Left 4 Heat: How a co-op heist simulator could be a must-have PC title… if the bugs are ironed out
Being the robber is so much more fun than being the cops.
PayDay 2 is the bastard child of the movie Heat and the game Left 4 Dead. You can play with up to four friends, and it’s your job to rip people off. To shake people down. To protect the drugs. To do all the bad stuff.
If you’re good, you can slide in and out without being detected. If you’re bad, well… you have guns.
I wasn’t able to see much of the game’s equipment; there was a bug that seemed to keep resetting my levels, and the game had a bad habit of crashing at the end of the mission. So I’ve played for a good variety of hours, but I haven’t been able to gain as many levels as I would have liked before writing this article. It says something about the game that my friends and I were still excited to continue playing, despite what I hope to be quickly fixed issues.
This isn’t a game for people without friends, as you’re teaming up with others to take down each objective and you’re fighting the computer-controlled NPCs and police officers. You can play with random people, but you know how that so often goes. You can also play with AI-controlled bots on your team, but that’s even worse. You need a good team with voice chat to get anywhere, but once you put that team together, you’re going to have a pretty good time.
The game is played in first person, and each mission begins with the crew just walking around, checking things out. You’ll be suspicious if you roll in with body armor and extra ammunition hanging off your belt, so maybe send the guy wearing the suit into the bank before you begin to take the place down.
Things get stressful the second you put on your mask and take out your gun, and then it’s a challenge to control the hostages, make sure no one hits the alarm or calls the police, and to do what you need to do before finding your getaway driver. You’ll need to look out for cameras, for security, for civilians walking past. Each heist is a mess of tiny details, and you have to keep it all straight if you want to finish each mission cleanly.
Or you can just walk in, shoot the guard in the head to show you mean business, and then kill your way through waves of police and SWAT. It’s a viable option, although health and ammunition are limited. The police never stop coming, so at that point you’re trying to work against nearly impossible odds. It’s best not to put yourself in this position.
The game is brutally difficult. If your entire team is killed or taken into custody you gain next to no experience, and no cash. You don’t get points for trying hard or for coming close, or at least not many. It takes a long time to get used to the rhythm of the game, and to know what to look for when you’re trying to be stealthy. Some of the missions can be subtle, and it can be easy to get lost without knowing what to do next.
You’ll also be asked to hold tight for extended periods of time; drilling into safes can take more than five minutes, and that’s an eternity when the snipers show up and the armored police begin to stream in. You often feel like a terrible person doing desperate things. Do yourself a favor and grind through the easiest missions to get experience, levels, equipment, and know-how. It also doesn’t hurt to team up with people who have played the beta and know what they’re doing.
The game is $30, or $90 for a four-pack, which I recommend, and that almost seems high for this sort of game these days. I can’t even speak to the amount of content in the game, as the crashing issues and incoming server wipe did much to stop our enthusiasm for playing past the first few levels.
Still, the game is not free-to-play. There are no microtransactions. You earn cash in the game, and spend it on equipment. Just like the good old days. Each mission has certain variables that are adjusted every time you play; you can never be exactly sure what you’re walking into, although you can buy information at the beginning of the mission to give you some much-needed intel about what to do. Be careful though, cash can be hard to come by, and if you fail after buying the information that money is gone.
Each area is also smaller than you may expect; bumping into invisible walls when you're trying to get to the escape car or flank the police is annoying.
Payday 2 is often unwelcoming, sometimes feels too difficult, and there is precious little hand-holding as you figure out the best ways to be a criminal. You’ll need a competent crew, and you’ll need to be able to talk with them to get ahead. The game is not for everyone, or even most people, but fans of this sort of co-op experience will be in absolute heaven. You may want to throw your mouse when you do something stupid, or one of your men blows your cover, or you’re gunned down on the way to the getaway car, but when you figure everything out and plan the perfect job?
Few things feel better.
Don't think of this as a review, and I'll be playing more once the server wipe is done and hopefully stability improves, but I've already had enough fun that I can say I look forward to going back into the game. If you have a few regular buddies with headsets, and you have steady hands and the stomach to kill a few hundred policemen? You owe it to yourself to at least check it out.