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Payday 2 Review

  • First Released Aug 13, 2013
  • Reviewed Aug 23, 2013
  • PC
  • PS3
  • X360

If you can keep it together when the plan falls apart, crime really does pay.

In crime, as in game development, things don't always go as planned. A suspicious passerby might call the cops in early, and then those cops might phase through a wall. The loot you expect to find might not be there, and the end-of-heist reward you're hoping for might never arrive. Civilians might try to flee in the middle of a firefight, or they might disappear through the floor.

And yet, despite the potential pitfalls and the actual flaws of Payday 2, things have a way of coming together. The tension of planning and keeping things quiet, the excitement of asserting control when all hell breaks loose, and the satisfaction of a successful score outshine any dull spots, making Payday 2 an immensely enjoyable way to team up for a life of crime.

As part of the four-man crew of Hoxton, Chains, Dallas, and Wolf, you are contracted to do jobs by a dude named Bain. He sets you up with various shady characters and presents you with a city map of constantly changing opportunities. There are around 10 distinct jobs that pop up regularly with varying difficulty levels that affect how hard and how lucrative they will be. Some are stand-alone gigs, like bank heists, store robberies, and nightclub burglaries, while others span multiple days and involve stealing art, cooking meth, transporting drugs, dealing with gang members, and stealing from senators.

Mission objectives are generally clear, though there are a number of subtleties to contend with as well. Some challenges can be mastered by experience; it won't take you long to memorize the floor plan of the bank, and you quickly become familiar with the penalty for setting off alarms in the art gallery. Others require you to be flexible; cameras and security guards aren't always in the same place, and even doors, safes, and getaway spots can vary from mission to mission. This mix of constancy and variability does a great job of making you feel more confident with each mission while simultaneously keeping you on your toes. You can never be perfectly prepared for a job, and that's the way it should be.

Unfortunately, there are also some things that are more difficult to prepare for. Strange happenings with civilian and police character models, walls that you can pull solid objects through, and other technical oddities crop up throughout Payday 2. They usually have only minor effects on your criminal activity, but they do add a sour note to the otherwise welcome unpredictability. Such issues aren't likely to derail your heists, but they are occasionally enough to turn your stealthy infiltration into a messy affair.

Keeping things quiet is one of the biggest challenges of Payday 2 because so much can go wrong. A suspicious civilian might see you put on your mask. A security camera might spot you at a distance. A guard might round the corner when you're not expecting it. The guy on the radio might not believe you when you pretend to be the guard you just knocked out. Or someone, somewhere might hear the tinkling of broken glass, and before you know it, the cops are on their way and your escape van has bugged out. Completing a job without the cavalry showing up triggers a rush of giddy satisfaction, but more often than not, you're going to have to shoot your way out.

Sometimes being a good teammate involves a lot of shotgunning.
Sometimes being a good teammate involves a lot of shotgunning.

Once the alarm has sounded, the cops are on their way, but you can still manage the situation. Taking civilian hostages delays the armed escalation, keeping the really tough enemies at bay for a while. Moving your loot to a defensible position, closing the metal shutters on a store, or finding planks to board up a window can help you hold out while you wait for your drill or lock pick or computer hack to work its magic. Meanwhile, the cops come at you, and you gun them down in droves. The gunplay is solid and the AI is aggressive, but combat is more of a war of attrition than a contest of skill. Stick around long enough, and you will inevitably be overrun, no matter how skillfully you delay and fend off the advancing waves. On tougher jobs, there is more loot to grab than you can easily get away with, tempting you to try to hold out a bit longer to get a fatter payday. Get too greedy, however, and all is lost. Payday 2 channels this classic criminal conundrum nicely, right down to the heated mid-battle disagreements between team members.

And you must have human team members if you hope to succeed at any but the most basic jobs. Friendly AI characters shoot cops and revive downed players just fine, but they don't attempt much else. Playing with a team allows you to plan your approach, adapt to the situation better, and get away with more loot. The limited number of maps means that most players have a good idea what to do and when to do it, but being able to communicate is still very important. The PC is the best platform to find talkative teammates using either voice or text chat. The Xbox 360 is the runner-up thanks to the prevalent headsets, while the PlayStation 3 lags far behind with very few talkative players.

