Old but Gold is my series of reviews working through a pile of older games. Each week we’ll be examining an older game that was just sort of… given up on. I’ll try, as always, to keep it focused on cheap titles, specifically less than $25(AUD) on Steam at the time of writing. So, come with me on this journey and let’s rediscover the magic together. Or for those of you who haven’t picked up the game already perhaps this review will sway you to check it out.
See that bank? You can rob it.
Payday 2 was well received when it initially launched, maintaining a sizeable audience to this day. With the recently announced RAID: World War 2 being published by Starbreeze Studios I had an itch to go back and try my hand at the old crime simulator.
Now I realize that’s something of an odd term but that’s precisely what Payday 2 is, albeit a simulator set in a city where almost all citizens are conducted into the police force and sent in near endless waves at whatever criminals should be brave, or foolish, enough to rob the local convenience store.
While yes, the game has its faults with a mountain of DLC bigger than my pile of backlog I’m attempting to work through with this series, it has a certain charm to it nonetheless. Sure, you could go rob a bank in GTA V and it’ll look a lot nicer but it’s only a small aspect of the overall GTA experience. In Payday 2, crime is the experience.
There’s a magic to those first 30 or so skill levels. When your haul from normal difficulty missions feels like something significant, when you feel like SWAT teams are an actual challenge when it’s all new and different. Now with most games, once that initial spark is gone, it’s gone for good. Payday 2 isn’t most games. Yes, the spark still dies but the embers of the fire it lit remain, burning steadily.
There’s always a new gun, always a new tactic to try, always a new mistake to be made that sees you trying to fend off an army in a suit armed only with a suppressed pistol and your most inconspicuous assault rifle. Yes, it’s safe to say the game has a few logical holes but no-one really minds.
Fortunately for me. Payday comes with a lovely scheme of replay value: the infamous system. When you reach level 100 you can spend 2, 000, 000 and empty your offshore account to become “Infamous”. This unlocks a new avatar for multiplayer lobbies along with a bump to all future XP earned and a cool new exclusive mask. The downside is you lose all your money, skill points and XP essentially reverting you back to square one only you still have your guns. So, after a little grinding I became infamous for the third time and suddenly I remembered what it was I’d been yearning for while being oh so powerful.
(A lobby of players with varying levels of infamy)
Yes, the game has extremely tough difficulty ratings but it doesn’t compare to being stripped of your tools, armor, and guns then pointed at a bank and told to rob it. I realized in my first few attempts on a small-town branch that I’d come to rely on my skills and weapons. Being reduced to an ordinary guy really makes you slow down and appreciate the smaller jobs. Each heist is its own little story, how it unfolds is up to you and your crew.
At present, there are sixty (with all DLC) heists in game. That’s sixty different stories, the clear majority of which could be played stealthily or by unleashing all hell. There’s a lot to be said for the silent option, the game gives you a bonus to XP on the next mission if you complete a heist silently. But it’s more than that, it’s embracing the challenge, it’s slipping past the guards and cameras, it’s working with friends to ghost in and out of a museum with a diamond worth millions. Your payday brings more than financial reward, it brings satisfaction.
So, grab your gun, grab your dollar sign bag, grab your kick ass customized mask and grab three friends (because you really don’t want to rely on the AI) and get heisting. The payday of a lifetime is out there, just waiting for you to take it.