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Payday 2: everything we know


How do professional art thieves steal paintings? I hope it’s by tumbling artlessly through a skylight, falling 30 feet and breaking both their legs, before shouting for their friends to stop stealing things for a moment to come and help them while their flailing arms are setting off every alarm in the building. Because that’s how I do it.

It works every time.

Which is to say, it worked the one time I did it.

Payday 2 is a first-person co-op game about heists. Bank heists, jewellery store heists, museum heists, every kind of heist you could think of. You can plan your heist carefully by stealthing past guards, jamming cameras and avoiding loud noises, or you can come smashing through skylights, guns blazing, legs breaking, shouting and clawing the paintings off the walls like an angry bear. Payday 2 is a lot of fun, transplanting the four-way camaraderie of a Left 4 Dead campaign into a Michael Mann waking dream, where satisfying gunplay is stuffed into a big black duffel bag alongside some clever skill and tool-based heisting mechanics.

So, before we all break our legs in the excitement, here’s everything we know about Payday 2.


It’s a game about stealing things, it has very little to do with clowns

In Payday 2 you’re contractually obliged to steal money, paintings, jewels, and other expensive objects with three of your friends. The sequel has at least five times as many heists as the previous game, with many of them still under wraps — so who knows, you could be stealing priceless diamond eggs from aeroplanes and tiny celebrity dogs from casinos. You equip your character with guns and skills, arrive at the target location and set about weakening security, taking hostages and drilling through vault doors before grabbing the loot and making a run for the getaway vehicle. There is a button to scream angrily at civilians, which makes them get down on the ground and think about the last time they told the person closest to them how they really felt.

There are variations on this heisting procedure from contract to contract, and a spoonful of randomisation means that scenarios tend to play out differently each time. Also, when carrying loot you’re weighed down, which leaves you vulnerable and generally punishes bad planning or execution — attract too much police attention during the robbery and you’ll have to drag that sack of gold through a swarm of SWAT teams on the way back to the van.


You get to walk around in sharp suits “casing” “joints”

Before the actual heist begins, you and your friends can stroll around without your masks on, scoping and casing and flagging the locations of guards for later reference. Some classes are better at this than others. Many of the skills in the Ghost class, for example. help with keeping a low profile in these pre-heist phases, but some common sense will tell you that strutting into a bank in dressed like a massive kevlar bee is going to raise eyebrows. There’s an option to do away with armour altogether, leaving you dressed in Danny Ocean’s finest. This will deflect stares, but not bullets.

By noiselessly intruding you can silently knock out guards to steal keys, unlock doors ahead of time or disable cameras and electronics to delay the arrival of the police. During the painting theft I played, triggering an alarm also shuttered the paintings behind bars, meaning we’d either have to abandon the loot or use a portable saw to cut through the defences. Which isn’t stealthy at all. There is no button to adjust your tie like a big classy bastard.


Missions are randomised, vaults will wander, bins will vanish

There’s some heavy randomisation in each map. Bank vaults will appear in one of a number of pre-defined locations, guards’ patrol routes will swap and change from mission to mission, conveniently placed boxes for storing loot in one heist will dematerialise in another. It’s not just objects that get mixed up either, civilians in nearby apartments overlooking the target will sometimes phone in your suspicious activities, alerting the law to your heisting intentions before you’ve even lifted a diamond-swiping finger.

On contracts that span multiple locations, you’ll sometimes find your escape scuppered by a mid-getaway car crash, requiring you to hold down a defensive position while a backup car arrives. This event is partly based on your performance in the previous round, with a dice roll thrown in for good measure. Noisy thieves will encounter tougher cops.


There is an actual pay day in the game

It’s not just a fun sounding name. The pay day comes at the end of a mission and splits the earnings between players. It’s this cash that you’ll use to buy new weapons and attachments and fancy armours. You also get to flip over a playing card to receive a piece of loot, things like special masks and custom colours and decals. Some of the rare masks, such as the Alienware alien-face mask, have a one in a million chance of dropping. Things that have a something in a million chance of dropping are uniformly fun.


There are four classes, one of them can make hostages fall in love with you

Four classes each come with their own skillsets. The Ghost is the stealthy one, with martial arts and lockpicking abilities. The Enforcer is the heavy brute, with the best armour and a berserker mode that increases his damage as he approaches death. The Technician is the engineer and can deploy sentry guns and trip mines. The Mastermind can act as a medic and uses his Stockholm Syndrome skill to make hostages swoon. A hostage suffering from Stockholm Syndrome will throw you free ammo and revive you if you’re shot to bits by the police, which is probably how real Stockholm Syndrome works.

In practice, at least when playing with other new players, the differences in these classes were subtle. What really mattered was who was holding a spare ammo bag, and whether they knew that they could deploy it for others to use. All players, it seemed, could take on all aspects of the mission with some degree of success.


You get your missions from CrimeNET, which is like the internet but for crime

CrimeNET gives you an overview of the city populated with randomly generated contracts for you to pick and choose between, some with greater risks and rewards than others. It’s an snappily obfuscated multiplayer lobby, and will include and highlight any contracts that your friends are currently engaged in, allowing you to hop into their game to assist. You’ll also be able to find and take on contracts with random players in public games.

Here’s my favourite thing. Each mission loading screen is accompanied by the crazy live-action face of your various employers, who look around in different directions wearing a very serious expression, as if thinking about crimes, and whether posting a job listing for a crime on something called CrimeNET is really the safest way to go about doing them.

“I hope attaching this high resolution video footage of my face to my mission briefing doesn’t incriminate me somehow.”

“You must steal at least $49 worth of stuff to make up for what I spent on this tough guy shirt.”

“Hold on, this isn’t eHarmony, who are you people?”

More games should feature the inescapable haunted expressions of your morally ambiguous mission givers, who for their own deeply personal reasons cannot bear to look you in the eyes as they brief you on their specific needs. More first person shooters should allow four players to interact and co-operate with one another on such a technical and strategically complex level. Payday 2 is amazing fun, expansive and surprising and original and full of suits and class. It’s out now and available from Steam.