Being on the same page as your crewmates also allows you to bring complementary skills to each job. The basic equipment options let you replenish health, resupply ammunition, jam electronic signals, or set explosive traps. As you level up and earn money and experience points, you unlock new purchasable weapons for your arsenal and are rewarded with skill points that you can put toward a variety of abilities which also cost money. (Sense a theme?) Some of these skills merely make you better at what you can already do, letting you do more damage and take less, move more quickly and quietly, and perform a variety of contextual actions more efficiently.

Who knew drug trafficking involved so much running?
Who knew drug trafficking involved so much running?

Other skills open up entirely new strategic possibilities. Wielding a saw as your primary weapon lets you cut through some doors and crack open ATMs. Why kill a guard when you can intimidate him into handcuffing himself or convince him to fight on your side? Reviving teammates from a distance, converting your trip mines into safe-blowing charges, equipping an automatic sentry gun, and bagging and hiding bodies are just some of the other abilities that can completely change the tempo of your jobs. It's rewarding to work toward new skills and exciting to put them into action.

Tailoring your weapons to the job at hand can also be gratifying, but the path to satisfaction isn't as reliable. You unlock weapons steadily, but weapon attachments like scopes, suppressors, stocks, barrel extensions, and the like are only doled out in an end-of-round lottery event. You may get a nice new gun attachment, but you might instead end up with a small cash bonus or materials to craft a new mask. Mask crafting is an amusing, if expensive, diversion, but this random reward system can be frustrating for players looking to improve their arsenal. Even a simple suppressor can be hard to come by, making stealthy successes even more unlikely. Some of these imbalances have been addressed in patches, while other issues persist. The PC and PS3 seem to be the most frequently updated versions, with the Xbox 360 yet to receive similar attention.

Though the PC is clearly the best platform for Payday 2, you can have a rollicking good time regardless of what system you're using. The systems and mechanics all have small flaws and limitations, but they come together to set the stage for exciting heists that you'll want to pull again and again. As long as you can find some felons to fight alongside, Payday 2 is an addictive and challenging criminal pursuit.

Back To Top
The Good
Captures the drama and satisfaction of daring heists
New skills enable new tactics
Element of randomness keeps you on your toes
The Bad
Some randomness is due to bugs
Reward pipeline is problematic
Friendly AI is all but useless
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Payday 2

About the Author

Chris Watters doesn't do much of his home gaming on PC as a matter of comfort, but for Payday 2, he makes an exception. A heist without headset chatter is a breeding ground for Waingros.
191 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for SingletreeAve

Why is "some randomness due to bugs" in the negative column? That sounds like a feature to me. Chaos rules.

Avatar image for eatliftgame

First of all I enjoy playing this game so don't think this post is about bashing payday 2, however this game was rated higher then The Bureau Xcom declassified. One of the biggest bashes on that game by gamespot was the AI the AI in that game was a million times better then the Ai in this game which at times will be engaged in in combat with you and then completely forget you are there. Dead on shots at times appear to be misfires. The few bugs are glaring BIG BUGS interaction with loot and hostages can at times be extremely annoying. i understand the action was paused at times to help battle in Xcom which is because it is a more strategy based shooter where the action in this game is somewhat non stop. My question is do your reviews go solely on speed of play or on in game issues, because this one has way more then the Bureau.

Avatar image for Caldrin

@jerusaelem @Caldrin it sounds like you don't really enjoy the game? I am quite happy playing the game and unlocking things when I can.. I am in no rush to get everything unlocked it just happens as I play.. these days people just want everything straight away.. take your time and enjoy the game..

Avatar image for Caldrin

@guilhermepaypal @Caldrin what are you on about ?

Avatar image for Caldrin

This should have more than a 7 thats for sure..

The game looks good, plays really well, awesome unlock system for new weapons and skills..

How can you put the A.I. down a negative.. you should just ignore that and play with other people thats what this game is about... there are so many ways to pull off the different jobs :) Soem fo the most fun i have had in years..

