Unvaulating the Original PAYDAY 2 (2013 ver.)

Back in 2013, I played PAYDAY 2 for the first
time. I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly ever since. I could spend days praising the soundtrack,
audio-visual feedback, and level design as motivators for my continued interest, but
what really kept me hooked was the degree of replayability. Testing new skill layouts
with perk decks and individual weapon modifications created a long-term cycle of experimentation,
testing, refinement, and further experimentation. However, six years later, updates have slowed
to a snail’s pace, and the developer is in such dire straits that they could shut
down overnight. As a result, I can’t help but feel that things were better back in 2013.
Life was simpler, and so was PAYDAY. Customisation was still an important element, but options
were much more limited without the additions that DLC brought. I vividly remember coming
home from school each day to play with my group of friends and see what was new. In
the early days, I had fewer qualms surrounding the game, and that has given me a rose-tinted
outlook on that time. What I would do to go back, and see whether things were as blissful
as I remember. Well, I’m still working on the time machine, but in the meantime, I considered
an alternative. For a previous video project, I was able to
play the original 2007 version of Team Fortress 2. I didn’t believe it’d be possible to
do the same with PAYDAY 2, due to its reliance on Steamworks. How foolish was I, for I humoured
the idea recently, and found the process of playing the original, launch version much
easier than expected. “Installing and Playing Older Payday 2 Updates” is a Steam guide
by user Salem, which allows you to play any previous version of the game, by using features
built into Steam itself. Steam keeps all previous versions of the games they sell, and each
is given a manifest ID in their database. All you need to do is identify the correct
ID using the spreadsheet in the guide, enter a single line of code into the developer console,
and the files start downloading. From there, it’s a simple matter of replacing the existing
files with the downloaded ones. Seriously, that’s it! It’s amazingly straightforward.
The guide advises you to back up your existing game files so you can still play the current
version. However, I’ve been running out of storage space due to the amount of footage
I’ve recorded lately, so I just… slapped the files on top. I’m in it for the long
haul. I opened the PAYDAY 2 client, hardly expecting it to work. Well, it did work…
almost. My current save file was incompatible. I backed up my save, and deleted the original.
I was in, but I’d have to work my way back up all the way from level 0. *gasps* “No way!” “You’re here!”
“It works! It works!” “It is absolutely – okay – it is absolutely
wild that you can… go on Steam, put in a code for a release, download the game, and
still play it!” The early hours of playing OG PAYDAY were
thrilling and confusing. “Oh yeah, they added being able to open the
windows on Jewellery Store later.” “For me, this is like being in 2013 again.
And I’m not sure how to feel about that!” “Oh no, I don’t have any… ’cause you have
to unlock them all individually!” “Only the host may unlock assets.” *laughter*
“Ah, we don’t need it.” “Mark, I don’t have enough cash for the code
for shutters.” “Let’s see that accuracy… *amused* Oh! 45%!” My first impression was that this version
was a lot more difficult. That can be attributed to several factors. Of course the lack of
skills plays a large role, but I’ll get back to that later. The greatest change actually
had to do with health. In Fresh PAYDAY, you have many options for health regeneration.
You can find some in skill trees, and there are numerous perk decks which are built around
the mechanic. These are absent in OG. As such, health management becomes the primary focus
in any heist, and so the gameplay is generally much more defensive. At times, it heavily
resembles the previous game, which had several heists where you set up your defense and hold
a location. “See, the difference is that… in PAYDAY
2, when you’re waiting for a drill to finish, you’re chucking bags around, and in PAYDAY:
The Heist, when you’re waiting for a drill to finish, you’re getting thoroughly f—-d
in the a–e.” “The question is, would you rather throw around
bags or-” “Well-” This concept is particularly prevalent in
OG when you consider the typical objectives in its heists. It wasn’t called bag throwing
simulator for nothing. The lack of collectible Gage courier packages means that downtime
