I like Payday. I like it a lot. Normally, I'd write some big, long essay on some basic game theory, or game design. It'd be something relatively useful, and somewhat academic, or, at least, that's what the hope would be. But hey, it’s getting close to finals time, and I’ve got a ton of stuff to do, and not much time to do it in. Heck, I’ve got to go find and watch two Oscar-winning Fellini films and write a six page paper on them, and I’ve got about a week to do it in. And this is on top of a paper I’m writing about Westerns, Noir, and how the latter influenced the former, and the nature of genre as a whole. Fun stuff, but tiring stuff. I want to take a break from that seriousness. Didn’t have anything to eat, didn’t get much to sleep, so I’m pretty braindead right now. Time to fantasize.
Oh, and this is kind of a review of the new DLC.
Actually, yeah, let’s start off with that: Payday 2 gets a lot of patches on the PC. The console versions, due to long QA processes required by the platform holders, don’t get to update nearly as much. It’s not as if they can crank out a holiday event on the 360 and PS3 the way they do on the PC, so they don’t bother. Now, they’ve got DLC. It’s free for those of us who preordered the game, and let me tell you, it’s a doozy.
For $7—not $10, not $15, not $20, but $7—they give you, what, five new armored transport heists, and toss in a secret sixth train mission for free? Now, the armored transport heists are basically the same thing: huge maps centered on a car wreck involving between one and four armored trucks. They’re all on new maps that don’t seem recycled like some of the maps in the original game, and it’s kinda amazing trying to explore ‘em, ‘cause there’s so much to find. The train heist is a much stealthier affair that adds in the new mechanic of bags that can explode if you throw ‘em too far. Additionally, the DLC’s got new enemies (the black-armored bulldozer, which my crew refers to as Black Betties), new guns (everyone’s really digging the Swedish K so far), new achievements, and new Presidential masks/patterns/materials.
I perform crimes disguised as Bill Clinton.
Overkill does DLC the way DLC should be done: with equally ridiculous amounts of content and panache, a miniature expansion to the game. It’s not just a few new maps, it’s more of everything. The only serious (because Hoxton’s voice still isn’t Hoxton’s voice and I still miss it greatly) complaint I have is that there’s no significant reason to bother running around and exploring the map. The maps are huge, which is what I’ve been asking for, but it doesn’t matter, because all you’re doing is focusing on one objective: the transports. You open them, move the cash, and leave.
Consider three of my favorite heists from the original game: Diamond Heist, Mercy Hospital, and Counterfeit.
In Diamond Heist, you’ve got three floors to work with (two floors and a roof, to be precise), which is great, since it provides multiple avenues to stealth through. Additionally, the security objectives can spawn randomly on any floor, encouraging players to memorize and move about the levels frequently. While the ultimate goal is the vault, players also have sapphires which they can steal, but they have to do it without setting off an alert: the level’s huge, bigger than just about every level from the original game, and it utilizes the entirety of its space.
Counterfeit is fairly simple: take hostages, don’t alert anyone, and get into the safe. By having multiple enemy approaches and chokepoints, as well as power and water that enemy bulldozers can shut off, it, like Diamond Heist, encourages players to move around quite a bit. “Oh no, Bulldozer turned off our water,” or “hey, lots of guys coming through the garage over there.”
It’s one thing to have space, but another to actively use it. Having just one basic task to perform: opening trucks, getting the money, and leaving… well, there’s no reason to do more than bunch up near the cars, dash out when the drill needs fixing, and take cover. It’s a problem I cited with the game back when it launched: players don’t need to move. Except, well, with this one, they kinda do: the lack of significant cover three of the truck heists means players do have to rove around constantly, just never very far from the trucks. Perhaps the reason I enjoy the train heist so much is that it’s the one that requires/encourages the most movement. But it’s still focused on that simple “get this open, then move that somewhere else” idea.
