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PlayStation 3 Review: ‘Payday 2’

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payday2How much is the life of a police officer worth? Nothing to Payday 2.

In the title, people casually browsing jewelry stores or honing in on colorful mall sale signs are costly, $2,000 each if they become incidental civilian casualties. Innocent bystanders necessitate a traceable evidence “clean up” fee.  As for police officers, snipers, and SWAT team members? They are worthless to Payday 2, virtual, targeted objects meant to be shot and killed. In a failed smash and grab, bodies begin to pile–all uniformed–as horrendous AI inefficiently gains entry via backroom office windows. Apparently, civil servants are worthless, and scattered corpse clean up is covered by life insurance policies or taxation.

This issue spawns from Payday 2’s disconnected glorification of violence, something this medium (as opposed to affluent cinematic source material) can recreate interactively with or without justification. As a simulation of both petty and sadistically calculated, multi-day criminal activity, Payday’s allure lies with its embellishment of activities most would otherwise never experience. In simulated form, Payday creates space safe from repercussions, although its messaging is dire.

Payday 2 is on to something – so was the original. As first-person shooters muck up store shelves with nauseating levels of repetitious congestion, here is an ample design built with conceptual ideas, and a drive for something unusual. In the end, Payday scrunches itself into pale, tired shoot-outs. Elements of its inventive postures are lined out in a haze of gratingly passe regenerating health and apparently worthless corpses. Payday wants grandiose gunfights, selling itself not on the allure of escape, but rather forced injections of deputies who only mean to die.

When it comes together, either through a precision execution without authoritative involvement or heists which scrape by despite strategic breakdown, Payday 2’s brawn is exposed. Despite technical faults and inexcusably pathetic AI partners (this is not an investment for introverts), workmanlike thought is applied to build unexpected simulations of explicit civil misconduct.

Differing from the group in Payday, the clown masked foursome is now comprised of Dallas, Wolf, Chains, and Hoxton.  They approach situations as shaken newcomers, broke and often unguided. Payday 2 inhabits a modern design underworld with refreshingly low guidance, which sometimes actually turns out to be detrimental.

Ushered into a safe house upon menu entry, Payday 2 holds no leashes; players are immediately left on their own to decipher mechanics, learn from punishing mistakes, and bulk up on experience to execute 10 different scenarios. There is assumed player familiarity and skill sets without safety buffers. Text messages, blinking map lights, video productions, and lack of clarity force blasé gunplay when missions collapse.

Impossibly lethargic equipment is built into Payday 2’s anemic front end.  It is so out of balance as to toss first time players into jobs destined for failure. Skill sets only blossom from perseverance, yet you cannot gain items such as C4 without a veneer of irritating failure. Mounds of corpses become obligatory.

Ben Affleck recently starred, directed, and co-wrote The Town. Violent Boston bank robbers in The Town become the audience’s touchstone and the group for whom one ends up rooting. Police sergeants and tenacious FBI agents become the antagonists. On superficial merit, an audience cheering for anti-heroes seems to push against basic moral obligations, but Town inherits strength from its exemplary character definition.

Payday 2, in comparison, is full of thugs, identity-less avatars who have no purpose, no reason to commit these acts outside of uncomfortable greed. To draw a juxtaposition, Grand Theft Auto is so brazen, colorful, and off-centered as to occupy satire, whether characters are resolved or not. Other shooters work in military angles, or science fiction to soften carnage. Payday 2’s players must react as gruesome thrill seekers, taking part in an unreality made real, where suddenly the ones taking pride in defending the general public are savages. Everything feels dirty, and it exists under an assumption that if one game has players kill, open door murder policies are in effect without repercussion.

Backward world view heroism becomes the subject. However, attempts to share vintage fascinations with Chicago gangsters amidst depression era politics fail. Payday 2 is never smart enough to cast glances at current, failed monetary systems to earn allure or purpose, overeager to introduce marketable bloodshed.

Payday 2 is lustful for massacre. Even if/when it works, the game is shamelessly, even harmfully, exploitative.

Payday 2 is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes . This game can also be found on: Xbox 360, PC.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • CaptBenLWillard

    Nice to see a different perspective on such an over-hyped game! +1 RT 🙂