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Payday 2 proves robbing banks is better with friends

Hayden Dingman | Aug. 22, 2013
Payday 2, sequel to Overkill Software's 2011 heist game, works as long as you have friends to play with. Otherwise, you might not want to bother.

The game also won't teach you, for instance, how to yell at civilians so they'll get down on the ground and remain hostages, or how to answer guard's radios so you don't trigger an alarm while you think you're stealthily taking down the opposition.

This leads to random games flooded with people who don't fully understand the mechanics available, making it more likely that every match turns into a giant fragfest. I'm not saying this to be judgmental—I was guilty of the same flaws when I started out. I simply didn't realize that standing next to a guard while not even wearing my mask yet would be enough to set off the alarm, because it wasn't conveyed to me ahead of time.

The community is also (like many co-op games) toxic to newcomers, and many game hosts kick users below a certain level or flip out when the match goes sour.

A modern-day Barrow Gang
Convince three friends to heist with you, however, and Payday 2 is an entirely different game. It's deeper, more tactical, with a lot more of that Ocean's Eleven vibe.

With a group of friends, each of you can level up a different tech tree and grow your team's effectiveness on all fronts, the various puzzle pieces that are the four classes interlocking seamlessly. Everyone feels essential, nobody is underpowered. You can coordinate and pull off the perfect job, or at least get close.

And when one of your friends eventually screws up, you'll probably laugh and tease him or her about it. You're all learning the systems together as a team, not as adversaries. It's silly fun, not annoying.

It's clear this format is what Overkill had in mind. The few times I could put together a game filled with friends, I completely understood why Payday 2 works. Planning out and executing a plan this complex is satisfying. Improvising when it all goes wrong, trying to manage ten problems at once, is even livelier.

Bottom line
Most people are stuck with the lesser version of Payday 2. They're stuck playing this game with random people or (even worse) by themselves. And there's no sugarcoating it: Payday 2, without friends, is just not much fun.

The systems are all there, the missions are the same, the core concepts are the same, but I quickly find myself getting frustrated in public matches. I don't feel like we're a group of master thieves at all; rather, we're the most inept bunch of losers on the planet. We're a bunch of Beavis and Buttheads who went, "Heh, wouldn't it be funny to rob a bank?" then managed to buy assault rifles and silly masks.

 

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