Payday 2: Buy this game

Note-  This is another old NerdyEdge review.

Payday 2: Buy This Game!

Payday 2 cover, clown gang running out of vault, guns blazing.
When I finished Grand Theft Auto 5, the heists were, by far, my favorite part of the experience, and I secretly longed for a game that just focused in on those. Of course, there already was such a game: Payday and its sequel, Payday 2.  I started playing this summer, and I really should have given this game a try back when it came out in 2013. Despite its age, Starbreeze Studios has been updating this game since it came out with a steady mix of paid and free DLC and updates that have improved the experience. If you haven’t given the Payday series a try before, now is as good a time as any. It frequently shows up on Steam sales fairly regularly, frequently bundled with a ton of DLC at a huge discount, and it’s really worth it.

Payday is a co-operative FPS features the exploits of the infamous “Payday” gang, a group of 4 utterly crazy thieves armed with assault rifles, body armor, nice suits, and high explosives and scary as hell clown masks that instantly cause all guards within a sixty foot radius to lose their shit if they spot you.  Their jobs cover everything from elections fraud to arson to straight up robbery, usually resulting in a three digit body counts and six or seven figure paydays.

A bank safe with a sandwhcih

Though the “Payday” isn’t always six figures…

You have a lot of options as to the how you are going to approach a job. Sometimes, you’ll come in guns blazing and ending up leaving a three digit body count. Other times you’ll be sneaky as hell and get out without anyone noticing except for that guard you had to knife in the head. Sometimes you’ll lose the mission if you get spotted, other times you’ll get paid for causing collateral damage.

There are a variety of jobs available with a variety of difficulty levels, and a bunch of approaches to how you want to go about it. I love this aspect, because you can pick missions that do what you want. If you feel like being sneaky, you can play Shadow Raid, where you go in quietly to steal an absurdly valuable antique from a mercenary company. Or you can go nuts and play the Hoxton Breakout, which is pretty much a crazy running firefight with the cops from start to finish.

Some of the newer jobs come with pre-planning phases that allow you to plan your attack, though co-ordinating with strangers can be difficult. You can also chose a few limited special options that make the job easier: for example, in the Big Bank heist, you can bring in extra parts to the bank drill, or have a friend drive a bus into the side of the bank to make your exit once you have the vault open.

As you do jobs you get paid, which lets you buy new weapons, armor and masks that unlock, as well as mods for said weapons. You also get experience, and as you level new weapons are unlocked, and you get skill points which can be freely distributed between multiple classes. The enforcer wears heavy armor and is fantastic with shotguns and power saws (!!!). The ghost is hard to spot and uses ECM to prevent alarms. The mastermind has a smattering of group enhancements and is great at keeping people on their feet. The techie is the most accurate and the best at fixing THAT FUCKING POS DRILL that keeps breaking every 30 seconds. You can have 3-5 different skill builds at any given time to change things up or to adapt to specific missions.

Since there’s three options per tier, mods for every weapons, tons of different weapons (some unlockable by DLC), perk decks that unlock special bonuses, the customization options become a little nuts, particularly by the time you start hitting level 100 and have a lot of skill points to play around with… and then when you are used to that the game encourages you to “go infamous” resetting your level but unlocking a bunch of new customization options, music and gear. The fact that I’ve seen a lot of players with five levels of infamy (levelling from 1-100 five times) is a testament to how addictive this game is.

The game’s difficulty scales quite well. On Normal (the easiest) difficulty, regular cops might as well be firing paint guns at you. It’s built for beginners. On Death Wish, it’s a constant stream of SWAT teams, armored FBI agents, and specialty agents like the cloaker (who looks like Sam Fisher, sneaks around, and can knock you out with one hit from his baton of death) the shield (who is invulnerable on one side to 90% of the weapons in the game) and the dreaded bulldozer (who can eat whole clips like overpriced movie popcorn). Even as a level 100 character, having two or three of these guys show up at the wrong time can end a mission quickly: this game is always a challenge.

Charging Bulldozers

Deathwish doesn’t offer challenge so much as masochism.

Another thing I have to comment is on the communication and lobby system, which deserves some accolades simply because so many other games manages to screw their multiplayer matchmaking and communication up. All you have to do to play Payday 2 is go into “crime net” and you’ll be treated to a number of missions of various difficulties. Just click on the mission and you’ll enter a lobby. You can either chat or press a button to talk at any time. That may sounds like the bare minimum, but it’s amazing how many other games manage to get it wrong.

The easy communication is something any other game should emulate. I’ve met all sorts of people playing this game online, and the ability to quickly ask for help, point something else or make plans is a real key element of making multiplayer games more fun, particularly considering how difficult some of jobs can get.

You work for a variety of bosses, who’s mission have their own unique flavor. Vlad’s (the Russian mobster) missions are loud, brutal, and loaded with silly Russian stereotypes (“Vlad is on rise like fucking sputnik!”). The Dentist is a cool, soft spoken and erudite professional who calculates all the angles (played by Gustavo Fring from Breaking Bad). There’s an even a crazy “Hotline Miami” mission with more 80’s references then you can shake a stick at as you try and eliminate Der Kommisar.

