The PayDay series of games ask a frightening question. A question that zombie games have been too afraid to ask for a generation. That question is simply, what if the players tried to rob a bank while fending off never-ending waves of police and paramilitary organizations in an effort to recreate that one scene from Heat? That would be awesome.
I have to admit this was not my first time playing PayDay 2. I’ve been relatively depressed lately so I scrolled through my game library looking for something familiar. I wanted something that wouldn’t surprise me. I wanted a mechanical challenge, not a thought challenge. PayDay 2 met this need.
Gameplay in PayDay 2 consists of logging into the fictional CRIME.NET to select various contracts for the PAYDAY gang to complete. At its original release, most of these contracts centered around robbing banks, jewelry stores, and retail operations. Later the developers added DLC that began pulling in more and more contracts such as armoured cars, yachts, and mansions.
Once you’ve selected your contract it’s time for your loadout. What your character brings is normally based on the skills you’ve selected. I’ve only ever really played mastermind. My job is to keep the civilians under control and heal my teammates when they get in trouble. When you’re selecting your loadout you need to decide how hard you’re going to try for the stealth bonus. Taking lighter armor and smaller guns make it easier to sneak, but if you get caught you’re going to wish you brought some big guns with you. Then, to quote The Dentist, you prosecute.
Each contract is different, but they are mechanically similar. If someone sees you and you can’t get them under control, they call the cops. If a bank teller sees you they’ll try to hit the alarm button. If a security guard sees you they’ll try to shoot you. If too much noise is made the cops come to investigate. If the cops come they’ll come in waves. In between waves you’ll have an opportunity to trade any hostages you may have taken to get any teammates that were arrested during the assault wave back. This continues until you escape with the loot, or die.
The early levels of PayDay 2 are some of the best. The banks themselves aren’t complicated, as mentioned, you simply have a lot to do. You have to disable security, usually by finding a key card. Then you have to make sure all the guards are either neutralized or don’t patrol the areas you need to be in. Then you have to either tie up all the civilians or not get noticed by them. You can’t disable the alarm buttons so you need to keep people from getting to them. And once you’ve done all that you still need to drill the vault, get the loot and escape.
That is the joy of PayDay 2. PayDay 2 might not be the most polished game, but you always have so much to do you don’t have time to see polish. You’re always doing three things and usually one of those things is just trying to stay alive.
When I first played PayDay 2 in 2013 I had a group of people I could reliably make a four-person team out of. It was truly some of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had. You never forget your first stealth takedown of a jewelry store or the first time you crack the vault on the Big Bank level.
Since revisiting the game I’ve noticed there are several things new. It seems in my time away the PayDay crew has grown to what appears to be twenty-four gang members. It was a good laugh early on when John Wick joined the gang. (An addition I insist is canonical to both universes and is even further established by The Continental DLC). With twenty-four members we see additions such as Tony Montana AKA Scarface and Bohdy from the Dead Presidents. Beyond the expansive cast, the newer heights seem more linear. This started in my time with the Hoxton Breakout and The Big Bank. But all of the later missions seem very different than the early ones. This change isn’t bad, but to date, I think the most satisfying mission is the standard bank job. Others are fun and challenging and very inventive. Nothing can capture the thrill of emptying the vault of the Harvest Trustee without the cops even knowing you’re there.
PayDay 2 retails on Steam for $9.99 but not it goes on sale for upwards of 80% regularly. I highly recommend you get a four-pack and try to get as many friends playing as possible. If you need another player, feel free to reach out to me here or on Twitter.