Not really, I don't think. I did a hype peace back when the game was on preorder and I kind of stopped playing it almost immediately, then kind of forgot about it. NuclearToast strong-armed me into trying it by buying me a bunch of DLCs (smart move, turns out) and I've been playing it pretty consistently ever since. I even approached Marqaha about doing an event for it, but I, um... Basically chickened out and didn't do anything. Confounded! I still want to, of course, but I want to see if anyone still cares about this game... So here's another hype peace/review
Payday 2 is "crime themed" PvE co-op FPS game. You play one of seven possible heisters (including John Wick, no seriously) in teams of four, pulling off heists ranging from banal store knockovers to daring daylight bank robberies, to shady assassination and political dirtywork, to outright crazy mayhem and destruction. So no, you are in no way playing "the good guys." The game takes a semi-realistic approach to its gunplay, with both weapon accuracy and weapon recoil modelled, as well as using replicas of real-world guns. It is, however, mostly arcadey and fast-paced, using regenerating armour. Unlike L4D2 (a game this was closely inspired by), Payday 2 is almost exclusively a horde mode point defence game with a large emphasis on moving bags of loot under fire. It's a VERY hectic game, very intense and requires a cool head under pressure and a strong sense of orientation. It's a lot of fun, is what I'm trying to say.
Graphics and Design:
Graphics-wise, the game is pretty dated. It's using the in-house "Diesel engine" which hasn't aged too well. It has decent fidelity, to be sure - respectable texture quality and good enough character models if you don't view them up close. However, the visuals are prone to... Problems. Ragdolls often spaz out and contort, there are no jumping animations for player models, characters have no collision boxes so enemies can just walk THROUG you and shoot at you seemingly from inside your own torso and so on. The game is also laiden with aggressively stupid graphical options, such as Chromatic Aberration which you cannot turn off, along with several types of blur and view bob which you luckily CAN turn off. There's frankly a troubling lack of graphical settings in the game. I had to find a player-made "patch" to disable chromatic aberration and kill most of the "fancy" options to avoid feeling seasick. A friend of mine playing on a weaker machine was struggling until we found him a "performance" patch which disabled a bunch of extra effects. On a purely technical standpoint, Payday is a bit of a difficult sell.
Design-wise, the game leaves something to be desired. It's mostly grey and bluish-grey with mostly overbright, desaturated colours and sort of dull, muted environments. It rather reminds me of Mirror's Edge at times. I get the impression the creators did this to be gritty, but it comes across as frankly quite boring. Player characters wear Point Break style clown masks which do add a bit of colour to the game, especially with an actually impressive array of customisation options. However, the game's "drops" system means that masks, materials, patterns and colours need to be earned, meaning you may not see a decent mask for a LONG time after you start playing. And masks notwithstanding, the characters wear pretty out-of-place business suits that hey pile their armour and guns over. Lack of outfit customisation can make some armour/suit combos quite hilarious.
But that's all stuff you see in screenshots. Payday 2 in motion is an entirely different beast, and a MUCH more visually impressive game. Character animations for your enemies are actually quite good. They run in a realistic fashion, they react to being shot non-fatally by dropping to the ground, tripping over or even rolling, they'll dodge for cover when under fire, they can climb and rappel - it's quite impressive. Best of all, scoring headshot kills (that thing shooters are often about) causes enemy helmets or hats to "pop" high up into the air, giving you an immediate and very obvious indication of what has happened. First-person gun models and animations are also quite impressive, with some reload animations being outright amazing. The recently-introduced MG42 machinegun has a ridiculously long but also very pretty animation which is just a lovely sight to behold. Or would be, if I weren't getting shot from three different directions while doing it.
While the game's graphics may be a tough sell, the visuals nevertheless "feel" very intuitive and satisfying once you actually start playing it.
Gameplay and Systems:
Payday 2 is, primarily, a first-person shooter, and a pretty good one at that. Guns feel weighty and powerful, but they take quite a bit of skill to use. Realistic "kick" means rapid-firing guns tend to stray off target, requiring you to wrestle them to stay pointed. Different guns have different accuracy which mostly defines their effective range, and it does depend on what you're doing. Payday 2 lacks a "crosshair" of any description, relying instead on the frankly unreliable iron sights or - more commonly - on having equip holo sights on your guns. These give you a reticle and much better accuracy. For guns which don't offer scopes (such as machineguns) or for hip-firing, there are also laser sights which point to the centre of the screen somewhere at infinite distance. Very few aiming methods in Payday are very precise, and you'll often need to find your guns' individual quirks through use, but to my eyes that makes using them all the sweeter once you attain a bit of experience.