Avatar image for jerusaelem

@Caldrin Awesome unlock "system"? Chain running the Ukrainian Job 473 times in a row isn't exactly what I would call "awesome". Neither is the bullshit RNG card game for customizing upgrades, or the fact that skills not only require level cap + skill points (plural) + large sums of money. That's the same money needed to purchase over-priced weapons, AND customize guns and masks using parts and pieces you've already unlocked via the stupid aforementioned card game. Why it costs an arbitrary $50,000 to attach a scope I already own to a gun I already own is beyond my comprehension.

It's easily the most convoluted fucking mess of a leveling system I've seen in years. If I wanted to hop into a multiplayer and grind myself into a coma, I'd reactivate my WoW account. Crime Net eats a bag as well, and that's all WITHOUT mentioning the shitty AI.

Avatar image for guilhermepaypal

@Caldrin Keep telling yourself what you want to hear.

Avatar image for GSyynoandnoyyGS

@Caldrin You can't ignore it because it's one feature of the game like it or not.

Let's just say that your internet is cut or your friend betrays you and leaves. You'll stuck with shitty friendly AI

Avatar image for Caldrin

@noandno @Caldrin then quit out as well.. Sure its hard to play the game with 3 other bots.. having 1 is not the end of the world.. but at the end of the day this game is a pure MP game and should be played as such..

People will read this review and go oh its got bad A.I. I aint gonna buy that.. the thing is the team A.I. is not a major bit of the game not in any way...

Avatar image for guilhermepaypal

Very ugly and outdated graphics, looks like an arcade game of the early 90's

Avatar image for GSyynoandnoyyGS

@guilhermepaypal Early 90s? Are you blind?

Avatar image for guilhermepaypal

@noandno @guilhermepaypal Yes I play in Braille method, don't you know? Go play your childish games with ugly graphics, I play games since 1985, before your birth, and this game not impressed me , I think it was made for people of your age and I'm too old... I prefer far cry 3, dark souls, splinter cell, fifa 13, tomb raider etc

Avatar image for Caldrin

@guilhermepaypal you what? are you playing the game while looking through two pint glasses?

Avatar image for guilhermepaypal

@Caldrin @guilhermepaypal Yes I play in Braille method, don't you know? Go play your childish games with ugly graphics, I play games since 1985, before your birth, and this game not impressed me , I think it was made for people of your age and I'm too old... I prefer far cry 3, dark souls, splinter cell, fifa 13, tomb raider etc

Avatar image for Caldrin

@guilhermepaypal @Caldrin errr well I have been playing games that long as well thanks.. the games graphics are more than fine.. sure they wont win any awards but they are far from benig bad. Dark Souls has horrid graphics by the way..

I am talknig about the PC version here by the way.. just wanted to clear that up..

Avatar image for wmurray003

@guilhermepaypal of the "Early 90's" ..are you serious? The graphics aren't exactly award winning but they are fine for this type of game that relies on the allure of the subject, BANK ROBBING and HEISTS. That is the appeal, and that's enough appeal to make most interested people purchase it.

Avatar image for guilhermepaypal

@wmurray003 @guilhermepaypal To me looks like virtua cop

Avatar image for DeviantCode

Sounds like it suffers from the same thing that hurt games like Left 4 Dead. It's one thing to offer a great multiplayer experience - but forcing multiplayer eliminates an entire single-player audience from enjoying your game.

The one major downside of most games these days is their Co-op and Multi- ONLY content.

Avatar image for Caldrin

@DeviantCode its a multiplayer game.. simple as that.. its like saying counterstrike is bad because its multiplayer..

Avatar image for DeviantCode

@Caldrin If you don't have basic reading comprehension, don't respond to the post. I didn't say it was bad, I said it had a downside. Or are you trying to suggest that they couldn't have increased their audience by putting even a little effort into their companion AI such that the later missions could be done co-op or solo?

Avatar image for Stabba_The_Kutt

@Caldrin Dude, you're just not getting the point.

Avatar image for Caldrin

@DeviantCode @Caldrin what makes the game fun is that its a cop-op miltiplayer game i dont think you would have as much fun playing this by yourself.. i think the devs knew that.. sure maybe they could ahve spent more time no the A.I. but if they did have more time to put into the game i think i would have wanted them to put it into other aspects fo the game.

Avatar image for stan_boyd

@DeviantCode thats why Counter Strike, Team Fortress and the early Battlefield games were such failures right?

