When one of the development team from Overkill declare that the sequel to the popular Payday: The Heist contains “more of everything”, you just have to sit up and take notice.
Likened to Left 4 Dead in many aspects, Payday: The Heist replaced Zombies with Cops and challenged players to pull off various heists in an unlinked mission-based game filled with an edginess that can be found in any number of popular Hollywood movies and TV shows. For the sequel, Overkill wanted more. It certainly looks like they pulled it off!
More weapons to shoot your way out of botched jobs, more masks to conceal your identity, more jobs to attempt as you look for that one last score. These things go without saying in a sequel. But Overkill have gone further than that, offering more immersion in the form of CRIMENET, more roleplaying with leveling and character advancement, and even more story.
CRIMENET is the first thing that will hit the player. Like a digital hub for the criminal underworld, players will be presented with a map and the various jobs that are currently available. The player will be able to pick and choose between the jobs, unlock further jobs as they level up and share jobs with friends. It is even possible to be invited into more difficult jobs by friends of higher levels.
The missions themselves are another place where things have changed, and become more.There will be the chance to take missions of differing lengths and complexity, with the larger missions split into phases. A single phase mission in which the player simply has to grab the loot and get out may last only five minutes, whereas multi-phase missions can last 30 or 40 minutes and actually have a story arc. An example could be that the first phase revolves around preparing for the heist, the second phase is carrying out the actual heist and the third phase may be attempting to fence the loot. There will also be forking storylines in which the players actions in one phase can affect later phases.
Perhaps the most exciting development in Payday 2 is the leveling system and the skill trees. As players progress through to level 100, they will acquire skill points which can be spent on improving their character through four different skill trees. It will not be possible within the game to max out all four skill trees, so players will have to team up with players of different skill sets to increase their chance of success. Players who distribute their points amongst all of the trees will find themselves at a disadvantage, but it will be possible to re-spec your character, in exchange for some in-game money.
Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician and Ghost. These are the four very different skill trees representing four different play styles. The Mastermind is the leader of the pack and can take on intimidation skills allowing him to make cops surrender or even switch sides and become an ally for a short while. The Enforcer is a pack mule, able to carry more stuff without being slowed down like others, able to use more armour and more heavy weapons, and can use their primary weapon while carrying loot, unlike players without this skillset who are stuck with their secondary weapon while burdened with loot. The Technician is the gadget guy and has access to cool equipment like sentry guns, drills and explosives. Finally, the Ghost is the stealth expert, offering skills which will help the player remain unnoticed, such as using camera jamming tech or the ability to hide bodies.
Characters can be further customised by visiting the Black Market and spending some of that hard-earned loot. As they level up, better weapons and crafting options will become available. The weapons have different stats, such as the concealment stat which dictates how easily the weapon can be hidden within a coat and go unnoticed. Players can also spend their money before the mission begins to improve their chances of success, buying valuable information such as the access codes for security shutters. These advantages are one hit only though, and failing the mission will mean having to buy them again next time if you want the same effect.
Overkill have made many other changes throughout Payday 2. Although the game is using the same engine as the previous title, things have been tweaked and optimised to make Payday 2 look and sound much better than before. There will be at least 30 jobs available at launch and DLC is planned to expand on that.
Payday 2 is due this Summer on XBLA, PSN and PC, and will be one to look out for. But whatever happens, Overkill have displayed an amazing ability to plan a heist. If I were a cop investigating a particularly ingenious theft, I know where I would look first…