during heists is generally unproductive, and with so many time-based objectives, I found
myself waiting idly for the next shootout. Though, once they arrived, they weren’t
to be underestimated. At launch, the game’s challenge was a major selling point – the
co-operative FPS that doesn’t hold its punches. Fewer units overall are sent your way, but
each is far more dangerous when health recovery is only achievable through deployable doctor
bags. The same is true of special units, with Bulldozers standing as a threat to be feared. “THERE’S A DOZER! NO, NO!” *laughter* Coordination with your teammates to focus
fire on these special units is essential for survival. The comparatively limited weapon
modification selection means that guns can’t quite reach the incredible damage output that
you see in Fresh PAYDAY, and as a result, enemies have greater survivability. This is
a very different kind of PAYDAY, one which best demonstrates original Game Director David
Goldfarb’s vision for a punishing shooter with light RPG elements. “Ah, speaking of which! F— F— F— F—!
C’mon…” “Nah, we have to restart.”
“See ya, boys!” *laughter* One of the greatest strengths and weaknesses
of OG PAYDAY 2 was that it required multiple players to offer different benefits to the
team for success to be realised. The enforcer carries ammo and boasts incredible health,
the technician brings tools which the entire team can benefit from, such as sentries, the
mastermind offers unparalleled support potential, and the ghost also exists. One-man armies
were far less common in those days, as the game wasn’t built around that style of play.
Fresh PAYDAY 2 has far more golden bullets than it used to, such as the Grinder perk
deck, which at one point was so overpowered that the game’s meta shifted almost completely
from armour to dodge-based builds. As these one-stop solutions encroached, PAYDAY’s
RPG elements transitioned from the traditional to the Diablo, where players could experience
incredible power fantasies on their lonesome. The skill ceiling in PAYDAY 2 is heavily based
on the number of abilities and weapons you have unlocked. To truly assess the difficulty
of OG PAYDAY 2, I needed to reach a suitable point in the game’s progression before I
could comment. I set my sights on a Tier 6 skill in the Mastermind tree by the name of
Inspire. I would argue that, throughout the years, this has remained the most powerful
skill in the game, as it allows you to help your teammates back up merely by shouting
at them. If multiple players bring this to a heist, congrats, you’ve found the secret
to eternal life. Working my way up to this point was not a
fast process. Even with a friend, you won’t be able to jump into Overkill difficulty heists
straight off the bat. In Fresh PAYDAY 2, you can easily complete a stealth heist at level
0 to receive a large PAYDAY. I’ve always considered stealth the weaker half of the
game, and playing the OG version only justified my gripes. Early heists tried to sell the
concept of ‘pseudo-stealth’, as in, they can be completed guns-blazing, stealthily,
or a hybrid of the two. However, with level layouts that appear primarily action-based,
much of the early-game stealth relies on memorising AI patterns and hoping for good fortune. The
inconsistency of AI, all the more egregious in this version, became the source of much
frustration, particularly when this version lacks the ability to move civilians. “Oh, holy sh–! Oh my god! I don’t believe
it!” “We’re stealthing Ukranian job!”
*sounds of deep anger, held for many a year* Some of the later heists were stealth-only,
and Shadow Raid remains an example of how stealth can be executed incredibly well when
the design doesn’t have to additionally pander to a loud approach. Until then, we’re
left in this version with the admirable but underwhelming half-measure approach. Besides,
the game’s choice to lock pager answers and body bags behind skills made stealth grinding
a far less productive venture. In my desire to acquire Inspire I scoured
for what would empower me and devour my cowardice. As my doctor bags improved, and I became able
to trade in dominated units to bring teammates out of custody, I found the lower-difficulty
heists more manageable, and began to scale up towards the Overkill difficulty level.
The skills I acquired were incredibly important, which is why the most gutting omission here
is skill-sets, which allow you to dramatically leap between different styles of play. The
developers chose to provide you only one in OG, to incentivise the construction of partially
stealth-oriented builds. Skills additionally cost in-game money to acquire, and refunding
