1: The Jewellery Store
I figured I’d be pretty good at this heisting stuff. I mean, hell, I’ve finished every level in Monaco – even the super hard ones – and this is basically the same, right? You just have to get into a place and take things that other people don’t want you to take. But here, in Payday 2, I’ve got a gun. That’s got to make things easier.
And a jewellery store? Pfft. In Monaco, I had to rob several jewellery stores, at the same time. And they had automated guns rigged up to rotating lasers.
This one, conversely, could only have been more open if they’d just left everything out in the street with a big sign saying “FREE JEWELLERY”. There were a few windows around the back that we could smash open for a more covert entrance, a couple of security guards wandering the premises, and some civvies milling around the display cases in the store’s shopfloor. But hey, this is an easy opportunity for a smash and grab. I put on my terrifying clown mask, pull out my gun, stroll through the front door, and shout EVERYBODY BE COOL THIS IS A ROBBERY because Pulp Fiction references are totally current.
Several civilians stare at me for a moment, and then a security guard shoots me in the face. My AI companions, rather than helping, are standing across the street, arms folded, nonchalantly watching me.
So fine. I’m new at this, and this is a test. I get it. I shoot the security guard until he falls over, and then decide I’d better intimidate the rest of the civilians by making an example of one of them. I stroll over to one – who’s still staring at me, hands raised – put the gun to his head, and fire.
CIVILIAN KILLED! DEDUCTING $2,000 IN CLEANER COSTS appears on the screen.
Okay, fine. I can’t kill civilians. I order them to lie down on the ground, and make myself busy smashing open cases and stuffing jewellery into my pockets. Some bits are too large and have to be hauled into a bag and dumped in the back of our escape van, which takes time. Rather then assist in this labour, my “companions” are still sat next to the parking lot. One’s having a cigarette.
Of course, they didn’t remain like this forever – it wasn’t long before they decided to get off their asses and help. Specifically, they decided to assist when a civilian called the police because of the noise of gunshots. In other words, they assisted after our escape van had already scarpered, leaving me short of the three required bags of loot. Still, small mercies.
Two police cars rolled up in front of the store, and the occupants of both cars were swiftly executed with pistol fire… which doesn’t fine me “cleaner costs”? What the hell? I’m allowed to shoot cops, but not civilians?
Anyway, rather than serving as a warning, this apparently just infuriates the police because it’s not long before lots more cops arrive. And SWAT team members. And snipers. They’re also not too keen on protecting the civilians, on the basis that any civvies that aren’t nailed down (or, well, tied up) are more than happy to stand up and run around in the middle of the ensuing gunfight, and the cops are more than happy to keep firing past them. I guess they don’t get fined for shooting civilians.
I’m shooting my 30th policeman in the head when our escape van shows up again about six meters down the street from where it started, and it’s a quick jaunt to just lob the last bag in the back and then drive off. Job well done! That’s got to be a few hundred thousand dollars worth of cash, too.
… Bain, what do you mean you’re putting 95% of it in my offshore account and giving me about $8,000 as spending money? What are you, my mum?
Day 4: The Bank Job
I’ve finally done enough low-end jobs that Bain has given me sufficient pocket money to buy a couple of new guns – an AK-47 for the big shootouts, and a powerful Crosskill pistol for looking really cool. I’ve also decided to spread my earned skill points across each of the four trees – Mastermind, Enforcer, Technician, and Ghost. Now I’m toting an ammo bag to replenish my crew’s ammo reserves mid-heist, because a couple of hundred rounds for each gun disappears very quickly when you’ve attracted the attention of what can only be the entire state’s police force. Also, I get more money when I steal things now. So that’s neat.
With these guns, I was finally feeling badass enough to take on the heist every aspiring criminal dreams of: the bank job. Normally they’re probably dreaming of hitting a big bank rather than a street corner one, but shut up. Everyone starts somewhere. Anyway: our task was to grab a thermal drill someone left for us in the parking lot, break in, drill the vault, and make off with the cash.
Better still, I’d managed to attract an accomplice with an actual, real-life brain (probably) in occasional IncGamers Plays-er Adam Gell. And we had a plan, because I’d spent the rest of my cash on assets for the mission to give us a bit more intel. I could’ve bought a much cooler-looking mask instead, but $50,000 for customisation? Piss off.
This was the plan: I’d sneak around and get the drill while he picked the lock on a side door. I’d then check around the front and try to spot the manager through the windows, after which he’d sneak his way over to wherever the manager was, tie him up at an opportune moment, take his keycard, and use that to open the security door. We’d take out the security guard so that nobody was watching the cameras, and set up the drill by the vault. If anyone heard the noise, we’d just force them to the ground and make sure nobody called the cops.
This is what happened: I went to get the drill, turned a corner into the bank’s parking lot, and walked into a security guard who noticed the AK-47 slung across my bulletproof vest, and then promptly handcuffed me and phoned the police.
From there, all hell broke loose. Adam and the AI companions came around the corner to free me, shooting the guard in the process. The gunshot spooked all of the civilians who promptly started running around like startled rabbits. We ran inside, set the drill up on the vault, and waited for the cops to show up.
Then the drill jammed, so I went to fix it while Adam and the bots shot at the first wave of cops. Once it was running again I took up my station at a corner near the drill, loosed a few rounds at a SWAT team approaching through the side door, and then went to fix the drill again.
Police snipers took up positions in the buildings outside. A helicopter started dropping off heavily-armoured cops on the roof. Some guy with a riot shield barged through the front door. Gas was pushed out through the vents. The drill broke about 17 more times in between each of these events.