Headless Bulldozer

And then there’s the holiday events…

Payday 2 does a fantastic job of presenting the theme of Payday 2 throught live action videos that show some of the canonical robberies of the Payday gang. These are periodically updated to introduce the community to new DLC (paid or free) and updates and flesh out the world. When you boot up Payday 2, you’ll get the latest one automatically (though of course you can skip it like any other intro video).

One of the big reasons I’m so positive towards this game is Overkill/Starbreeze’s respect of the fans and continued support of the game, even 18 months after the game’s initial release. They’ve included numerous community weapon designs and ideas as free updates, given a ton of free content, created web videos, and are generally active and positive presences on their forums.

For example, a few pieces of DLC contain custom levels as well as a few pieces of equipment. If you don’t have this DLC, you can still PLAY in those levels, you just can’t start them yourself. That’s pretty generous, in my book.  The weapons and gear you get in the paid DLC is nice, thematic, and useful, but aren’t inherently better than most of the other weapons, except in limited circumstances (machine guns are fantastic in corridors, grenade launchers make mincemeat of shields and bulldozers).

Summary / Should you buy this?: Yes (as if it wasn’t obvious from my incessant flogging of a game from that came out in 2013). Considering how often this game goes on sale, there’s no reason not to give it a try if you play  first person shooters.

Try and play “normal’ difficulty missions till you know what you are doing unless you have a patient team of friends willing to guide you.

Help people up unless doing so will just down you, in which case, don’t. So long as one of you makes it out, it’s a win.

Just remember to take out the cloaker first.

The golden rule of firefights is to get behind cover to recover your armor/reload. Open areas are bad.

Don’t trust that an area behind you is clear. Enemies can slip into most areas via roof entrances and hidden vents, though they never put these in objective rooms or vaults.

Aim for the head. Good advice on all missions, but a must against bulldozers, who can soak up half a weapon’s total ammo capacity to the torso (no, not a clip, I mean your whole supply!)

Stick together. About half the time a mission fails it’s when I’m running after someone who got downed well away from everyone else.

Check out your team’s load out before you start a mission. You want to make sure you have someone with medic bags and ammo.

ECM is fantastic on robberies. On early missions you can just drop an ECM, storm the place and tie everyone up, ECM again, grab the loot and run and get out before anyone is the wiser.

The only DLC I consider “must own” is the Gauge Courier Mod. Other stuff is nice to have but not really required. The Shotguns are also worth it for HE shells, which can stun dozers and remove shields.

Four Stores, Mall Crasher, and Nightclub (Vlad’s Jobs) are all pretty good missions to introduce you to the game.

If you see a red glowing sniper light, find where its coming from and kill the bastard, or get behind cover. Snipers can take you out with 1-2 shots, but are pretty easy to kill.

Try different class powers and perk decks. Mastermind and Technician are the most generally useful.

They aren’t kidding about hostages being important. The more you have, the less aggressive the cops are, and you can trade them for team mates in custody.

Ghost is absurdly good for stealth missions (as you might expect). Enforcer and Fugitive are the “kill em all” classes, though Enforcers tend to be slow and loud while Fugitives tend to be fast and lightly armored.

The CAR-4 and the the Berneli-9 are good early weapons that will last you into the late game with the right mods. The Locomotion is an amazing secondary for loud missions.  Berneli-9’s used Akimbo are probably the best weapon in the game.

You cannot shoot through shields with most weapons. It simply can’t be done. Get around them, or just ignore them and let the dude with the Sniper Rifle/HE shotgun/Grenade Launcher/Armor Piercing weapons deal with them.

Cloakers kill in one hit, no matter how much armor you are wearing. You can hear when they are readying for an attack because their goggles make a “power up” noise. These are top priority targets.

If you hear someone being tazed, near you, help them. Otherwise you may have to revive them instead in a few seconds.

Enemies will drop to the floor when wounded

Some Mastermind skills involve making cops surrender and become hostages, or even turn to your side and fight for you. If you see a cop with a blue outline, he’s on your side: don’t shoot him. If you see a cop surrendering, don’t shoot him, either.

When the escape vehicle appears, get to it quickly. Don’t be the one guy who’s left behind.

It’s better to get away with one person then lose everyone. Be prepared to cut your losses if things get ugly.

There are a ton of strategy videos, builds, and guides available on the forums and on YouTube.

Ask to friend people you enjoyed playing with. It really helps.

When you get late game, consider the following builds
Fugitive/Mastermind – Two pistols + Pistol Mods = Win. This build is ONLY good at level 80+, when you can get top talents from each tier. Pair with the Hitman deck for the dodge bonus. Having a dodge of 75% when crouching is just unfair.

TechForcer – Probably the most popular high level build in the game. Iron Man (top enforcer skill) gives you insanely good armor. Bullet Proof (top tech skill) increases your armor by 50%.  The early skills from these trees are really useful, so this is a good build to start with.

Tech/Ghost – Almost always paired with a big ass sniper rifle. This is a standard for “quiet” runs.

GhostForcerMind- You don’t really care about the Ghost skills, you just want the silent weapon bonus accuracy and stability… and then you want to throw that onto a machine gun. The weapon will suddenly become absurdly accurate.

By Marc Thompson



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