them only grants you half of what you invested, and as such, the website pd2skills.com received
much traffic back in the day for its clean, easy-to-understand build-designing system.
It would be several years until the money cost was removed, and skill-sets implemented,
to allow for greater experimentation. It was a breath of fresh air to return to an
era long before the film crossovers, playable Youtube celebrities, and goats. The playable
cast is limited to the original 4, and the core cast has a much stronger dynamic than
many of the later additions. For example, Hoxton and Wolf give each other nicknames
as a carry-over from the previous game, but the later re-introduction of the original
Hoxton gave him a strong animosity for his PAYDAY 2 replacement. There’s nothing wrong
with the new additions to the crew – in fact, many are sparkling with personality, but the
bloated cast does somewhat dilute the entire group’s character. CHAINS: “Thought I saw my ex-wife with my
neighbour. F—– up, right?” This version of PAYDAY tried to edge closer
to realism. so heists are much smaller in scope, with less of the glamour, grandeur,
and high-flying setpieces that the first game bathed in, and though most people agree that
the later introduction of more impressive heists was a good decision, there’s something
quite charming about the OG’s simplicity. The same can be said of the soundtrack, an
absolute masterclass in video game composition by none other than Simon Viklund. He made
his name composing for the PAYDAY series, and for good reason. PAYDAY 2’s soundtrack
is highly focused on punchy, energetic electronic soundscapes that transition between quieter
and louder phases to match the gameplay. Each track is easily good enough to enjoy outside
of the game, a challenge not often overcome by dynamic soundtracks. As other composers
would later aid in bolstering the OST, Viklund himself also used his talents to great effect
to expand the musical identity of the franchise, delving into drum-and-bass, jazz, dubstep,
80s rock, synthwave, and many other genres, to create one of the most ambitious and successful
soundtracks I’ve encountered. Knowing this, you may think returning to the early days
would be somewhat underwhelming, but the laser focus of the launch version’s soundtrack
in creating a gritty electronic sound gives it a beautiful consistency. The visual style
also reflects this grittier direction, with darker, shinier enemy models that I actually
found much harder to pick out from the background. Performance across the board was surprisingly
good – incredible load times, and much less hitching overall. Fresh PAYDAY 2 hasn’t
held up so well between the user-made mods, the increased number of game assets overall,
and heists trying to push the poor old Diesel 2 engine to its limits. Generally, returning
to base one sustained this odd sensation of familiarity, but with very noticeable changes,
which were fun to look out for. Several hours in though, the allure of the
game’s pure form began to wane, and little niggling issues starting to creep their way
into the experience. As I grew in strength, I felt the temptation to return to the power-fantasy
that modern PAYDAY allows, and that grew ever stronger each time I was decimated by Bulldozers.
I hold a soft spot for the cast and voice acting in this game, but my god if they never
shut up. Bain constantly wires you instructions, no matter how straightforward they may be,
and the jarring shift between the Bain we all know and love and the older, lower-quality
lines makes it that much harder to ignore. “Ughhh…” “That was 50 seconds into the heist.
That took 50 seconds.” “For the words: The thermal drill, go get
it.” I took much amusement from Dallas’ endless
saccharine encouragement. At least with the core cast, you don’t have the issue of missing
lines that plagued many of the new character additions throughout the game’s life, a
problem further exacerbated by Wolf voice actor Ulf Andersson’s departure from the
company. Well, except for those moments where lines are missing, such as sniper callouts.
These lines were recorded, and were meant to be implemented, but at launch, they didn’t
work. One thing has changed little over the years, and that’s the amount of good ol’
PAYDAY 2 jank. “I’ll get a feel for it… Uuuuugh, what have
I done? It only took that long for me to crash the game?”
“How is he seeing me? HOW IS HE SEEING ME? What!?” “What on earth is that sound?” *constant camera beeping* *laughter* “Now we’re gonna have to deal with the cops.”
“Oh-” “The cops disabled the drill?”