Avatar image for DeviantCode

@stan_boyd Well, I guess you were too stupid to understand the point.

Avatar image for PandaWorkshop

7.0? Gone Home should get that score. This game is fun and made to play with your friends.

Avatar image for picho86

I haven't played the second, but in the first, the friendly AI was also completely useless.

Avatar image for wmurray003

@picho86 The only thing they do in this one is help you back up and help fend off the assault. They will not pick up loot or operate switches, computers, drop perk items(health kits, sentries)etc.

Avatar image for HyperXT

@wmurray003 @picho86 Really2 useless AI, make singleplayer game hard. But playing multiplayer with friend is a great experience.

Avatar image for toplel20

This game sucked. Too bad, I expected more from this second game.

Avatar image for HyperXT

@toplel20 You must play with friends or other people if you want a good experience. I try offline gameplay its bad very2 bad. The stupid AI never helping me to loot or anything else only shoot2 & healing. -_-

Avatar image for Uangry

The first was fun but got boring fast. I'll wait for a sale.

Avatar image for CoUGHB

This game is just too ugly for me to fork out 60 dollars (assuming it cost that much) Beyond the look, this game looks really fun with friends, it's a shame I hate games that aren't enjoyable solo or I'd at least consider a rental. Great review Chris.

Avatar image for vaspyder

@CoUGHB $35 bucks on demand ;)

Avatar image for Sardinar

Xbox360 shouldn't get any updates, lest Microsoft change their shitty policies which prevent updating easily in the first place.

Avatar image for CoUGHB

@Sardinar Agreed, I think X360 updates are free now though.

Avatar image for handsome222222

poor game

Avatar image for Kazuma_Kiryu

I think the idea at its core is absolutely brilliant.

Avatar image for wmurray003

@Kazuma_Kiryu It is.

Avatar image for marceldelta

To all of you trolls who haven't even played the friggin game and are already talking shit about it, here's the heads-up: I bought it. It's damn damn fun. Play with your friends. You WILL NOT be disapointed!! This is not the best FPS ever. It's not Metro 2033, Metro Last Light, Bioshock or Half-Life, but IMHO its much more exciting and stimulating than Counter Strike and CoD, cuz 'tis not based on nonsense shooting, but strategy and requires you to team play. This is differentiated. Get it, you won't be disappointed.

Avatar image for HyperXT

@marceldelta But single-player sucks badly.

Avatar image for DarckArchon

@marceldelta Amen bro

Avatar image for frylock1987

Looks like a dated Counter Strike GO to me. I'll wait to see if a friend buys this and try it out then.

Avatar image for Caldrin

@frylock1987 nothing like CS:Go.. for starters the graphics are better... then its a 4 palyer co-op game not a 32 player shooter..

Avatar image for Elann2008


It's nothing like CS:GO. WTF is wrong with you trolls. GTFO. Payday 2 is great. I didn't even like the first Payday at all, but Payday 2 is what all sequels should be. Better in every way.

Avatar image for CincoToes

@sensesfail99 Something tells me you don't play pc games.

Avatar image for AmnesiaHaze

payday deserves a 5.0 because the online is broken , im not able to join a single public game since i play , so im forced to play alone with bots , in a coop game unacceptable

Avatar image for Caldrin

@AmnesiaHaze works perfectly fine for me.. guess your PC has issues..

Avatar image for playniko69

Whatever happened to subtlety and suave in video games? Bet honnet percent GTA 5 heist missions will be better than Payday.

Avatar image for ShienYeh

If Gone Home deserves 9.5 , this one should be 19 score.. maybe 95

Avatar image for CincoToes

@ShienYeh How long have you played Gone Home?

Payday 2 More Info

  • First Released Aug 13, 2013
    • Linux
    • Nintendo Switch
    • + 5 more
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Payday 2 is an action-packed, four-player co-op heist shooter that once again lets gamers don the masks of the original Payday crew - Dallas, Hoxton, Wolf and Chains.
    Average Rating438 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Payday 2
    Developed by:
    Overkill Software, Sumo Digital, 505 Games
    Published by:
    505 Games, Starbreeze
    Action, First-Person, Shooter, 3D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes