Payday 2 is a video game where you take control of one of many career criminals (including guest characters) in order to perpetuate heists to get richer, get more gear, and perpetuate harder and more lucrative heists and... You get the picture. It turns out this video game had a story all along and it’s going in places no one had ever possibly expected 5 years ago, when the game first launched. People were expecting that the game would eventually careen into a large-scale epic heist to mark the end of support for the game, but that support was extended until 2019 and will be a lead-in to Payday 3.
Now, fans are embroiled in a massive conspiracy theory and lore being distributed in an ARG of fairly large proportions and I find it criminally (ha!) underestimated in the overarching video game world, so I guess I’m going to explain as much as possible.
Sources are: the RandomKenny videos (Specifically: Bain Theory 1-2, the Spring Break videos and his latest vid about the Obsidian Plate, the latest drop in the in-game ARG), the history of the ARG on the Payday the Heist Wiki, Overkill’s FBI Files subsite and various breakdowns on the Subreddit.
In order to get to the meat of the ARG which is what prompted me to start writing this, I’ll have to do a short breakdown of the Payday story so we’ll start with that.
Still with me? Good. After the events of Payday 1, there are a few things that have happened off-screen. The first is, in order to fence the stupidly large amount of gold obtained from the First World Bank heist (with Overdrill), Bain (central contact for the gang) needed to have contacts to do so and Hector (a contact in Payday 2) is the one to do it. He buys the gold from the gang, or at least part of it. We later find out that Hector got caught and was used as an informant by the FBI with enough information to capture one of the original four members (Hoxton). The second thing is that with the Career Criminal Edition release of the game was given out the “Guide of Bain” PDF - The first reference to this whole ARG shindig (which itself was a reference to an ARG the company ran in 2012 for Payday 1).
So the criminals return from their two year vacation with one less member as Hoxton has been arrested. Dallas, ever the resourceful fellow, brings in his younger brother, to take over the mask. They start out small, doing jobs for notorious russian nutjob Vlad, robbing some banks and jewelry stores, until someone powerful takes notice of them - A Republican Congressman nicknamed The Elephant. Another thing of note that they do is jobs against Murkywater, a not subtle reference to Blackwater (now known as Academi) that includes stealing some loot from them, and then raiding the compound for some nuclear warheads. You know, no big. The crew continues stealing and doing crimes until they hit their first snag: Dallas is compromised after visiting a dentist who knows exactly who and what he is.
The Dentist as a contact is when all of the bizarre stuff surrounding Payday 2 starts - That he could make Dallas is weird, but otherwise understandable. That he asked for their collaboration to some of the most outlandish crimes possible is another thing entirely. The first job the Dentist asks of the gang in order to test them is the ransacking of the Benevolent Bank, a bank which (in story) had never been successfully knocked over since the war of 1812. We find out, in the FBI files, that at least one of the unsuccessful attempts at robbing the Benevolent Bank was the fault of the Dentist with the following:
“The first recorded mention of him was the dying breath of James “Napalm” Westmore, when his Beltway Bunch hit the Benevolent Bank in 1977.
‘Tell The Dentist to go back to Hell,’ he is quoted as saying.”
After that, his other heists involve: Killing off the head of a Russian mob, a shoot out with the SWAT in broad daylight to rescue Hoxton, stealing a legendary diamond from a high security museum and the strangest one yet, robbing a casino to rob “The Dentist’s Loot”. From the official website: “The Dentist says the Golden Grin is holding something special. Something personal. Something he lost a long time ago.”
We find out later during the heist that it’s a wooden box with the Eye of Providence on it. This is where all of the madness starts, even though no one knows what exactly was unleashed at that point. In fact, said box would be relatively irrelevant to the overarching story until 2018. Golden Grin was released in 2015. They were sitting on that one for a while.
Thanks to the Guide of Bain, we already knew that Bain had been looking into some weird secret society stuff that could make everyone involved in the gang rich as hell. However, it’s with the delivery of the box to the Dentist that everything starts to click and he starts investigating something on his own that attracts the ire of forces that are bigger than his own organization. Plus, prior to the big lore dump that occurred this year, we’ve been getting some hints that there’s another traitor besides Hector.
The first reference to another traitor comes from a non-canonical Halloween heist called Prison Nightmare, where each playable character has audible lines referring to real fears that they have or moments in their backstories that still hang over them. More specifically, Hoxton has the following: “You got Hector, but someone else is also lying to you.”
The second occurs after the release of a Classic heist from Payday: The Heist being remastered for Payday 2 - Heat Street. Matt Roscoe, a driver who’s betrayed the gang can be found in the Safe House after the heist, and he has a voice line saying “Any one of you could be a traitor, you know? Have you considered that!?”
One important person to mention before I get into the meat of the matter is Vernon Locke - A Murkywater associated contractor that had no real relation to the larger plot until this very moment. He headed the cybersecurity division of Murkywater, and at one point almost managed to bring down Crime.net (the network that Bain maintains). He’d basically disappeared after getting the gang to rob Murkywater for him in what has been known as the Point Break heists.
Another thing to mention, as that ties in a bit with the bigger picture is that one of the playable criminals is Jiro - an ex-yakuza who joined up with the gang due to being told that Bain may have information about his long lost son Kento. This ties into the Heat Street and Green Bridge heists as the reason you are going after Matt Roscoe is because he has information on someone who may know the whereabouts of Kento, and Green Bridge is to get that person out of custody of the police.
All right, with all these pieces in place, I can finally talk about the ARG and the crazy year Payday 2 fans have been having. It all starts in Alaskan Deal - a Heist released in 2017 where contact Vernon Locke and contact The Butcher are slated to perform an arms deal. However, Vernon Locke betrays everyone involved. He wasn’t exactly a fellow that was on the up and up, but whatever. We’ll just get to kill him later, right?
Unfortunately, if you skip the classic heist that came out in the same event (Crimefest 2017), we get the Reservoir Dogs heist, one of the many movie collaborations but the first one that actually ties in very largely to the overarching story. The heist starts out on Day 2 as opposed to Day 1, and for some reason Vernon Locke is the one running support. He assures us that the whole Alaskan Deal scenario was made so that the gang could be out of DC and there was no real betrayal involved. What happened to Bain? How come Locke is the one running the show now? These questions are all valid, but you’ll have to wait until Day 1 to understand.
In Day 1, we get to find out what exactly happened. When Bain attempted to hack something, a trap was placed and regardless of his proxies, VPNs and other defenses he may have had, his location was compromised. Someone with significant military power attacked Bain’s compound. It doesn’t look like he was arrested either as his final transmission shows that they weren’t using intimidation tactics, to say the least. He tells you to trust Locke, and get to Brooklyn as his final orders.
And with that, Locke is now the main mission giver. In the shadows, however, there has been movements that indicated this was going to happen. A cursory look at the FBI files shows that someone with a Japanese domain name (sources mention that it translates to Hanging Gardens @ Beyond Yesterday dot com) has been sending communiques to Commissioner Garrett, and they coincide with the attack on Bain (and the Reservoir Dogs heist). These “Kataru”, as we would come to know them, are very involved with the gang since the very beginning, since it is suspected that they own and use Murkywater as their way of acquiring things without necessarily implicating themselves. Thanks to an event further down the line, it is also suspected that they have ownership of GenSec (the security company that loans out private security officers to the police as they request) as well.
The story in the FBI files (as can be revealed through usage of the MUDUTU codex on the FBI Files website) continues as it is revealed that these “Kataru” are in possession of Bain, and are willing to trade him for an item in the possession of a certain US Congressman who we all know as The Elephant. Garrett eventually agrees to use forged evidence to bring down the Elephant and be able to legally raid his place. He gets the item, asks for scans of strange pages that were found in the raid, and that is it.
On April’s Fools, Overkill cleverly hid a real update in the fake one by having Bain record a posthumous message to the gang in the case of his capture or death. He mentions that he “should have paid more attention in Vegas” and explains his motives for looking into this secret conspiracy stuff (get all the cash and the power to keep authorities off them for good). The #MyHeister create-a-heister contest winner, Duke, ends up tying heavily into this as Bain reveals he was brought in to help with deciphering this secret, as his family has been involved from the start.
