PayDay 2

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Payday 2
Genre Shooter
Gamming Style First-Person
Platform Windows, Linux, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date August 13, 2013
Developer Overkill Software
Publisher 505 Games[1]
Website Payday 2 - Overkill Software

Payday 2 [2] is a cooperative first-person shooter[3] developed by Overkill Software[4] and released on August 13, 2013. In the first month of its release, the game sold over 1 million copies.[5] Throughout the years, the game has remained astoundingly popular. In the fourth quarter of 2019 alone, Payday 2 garnered $7.84 million in sales.[6] Payday 2 is a sequel to Payday: The Heist[7] and is currently available on multiple platforms including Windows, PlayStation, Xbox, and the Nintendo Switch.

Just like its prequel, Payday 2 takes place in the Washington D.C metropolitan area, where players are given the choice between which heists they want to commit. There are many different heists, each varying in difficulty and scenario. Players can either perform these robberies alone or with up to three other teammates. Unlike its predecessor, Payday 2 expands upon character customization, weapon variety, and map interaction.

Since its release, more than thirty downloadable content (DLC) packages have been released, all of which require further payment. DLCs build upon the game by introducing new characters, storylines, and weapons. In general, DLCs have been received negative reactions by the community, with many players claiming it to be “pay-to-win”[8] addition to the game. In 2015, players were outraged as this "pay-to-win" system was able to circumvent microtransactions to obtain DLCs through the use of hacking.[9] In addition to concerns regarding the use of physical currency to buy virtual goods and hacking, other ethical considerations for Payday 2 include its graphic depictions of domestic terrorism and excessive violence.

Overkill Software

Overkill software is a game development business founded by video game ‘veterans’ in 2009. [10]The veterans who found the company are the Anderson brothers from Stockholm, Sweden, who previously founded the marketing software GRIN. [11] Overkill worked with Starbreeze studios in 2012 to produce Payday, and eventually joined Starbreeze studios to continue making first person shooting games. [12] They are also known for creating other games such as City of Gold, PAYDAY: the Heist, Overkills: the Walking Dead and the infamous Payday 2. Their mission is, “to create kick-ass cooperative action games together with our community and to bring back the game industry to its roots, when game developers made games for the gamers, not for the publishers. That, is OVERKILL.” [13]


Payday 2 follows the Payday Gang[14], a group of masked criminals who commit crimes around Washington D.C. These gang members commit these crimes for other people and are rewarded monetarily for their success. They receive crime requests through an application called CRIME.NET, which is a network that provides the Payday Gang a list of criminal jobs to take care of. Because of its success and reputation, the Payday Gang has since grown from a group of four to now a group of 22 members. Descriptions of the founding members are listed below:
Original members of the Payday Gang
  • Dallas: A 44-year-old American man. He is oftentimes seen as the leader of the group and wears a mask with the American flag on it during heists.
  • Chains: A 37-year-old American man who is a 10-year army veteran. During heists, he wears a white, blue, and pink mask.
  • Hoxton: A 32-year-old British man who wears a pink and white clown mask during heists.
  • Wolf: A 34-year-old Swedish man who wears a white and red demon mask during heists.


Payday 2 is played from the first-person point of view. The game consists of a series of heists that players can do alone or with other players online. Each heist has its own unique objective, oftentimes requiring players to steal a certain amount of money, an artifact, or a piece of useful information. Security guards, police, and FBI are common enemies within the game that will try to prevent the player from accomplishing their goal.

Before the Heist

Prior to the start of a heist, the player is able to choose the difficulty level[15] of the heist. As the difficulty level increases, the game will introduce more and stronger enemies, indestructible security cameras, and stronger safes that make it harder to achieve the objective. Currently, there are seven different difficulty levels:

  • Normal: No enhancements are made to the enemies or the environment.
  • Hard: The number of enemies is slightly increased.
  • Very Hard: The number of enemies and the health of the enemies are slightly increased.
  • Overkill: The number of enemies is slightly increased and the health of the enemies is increased.
  • Mayhem: The number of enemies is increased and the health of the enemies is significantly increased.
  • Death Wish: The number of enemies is increased, the health of the enemies is significantly increased, and headshot damage on enemies is decreased.
  • Death Sentence: The number of enemies is increased, the health of the enemies is overwhelmingly increased, and headshot damage on enemies is decreased.

