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Selecting a character in a fighting game is a very personal thing. There are so many factors to consider – from the aesthetic and personality of a character, the way your playstyle meshes with a character's moves, to how a character interacts with the rest of the roster, what kind of match-ups you can expect, and so on. This is only compounded in a game like Smash Bros where so much nostalgia and character loyalty is baked into the experience. Jumping the gun is a bad bet. It's far better to sit back, play with a bunch of the characters you're interested in, and eventually settle into one or two favorite picks after a period of due diligence. This is good advice. Wise advice.
Advice I am not going to follow.
I knew from the second Megaman was announced that there would be no other possible choice for me. His place on the tier-list a distant afterthought to my very real need to play as the Blue Bomber. My lingering loyalties to Link and Kirby severed in an instant. My copy of Smash might as well not even come with a character select screen.
So yeah, I call dibs.
As is customary, I'll list a few reasons I think Megaman is the best (even though I think his OBVIOUS dominance speaks for itself).
The kid's got endurance. In the course of his average adventure, Megaman will slog through eight stages rigged to the rafters with deathtraps, kill countless mini-bosses, dispatch each robot master in turn, then scale Willy's castle – a murderous maze that makes everything else he's been through seem like a Chuck E Cheese obstacle course.
And you know what he does after that? He kills ALL EIGHT ROBOT MASTERS AGAIN. Bam, bam, bam, one after the other, no time for coffee breaks. Then he'll dunk on Willy's bushy fucking head and destroy whatever crazy machine he's cooked up for himself. Then, and only then, will he take a load off and bask in the knowledge that he has yet again single handily saved the world from an entire robot army (but not for too long, Megaman is always ready for a good sequel).
You think a machine like that is going to have ANY problems taking on a mere three other fighters? Megaman is walking war-zone (albeit a super cute walking war-zone), taking on an overgrown gorilla, a kid angel, and a floating pink marshmallow is nothing to him, he won't even need an E-tank.
This isn't Megaman's first time at the fighting game rodeo. Did you all forget? I guarantee the cast of Marvel Vs Capcom haven't; the horrifying memory of being pelted with projectiles and carried to the top of the screen with never ending juggle combos permanently etched into their damaged psyches.
Guest characters haven't enjoyed the most sterling reputation in Smash. While it was undeniably cool to play as Solid Snake in Brawl, he was a technical finesse character in a game characterized by frenzied chaos. Great players could make him work, but for most he was surprisingly unsuited for the battlefield. Sonic was a lame duck, demonstrating why Sega lost the console war in real-time, ineffectually zipping back and forth and accomplishing dick all.
Megaman is a proven force to be reckon with. He terrorized MvC1 , made a decent showing in MvC2 (another robot happened to steal the show that time), and can even appear by proxy in MvC3 as an alternate costume for Zero, who is without a doubt one of the most broken characters in that entirely broke-ass game. Hell, Megaman even proved his salt in the obscure Power Fighters arcade game that managed to turn the Megaman boss fights into a series of fighting game-esq match-ups.
He's dominated before and he'll do it again.
(No, I am not going to dignify his silly appearance in SFxT.)
What Sibling rivalry?
Mario and Luigi have been squabbling for years. Mario is the star of the show, but Luigi is always nipping at his heels, trying to usurp his older brother and become a take a little of that shine for himself. It's a vicious cycle that's had them competing for years in every possible venue you could name, everything from soccer, to kart racing, to tennis, with no clear winner in sight.
You know what happens when Megaman's older brother comes around to mess with him? Megaman slaps that basic bitch out of the limelight and back into the shadows where he belongs. Cool whistle, impenetrable shield, bodacious shades? None of Protoman's Poochie-esq trappings fooled anyone for a second. Megaman doesn't share the spotlight in his series, and he doesn't settle for second best. No spin-off games or pity years for obsolete units/clingy brothers with inferiority complexes.
You have to wonder if Protoman's death at the end of Megaman 3 was a heroic sacrifice, or a desperate escape from the never ending humiliation of being shown up at every turn. Mario might learn a thing or two about how to squash a beef (literally) from Megaman.
A tool for every job
Megaman doesn't have the strongest moves in Smash. He doesn't get freebie 20% jab combos like Little Mac, or ridiculous item spawning tricks like Diddy. What he has though, are options.
Megaman is a resourceful little robot, and he's brought a collection of his best weapons (weapons that I'll remind you he claimed from the smoking husks of defeated Robot Masters) to the arena. The classic Metal Blade is a buzzsaw of death that can attack in almost any direction, or be stowed away for a quick surprise attack. He's got an endless supply of Crash Bombs with delayed timers that can be used to open up opponents for unblockable smashes. His Leaf Shield might seem a little weak, but it's versatile, he can use it protect him from projectiles, cover his approach, or just as a nasty way to add damage to a throw.
