By Sarumarine 6 Comments
Recently I've been playing a whole bunch of Payday 2. If you don't know, it's a cooperative first person shooter where you and three other people fight security teams, cops, progress bars, shitty drills, and steal anything you can stuff into a duffle bag. Or at least I've spent enough time to gain a few infamy levels and max out five or six perk decks. Payday 2 itself is such a great, weird thing to me that I felt the need to write a blog post about it. Especially since it first came out in 2013 and has been heisting it up for three years.
For that reason there's so much to talk about with this game. I doubt I'll get around to half of it, but I really have to get it out of my system.
Payday 2 - //// Opinions in Progress ////
Man, where to even start? Payday 2 is a game I never see anyone talking about, but there's no shortage of people playing it. I remember firing up the PS3 demo last year and still finding people messing around with that thing. Maybe it's just the circles I run in. It's a cross between the movie Heat, the opening bank scene from The Dark Knight referencing Heat, the dress style of Reservoir Dogs, and anything involving a plan to steal something.
It does the Rock Band thing but with FPS robbery where they released a game and put out loads and loads of DLC. Some of it for free. It's landed crossovers with John Wick, the Point Break remake, Hotline Miami, a DJ known as Alesso, Hardcore Henry and even fucking Goat Simulator. Oh yeah, Ron Perlman is now in the game too as a totally-not-referencing Sons of Anarchy biker. I never would have guessed.
Some of my favorite things about Payday 2 are stuff around the game. Mainly a lot of the promotional material in the form of live action trailers for the DLC. It's so close to being an FMV game. What about the one where a Russian hockey player became a criminal because Simon Viklund asked him to? What about the one where Giancarlo Esposito became a dentist? What about the one where John Wick made a phone call to one of the main characters? And where Jacket swung by to help out with a mobster problem? I love all the live action stuff, mostly because they didn't have to. There are plenty of trailers and videos using the game engine like a reloading battle for one. I don't know. It has just the right tone.
Oh Yeah. You Steal Things Too. That's Also Fun.
Actually playing the game is fun too, even if Payday 2 has a really, really steep learning curve. It's kind of janky in that respect with all the systems in place. When you approach a door you'll see all kinds of icons swirling around the handle. Which ones can you actually use? Good luck figuring that out on the fly. Most of the icons represent late game abilities far up in the ability tree for each class, which is hours and hours of play. Want to blow up a door with C4? You'll need shaped charges in the Technician tree. Want to saw stuff like lock boxes open quick? You'll need to go heavy into Enforcer until you get the ability to use the saw. What about hacking security doors with ECM devices? Gotta go Ghost in that case. Or what's the advantage of taking hostages other than the fact Bain keeps yelling at you about them? Probably involves a late game Mastermind ability.
Wikis exist for that reason I suppose, but you'll be hard pressed to find a concrete part of the game that spells it out. Most of the pertinent information is on the upgrade trees of each class that hint at how you can use it. So I can understand if a lot of people bounce off of it or don't want to put in the time until they can actually do stuff or contribute to the crew when you go heisting. It doesn't help that your starting guns are also pretty garbage until you can save up for better ones. The gameplay loop is get cash. Get lots and lots of cash.
They also do that Left 4 Dead thing where they have enemies specialized so you can't be a one man army. Cloakers (Sam Fisher's stunt doubles) can down you instantly with a drop kick if they feel like it no matter how much armor you're wearing. Tazers can stun you with electricity causing you to convulse and fire your gun wildly. Shields do the shield thing where it's sometimes really hard to get around them by yourself. And Bulldozers have so much armor that if you aren't ready (or not packing a rocket launcher) they can simply stomp you in the DPS race. For better or worse, Payday 2 is a team exercise.
Maybe for this reason, it does feel really, really satisfying when you knock over a bank. Or manage to drag all your bags of loot to the drop off point while every police officer in Washington DC is shooting at you. There's a build up to Payday 2 where things that once felt impossible are now probable. Or watch as the one mission that took you 30 minutes can now be blitzed in twelve with the right team set up. Or unlocking something like the Judge shotgun revolver and feeling the sheer effectiveness of that thing in action.
Also stealth in Payday is really, really difficult. I'm still working on that.
My Favorite Jobs
The heists are often attributed to a contractor which sets up a theme. Such as a politician who has missions slanted toward stealth. Or an arms dealer focused on stealing explosive ordinance from trains and cargo ships. Some of my favorites are below.
Firestarter - This is probably my all time favorite heist in the game for the variety alone. One day you're stealing guns from a cartel at the local airport, the next day you're sneaking into an FBI branch office, and then finally knocking off a bank to burn a bunch of drug money on camera. All for the sake of a guy named Hector trying to push his drug running rivals out of the game. Hector's other missions (Rats, Watchdogs) are some of my least favorite, so having Firestarter as the standout is a real surprise.