“Okay- Uhm, I can’t explain what happened there; let’s leave.”
“Oh, I missed these! I missed that so much… The glass that just doesn’t have an animation,
it just disappears when you hit it.” “I can still hear the saw. It hasn’t stopped!”
*laughter* “Let’s go into another heist, I wanna see if it keeps going.” AI in general is awful, with the computer
teammates proving incompetent at almost every turn. Their milling about isn’t helped by
the severe desync problems, often seen when they would seemingly help me up from across
the map. “Hoxton is not coming to me.”
“He’s got you” “No he’s not- wait what? Oh my god this is
so… so buggy.” Civilians can’t seem to understand when
to stay down, and at low levels, losing any money from collateral can be crippling. After
multiple infamy levels of progression, I had forgotten just how limited money was at the
start. It was during these early heists that I discovered that cable-tying civilians actually
delays the assault wave, and killing them can trigger snipers to spawn on some maps.
I’ve managed to go half a decade without knowing this, which conveys one of PAYDAY
2’s biggest problems, one that was unavoidable at launch – It doesn’t explain things properly. The OG tutorial is really, really bad. Before
the nightclub tutorial was added, and long before the new safehouse, you were expected
to waltz into the old safehouse, listen to Bain wax lyrical for a couple of minutes,
maybe open a safe or two, shoot some doors, and that was basically everything. “I caught it!” *cocky laughter* ‘Show, don’t tell’ only works if you
actually show something, and early PAYDAY especially suffered from this oversight. Skills
have no values. Inspire has a 75% chance of working. Does it tell you that? Nope! ‘Your
total ammo capacity is increased’. By how much? ‘The lower your health, the more damage
you do in melee’. There’s two important values that are missing there! ‘Your weapon
mobility is increased with all rifles.’ See what I mea- Wait. What’s mobility? … What
is this!? This hardly tells me anything! Oh, the AMCAR has decent accuracy and damage?
That damage doesn’t look very decent! Why the bloody hell is it called recoil? That
makes it the only one in the list you want to be lower! That visibility meter is pretty
disgusting. And seriously, what is mobility? Oh, okay, so it’s the weapon accuracy when
hip-firing. I like how I had to open a web browser just to find that out! There’s a
lot of things that just aren’t explained, like what offshore does. I’ll spoil it for
you, it does nothing. Originally you’d be able to spend it in an offshore payday that
periodically appears, and gives you a chance to get certain items of your choosing in return,
but this wasn’t introduced until a little later, so offshore is meaningless here. I
sorely missed the feature to buy contracts with offshore money, as it left waiting around
as my only option, hoping the right heist would appear on the menu, in one of the more
baffling RNG-reliant aspects of OG. Random number generation can also be found
in the pseudo-random object placements in heists, the random rewards at the end of heists,
skills which rely on percentage chance to work, such as Inspire, the chance for flashbangs
to appear, the presence of additional escapes following a completed heist, and even the
music selection. Several of these still exist in Fresh, but OG’s game of numbers further
complements PAYDAY 2’s original vision, as a shooter-RPG hybrid. One other aspect it borrows from role-playing
games is the incessant grinding. Several hours after the honeymoon phase passed, I was still
nowhere near to achieving Inspire. I tried loading someone else’s old PAYDAY 2 save
file, only to discover that saves were restricted to the user who made them. At this point I
became desperate, and my actions that followed would bring me closer to classic PAYDAY than
anything else I’d experienced. I began to metagame, to find the best ways to earn XP
quickly. It’s worth noting that base PAYDAY 2 didn’t offer particularly many heists
– ten unique ones, with some slight variations on top. This selection would become even more
restrictive as I began grinding Ukranian Job. I actually remember players endlessly working
away at this heist, because it offered far better experience-for-time than others. What
followed was years of back-and-forth between the players and the developers. The payout
for Ukranian Job was reduced, so everybody moved to Rats. The strategy here was to destroy
the meth lab and ignore the money on day 3, in order to ‘rush’ through as quickly
as possible. Experience was changed to be heavily based on loot acquisition, but a new
