The PAYDAY series are the best examples for a videogame version of Heat that we’re likely to get. OVERKILL is back, this time a part of Starbreeze, and with a much richer sequel, in quality and content. Unfortunately, some things hold it back from excellence.
There are roughly ten different heists to choose from a cycling map via CRIMENET (rather than a menu). Here, you’ll be able to pick jobs ranging in difficulty and payouts. Some have a higher risk to engage in, or are a Pro Job, where if everyone gets captured, it cannot be repeated. You’ll have different objectives, some as easy as robbing a bank to multi-day affairs where you’re controlling the distribution of meth like an episode of Breaking Bad. The multiple day heists are usually the most rewarding, but are generally more challenging and enjoyable as a whole.
Thankfully, each level you play is different from the last time you played it. Either by partially or dramatically changing the layout, placement of guards and safes. It refreshes the experience. Though, most games end up taking 5-10 minutes to complete and over a short time, tends to feel repetitive.
The gunplay is much improved from the original. Heavy recoil pushes your gun all around, casings fly out of the ejection port, and muzzles flash with accuracy. The weapons are created in such great detail, that when customizing them, you can zoom in and appreciate the finer points. With smooth reload animations. The sounds of weapons being fired are heavy, loud, and provide that guttural punch you expect from a carbine being fired inside of a building, or reverberating off the walls of an indoor mall.
PAYDAY 2 randomly drops gifts to you. At the end of a job, you’ll earn money, XP, and then be given the choice to pick one of three cards. What you pick could reveal a new mask, weapon mod, or simply more cash. It’s the singular best part of the game next to the actual heisting.
Unlike its predecessor, when you level up, you actually have choice with what you invest in. There are four skill trees to put points towards: Enforcer, Technician, Ghost, and Mastermind. Each of them focusing on different traits and skill-sets that can be brought to any team. Ideally, you’ll want one of each in every group. However, certain levels go smoother with multiple Enforcers laying down ammo bags to resupply the group or multiple Ghosts who want to remain undetected and get 100% stealth without a single cop showing up.
Customizations are fully expanded, from weapons to armor and now the masks. You have your preferred character: Dallas, Hoxton, Chains, or Wolf. But beyond that, random patterns, colors, and entire masks at the end of each payday for you to edit and display for others to see. Masks can be sold for cash, but you give up the entire mask and cannot edit a mask once you’ve made your initial customization. Rather than having to sell your mask due to a mistake, you should be given the option to recustomize it as you often earn new parts.
Simon Viklund’s score is more varied than the original game, going less for a Elliot Goldenthal sound, and providing music that matches the action, or inaction. Simon’s sound even calls on other games he’s worked on, such as the track “Full Force Forward”, that sounds directly lifted from a Bionic Commando game. The music is the driving force of PAYDAY 2, providing the tempo and motivation to get through a game. The initial defaults for the music was a little too high, not allowing me to hear the rest of the action.
PAYDAY 2 is a full execution of greatness, whereas PAYDAY: The Heist was proof of concept. OVERKILL has improved the sequel in every way. If you’re a single-player gamer, you should likely stay away. The AI is not beneficial to conducting a well-organized heist or helping you out in any meaningful way. But, if you’re paired with at least one or two other friends, you’re going to have a lot of fun experimenting and initiating different tactics of play, again and again.
A Steam code for the Career Criminal Edition of PAYDAY 2 was provided by PR for review purposes