During the Heist

Some of the customizable masks available to players[16]

A heist begins with players exploring the map without their mask on. This is meant as an opportunity for players to understand the layout of the heist, as well as scope out potential threats (e.g. security cameras and security guards). The players still have their weapons, tools, and body armor on them during this time, which means civilians, employees, and security cameras can discover the player is a robber if they stray too close. The rate at which players are caught depends on how many weapons, tools, and body armor they have on them at the time. When a player is ready, or they are caught, all players will put on their masks, draw their weapons, and the heist will begin.[17]

The goal of a heist is to reach some kind of high-value target from a secure location within the mission. Whether it be gold stashed in a safe in a bank, presidential pardons from the White House, or eliminate a number of enemies as John Wick, Payday 2 has a wide variety of objectives for players to attempt.[18][19] Players have many different ways to complete these objectives, and can be classified in two ways: quiet or loud strategies.

A quiet strategy means the player uses stealth for all or part of a mission. This requires the player to sneak past guards and security cameras, or alternatively, knock out or kill security guards without being heard. The second option requires players to interact with guards’ pagers periodically or an alarm will be sounded. [20] Gunshots, being spotted by civilians with a mask on, or being seen on security cameras for too long are all methods in which a player can have an alarm sounded on them. An alarm being sounded means the end of a quiet strategy.

A loud strategy means the player decides to intentionally draw attention to themselves, whether it be through gunfire or capturing a hostage from a room of civilians. Loud strategies begin when an alarm is sounded, signalling that waves of law enforcement will begin to respond. Players are tasked with keeping the law enforcement at bay while they acquire their objective. Loud strategies can begin quietly, meaning they sneak towards their objective until they are caught.

After the Heist

If the heist is finished successfully, the player is brought to a results screen[21], which displays information such as statistics and rewards of the heist. In regards to personal statistics, the player is able to see information like how many enemies they killed, the number of headshots they got, and how many civilians they killed. Rewards are broken up into two categories: cash payout and experience points.

80% of the cash payout from the heist is sent to the player's offshore account. This money can be later used to buy more contracts for new heists and to upgrade a player's character. The rest of the cash payout is sent to the player's personal bank account, which can be used to buy and customize weapons, purchase resources that may help during a heist, and cover expenses for killing innocent civilians.

Experience points help players level up and gain new abilities. The amount of experience points a player gains from a heist heavily depends on the difficulty of the heist. The harder the heist, the more experience points the player gains. The experience point multipliers are listed below.

  • Normal: 0x
  • Hard: 2x
  • Very Hard: 5x
  • Overkill: 10x
  • Mayhem: 11.5x
  • Death Wish: 13x
  • Death Sentence: 14x

Ethical Issues


Unlike many other games, Payday 2's anti-cheat system does not ban cheaters. Instead of punishing them, the anti-cheat system simply places a red label titled "cheater" next to the player's username. As a result, there is less of a deterrent to cheating as the repercussions are not as severe. Forms of hacking within the game include unlimited ammunition for the hacker's weapons, prevention of cops from shooting in the current heist, and teleportation. Since Payday 2 is a multiplayer game, hackers ruin the game experience for other players who may want to play the game fairly. Unfortunately, normal players are helpless as there is no system in place that punishes hackers for such behavior.

Promotion of Violence

Upon its release, the violence in Payday 2 has been criticized by many parents. Violence is highlighted in Payday 2 through gunfire, blood splatter, and cries of pain. The game provides little to no restriction on what the player can do with their weapon. Players have the ability to shoot anyone and anything, often with limited and unrealistic repercussions. For instance, players are allowed to shoot innocent civilians and are only penalized with a reduction in their in-game cash reward at the end of a heist. Due to all of this, Payday 2 has an ESRB rating of Mature 17+[22].

