||PAYDAY 2 is a co-operative, multiplayer centric first-person perspective game revolving around a crew of five criminals known as "The PAYDAY Gang". You control one of four criminals during gameplay, with the other three controlled by either another player or the AI; and the fifth criminal serves as the "brain" of the operations, providing you with field advice and information about the police response (if any) to your illicit activities, or guiding you through your objectives. While the game lacks a tutorial, you can visit your safe house which contains a shooting range, and allows you to familiarise yourself with some of the tools of the trade, such as lockpicking, using keycards to open electronically locked doors, and a shooting range.
The gameplay itself is extremely dynamic, and determinant on a few factors such as the level (referred to as either a contract, a job or a heist) you've chosen on Crime.net (essentially an elaborate server browser), your playstyle/skill set, chosen difficulty and the skill set of your crew. Some contracts vary in how long they take to complete, with some of them providing a simple "Enter the area, steal the designated objects, and escape" objective, and others requiring you to act over the course of several days to complete the job.
Contracts generally consist of two primary methods for completion; the first method is to "go loud", in which you typically bring the big guns and flak jackets out to the area of operations. The police will be notified of your presence, and you will engage in a firefight for the duration of the day. Most of the equipment you can operate is intended for this method, including bags to refill your ammunition/regain lost health, trip mines that can be later converted into shaped charges to blow open certain objects with, and even an automated sentry gun programmed to fire upon law enforcement personnel. The second method is a form of stealth in which you disable any forms of security deemed necessary, and control the situation, preventing civilians/security to raise an alarm and instigate a reaction by the police. Generally, suits or concealable ballistic vests are brought to these jobs, along with concealable firearms and equipment to deter most alarms from going off for a short period of time; however, if the alarm is raised, the police will engage you and mount "Assaults", events where you will be besieged by law enforcement personnel at an alarmingly high rate.
The types of enemies you encounter are dependent on difficulty. The lowest difficulty, "Normal" typically makes you encounter low level SWAT teams, whereas the highest difficulty "Overkill" instead throws heavily armored FBI maximum force response squads at you. In between these difficulties is a mixed assortment of enemies, ranging from higher grade SWAT teams to the FBI's own special equivalent of SWAT. On higher difficulties, you'll also frequently see "special" units, with abilities and equipment such as enemies clad in modified bomb disposal suits that double as extremely heavy suits of armor, sporting shotguns that can instantly incapacitate players if they're not careful.
At the end of every contract, you'll be compensated for your efforts depending on how well you did overall in the form of money, which is used to purchase new gear for jobs, and experience points which increase your "Reputation Level", granting you access to more skills, weaponry, armor and even new jobs to undertake. Your Reputation Level will also permit you access to certain jobs found on Crime.net in which the player hosting the game has set a "REP Limit", preventing players that have a Reputation Level lower than the limit from even finding their game.
There is no clear story that the events of the game follow. Contracts have no specific sequence in which you're required to complete them, meaning you do not have to complete one contract to gain access to another. The only prerequisite for attempting certain contracts is that your Reputation Level is high enough to find these jobs.
The graphics are what you'd expect from a title that costs $30 USD. They aren't bad to look at, but they certainly aren't on the level of a triple A title. For a game released in 2013, however, it doesn't hold up against the technology currently available.
The gunplay feels particularly satisfying. Firearms have a kick that you can feel through the monitor, and a sense of power behind your shots accommodates how quickly your enemies can fall. This is especially noticeable with shotguns, where a point blank shot can send an enemy flying meters away. The downside to this is that it's entirely dependent on recoil. A weapon with little recoil will feel more like a pea shooter, regardless of it's actual damage output.
The stealth system is more unique, and sets the game apart from other games in the stealth genre such as Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell. The main threats are civilians who can call 911, or press panic buttons in certain jobs; security guards that patrol the area and security cameras, which will trigger an alarm the moment suspicious activity has been seen. Killing security guards is not as easy as it sounds, as every single one you kill will be called on their pager, requiring one of the players to attempt to convince them that everything is okay. This is awkward in that the person on the other end seems to be omnipotent in regards to the wellbeing of security guards.
The sound design is superb. Guns sound powerful, the voice acting is good all around, and the soundtrack is something that really gets your adrenaline flowing, and makes you feel ready to take on the world. The stealth aspect of the game features a far more subtle approach to the soundtrack however, only featuring intermittent notes and chimes.
Overall, PAYDAY 2 has it's flaws. But if you're seeking a good, four player co-op game to spend dozens of hours in with your friends, then look no further, because this is it.