So what did the crew end up doing in Brooklyn? Turns out, they needed to rob a turn-of-the-20th century old bank in order to get access to its foundations and drill out a special medallion. Canonically, the FBI files on this heist reveals that the crew left behind a lot of money, instead concentrating on finding the medallion and that this is not their usual MO.
Spring Break 2018, an event that is usually devoid of lore, brought forth two new heists - Breakin’ Feds and Henry’s Rock. In Breakin’ Feds, you are tasked to retrieve the object that Commissioner Garrett will be trading for Bain without getting caught or killing him. Once achieved, you find out that the object in question is another box just like the Dentist’s loot, except with a different symbol on the front. Considering the wording of the e-mail sent to Garrett, and how the Dentist framed the Golden Grin Casino goal (to return said item to their owners), it’s safe to say that the Dentist might be part of Kataru, something that had been suspected by the fanbase already.
On the last day of Spring Break, Overkill decides that they should really drop another Loud-only heist and this time, ask the question “What if Area 51 was real, but privately owned by the biggest PMC in the world?” - That is Henry’s Rock and the revelations following Henry’s Rock were massive. First, it was revealed that Murkywater was in possession of a third box, which we liberate in addition to the Dentist’s own, effectively proving that he is part of Kataru. Second, there is a hidden puzzle inside the heist which reveals four ancient masks looking suspiciously like the original gang’s masks. Third, near the end of the heist, a bulletproof glass opens and we see an Asian man in a Murkywater uniform stare at the escaping criminals with a movie showing what may be the Dentist and a roughed up fellow with a bag over his head, which the community has deduced to be Bain. Naturally, you can’t keep the internet from doing things they shouldn’t so people noclipped inside to see if there was something and they found a pretty big truth bomb: The guy has a dogtag hidden inside his model with “Kento” written on it.
That’s right, Jiro’s son is a high-ranking person in Murkywater, enough to be involved in the Kataru business. The fandom’s minds were collectively blown.
Still, after this mind blow, Overkill had been quiet. Their lore bomb had successfully exploded, and everyone was wondering what was going on. Even though there were no releases, that does not mean that the Payday story did not carry on. Thanks to the FBI Files website, we were able to find out that the charges against the Elephant could not stick, and they were forced to release him from custody 37 days after the operation that caught him.
Last week was the Icebreaker event. With it came the release of Joy (the Nintendo Switch exclusive character) to the PC platform, the addition of the boxes to the Safe House (as well as the method to open them) and a whole new heist: the Shacklethorne Auction. Our favorite dysfunctional criminals are tipped off by the Elephant about an auction that will sell relics from the doomed 1905 Shacklethorne expedition in Antarctica. The Elephant surmises that another artifact relating to this whole massive secret conspiracy will be auctioned off. Completing the heist allows for the Obsidian Plate found in the heist to be visible at the Safe House.
Until Icebreaker, the ARG was limited to outside of the game and the FBI Files. With this release, it’s officially crept into the game proper. The medallion allows for the boxes to open, and inside the boxes are... a bunch of rings with writing on ‘em. They react to hitting the piano, and so does the Obsidian Plate. The rings vibrate when the piano is played, and the plate glows with text. Said text indicates the coordinates of 4 great pyramids, but the most important is the one that doesn’t actually exist - the Dreaming Temple, which is situated at the coordinates of the ocean point furthest from most landmasses. These coordinates are also the ones H.P. Lovecraft would give to R’lyeh in Call of Cthulhu.
This isn’t the first reference to Lovecraft either - A doomed expedition to the Antarctic? That’s At the Mountains of Madness. Even better - part of the ARG in order to unlock some additional information in the event itself made ample reference to The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, using the actual name Kadath as a starting point, and dream-quest as a code word.
And that’s where the community is at right now: Wondering if we’re going to have to shoot up an elder god while looting some sort of non-euclidean nightmarish temple in the middle of the sea. After typing almost 3,000 words detailing this insanity, I have to give it to Overkill who are absolutely worthy of their name when it comes to the craziness of this lore and I want to find out just how far they’re willing to push this thing.