The game has often been called a "bag simulator" or a "fixing drills simulator" because much of the actual gameplay revolves around both. "Drills" are a means of opening certain doors put in place to delay you and force into point defence for a few minutes. They will break a few times on their own and will be broken by enemies if you let them, which forces you to dedicate at least one or two people to guarding them, or else run around like a cockroach fixing them. "Bags" are physics objects you can carry one at a time and throw some distance depending on weight. Most missions which hold loot bags will give you a large number of them - 10 and above. That's more than the four players can carry, and these bags can be "stolen" by your enemies. What this means is you end up having to guard them and moving them as a pile a little at a time. It's rather reminiscent of a more traditional "escort quest" on the "escort" moves only when you carry it and goes whatever way you can pick. Drills and bags are where a lot of the game's heavy co-op feature comes into play, as players have to divide roles between defence, offence and moving bags/fixing drills. And that's not even taking into account the hostages you may have, whom you can also move around as they waddle slowly across your line of fire.
Finally, Payday has a pretty involving character progression system. As of right now, it consists of five skill trees and and six perk decks. Let me explain. Skill trees are your basic "class" and define what you can do, generally speaking. The ability to wear heavier armour or use certain guns better, or take more hostages, or place better drills, or be sneakier during "stealth" (I'll get to that) and so on. These cost character levels and cash, but can be respecced for a loss. This is what defines your general character type. Beyond this, you have a system of mostly passive perks which you earn in a linear fashion from a few "decks" of them. For those who played Payday 2 a long time ago, that's where skill tree tier perks went. You can hot-swap between those at any time and you can unlock all of them, but only one can be active at once. There are, interestingly enough, A LOT of viable builds you can take to a heist and the game tends to play very differently depending on what you choose.
And yes, "stealth is an option" on certain heists. You may start in what's called "casing mode" - you're not masked up and civilians will not notice you, but cameras and guards will. Alternately, the game may start you masked up to begin with. If you can avoid being detected, you can beat the entire heist quietly and get a "stealth bonus" to experience for the next heist you run. Stealthing is kind of its own game with many skills dedicated to it and a very different means of playing it. It's also something I'm not familiar with because I typically bring a machinegun, a concrete saw, grenades and 200 pounds of armour, but it exists and some people try to only ever play that. You know, just in case you wanted to be sneaky. It works, and a lot better than it used to back at Launch.
Story and Characters:
Payday 2 doesn't really have a story per se, but it does have the inklings of one. You are part of the Payday gang - a group of borderline sociopathic murderers who pull off ridiculously daring heists for massive money rewards, routinely shoot hundreds of cops per job and don't seem too put off by this. The crew consists of the following: Dallas, the mastermind and gang leader. Chains, the heavy weapons dude and the groups "scary big black guy." Wolf - a psychotic Swedish man who quotes movies and flips out a lot. Hoxton, returning from the old Payday: The Heist game after being gone for most of Payday 2 due to being in jail. He's an angry foul-mouth British guy who uses the word "wanker" like most people use a comma. Then there's Houston, a stone-faced professional who's always sober, always accurate and always clean. He was previously using the name of Hoxton because... Well, the original game's Hoxton voice actor was unavailable when they were making the sequel, but the developers turned it into a storyline. And then there's John Wick. Yes, from Keanu Reeves' recent movie. Turns out Wick knew Chains "from the army," and he has enlisted the Payday gang for an unspecified number of jobs. In the real world, it's because Overkill - the developers - have a brand deal with Lionsgate studios.
Beyond this, you have Bain - a faceless hacker who hosts Crime.net. This is a website where anyone can commission any crime and anyone else can enact it for a fee. All anonymous-like, all untraceable. Beyond Bain, several other contacts exist but they're a bit too generic to bother mentioning. All except for the Dentist, played by Barack Obama himself. I think, sure looks and talks like him. The Dentist is the contact through whom the entire storyline of breaking Hoxton out of jail is played out as a series of favours for him, while he manipulates the justice system. All the other contacts are mostly parodies of existing stereotypes, like Vlad the Russian who's actually Ukranian (awkward...), Hector the Hispanic cartel leader, "The Elephant" who is a thinly-veiled political caricature and so on.
Sadly, most of this background stuff can be found in one "characters" section, on the website and through a live-action webseries. In the actual game, very little character or story comes into play. In fact, you can play AS Hoxton on the heist to break Hoxton out of jail. Crimesception! Unlike a game such as L4D2 where the player characters converse with each other and exude personality by doing so, the Payday 2 characters speak fairly rarely, and mostly say utilitarian things. "Cloaker son of a bitch!" "The drill's jammed! Somebody has to fix it!" About the most personality you'll ever see is responses to guards' radios during stealth. The IDIOTIC things these guys say to the operators are as funny as they are loony sometimes. As Chains, I would answer a pager and say something along the lines of "Freaked out by a pigeon! Fucking rats in the sky!" or "I thought it was someone breaking it but it was just my shoe squakin'" and the operator buys that. Somebody's getting fired.
