Spare a thought for the Tony Montanas, Don Corleones and Walter Whites of this world. Good hired help is hard to find, and no-one feels this old adage more than the aspiring crime lord. You'll have cause to consider this often when playing co-op heist shooter Payday 2, usually while bleeding out in a bank lobby, being trampled by a SWAT team, because your imbecilic associates decided that shooting passers-by was a great way to start a robbery.
Since this is a game designed with full co-op multiplayer in mind, team-mate AI is completely and utterly useless. It'll fire inefficiently at enemies and attempt to revive you when you're shot down, but it won't be able to perform any actions essential to completing missions, rendering the game's optional offline mode all but obsolete. As such, the key to staging the perfect crime is finding the right team. Just like a real heist, recruit a trigger-happy hot-head at your peril; should they run headfirst into failure, they'll bring you spiralling down along with them.
Payday 2's level hub Crime.net will constantly spawn various jobs of varying difficulty, length and pay grade for you to tackle with your chosen team-mates. Early heists range from a vanilla bank vault break-in, to relieving a jewellery store of a tiara, to infiltrating a nightclub to rob the manager's office, but later jobs are more pleasantly complex, involving multi-staged missions sequences across different locations.
Selecting any job on Crime.net will take you to a mission brief, where you can choose your loadout, and team captains are able to purchase assets that might help the mission go more smoothly, providing you use them properly. Despite numerous variations of the same job appearing on Crime.net at any given time, it doesn't feel like there are quite enough levels on offer early on in Payday 2, and due to jobs filling up or, bafflingly, disappearing after a too-brief timer runs out, it can sometimes take a few frustrating minutes to get your desired mission going on the public lobby.
Payday 2 gets much better, and more refined, the longer that you play it. With limited gear on hand to begin with, you have little option but to gun down wave after wave of cops during every level whilst waiting for a timer to run down, an experience barely distinguishable from countless dismal first person shooters. It isn't until you unlock more sophisticated equipment that you'll have more complex ways to approach a job, considerably changing the pace. Spending money makes money, as the more assets, equipment and gadgets you buy up, the more options you'll have to stealthily circumvent any obstacles later on.
No matter how items you stockpile though, and no matter how good you think your chosen team are, you can never predict how exactly a job is going to go down, and therein lies the fun of Payday 2 - the feeling that, from one moment to the next, you can never be sure of what might happen. You'll constantly have to weigh up rewards with the potential repercussion; do you risk going back to the scene of the crime for one last bag of stolen cash, or do you get out whilst the going is still good? Jobs will change ever so slightly every time you play them, too; a bank's layout may shift, a new guard might be posted outside, or a concerned citizen might just wander close enough to spot the bullet-proof vest strapped beneath your suit, forcing you to mask up early.