“Payday 2” Review

The lights in the club are bright and the sound system booms a bass beat so loud it thumps the speakers. Walking in with my team, we try to avoid the stares of curious club patrons eyeing the men in flak jackets carrying large bags.

As we enter the Employees-Only section of the club, a guard notices us, but then decides we’re not a threat; his last mistake. My team masks up, and with one shot we bring the guard down and the kitchen behind us erupts in screams.

One of my teammates pulls out a portable electric saw and cuts through the lock of the door that leads up to the club’s office and the safe. Storming up the stairs, shooting another guard on the way, we find the small container and one teammate goes to work planting small charges on the door to open it in seconds. The rest of us begin crowd control.

After taking several hostages, resulting in one of the patrons calling the police, we hole up and prepare for assault. The safe is open but our getaway driver is two minutes out and the SWAT team is coming in hard with smoke grenades and automatic weapons.

Surviving the attack is the easy part, getting out with the cash and our lives is the hard part. It takes thirty seconds to cross the street to where the driver is waiting in an alleyway. Thirty seconds of bullets, pain and adrenaline.

The payoff? $1.5 million in cash and a little extra spending money from the club registers.

This is just the kind of smash-and-grab crime that is available in “Payday 2.” While there are steal missions available to players, from stealing paintings to sneaking into an FBI field office, every mission can go from quick and easy to belly-up in a heartbeat.

It may not be so bad if the lower levels are tackled first, but there are some dangerous waters when elevating the security status of your missions. The pain can range from rent-a-cops in a jewelry stores and malls, to FBI extraction teams and tactical SWAT units sent in to decimate your team of four.

The most important thing to remember is that this game is meant to be played with three friends or human players. The AI companions given in solo missions are dreadful and will get the player killed more than the cops will. Never, ever under any circumstances should “Payday 2” be played without other people.

Fights to protect your team in the vaults are harried and crazy.

That aside, the game is pretty fun. Firefights sound and play out extremely realistically. There’s a definite feeling of urgency and tension in stealth missions. Smash-and-grabs can be over in minutes and the feeling of satisfaction from escaping the scene before the cops arrive is more than worth it.

The game runs on a loot system. After every mission, each player has to select one of three face-down cards. Underneath the selected card can be a weapon, weapon mod, extra cash, a mask or mask color.

There are a lot of customization options available between the weapons and masks, which is handy since not every mission is the same, and many of them do require some planning when it comes to weaponry and equipment.

A leveling system and skill trees also allow for subtly different play styles and specialties within  teams. For a dedicated team of four players, each with customized skills, things could go very smoothly.

“Payday 2’s” strengths lie in the multiplayer action that it brings to the table. While the missions are varied, it only takes a few playthroughs to really figure out all the tricks and hacks that can help make them any missions almost foolproof.

Also, glitch exploitation is a common tactic used by players and the fact that some of the missions can be farmed for cash and experience also make the game fall a little flat.

There’s no question that the game is definitely worth its price. But in all honesty, there’s no way its worth more than that. If you have a team of four that’s ready to get down and dirty in the crime world, then this might be the game for you.

“Payday 2” is available for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.