I need to address the elephant in the room - Payday 2 and DLC. One quick look at the game in the Steam Store will reveal enough DLC to make EA blush, and more's coming. Since the game came out, there have been only a few "free" updates. A few heists, John Wick, but mostly it's been systems changes and bug fixes. Actual content tends to come out as paid DLC, including some of the best heists, a selection of pretty powerful guns and - crucially - access to three weapon classes entirely. Machineguns, sniper rifles and grenades are locked behind a DLC paywall. Stuff that isn't paid DLC has recently come out with a different requirement - joining the Payday 2 official group on Steam. If you log into the game and see a ton of "Community" weapons locked to you, that's why they're locked. Joining the Steam group is, of course, free... But it's a frikkin' hassle because steam's UI for handling groups is a joke. I had to look up online guides to figure it out.
DLCs are, of course, not that expensive and you REALLY don't need or want most of it. I personally own all of it (including a couple of gifts from NT) but I got that over time. If you're planning on getting into the game NOW, you only really need or want a few. Let me list you them:
*Gage Mod Courier: This offers A LOT of extra options for modifying your weapons and it applies to nearly all guns.
*Gage Weapon Pack #1: This one is the game's sole access to Grenades.
*Gage Weapon Pack #2: This one is the game's primary access to Machineguns.
*Gage Sniper Pack: This one is the game's primary access to Sniper Rifles and - crucially - to sniper scopes.
*Gage Shotgun Pack: This one is the game's sole access to special Shotgun ammunition.
*Gage Assault Pack: This one is the only way you can access the game's one Grenade Launcher.
*Gage Historic Pack: This one has one Machinegun and one Sniper Rifle without a scope.
*Armoured Transport DLC: This has four missions in it, each a robbery of armoured cars in a street. That can lead to a special armoured train heist.
*Hotline Miami DLC: This is a separate two-day heist inspired by the Hotline Miami video game. TONS of fun.
*The Big Bank DLC: This is a robbery on a very large bank. Cool but difficult.
You don't NEED any of the above, strictly speaking. Payday 2 plays just fine on just the base game and Community stuff. However, if it weren't for Machineguns, I wouldn't be playing today. My advice is pick a few things that look interesting to you and get those DLCs. If you get any at all, get the Mod Courier DLC, then pick one that has guns you like, and heists when you tire of the existing ones. And remember - you don't need to own a DLC heist in order to join the lobby of someone who does. I own all the heist DLCs, so if I'm hosting a game you guys can join even if you don't own them.
I like Payday 2. Writing the review, it came across a lot more negative than I'd intended, but the game itself is just tons upon tons of fun. I've had the pleasure of leading several new players through their first few games, and the experience for them is somewhere between a rollercoaster ride and a near drowning, but they always leave their first game panting, giggling and cheering. Make no mistake - this is an INTENSE game. It throws A LOT of stuff at you at the same time and then expects you to be able to save your own life, help your team, remember the objectives, know where you are, know what you're doing and know where you're going. It starts off rather intimidating, but it's by far not insurmountable, especially if you have someone to help.
If you're a fan of hectic, fast-paced, do-or-die games then Payday 2 is definitely for you. It's all that and more. If you're a fan of firearms, even just theoretically, Payday 2 has you covered. It's not exactly realistic, but it uses real gun models and pretty good gunplay mechanics. The game also relies rather very heavily on player agency. It encourages you to be greedy, often giving you FAAAR more loot than the minimum required. Do you stay for more or leave now? Just how far are you willing to go for that sweet, sweet payday? If you like a game which puts success or failure squarely in your hands, get this one.
However, here's the big downside - this is a game about killing cops, and lots of 'em. It's not even skirting around that fact, they're not some fascist state's faceless storm troopers. They're just law enforcers doing their job, and you're encouraged to shoot 'em in the head. A lot. If that bothers you, this isn't the right thing for you. You are NOT a good person. Most of the stuff you do ends up stealing from the innocent to benefit criminals, or usually yourselves. The game is also pretty violent. It doesn't have outright gore, granted, but it has A LOT of blood, Half-Life style. Shooting people may not dismember them, but it does spray the walls quite a bit. Finally, the game is VERY foul-mouthed. The Kommisar whom I'd been sent to kill once called me and my crew "Dogshit monkeyfuckers." and police are commonly heard exclaiming how "The AO is a shitstorm!" or "This is a colossal goatfuck!" Hell, Chains' one line for marking cameras and guards during stealth is simply "SHIT!" If you don't like foul language, then god damn fucking stay away from this thing.
Back at Launch, Payday 2 wasn't worth playing. Progression was slow, the game was buggy and there wasn't much to do. Now, however, it's a game well worth your time. I love it, I'd love to get you guys to try it and, if there's any interest in the title, maybe even have a few events for it. It's four-player co-op, after all.