Hotline Miami - Brought to you by the Dentist, Hotline Miami is just a lot of fun. It has explosions, two unique maps, two great music tracks (Evil Eye and Hot Pursuit) and a focus on gunfighting and chaos. Plus it's pretty bizarre for a game like Payday to have a crossover with a topdown fuck-em-up like Hotline. Little did I know what else this game would hook into. As a thumbs up to marketing, this one really had me curious about Payday when I stumbled upon it. I suppose it eventually got me here, so, this odd ball match up worked on that account.
Most Jobs from Vlad - The contractor known as Vlad is a Russian who has slowly become more and more crazy as the game has gone on. Early on his missions were small time jobs like protection rackets and robbing nightclubs, now he's more about goats stuffed with drugs, safes lost in Los Angeles, the cargo in Meltdown, and two Christmas themed jobs where the greed is so very real. At any rate, almost all of his jobs are fun one-offs and he's turned into an entertaining character at the least.
Plan C from Election Day - Although I dislike almost all of The Elephant's jobs (I'm no good at stealth you guys), there is one gem hidden away on the mission Election Day. If you can mess up the first day really badly, you'll get the opportunity to sabotage ballot machines under the guise of a bank heist. Basically you're hitting a polling station then blasting through the wall to attack the bank next door. It's a great map they've only used for this scenario, and if you play really well you'll never see it.
Birth of Sky - While this may be a heist based on advertising the Point Break remake, throwing a bunch of pallets of money out the back of a cargo plane and parachuting after it is still really cool. Plus it's got a really sick music track in the form of Drop Zone. It also introduces a smarmy asshole contractor in the form of Vernon Locke. He's great, for sure.
Shadow Raid - I may be total garbage at stealth, but this stealth-only heist was a lot of fun to learn and figure out. It's really the only job I've managed to beat on the hardest difficulty, even if it took forever. Sneaking a bunch of loot through a mercenary compound is so very, very satisfying. I even managed to get lucky and steal the samurai armor one time by myself. It was designed for two players with a double keycard system that locks out if you don't activate both within ten seconds, but I got a lucky drop.
Slaughterhouse - Originally a Payday the Heist map, this classic job was brought back for a go at Payday 2 mechanics. And I find it be a pretty enjoyable robbery where you use rollers in a meat packing plant to help move a whole bunch of gold to a container yard. It also helps that it has a really fantastic remix of Crime Wave playing in the background.
And speaking of the soundtrack...
Lastly, the Soundtrack by Mr. Simon Viklund
So in a hypothetical scenario where you can only keep one element of the Payday series and scrap the rest, I'd say the soundtrack would be my takeaway. Both Payday the Heist and Payday 2 have some of my favorite songs in video games. Mostly because they have a great progression built around the game flow. You have the low key element when sneaking around, the build up when you're found out, and the full on rush during assaults. Simon Viklund really works some magic when it comes to this stuff. And since I'm on the Payday train, I figure I'd talk about both games soundtracks.
Payday the Heist is more focused on heavy drum and bass. It was definitely chasing after that Heat-ass Heat music in a lot of respects. Gun Metal Grey is basically a legal friendly Force Marker. Double Cross and its amazing bass line would be at the top of my list, but there's also the fantastically sleazy sounding Phoney Money. If you get a chance, I recommend giving it a good listen.
For Payday 2, the soundtrack is definitely more electronic focused. But it feels like it's finally able to do other things than reference Heat. The main element is that the quality is still top notch and the benefit of all the DLC is that Viklund has had plenty of opportunities to keep making great music. At the top of my list, would be Backstab, which probably has the best build up and delivery into the assault wave in the game. Other stand outs would be Crime Wave 2015 for a perfect application of guitar in just the right spots, and a really nice stealth portion.
Across three years there's been a lot of Payday 2 music, so I could write a long list of recommendations... but I'll keep it to a list of 10 just so this blog post isn't all youtube links.
Alright Ramblers, Let's Get Rambling.
Even with everything I've mentioned, I feel like I'm missing a whole bunch of stuff. But mainly I wanted to express what I found so interesting about Payday 2. And if I had to close out on anything, it would probably be the healthy selection of weapons. While it started out in the small arms area with rifles and handguns, it's gone full on military with gatling guns, rocket launchers and flamethrowers. Love that flamethrower, by the way. It can also be pretty dumb, like a DLC pack with medieval weapons including English longbows and broadswords.
There's always going to be some ups and downs, especially with a game that has changed as much as Payday 2 over the years. Back before they had grenades or driving mechanics. Or ill fated attempts at microtransactions. Also I wanted to mention GeneralMcBadass and his many, many videos on Payday 2 which helped me understand the game a lot better. And what it looks like to competently tackle the Deathwish difficulty.
I've heard a Payday 3 is in the works, and I'd be super curious to see how that turns out. Or if they'll try another three years of a game on the move. One thing I can say, is that I will be very, very curious about the soundtrack.