When I talked about the problem with the game’s XP/money system, I pointed out that players ultimately choose the most optimal path to do things: if hunkering down and simply waiting for people to come is the optimal thing, then that is exactly what will happen. Valve and Turtle Rock recognized this, which is why Left 4 Dead doesn’t allow that kind of behavior. The enemies are specifically designed to break enemies up, the levels made to encourage constant movement.
So. Great DLC! Really fun enemies. Fun maps, but no real reason to move around them particularly far. The obvious fix is simply more objectives: safes, the ability to change the map layout, and stuff like that.
Mini-review over. Time to talk about my fantasy Payday 2 DLC.
The Space Job:
Alright, boys, this one’s a doozy. One of our clients wants you to launch a rocket prototype a little early. You’ve got to get into the testing facility, locate the plans and destroy them, get to the rocket, and launch it—but it doesn’t matter which direction, so long as the rocket ends up unusable.
Okay, so, I’m not so good at writing Bain’s voice. Whatever. I’m only writing one draft and I’m pressed for time. Basically, we’ve got a NASA facility with a rocket in it. Theoretically, you’ve got three main “acts” to this heist: first, you locate what you need to locate—the plans, the rocket, the guard patterns, and a way into the rocket’s chamber. Then, you get to the things you need to locate and deal with them. If the plans are on a computer, you would have to hack it. If they’re on paper, burn ‘em. The rocket, on the other hand might be a bit trickier: you’d have to gain access to the room. Let’s say you need to prep it for launch: fill it with fuel, set the countdown, move it to the launch pad (or, hey, launch it in the hangar—your choice), and run. The final act, then, would be fleeing, because everyone’s gonna notice the rocket blowing up or launching.
Perhaps, if you ignite the engine in the hangar, while the rocket’s on its side, it actually burns a hole through the wall behind it, allowing you to escape that way. Or you have to stay with the rocket while the launch pad drives it through a forest to the launch site, making sure no one disables it. How you, the heister, choose to deal with it is a choice that can influence the way the heist is approached. Searching for the plans and rocket encourages players to move about. Having to fuel the rocket, again, means players are going to different areas of the map; it might encourage the groups to split up like Diamond Heist and such. Maybe they’ve got to find two kinds of fuel. Perhaps the XP/cash rewards are dependent on whether or not the rocket makes it to orbit; you get paid more if whoever paid you to steal the rocket is able to recover it in space, or something. Maybe extra intel (worth, oh, $20k each, for a total of $400k) located around the map can be gathered (hidden in safes or on computers that need to be hacked and whatnot) and sold on the black market.
So yeah: lots of movement is encouraged, lots of things to do that aren’t just “wait for X to open, then move bags,” and lots of player choice in what to do.
The Point Break Job:
Listen up! A very important VIP is here to make some trouble for friends of ours. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, and I know you will, is to get him out of the way; we’ve found his hotel, so you need to break in, bag him, and take him somewhere nice and safe.
Right, so, this mission introduces a new weapon: the dart gun. Feeling nonlethal? Cool. Shoot people, and they’ll be out for quite some time. The gun’s more visible than something deadlier, on account of the size (guns with air compression tend to be large, based on my personal experience), but it lets you knock people out, bag ‘em up, and carry ‘em around like a sack of potatoes. Basically, when you shoot people, they’re functionally dead, but they snore. They’ll even sleep through a police assault. You might think “oh, hey, this is for stealth, then!” but no. You would be wrong. It doesn’t have to be.
Alright, so you’ve got a hotel. Multiple floors; he’s in the penthouse suite on the top floor. You’ve got guards, staff, and guests, but you should be able to handle them. Getting to the VIP might be a bit harder: if you’ve got C4, you can blow holes in the walls, floor, or ceiling/roof. You’ve got to find a key that’ll let you in to one of the adjacent rooms (below or to the side), or take the stairs (which you can use a keycard, hack, or ATM for) up to the roof, and blast your way in that way. The advantage to coming in from below is that you can actually drop the guy’s bed, yanking him away from his guards, who’ll have to take pot shots at you from above. Then all you’ve got to do is run to the rappel points on the other side of the building—through halls and such—and you’re home free.
