What The Tom's Team Played This Weekend: 'Payday 2'

It was an interesting weekend for people who play games like Fortnite: Battle Royale, Overwatch, and the like. Fortnitelaunched a rocket that seems to have cracked the fabric of that game's reality. Overwatch finally saw the release of Hammond, an intelligent hamster, who promises to shake up the meta with his space-pod-turned-killer-robot. I played both games for a while, but I also spent a fair amount of time with Payday 2.

Let me be clear: I didn't choose to launch Payday 2 on a lark. The game was released in 2013, and while I understand that you have the option of approaching its heists stealthily or with guns blazing, every time I've tried to sneak around someone has spotted me from some weird location. Heists also take longer than a match in something like Fortnite, Overwatch, or Realm Royale, and my brain craves fast-paced action.

Yet so far, Payday 2 is the best game my friends and I have discovered that allows you to play on PC and in VR. The game's VR implementation ain't perfect--we've failed a few heists because something de-synchronized or simply didn't work properly--but it's good enough to spend a little while in. Because it's also better with friends, that means my plans to snag the top spot in a Fortnite match were put on hold to do a few heists.

The experience of playing Payday 2 with friends seems vastly different to playing it alone. It affords more variety with loadouts, requires near-constant communication, and in many cases forces you to work at least somewhat like a team. Plus when something inevitably goes wrong, it's nice to be able to scream profanities at a friend instead of having to take responsibility for your own shortcomings. (Or so I imagine. Ahem.)

I'm sure that all sounds like a nightmare to people who want to play Payday 2 as stealthily as possible. That does seem to be the best way to play the game; going too "loud" results in what amounts to a second-rate wave shooter with very little variety and unsatisfying gun play. The thing I worry about most when I'm detected isn't failing the mission--I'm fine with that--it's just having to sit through minutes of shoddy combat.

Still, none of that detracts from the game's relatively simple pleasures. There are some valuables. You have to steal them. How you do that is mostly up to you, depending on the heist, but the primary goal is to make as much money as possible. Heists might take longer than I'd personally prefer, but I suspect they're just the right length for people who want to spend as little time waiting around in lobbies as possible.

Many games today emphasize multiplayer. The games I listed above do, and with the next installment of Call of Duty forgoing a single-player campaign entirely, it's clear that the industry is trending towards shared experiences instead of solo adventures (at least when it comes to shooters). But sometimes  in these games, it's easy to forget that you're playing with other people--foes in Overwatch and Realm Royale might as well be bots.

That makes playing simple games with friends even more rewarding than it might have been otherwise. Payday 2 isn't my favorite game, but it's given some of us something to play that has both a foot in the past (it's five years old, for crying out loud) and one in the future (hello, VR support). Since it's also cheap (it's currently $4.99 thanks to Steam's Summer Sale, or $9.99 normally), easy to learn the basics, and still supported half a decade after its debut, I'm OK with Payday 2 stealing some of my time.

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