Wow, just where do I start? I’ve completed heist after heist and I don’t intend on stopping anytime soon until I hit a Reputation (the game’s name for Level) of 100. You know how people rated Terminator 2: Judgement Day as one of the best sequels ever made? PAYDAY 2 is the T2 of videogames. Like the first, you play as a heist group gang member, from old fashioned bank robberies to going up against cartel figures, or doing a politician’s dirty work. What you’ve come to enjoy in the first, the sequel ups the ante with all new types of heists and revamped skill trees. OVERKILL definitely brought out their big guns for this. The developers listened; you see it in the game. PAYDAY 2’s HUD is reworked so it gives you informative stuff, and making everything look so stylish at the same time. I loved the UI design so much, I practically just went through the various menus that I can click just so I admire the work put in the presentation. It’s top-quality stuff there.

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Must be all that vodka.

The graphics are lovely, with depth of field (though I must say it functions kind of wonky at the moment so I turned it off), dust specs and smoke ashes filling the screen only when it absolutely needs to. The astonishing level of detail, from the stacks of paper and books on the shelf is well-done. Firing away in a club with the flashing disco lights disorients you and your aiming. Helmets are still flying about like in the first, and you can expect more beautiful and varied environments. A shopping mall looks so good, you almost feel bad that you have to smash up the whole place like you’re on a TV game-show and bolt out.

New to this game are card picking, you select them post-mission to get a random goodie, from weapon parts to mask customization materials. Throwing of bags and barricading of windows are a welcome addition. Hurling your loot is used far more often, and essential to your group’s advantage. You no longer select heists, rather they appear in the form of; A map displaying hotzones of heists people are playing online, and you choose which to hop in. The stealth aspect is given a larger attention this time, with a detection meter and the ability to answer curious calls of knocked out (or dead) guards to maintain cover. It is possible to complete missions without setting off alarms, having a team with voice communication and complementing skill trees will help make the almost mythical way of pulling off a heist unnoticed, or stay under the radar for as long as possible before the inevitable alarm. Hostages are useful in holding off the Assault phase for a while longer and exchanging for arrested teammates. Be very, very careful at who you shoot at, if you kill innocents you lose money, and the Specials (SWAT team members with riot shields, tazers and snipers) will come down hard on your team. Still, I wished you could use the hostages as a form of mobile protection in forcing the police to think twice before taking shots at your direction. A necessary feature to conserve ammo and coerce the AI to play less aggressively.

Still the most annoying thing ever.

The missions aren’t cakewalk where the enemies function purely as cannon fodder; you have to put on your A-game to complete a heist, or risk losing everything you just snagged. Balance your greed and risk properly to escape unscathed. The risk factor plays in even more when you purchase “assets” pre-game that allow ammo bags, fuel or other insider assistance to help the mission go more smoothly. If you’re lucky, bigger and bolder heists may appear, and some take over the course of a few days before you get to collect your dough; sounds a little intimidating to newcomers but it is very manageable with a competent team. Just don’t mix the wrong cocaine ingredients, let the experienced guys handle it.

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Point to note: Avoid going at heists alone (that’s Offline), the team’s AI is dumb as they are a hindrance. While it is good to try it out to explore and familiarize the levels, solo isn’t the ideal experience. I’ve tried to rob a bank, only for the AI to start waltzing around when I’m down and require help. They also rarely (or never) drop ammo and medic bags unlike human players, not to mention the loot bags.

Simon Viklund returns as the composer for the sequel, and the music definitely plays a big part in setting the game’s stylish atmosphere. Bravo! To get across my point of how fantastic the tunes are: Buy the soundtrack for the first and the second, give it a listen for yourself. It’s pretty epic, and you’d definitely feel like a badass when the stylish tune hits during the Assault Phase.

There are of course, some issues I have with the game; The weapon upgrade system definitely needs some tweaking. You get the weapons only through the card system and nowhere else. I’m currently level 30 and  unlocking weapons for your frequently used one is painfully long. There’s also bug issues like interacting with the drill or a downed teammate through a wall if they’re close enough, game crashes and lobby connection issues. I’m staying optimistic though, it’s OVERKILL and their track record with the first game is excellent. It’s only a a matter of time before most of the issues get fixed. Even with these nagging issues, overlooking this great game is a huge mistake.

Wrapping off, PAYDAY 2 is a superb co-op game that stands tall next to Left 4 Dead and Killing Floor. The game is flat out fun when playing with people, and boy does it nail the teamwork part well. It’s a great heist cooperative FPS with pop culture references like the Dark Knight and Heat movies (there’s a Breaking Bad mention somewhere) peppered around, the Reputation and skill trees add further replayability down the line. If you have the money, it would be a wise move to put on your masks and cash in on the game now.