A long time ago, I played Payday 2. I didn’t particularly enjoy it because I was thrown in the deep end and had no idea what I was doing or anything like that. I spent most of my time crouched in corners, shooting wildly at anything that came too close, while constantly dying and running out of ammo. At the time, I had no idea how the game worked, what I had to do or what was going on. Frankly, my first experience put me right off of playing Payday 2 because I felt so damn useless. I did have better experiences later on playing Payday: the Heist, the original game (playing both Panic Room and No Mercy) but I otherwise left the game alone.
Turns out, I’d kinda left Payday 2 unplayed for… four and a half years.
The reason I picked the game up again was because of the same old challenge that made me try games like Trove and Neverwinter – I needed a cheap game to play with my siblings and the sister’s boyfriend. Payday 2 may be a premium game with more DLCs than you can shake a stick at, but it turns out brother had an extra key for Payday 2 in his massive pile of Humble Bundle codes, so we could all play together.
So Medic plays Payday 2 again. Except this time, she’s the most experienced person. Because all the stuff I had back when I played in 2015, i.e. a couple of guns and some spent skill points, was all still there, waiting for me to come back.
Everything else though? Completely fucking different. Different UI, different weapons, different skill trees… different currencies… Actually, if I’m honest, I don’t really remember what was the same, aside from the little perk deck things. The UI was different too, it was all so confusing. I mean, we figured it out and went into a mission, but everyone kept on asking me questions and I was just as clueless as they were. I mean, even the damn safe house is completely different. And filled with people.
But the gameplay? It’s mostly what I remembered. Utter chaos, filled with an infinite number of cops who will happily murder you and anyone between them and you in order to stop what you’re doing. You have Bain shouting instructions at you, telling you what you need to do. You have drills that always seem to stop working at the worst moments. And there are bullets and civilians everywhere. It’s a massive, chaotic mess yet it’s still possible to pull through to the end.
Well, most of the time. Because we discovered the hard way that the difference between “Normal”, “Hard” and “Very Hard” difficulties is insane – one simple heist we did on both Normal and Hard got us all downed almost instantly on Very Hard. We got murdered by Dozers, having somewhat reliably killed most enemies so far.
We did pretty well though, once we’d worked out the controls. Really, the only things holding us back were the lack of unlocked skill points and some messing around with buttons and prompts and things – it took us a little too long to work out how to throw backs of cash and cocaine and all that rather than use our special items, things like health packs and ammo bags. Granted, we mostly stuck to one-day heists, but none of us are above level 50 yet and we have zero “infamy” so it’s probably for the best that we took it slow.
The random reward at the end of each heist was also a tad frustrating because one of us just kept on getting patterns and colourways for masks, rather than gun mods or anything interesting. I did get a safe, which I opened and got a crappy skin out of, but the totally-not-a-crate was worth 12 cents and the skin I got was worth 5 cents so it’s not like I lost anything.
Somehow, at the end of all that though, we’d ended up playing six whole hours of Payday 2. Clearly we enjoyed it. We’ll probably enjoy it again. I think the trick is not to have a veteran forcibly drag you through harder missions right off the bat…