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DoubleTake: Payday 2

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Posted on April 11, 2013 AT 03:45pm

Heist Harder

Josh I know neither of us had much experience with the original Payday. I watched a lot of gameplay videos and picked it up when it was free on PS Plus, but I was so swamped that I never got around to actually playing it. Still, I was always intrigued by the concept. I love co-op games, I love heist movies, and the marriage of the two seems like such a brilliant idea that I’m amazed no one thought of it sooner. And after actually seeing Payday 2 in action, I’m definitely sold on the idea. I’m definitely not going to miss out this time around.
For sure. I don’t know about you, but what impressed me most during the developer’s demonstration was the game’s adaptive nature—how you can plan and scheme and try to approach a heist thoughtfully, but if something goes awry things go bad in what I can only describe as a glorious, chaotic mess. Think the bank shootout from Heat played on loop. And because of this, the game demands a great deal of collaboration and coordination between players. You’re not just playing together, you’re planning together. Chris
Josh Yeah. I mean, that’s what’s great about heist movies, right? No one wants to watch a plan that goes off without a hitch. It’s all about the drama whenever the new guy doesn’t check his corners and gets spotted by a security guard, and it seems like Payday 2 is doing a great job of capitalizing on that side of things. Not only are they including more randomization in terms of guard and camera locations than in the first game, there are also way more levels—at least two or three times as many, we were informed—so it’ll be borderline impossible to know exactly what to do to pull off every mission flawlessly. Things are going to go wrong unless you work like a well oiled machine, and even then there’s no guarantee.
It’s just a really brilliant approach to offering variety. It’s a sandbox. Albeit a small sandbox, but that’s arguably better given the intimate arenas. Multiple points of entry, multiple methods. Differing play styles can be accommodated—especially because of the noteworthy amount of customization Overkill  has thrown into the game. There are, what, four main classes? The Mastermind, the Technican, the Ghost, and the Enforcer. And I mean, these are stock videogame character classes—crowd control, gadgetry, stealth, brute force—but because you can blend their respective skills to tailor your character the way you want, things just feel—I don’t know—deep, in a smart, subtle way. Chris

Josh The skill tree should definitely be a nice addition, especially because, as you mentioned, you can pick and choose perks from any of the four trees and respec at any time—if you’ve got the cash. I suspect being a jack of all trades won’t be as beneficial as going whole hog into one of the classes, but it’ll be nice to mix and match if you want to play with, say, just one other player rather than a full lineup of four. Honestly, though, after learning that David Goldfarb of Battlefield 3 fame is on board to help out with the shooting, I think I might almost prefer to skip all the stealth and just go in guns blazing.
If nothing else, they allow players to experiment, to challenge themselves in interesting ways through self-imposed restrictions. And that’s something I find super appealing. I think the guys at Overkill touched upon this. We could collectively decide to do an all-Ghost run. Not because we have to, or because it’s a in-game constraint that will net us some sweet, sweet cheevo. Simply because the option exists—flawlessly executing a heist completely undetected. And even if that goes south and a firefight erupts, there is something to be said about the oh-my-god moment when you manage, against all odds, to still pull off the heist and get out alive while all playing characters whose stealth-oriented nature disadvantages them in a full-on assault. Chris
Josh The other thing that really interested me was they way jobs can evolve dynamically this time around. The example we were given—if you leave a lot of evidence lying around at the scene of the crime, you might have a follow-up level where you break into the police station to destroy it—sounds like a great example of how they’re trying to add a lot more depth and variety this time around. Multi-stage jobs are already an interesting concept, but having the game adapt in that major way based on your performance is really exciting to me. Oh, before I forget, what did you think about the way you find and enter missions now, the Crime Net interface thingy?
Definitely dug Crime Net. For one, it provides just enough context to give the capers meaning. Do we still use that word? Capers? It’s 1938, right? Anyway, Crime Net turns the job assignments into bite-sized story vignettes that frame each job. It’s functionally the scene in any given heist film where the thieves sit around a table and work out the details—sketch blueprints on a napkin at a diner. And that’s in the game! The intel your employers supply aren’t just bullet points in a text list. They’re that blueprint on a napkin, or surveillance photos, or a shot of your target—say, a diamond-studded tiara—from a fashion magazine. It’s just such a nice touch that suits the game’s atmosphere. Chris

Josh I really like the idea that you’re not just working your way through a list of sequential missions. This isn’t a linear game. It’s something designed to played over and over again with your friends without needing to worry about following a cohesive story. I think the Crime Net respects that with the way it introduces jobs sort of like random encounters—options pop up, you pick the one that sounds the most interesting, and go for it. All, in all, I’m way more excited than I thought I would be going on. The one lingering question I have is whether or not they’ll be able to put in the necessary polish before launch. There were a lot of placeholder animations in what we saw, and the game’s summer launch window is coming up mighty fast.
Here’s hoping. I really want to love this game. It’s got my attention. Like you, I’m a huge, huge heist film fan. I get the impression that playing Payday 2 will be like playing the opening scene from The Dark Knight. In no small part because I suspect Overkill drew heavy inspiration from that flick. The masks, the suits. And I don’t think for a second Payday 2 won’t be fun, but the devil’s in the details—and those details are noticeably absent right now. But it’s still got two, three, maybe four months. I’m not an animator—I don’t know much about videogame animation—but I’m inclined to believe it’ll come together in that time. Please come together, Payday 2. I want to play you. Chris

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