Eventually, though – after almost all of us were knocked down and rescued at least once – we made it. With only two stacks of cash, because the bots refuse to carry anything and we couldn’t make a return trip from the escape van because the inside of the vault looked like Police Brutality Convention 2013.
Day 18: The Bank Job (Overkill difficulty)
Look, can we just agree that trying something that hard was a bad idea, and then never talk about it again?
Day 32: Framing Frames (Part 1)
Framing Frames is a multi-day job, insofar as you have multiple consecutive missions and the actions in one have an impact on what happens in the next. In Framing Frames, we’re supposed to steal paintings from an art gallery, install cameras in them, sell them off to a dodgy politician via a fixer, and then use those cameras to frame him and steal all the gold in his vault. For the first part, we needed to break into the art gallery and steal at least four of these paintings – so at least two trips to the escape van, each.
We took our time. We scouted around, checking for all entrances on the ground level and then looking through the skylights to spot the guard patrols. We noted the location of the cameras, and we decided we’d take different paths in; I’d take the side entrance that led through a bathroom into one of the gallery wings, and he would keep an eye on things from above and either sneak in through the roof, or go past the lone guard at the front entrance.
Then he said “Should I take out the cameras?” I responded in the negative. “No, because the camera operator will know it’s broken and call the cops, or one of the guards will spot the broken camera and call the cops. We can disable them temporarily with a jammer, but you should probably just try to avoid them.”
“Well, I just shot one.”
ALARM TRIPPED: POLICE DETECTED SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY
Day 32: Framing Frames (Part 1.5)
We got out of the art gallery alive and mostly intact, after SWAT teams actually blasted down the walls to get to us. Unfortunately, this led to an unforeseen complication: the SWAT teams followed us, shot out the car tyres, and we had to hold them off in a park while Bain arranged a new escape vehicle. It’s worth noting that this wouldn’t have happened if we got out faster, or simply did it stealthily.
Remind me never to take Adam with me on a job after this.
Day 34: Framing Frames (Part 3)
So, after our hand-off of the paintings didn’t exactly go… positively… we finally found ourselves on top of the corrupt politician’s penthouse apartment. We had a computer to access the cameras installed in the paintings, and some idea of… oh, look: this one went horribly tits up too. In fact, it went horribly tits up repeatedly. About 15 times. And then Peter Parrish joined us and it went horribly tits up again. Within about 12 seconds of walking into the apartment at least one of us would be spotted and the plan would suddenly changed to breaking into his computer and leaking information about his arms deals to the media.
Unfortunately, this politician apparently has a country’s worth of SWAT members living in his apartment, because within 10 seconds of the alarm being raised those complete bastards started breaking through the windows and rappelling down from the skylights and shutting off the power, forcing us to go and restart it.
We gave up. Sorry, Mr. Other Politican, but this particular politician is remaining unframed for now.
Day 60: Framing Frames (Part 3)
I did it. I bloody did it. It took me about 30 attempts and oh-so-many hours, but I did it.
My Crosskill has a silencer. I’ve levelled up the Ghost tree enough that I can move bodies. I’m harder to detect. I’ve got the hang of how stealth works. I broke into the politician’s apartment, stealthed my way through the level avoiding all guards and cameras – very occasionally knocking one out and stashing his body on the roof – and found all the electronic gadgets I had to find. I took them to our laptop on the roof, and then retrieved the eight huge sacks of cocaine that we had to stash in his vault to complete the frame.
Eight trips from the roof down to the vault, and back. Only bots as allies, so they were of no use. Eight trips, avoiding all guards and cameras each time, or the mission would suddenly switch over to hacking the computer and I’d be crushed to death by sheer weight of police officers again.
At this point, the mission was complete and I could leave, but considering his vault was said to contain a huge amount of gold, there was no way I was leaving without a little bonus cash – particularly because I’m pretty damn sure that when CrimeNet says they’re “putting the money in my offshore account” they really mean “going on holiday with my money.” So I found the computer that opens the vault door, and… oh, fuck off.
Lasers wired to alarms block the vault door. One person has to trigger the computer to disable them for a few seconds while another sneaks in and steals some gold, and then the computer operator disables the lasers again. You can’t do it with bots. You need two people.
30 attempts. 30 attempts. I actually feel dead inside.
Payday 2 expands on everything that the first game promised and only delivered in a slightly shonky way, and Payday 2 does it well. The shooting has real feeling to it and is actually enjoyable. Missions are varied in terms of your goals, the way prior mission success impacts the multi-day missions, and the sheer randomisation of key elements – the vault won’t be in the same place each time. The keycard won’t be in the same place. Guards and cameras will be set up differently. Etc. A lot of the missions boil down to “defend this location until the computer is hacked/the drill gets through the lock, and then cart X number of items to the escape point” but there are plenty of others, and there’s usually enough variety in mission setup that they don’t feel particularly samey.
Payday 2 is a game about trying to commit the perfect heist, and then – most likely – watching it all go horribly wrong, and trying to salvage it while fending off improbable numbers of policemen. The customisation system still needs a bit of work in terms of the sheer money required to actually buy new items, but as you progress down the trees you start getting access to some truly game-changing abilities. I’ve complained about it regularly throughout the “diary”, but that tended to be for humour or mild, moment-to-moment frustration; I wouldn’t have played it nearly as much as I did if I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I did.
It’s a little buggy and a little rough in places, and the bots are sufficiently rubbish that I can’t really recommend it if you’re a solo player, but if you can assemble a small crew of your own or aren’t intimidated by playing with randoms on the internet, you’ll have a blast. This is pretty much what the first game should’ve been: a tight, enjoyable shooter with a unique setting and some optional stealth.