls! I was very surprised to find invisible walls in such a new game. Oblivion and Skyrim are the only games in recent memory where I still hit invisible walls. All the others provide some sort of visually obvious object barrier to represent the edge of a map. It is made even worse by the fact that enemies can come from and shoot from beyond the invisible walls. Once I learned the maps, it was a bit better. Before that, though, I would happily run trying to escape and SMACK!
I have been getting quite a lot of random crashes. About one in four games crashed back to the desktop. Sometimes in-game, both single and multiplayer. Sometimes while doing things in the inventory. Once the game even crashed at the main menu when I was not doing anything.
There is no story as such for Payday 2. Some contracts have a mini-plot of sorts and each character has a short biography. That is pretty much the story for Payday 2. Just choose a character, enter Crime.Net and select a contract to participate in. Complete contracts, gain experience and money, then upgrade your character. Then it is just rinse and repeat.
A drawback of being a multiplayer-focused game is that your buddies’ AI are quite poor. On the plus side, they seem to be nearly indestructible and never run out of ammo. They do not interact with anything and just shoot and run around. You can tell them to stay or follow as well as carry stuff, but there are no commands to perform mission critical stuff like picking locks and setting up drills.
To use John Wick you must follow the Payday 2 community in Steam. In fact, quite a lot of stuff requires you to follow the community. Easy enough to do.
The contract selection screen, called Crime.Net, pops up different contracts with different difficulties and you choose which one to accept. You may have to wait a while before your preferred contract and difficulty shows up though. Even with the ability to pick the difficulty level, the game is quite difficult, especially when starting off. With enough money, there is also the option of buying a specific contract. In this case, you can also choose the difficulty level.
Crime.Net also serves as the matchmaking area for multiplayer games. If you pick a contract that already has people in it, you will join their game. If you pick a contract with no one, you host the game that others can join in.
Harder difficulty levels provide tougher opponents, but also higher rewards. As you level up, it is either grind through the lower difficulty contracts or play better at higher difficulty contracts to level up faster.
The SWAT guys are crazy! They do not act like SWAT at all. Instead, they just come barging in disregarding the danger it poses to any hostages you might have. Although they do act like a team, there does not appear to be any SWAT tactics in play.
Where the opposition fails in tactics, it succeeds in throwing what looks like hundreds of troopers at you. The difficulty of the game is based more on how many opponents are thrown at you and how heavily armoured they are. There are also special units like snipers, shield bearers and what looks like Big Daddies from Bioshock!
Being a cooperative multiplayer focused game, it is not surprising that you cannot save the game while on a contract. Depending on the contract type and your skills, the contract could take a while to complete. Some contracts also span several days! I have never completed a contract under nine minutes and I have encountered contracts that last longer than one hour. My average time of completion seems to be around 45 minutes.
The only penalties you suffer for failing a contract are wasted time and loss of money from any asset purchases. Even when the police raid your safe house and you fail because they stole all your bags of cash, the actual funds in your account still stays the same.
A strange thing I noticed while playing online was I did not experience any lag as such. The whole game would either play smoothly or go completely out of sync and disconnect. There were no mixed lag and smooth moments. I have no idea how the matchmaking service works and I could not find the ping times to people, but when the whole thing works, it works well.
Payday 2 has updated many times since I started. I did not pay attention to the version number that I started playing on, but at the time of writing this review, I was on version 1.65.0 and/or Update 133.
I really liked John Wick the movie.
I really liked John Woo’s The Killer and Hard Boiled as well as the game Stranglehold.
I also really liked SWAT 4, Just Cause 2 and The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena.
I bought the Humble Starbreeze Bundle: Presents John Wick package, but started playing the game with only the John Wick Weapon Pack DLC enabled. After I got a feel for what the base game (plus John Wick Weapon Pack) was like and what it included, I then enabled the other DLCs to see what new stuff they provided.
Minimum Requirements (as stated on Steam):
- OS:Windows 7
- Processor:2 GHz Intel Dual Core Processor
- Memory:4 GB RAM
- Graphics:Nvidia & AMD (512MB VRAM)
- Hard Drive:31 GB HD space
- Sound:DirectX 9.0c compatible
Computer Played On:
- Windows 10 Home Edition
- Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.6GHz
- 8GB RAM
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 2GB RAM
- Conexant SmartAudio HD with built-in speakers or earphones. Or Logitech G35.
- Graphics settings are set to whatever I feel comfortable with playing on this PC. They are usually not set to the highest settings. All screenshots are taken with my settings.