However, there are still scientific arguments today on whether violent video games have a causal effect on the development of the human mind and promote violent tendencies. [23] Therefore it is hard to say if this specific game is ethically corrupt by promoting violence.


In Payday 2, players can purchase downloadable content (DLC) packages, which provide new characters, heists, and weapons. While several DLCs are merely cosmetic and do not impact the gameplay in any way, other DLCs provide a variety of weapons that are noticeably stronger than their default counterparts and are only unlockable through spending real money. [24] An example was in 2015 when there was an update[25] to the game that introduced safes, which were only openable through drills costing $2.50 USD. Within these safes contained rare weapon skins that not only looked different but also provided stat boosts to the weapons, such as increasing damage. This addition thus divided the player base into players who were able to spend money and those who didn’t, creating a power imbalance as paying players would have a much easier time accomplishing heists by having access to such inclusive, powerful weapons.

[26] The drill and safe card icons as seen in Payday 2

For a period of time, the safe and drill system was a part of Payday 2’s market - users paying for drills to open safes that contained special items like skins, stat boosts, and other things that provided advantages to players who were more willing/able to invest money into the game on top of the actual game’s selling price. [27] This is indicative of a larger controversy amongst online multiplayer games in recent years - gambling and loot boxes. Generally in online gaming, the term “loot boxes” refer to a microtransaction system where players will acquire some sort of container, usually either as a drop for playing for a certain amount of time (and these drops would occur in regular intervals), or these types of containers can also be purchased for a rather low price (such as on the Steam marketplace) [28]. These containers, which can provide various upgrades from cosmetic skins to more powerful weapons, are only unlockable via special keys (in the case of Payday 2, drills), and these keys are often only obtainable by purchasing them with real world money. In some games, containers can be unlocked using in-game currency, but the cost using in-game currency is typically quite high, resulting in using real world money being by far the most expedient option in unlocking these containers [28]. Loot boxes and their derivatives became a cornerstone of online multiplayer gaming in the 2010s. They have often been deem as a near-equivalent of online gambling, and more pressingly so as minors are often able to partake in the loot box system [29]. Nearly 40% of children are reported to be exposed to or partake in the loot box system. Research has indicated that loot box systems are akin to gambling, and that active participation in them is correlated with unhealthy gambling behavior. [30] Following Payday’s acquisition by Starbreeze in 2016, the drill/safe system in Payday 2 was modified to be less pay-to-win oriented. However, the presence of lootboxes and their derivatives are still ubiquitous in online multiplayer gaming. [27]


Flaming occurs in Payday 2 as in any other online video game. Flaming is a form of cyberbullying that intentionally acts on writing hateful and hurtful comments to another user online. Within Payday 2, flaming is very common as many players become frustrated with their teammates and will resort to degrading them because of their poor in-game performance. Currently, there is no punishment for flaming in Payday 2 as the game mainly prioritizes on calling out cheaters during the game rather than putting effort into controlling the community from such negative behavior.

This sort of toxic behavior online inflicts emotional pain to other users who are undeservingly harassed, which can easily affect their mentality within the game and even outside of the game. As an online video game, Payday 2 gives users a sense of psychological freedom to act aggressively and threaten other users without any serious repercussions. The idea of Payday 2 is for a group to carry out various heists together. Since the game requires good teamwork and strong coordination within a team in order to successfully finish a heist, it players may be more inclined to engage in flaming one another based on bad in-game performances. As a cooperative gaming medium, it seems inherently more prone to cases of targeted flaming of other players or a supposed weak-link in the squad. Depending on the difficulty, just one wrong move can ruin the remainder of the heist, causing players to easily become frustrated with the player who made the error. As a result, players who experience such toxicity within the community while playing with random players online often have a better experience playing with just their friends.

As seen in an online discussion forum, a new Payday 2 user is curious about what it would be like to play with other players within the community[31]. Responses are given to the user that cautions about the toxic community toward new players and advice on how to avoid such toxicity.


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