This article is basically a sequel to Payday 2 and Things Lost in Translation, but it’s going to be a bit more nitpicky. Like, little things that aren’t big deals like the ones from the previous article, but they help complete the picture. I know I’m harping on Payday 2 a lot, but hell I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sequel that made so many tiny baffling changes that missed the mark.
1. The HUD
Payday: The Heist has a great HUD that tells you everything you want to know without cluttering up your screen.
Your health is instantly recognizable and given significant priority over that of your teammates. The white outline stands out and telegraphs its role as a shield by literally outlining the picture of your body. Held items line the right wall and ammo is represented with a literal magazine of shells. You can see the in-map location of yourself and your teammates, promoting a tactical understanding of the map.
Now here’s Payday 2. Your health is just another tiny circle. Your shield is a thinner circle encircling your health circle; when I was new to the game I actually had no idea there was a shield mechanic because it was so inconspicuous on the HUD. You have a lot more information on what your teammates have equipped, but most of it just serves to clutter everything up. Things like exact ammo counts in both weapon slots and remaining cable ties can be rarely useful to know but often they just get in the way of me trying to see what deployable they have equipped. Also, where’s the hostage count? Why did they remove the tags alerting you to what specific zone on the map each teammate is in? Those were pieces of information I wanted to know at a glance. Payday 1’s HUD was simpler, but the information it told was actually worth knowing.
Good news though! If you also prefer the first game’s HUD, you can get it for the sequel here!
2. the Heist Selection Screen
What on earth is this?
Crimony, it looks like my grandmother’s computer desktop. Not only is it a horrifying avalanche of data with nothing resembling order or reason, it artificially stops me from actually playing what I want to. You want to play Firestarter? Have fun staring at a glorified screensaver until RNGesus decides to grant you one, and it probably won’t be the right difficulty. Payday 2 has so many heists at this point that it’s kind of sad how many times I have to wait ages or even give up without getting the one I want.
Now technically you can bypass this by purchasing a contract with in-game money, but that’s just rude. I don’t think selecting the mission you want to play should come with an entry fee. Overkill has stated that they designed this system with the hopes of preventing users from farming the same heists over and over. Putting aside the fact that people totally still do that, why didn’t they just port forward the same trick that Payday The Heist used and make every single heist worth the same amount of XP? (I’m not counting Overdrill here, obviously that screwed all this up, but initially this held true). Then people will pick the heist they want to play and not worry about the XP payout because it all maths out the same. Or how about entice the grinders with other ways to grind, like the awesome Challenge system? Why didn’t Payday 2 get the Challenge system? It enticed players to branch out from their favorite guns and become proficient with everything the game had to offer, and it enticed them to do it through regular old gameplay.
Speaking of XP…
3. the Objective-based XP system
Why did Overkill change XP so you only got it when a heist completed? There is no game mechanic that causes me more rage than when you go from killing cops to “Lost connection to the Host”. Goddammit I was on Day 3 of Rats! We had both escapes and all the bags! Why?!?!
In the first game you got XP every time an objective was completed, meaning when a douchebag hosts kicks his team at the escape zone you can shrug and say “Eh, I got all the XP up to that point.” In Payday 2 you get jack-all donuts and a distinct feeling of having wasted the last thirty minutes of your time. A lack of Steam stat-tracking also contributes to that, but only if you’re the sort who gets easily addicted to your weapon stats like me. Thank you Payday 1 for showing me exactly how much I love my M308!
I remember when they made an announcement that they were going to change to an objective-based XP system, and I got really excited and they even tested it out in an opt-in beta. Then it was revealed that they meant a more hybrid form than what Payday 1 had. While you indeed got XP based on the number of objectives you completed (specifically, you get more XP the more optional objectives you accomplish) you still lose it all if you die without reaching the end of the heist. Which still completely misses the point that having your entire XP payout held hostage is a recipe for frustration in a game without host migration and a tendency to disconnect you between days.
4. The absence of ladders. Try as they might, FPS devs cannot code ladders that don’t suck. Ladders will suffer from hitreg problems when you’re at the bottom trying to get on, let you fall to your death when you’re at the top trying to get on, and even in the middle of your climb one wrong keystroke can send your character careening off the side. Payday 2 has a few methods to compensate this, a popular one being a circular frame keeping the heister from falling off. Of course, many ladders don’t have anything helping them; I’ve died more times to the sewer entrance in Shadow Raid than any of the Murkywater guards.
You know how Payday:The Heist solved the problem? Not having ladders in the first place.
You don’t need ladders to make an immersive and decent map. Many heists in the first game still had roof accesses and three-dimensional layouts, using only stairs and (in one memorable occasion) an elevator to connect them. Ladders and their bothersome mechanics are just plain not worth the trouble.
5. the Crew Bonuses
Crew Bonuses occupied their own slot in Payday 1 and each player got to choose which one to equip. It applied something of a minor team buff (weapons were more accurate, reloads were a bit faster, etc) but only to the three teammates of the equipping player. This was such a cool way to subtly remind the player of the teamwork-based gameplay and unite the concept that these four heisters were working together for everyone’s benefit. Personally, if I trusted my team I’d equip “Big Game Hunters” which gave everyone a higher ammo capacity, and if I didn’t I’d use “More Blood to Bleed” which increased their bleedout time before going into custody. There was also an XP-boosting crew bonus only equippable by brand new players, encouraging the team to not kick the Level 0 since they’d get more XP helping him survive his first heist.
Now the element of crew bonuses do exist here and there in the Payday 2 skill system; several skills and perk decks grant team bonuses of various shapes and flavors, but there’s always a lack of emphasis on these factors. Usually the skill also grants the player whatever bonus, meaning you’re mostly looking out for yourself and coincidentally giving your teammates something. It misses the selflessness of the dedicated Crew Bonus slot that contributed to the teamwork theme of the gameplay.
Speaking of theme:
6. the three AI bots per team.
I find the decision to only allow two bots per team incredibly bizarre and so have a lot of other people. I mean, the core storyline is that these four dudes rob banks and made loads of money, so when playing in single-player it’s just weird to only have three of you. In this day and age where you have a dozen heisters to choose from with another incoming it’s less odd since the chances of even getting one of the original four is vanishingly small, but I’m not even sure what gameplay benefit you get by limiting the bots. I wrote a whole Steam guide on them and they’re ultimately not that useful, serving only as halfway-decent bullet shields and cover fire. In single-player, where you’re already occupied with personally completing every single objective from fixing drills to ferrying trains of bags to the escape van, your teammates are barely pulling their weight regardless of how many there are. Plus, the lack of a third bot means that as soon as one goes down, the other bot must revive him sans any cover fire, unless of course the player would like another responsibility to shoulder.
But even as I complain about the smallest of details, I’m probably still going to play Payday 2. Because it’s still loads of fun even if the first game was better. Plus there’s so many maps and weapons and players that it’s easy enough to ignore the annoying bits and just get rich while killing cops. With a year and a half to go before Starbreeze has to decide if they want to funnel more dev money into the game, Payday 2‘s not going anywhere soon, and if Overkill can keep up their content-adding dedication that puts other companies to shame *coughTripwirecough* then I’m probably going to stick with them.