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.
One of the extra perks of the crime drama is customizing the robber's mask. It's one of the giddier moments, as successful player will find a wide range of shapes and colors to build a ghoulish facial disguise. Some of the masks even have stories tied to their origin.
Nail biting occurs early and often when trying to open safety deposit boxes (a meter slowly spins) or using a drill (that has a propensity to stop and must be restarted) when trying to open a massive safe door.
More finger biting takes place after a player, carrying a large bag of loot is seconds away from getting to the escape vehicle only to find a small army of police waiting between him and his freedom.
The Collector's Edition includes a full-size, creepy clown mask, a pair of surgical gloves, a CD soundtrack and wallet that looks like a roll of hundred-dollar bills.
While I caution that Payday 2 can quickly turn into a non-stop firefight between thief and copper, it's bounding with possibilities for refined criminals looking for one of the most exciting and tactical, co-operative games this year
Parental advice: The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), after watching too many helmets blasted off of officers and blood stains on walls and concrete, decided to label this game "M" and that stands for mature — adults 17 years and older need only try to take part in Payday 2. So don't let your 15–year-old convince you that "this is just like 'Terminator' meets 'Reservoir Dogs,' Dad. I've seen both movies. What's the big deal about pulling off a couple of bank jobs, Call of Duty style?" Payday 2 delivers a gratuitous look at modern-day, urban crime and has little issue with allowing the escalation of onscreen violence to reach brutal levels.
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