- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gamers learn that crime does pay in the interactive adventure Payday 2: Console Collector’s Edition (505 Games and Overkill Software, rated Most Mature, $59.99).

This co-operative, first-person shooter allows up to four players to don the masks of an infamous crime crew and work together to pull off dozens of heists while collecting outrageous amounts of cash and upgrades in the process.

So let’s get the blood-red elephant in the room out of the way first. Payday 2 is a game for “Mature” humans, 17 years and older, get it parental units? Make no mistake about it; this is a violent game where killing virtual law-enforcement officers is possibly the only way to succeed on certain jobs.

However, for the adult gamer, it’s an intense and intoxicating Tarantino-esque thriller while each heist plays out and as slick as the shootouts and escapes seen in any modern day, “R” rated cinematic crime drama.

The key ingredient to really appreciating the action is finding three, or at least two, other modestly intelligent individuals to play Payday 2.

Teaming up with Call of Duty idiots that simply run around, shooting, makes the game a complete waste of time.

With the ability to pull off jobs by disabling security cameras and alarms, answering a downed guards pager, tying up hostages, stopping street civilians from calling 911 by yelling at them, hiding loot bags, all used to accomplish a more subdued strategy, it’s quite a rousing accomplishment to complete a mission with minimal blood loss, and it can be done.

I further emphasis the co-operative element here; working as a solo robber with three computer-controlled criminals is a disaster. These bums act more as targets with guns, will get in the way and never, ever help carry out mission objectives.

Blossoming criminals pick from contracts and jobs (even multiday missions) posted on the Crime.net database map sponsored by the likes of Vlad the Ukrainian or drug trafficker Hector that has them pilfering jewelry stores, banks, art galleries and nightclubs along with various other seamy bases of operation such as a meth lab.

Robbers can upgrade using points applied to skill trees to specialize as an Enforcer (he inflicts most damage to enemies when needed), Mastermind (excels in situational control and healing team mates), technician (explosives and gadgets expert) and Ghost (stealthy stealer).

Weapons and the latest criminal accessories can play a key roll in a player’s success, and specifically, the high-powered arsenal includes submachine guns, automatic assault rifles, double-barreled shotguns, semi-automatic pistols and a portable power saw.

All of which have deep levels of modification with barrels, scopes, suppressors, reticles, frames and stocks unlocked after successful missions.

Firepower works in tandem with purchased items and devices such as high-density flak jackets, trip mines, sentry guns, health packs, C4 explosives, ammo packs and ECM jammers (a device used to deceive detection systems).

Using said weapons also escalates the violence to incredibly uncomfortable levels as a player targets waves of law enforcement and thugs not limited to snipers, SWAT team members with shields, police packing tasers and ferocious gang members always on the attack if anything looks suspicious. However, if he accidentally kills civilians he loses bundles of cash.

A player can calmly stake out a location or start an armed conflict immediately, but if he goes down, a fellow robber must help him or the police captures him. Believe it or not, another player (with the right skill points) can also negotiate to trade a hostage to bring him back into the heist.

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