When it comes to video games, sometimes you have to be the bad guy. With the Grand Theft Auto titles, you're usually playing a seedy character who performs murderous acts while trying to make ends meet.
Another game that managed to do well with the criminal set-up is Payday: The Heist, a team-oriented first-person shooter that came out a couple of years ago for PlayStation 3 and PC. The game focused on a number of heists you had to complete alone or with friends, dealing with elements that pop up throughout each match, like handling troublesome security or locating extra cash.
The game was a modest success, allowing Overkill Software to focus on a bigger and better sequel, Payday 2, which is coming next month. It'll take a different route over the original as a full-on retail release rather than a digital download. It'll also introduce the franchise to the Xbox 360 for the first time, enabling Xbox Live subscribers to plot their own lives of crime.
Although the story hasn't changed much from the original – you're still robbing banks and other locales – there will be more than 30 heists to complete, as well as a new overworld hub that allows you to pick and choose jobs however you see fit.
There are more improvements as well. Overkill has been listening closely to fan feedback from the original game, so Payday 2 has a much smoother experience. For instance, the stealth element has more use this time around, as guards will be more alert – and randomized each time you play – so you won't be able to coast through certain jobs. The gun combat will also be heightened, so you actually feel the intensity of each situation, whether you're opening fire on security forces or knocking someone out so you can continue tracking down valuables.
Earning money actually has a purpose in Payday 2 as well. In the original game, it tallied up merely for the sake of score purposes. With the sequel, however, your cash is more useful. You'll turn it around to purchase new items for use in later heists. These include weapons, attachments and job investments with partners that could open up even more stealing opportunities down the road. Sometimes the gamble might not pay off, but it never hurts to give it a try to see how your team fares.
Payday 2 also improves the way to earn money, depending how well you perform each job. Of course, you still get the huge bonus if you complete the mission without breaking too far away from it, but you can also earn cash by completing secondary objectives. These include bagging bodies so you don't alert others of your presence, taking items that weren't on your original theft agenda and more. Like the original game, you can also be penalized if you go too far into a job. For instance, if you kill too many civilians or waste time with security forces without sticking to the mission, your bank account is likely to dwindle.
Even if you don't complete the mission – or something goes terribly wrong that prevents you from doing so – you still keep any cash you manage to earn over the course of each job, and can try again after purchasing a few new assets to help you along.
Like the original, skills play a big part with each of your players, and Payday 2 features a revamped system where you can earn new abilities. It's also set via tree system, so you can fill one particular skill and then move on to the next if you manage to master it enough. The better you become with your talents, the more vital you are to the team.
Yes, teamwork plays a big part in Payday 2, as it did in the original. If you prefer, you could go through the game solo with AI assistance, but Overkill made this game with cooperative support in mind. Teaming up with three other friends to tackle heists is a lot of fun, though it helps if you have a particular way of thinking – three gun-runners and a genius may or may not be the key to success.
Regardless of what your plan is, Payday 2 looks to be miles ahead of the original, and the fact that Xbox 360 owners can get in on the action is something to be appreciated.
Payday 2 will arrive for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC August 13th.