Payday 2 PS3 preview – crime shooter follow up adds random elements to keep you guessing

PAyday 2 PS3

[Update: We've also got a Payday 2 gameplay preview video and these Payday 2 screens.]

The original Payday was an interesting idea: a co-op online robbery simulator that saw you stage a range of heists. Providing you got together a few mates you could trust it was an interesting experience as you all worked together to neutralise alarms, pacify hostages, drill safes and fight off hordes of police.

Payday 2 PS3 preview

The only downside was the lack of variation. There were only seven levels (with two additional DLC maps added later) and they never changed. The job was the same every time. So, great idea, not a lot of replay value.

That’s the issue Payday 2 is aiming to address with randomised level set ups that mean things like metal detectors, police and more changes each time you play. Instead of daling with the same arrangement each time certain key variables will change, forcing you to roll with the punches. I recently saw the game in action and this is how Karl Andersson and Simon Viklund from Overkill Software handled their raid…

Andersson and Simon Vviklund are about to storm a jewellery store. While Andersson explains that there isn’t always a metal detector at the front door, and sometimes there are cop cars parked up in the street where the mission starts, Simonviklund checks for guards and peers into the windows, looking for safes. Already I’m seeing more depth in the prepping of this heist than in the enjoyable but limited original. More variables to consider, greater scope for stealthy or extremely non-stealthy approaches. It’s exciting to watch, cinematic even despite the still ropey civilian animations – the game’s currently pre-alpha.

The plan: Simon Viklund will pistol-whip the private security shmo lurking in an alleyway near a window entry point, while Andersson keeps an eye on things inside from a window on the opposite side of the building. From there, they’ll smash through the windows, one will drill open the safe with his silent drill ability while the other disables cameras and cable-ties the workforce.

The plan: Simon Viklund will pistol-whip the private security shmo lurking in an alleyway

Then: disaster. Simon Viklund accidentally shoots the private security shmo’s head off. On the street, people very understandably start screaming. The two talk very quickly to each other, establishing a new plan full of further expletives. Again, it feels like watching a movie – the plan always goes wrong, whether it’s Tim Roth tipping off the local beat or the late great Ledger feeding buckshot to his underlings. It’s possible to ghost this mission of course, it just didn’t work out that way today.

Simon Viklund holes up behind a store display and trains his automatic rifle on a steady but realistic stream of riot cops (less like the original’s Left 4 Dead-esque bobby horde) pouring through the main doorway. In the back rooms Andersson darts between hog-tied employees, heaping bags of jewellery near an escape point and praying the drill’s nearly broken through the safe.

I’m so caught up in the moment that I can overlook the shades of technical fragility, the clipping and rudimentary animations, something I could never quite get past in Payday: the Heist. If I was playing at this point, I’d already be much more invested in pulling off this small job than any of the first game’s six heists. I’d have invested in abilities that let me carry more bags, or drill into safes faster. I’d have my own custom mask. I’d have accepted this job via the Crimenet menu based on its risk and reward.

Thing is, I haven’t played it yet, and I can’t make the call on whether it’ll be technically robust enough to support these thrilling ideas that have made for one of the more enjoyable dev playthroughs I’ve attended in 2013. Beta testing will be crucial for this one, so don that mask ASAP, criminal scum.