In my mind, this is a multi-part mission, where part 2 is you transporting and losing the body (players might not like replaying this, since, if they know what’s coming, they’ll be annoyed they can’t avoid it, so maybe it’s a bad idea), part 3 is you sneaking into an airport and on board a plane, and part 4 is much more linear: you’re on board the airplane, and you have to take everyone out, kidnap the guy again, and jump out of the back of the airplane. Part 5 is a mission where you have to transport.
I can see you wrinkling your nose right now, thinking “yeah, that doesn’t sound like what the guys at Overkill were going for, since some of those missions sound a bit linear, or Point A to Z missions,” which, okay, I guess I can understand, but Watch Dogs was about moving cocaine from one place to the next, and then recovering the cocaine after the FBI stole it back, and then moving it to the docks, where you put it on a boat. Those were linear too, and Watch Dogs is one of the best heists in Payday 2.
So think of this like a bigger Watch Dogs mission with some more complicated and stealthy levels. And also a jumping out of an airplane bit that totally references Point Break.
There are other jobs, of course:
As I’m sitting here, I’ve got all sorts of stuff in my head: I’d love to see a multi-part mission that begins with the kidnapping and interrogation (think Undercover) of some government nerd guy from a party in some downtown DC headquarters that culminates in a final infiltration of Area 51, where players ultimately steal a package heavily hinted at being an alien corpse. I’d love to steal mastodon ivory from a natural history museum, or play a level that encourages the players to split up, so a sniper can cover from above while the players below wade into the fire. Heck, I’d like to break into 1600 Penn, considering we’re in Washington DC. I’d suggest stealing the Declaration of Independence, Magna Carta, and the Constitution, but the level design in the national archives kinda sucks. Now, sneaking into one of DC’s distinctive metro lines, then cutting through one of the tube walls and into some vault and stealing something? That might be nice.
My point is, Payday 2, as it is, is mostly just about getting a bag of something and getting it somewhere else. The new, fantastic Armored Transport DLC encourages players to move around more, but still has plenty of space on its maps that players have no reason to explore. I’d like to see missions that are a bit more diverse: the original game had players getting the codes to open a vault on one mission, using drills to steal a different vault on the next, stealing someone’s blood, kidnapping and torturing a guy for passwords while hacking a computer, and doing all sorts of other things that weren’t just diverse, but encouraged players to really utilize the whole of the map space, both through enemy placement and through objectives.
I hope that future maps in Payday 2 aren’t just about getting something open, bagging something up, and taking them out. While that’s fun, it’s also samey. The new DLC’s a step in the right direction: gameplay tweaks and level design mean players are consistently encouraged to dash around, taking out enemies as they spawn, but it could be better. Could be more.
Anyways, Payday 2’s going on sale on Steam again fairly soon, if the chatter on NeoGAF’s latest Steam thread is to be believed. Pick it up if you haven’t. Grab the DLC and come play with me! You’ll have a blast. But enough about that: what new heists would you like to see in Payday 2?
Was totally gonna detail more heists, but I’m headachey and tired. Needed a break from crazy-hard school essays. The big, beefy Assassin's Creed III and the three-part How To Get Into PC Gaming essays are coming within the next thirty days. In the good news department, I’m getting food stamps now, so that’s one major stress on my life gone! As usual, hit me up on Tumblr, Twitter, and TAY’s DocTalk tag if you want to chat or read my stuff. Feel free to toss me ideas for games or concepts to write about.
And hey, if you've got the time, go read that stream-of-consciousness "Why I Can't Stand 2D Games" piece if you haven't. It's my favorite, most confusing piece out there right now.