While Payday was a great way to get with some buddies and pull off criminal shenanigans, there's little point in arguing that it was essentially the Left 4 Dead formula as viewed through the lens of cops and robbers. Payday 2 builds upon the ideas that supported the previous game, leaning much more toward a proper heist simulator than just shooting hundreds of cops. What's more, the game will have a lot more persistent aspects to it, giving you a real reason to play through and collect your loot.
The heist that I played with a member of the QA team was a traditional bank heist. Stealth is always an option, but in our case, a nameless individual (hint: not me) botched shooting a solo guard with his silenced pistol, and the alarm sounded. At that moment, it was masks on, and ARs were loaded. Much as you could in the first game, we quickly secured some hostages with zip ties; this also helps stave off police assaults, as they are leery to rush in when hostages are involved. The more police you shoot, the more that they will respond, and capping a few plainclothes officers results in officers with tactical gear responding, and snipers begin to populate nearby rooftops. Wantonly shooting at the cops is a bad idea this time around, as it quickly escalates the situation.
A lot of the gameplay tenets are the same. While players can have smaller one-time-use drills for weaker locks, to breach the more secure vault door, we had to grab a duffel bag with a the larger drill assembly. While carrying the duffel bag, you are significantly slowed, and while you can still use two-handed weapons, your view is slightly askew. Once in place, the drill began its work, but like in the previous game, it can randomly jam and require a player to reset it so that it can continue its work.
During this time, cops began to come into the bank in larger groups via windows, the doors on the ground floor, and from the roof via helicopter drops. You can find planks in the level to board up the windows; the police can break through the boards, but they're meant to slightly fortify an area to buy you some time. As the vault door was breached, the two of us began blasting away at the police response, which was now peppered with cops using bullet-proof riot shields. As in the former game, there were piles of money to be liberated, and like the drill, the bags of money weigh you down and tilt your vision. The safety deposit boxes can also be raided, depending on how badly you want the cash versus the current state of the police response.
The rest of our heist went fairly smoothly. As I went to a small balcony and provided covering fire down the street, my teammate rushed across it, throwing his duffel bag full of loot into the back of an open van before I did the same. Once all players have either made it to the escape location or been captured by the police, the heist is over.
However, with some later heists, a single mission may not quite cover it. Some heists are comprised of multiple "missions" spanning in-game days. One example was that the first heist may involve stealing a painting from a location, while the second day involves a subsequent criminal operation to sell the painting to a potential buyer. Heists can have immediate follow-up missions, called "escapes," depending on how well or badly you did. Do poorly, and these missions pop up, with the police stopping your escape, and the resulting five minutes of gameplay involves you and your teammates trying to get away again.
At the end of each heist, players get money added to their offshore bank account. Each player gets a random piece of loot added to their collection, which can be weapon parts, such as barrels, different optics or silencers. It can also be mask designs, mask materials, or a paint job that can be applied to weapons or masks. In the original game, the four characters each had their own masks, but in this title, you can make your own. Want to make a mask with a blue and white paint job in the style of the Anonymous mask? You can do so, but some masks, paint jobs, and materials can be rare drops.
Your profile also gains skill points that you can put toward four skill trees; Enforcer, Ghost, Mastermind, or Technician. You'll only get enough skill points to max out one tree, so care must be exercised when building your character. These skills provide different bonuses, such as starting off with more zip ties, allowing you to tailor your character toward your intended play style.
The game uses the same engine as the original, but it has clearly been overhauled. Everything has much more detail, and there are a lot more objects in the environment. The HUD has also been improved, allowing you to see more information about your teammates, such as the ammo amount they are carrying for both weapons. There is also a ticker of information in the upper right-hand corner that shows information, such as the current police response, which gives you more information about what is going on elsewhere with the heist.
While the original game was certainly fun, Payday 2 significantly ups the ante. The experience seems much more focused, and the ability to acquire additional weapon parts and other loot gives you a reason to run through the heists multiple times. The game's more RPG-style skill trees and progression further cement its status as one that you'll want to play through many times over. Look for more information on the title as it gets closer to release, but everything is pointing to Payday 2 being an absolute blast.
More articles about Payday 2