Payday 2
Players: 1-4
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: Overkill Software
Publisher: 505 Games
ESRB: Mature

At one point or another, gamers everywhere have probably fantasized about pulling off that perfect paper caper. With 2011’s Payday: The Heist, Overkill’s first venture, we were allowed to tap into the crime underworld and pull off thefts of epic proportions, but the game was not without its missteps. Now, Overkill is taking another worthy shot at it with Payday 2, in which they introduce a deeper leveling system, updated customization options and a ton of new heists. All of these developments come with one caveat, though: you’ll need criminal-minded friends to really enjoy all that this game has to offer.

In Payday 2, it’s all about leveling up and taking risks, and main characters Dallas, Chains, Hoxton and Wolf—who are reunited from the first game—try to prove that they’re still up to the task. This time around, though, missions are found by accessing, a virtual map that locates and displays all active online missions. Glancing at the map, jobs blink up randomly and offer up bank heists and art gallery robberies, with each mission offering up a unique challenge. Fittingly, each “job” is on a timer, and once the timer runs out that job is gone forever, but new opportunities are constantly cycling in and out of the map. This randomization is a definite plus, as it ensures that players rarely repeat the same mission over and over, making the most familiar robberies feel fresh.

Meanwhile, with each successful job, players can cash in to gain new skills (with the choice to build their character as a Mastermind, Enforcer, Engineer or Ghost), unlock guns and customize their masks. But the real adrenaline rush of every heist lies in the escape. With the police swarming, ammunition low and the getaway vehicle a long distance away, players can either flee as quickly as possible or stick around to grab more cash. Since the progression system is tied to the amount of loot pulled in any given mission, players are incentivized to grab as much cash as possible. .

The toughest challenge the enemy A.I. poses in Payday 2 is the sheer number of cops, with each of the typical police officers acting stereotypically dim-witted and trigger-happy. In Payday 2, cops will gladly stand in the middle of the street and fire instead of taking cover, making for some easy kills. Still, the SWAT teams are a bit tougher to murk, mostly because of their riot shields and carbines. Because Payday 2 leans so heavily on cooperative play, though, therein lies its most frustrating attribute. If you don’t already have a dependable crew to play with, forget about trying to randomly hook up with people online, as you’ll spend a solid half-hour just getting a match to stary. In the off chance that you’re successful, be wary of the fact that dropped connections are common.

And while players are given the option of playing offline, the single player mode is woefully underdeveloped. The abilities of any CPU teammates are so limited that they’re essentially worthless—they might follow you around and shoot back at cops, but they won’t help you complete a mission. As a result, if a particular objective is to bring four bags of drugs to the escape vehicle, be prepared to make those four trips on your own.

THE XXL Endgame

Payday 2 only fulfills its potential when players can put together a team of three other communication-friendly, experienced gamers, allowing for some truly dope heists to take place. You’ll probably want to avoid this game if single player is your preferred gaming choice, but Overkill has the basic elements in place to make a great co-op multiplayer game, as long as they iron out some of the existing issues.—Written by DJ Rhude (@DJRhude)

XXL Rating: L