strategy had been devised to stealth the new ‘Diamond Store’ heist to gain a considerable
XP bonus that could then be used on Rats. Finally, Overkill implemented a system to
punish replaying the same heists repeatedly, and though this did greatly increase the selection
of worthwhile heists, people will always find new ways to cheat the system to maximise takings.
This makes it sound much more exciting than it was, because what followed for me were
hours upon hours of the same heist, watching a number slowly increase. The game is not
meant to be played this way, and delirium quickly set in. BAIN: “Vlad really doesn’t like this Dmitri
guy…” “VLAD-”
BAIN: “One of these old country feuds.” “VLAD REALLY-”
BAIN: “Maybe he shagged his sister or something.” “One of these old country feuds.”
“Probably shagged his sister or something.” “Vlad shagged his sister or something.”
“One of those old country feuds.” *laughter* “Vlad shagged Dmitri!” BAIN: “Vlad really doesn’t like this Dmitri
guy…” “More like botched job, haha…”
“Vlad really doesn’t like the East Midlands.” *laughter*
“It’s probably ’cause, uhm… he’s Welsh and he was in Yorkshire.”
“One of those old country feuds.” *laughter* “Maybe he shagged a sheep or something.”
“Oh… ooooh.” At this point, I regretted not investing points
in technician, which would have given me tools to complete the job much more quickly. I must
have spent 20 to 30 hours total with the game just to reach Inspire, but reach it I did.
Finally, the tool that would unleash my true power. I had progressed up the power ratings,
but now was my chance to go Super. It was okay, I guess. I mean, it’s Inspire!
It works almost identically to how it does today, and though it certainly made me more
capable in OG, it didn’t completely shake up the experience. The game was still more
challenging than the same difficulties in Fresh PAYDAY 2, especially with the greater
focus on teamwork, but PAYDAY 2 now has several higher difficulties to address the power creep
it faced. Is this an anticlimax? Yes, of course it is. I went back to an interesting but ultimately
inferior version of a game that I’ve played so extensively that I could have detailed
all of this without sinking tens of hours into it. But god damn, I wanted an experience
out of it, and it was absolutely worth it! I played it with a good friend of mine, who
I used to play PAYDAY extensively with, and in doing so we managed to rekindle some of
the old feelings we had for the game, and bask in nostalgia. It’s so incredibly tempting
to just ‘go back to how things were’, but that is an impossible feat. The best we
can do is reminisce, and try and relive those great experiences, and that’s exactly what
we did here. Hell, you hardly need to download an older client to manage that! You can just
play on Death Wish or Death Sentence difficulty in modern PAYDAY 2, and get many of the same
feelings of intense, defensive play that made the game so wonderful in the first place.
Then again, there’s something to be said about unvaulting something you once thought
locked away, no matter how trivial it proves to be. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing
the past, so long as you accept that you can’t wallow in it forever.

7 comments on “Unvaulating the Original PAYDAY 2 (2013 ver.)”

  1. Dennis Karlsson says:

    I Love this video like I love Papa John's.

  2. Game Revo says:

    Thanks for watching! I'm very happy with how this came out, and I hope you enjoyed it too! I don't usually ask this, but if you could share this around on any social media pages you think would enjoy this (if you think it'd be worth sharing), I'd seriously appreciate that. It doesn't even need to be something like Reddit/Twitter/etc, even showing it to a friend helps me out a huge amount.

    Also I noticed that visiblity and noise also benefit from being lower, much like recoil. It's a mistake I shall take with me to the grave.

  3. TheGamerTronShow says:

    I'm overflowing with Payday 2 nostalgia now. Memories of when me and the boys would cause all sorts of mischief. Good game! Good times! 😁

  4. Brave Icelandic Soldier says:

    Do you make your own subtitles? I adore those kinds of youtubers, but you can share the load. Turn community contributions for your videos on, and let us subtitle a bit.

  5. Michael Winkless says:

    Awesome video and now I'm a sub

  6. tbgamer 3900 says:

    When's the mix tape dropping

  7. Juan Escobar Rojas says:

    Holy shit that rap portion was so fire it ran the risk of overheating my phone.

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