When the fancy toys aren't getting the job done, he still has tried and true basics to rely on. His forward smash is a devastating charged arm-cannon shot that comes out lightning quick and sends people flying off screen, mega-busted. His Slide helps him close gaps unexpectedly and keep his opponents from getting too comfortable. He even managed to smuggle in an extra Capcom bonus with him, borrowing Ryu's Shoryuken to launch fools who think he can't scrap toe-to-toe into the stratosphere.
The Blue Bomber has an answer for everything. While he might not be the most directly powerful fighter on the roster, time and time again we've seen that victory belongs to those who can adapt and react the best, not just who has the strongest punch. Nowhere is this more true than the constantly shifting battlegrounds of Smash.
The soundtrack of victory
A lot of fighters on the roster can boast about their game's soundtracks, and I'm not even gonna throw shade on that. Mario's theme is without a doubt iconic. Like a Pavlovian response, you only need to hear the first few notes of Zelda's Hyrule theme to feel primed for adventure. Planet Zebes wouldn't feel nearly as deadly and seedy without the creepy crawling strings and ominous synth hum of Metroid's superb soundtrack. They're incredible.
But you want to talk about library? About a sheer backlog of amazing music? You want to talk about raw rock and roll energy, driving drums and electrifying guitars? You want to talk about tracks so good they've spawned TWO separate fan-bands dedicated to the sound and feel of a franchise?
Then you want to talk about Megaman.
While many of the characters have iconic title themes, or maybe a particular level or two that stands out, every single Megaman game is filled top to bottom with memorable tracks. From the outstanding title screen music of Megaman 2, to the individual level themes that perfectly express each Robot Master's stage and feel, to the epic and dangerous tracks of Willy's fortress, you'd be hard pressed to find examples of BAD themes in a Megaman game.
Megaman has already won the most important fight before even stepping in the ring. He rocks the hardest.
Robots are best
I hold this truth to be self-evident, robots are just damn cool. If you've been around Dtoid for any length of time, you probably know about my mechanical obsession, so me claiming dibs on Megaman probably isn't too shocking. Give me the opportunity to play a robot in a game, especially an awesome little guy like Megaman, and I'll take it.
Upset that I claimed dibs on the coolest character in the game? Well too damn bad. I guess the only thing you can do now is call dibs on a runner-up like these fine gentlemen have before it's too late.
(Apologies to Tony Ponce, just too slow on the draw I'm afraid!)
I don't think it's really possible to have a “favorite” favorite game, or at least it's not possible for me. I've never been able to answer any of those hypothetical questions where you have to choose one album or movie or game you'd want if you were stranded on a deserted island (that inexplicably has electricity). If I wanted to self diagnose, I'd say it was a symptom of my latent fear of commitment - what if I don't always love Ocarina of Time?
But I think the reason is simpler. I just love too many games for too many different reasons to ever pick an overall favorite. Reasons that only make sense to me in the context of my life. Crazy reasons that may even contradict and trip over themselves. The thing I love about one game might be unremarkable in the next, or even offensive. I want XCOM to take a crap in my lunch, but I'm only playing Fire Emblem so I can be an amateur match-maker for cute anime characters and produce the next generation of adorable super soldiers. I love a detailed and rich story-driven game, except for when I'm in the mood for a nihilistic sandbox where I can do whatever I want without any bullshit like plot and narrative getting in my way.
I can't tell you what my favorite game is, but I can tell what my favorite games have been.
1989 – Super Mario Bros.
A deeply unoriginal pick, but God's honest truth. Super Mario Bros was the first game I played on the Nintendo, and that plucky red plumber doomed me to a life sitting in front of glowing screens and deeply caring about warp zones and secret 1-ups.
The NES was a random Christmas gift, I didn't play many games before that year. When me and my brother started Mario, we couldn't get past the first goomba without having to use a continue. We had no idea what games were or how they worked, but even then, it felt special. It felt like we were given something BIG. During that winter Mario would teach us all of the important fundamentals of videogames; moving, jumping, secrets. I started having dreams about the Mushroom Kingdom, world 3-1 with its dark sky and illuminated outlines stuck in my subconscious, Bowser starred in a slasher film-esq nightmare that I still remember today.
My favorite game changed monthly in those days, maybe weekly. New games kept coming out, and we already missed so many. Me and my brother felt like we were lagging behind, missing out, and we scrambled to catch up. Rental became our way of life. Bandito Video was only two blocks away, easy walking distance, and they gave out tiny free bags of popcorn with every purchase. It wasn't long before the staff knew to tip us off about new releases or to hold something in reserve.
Nintendo Power was giving away copies of Dragon Warrior with a monthly subscription that I begged/badgered my mother into signing up to. For an intense month, that was my favorite game, I'd keep getting in trouble at school for reading the free strategy guide that came with it when I should have been counting apples or something. Bizarrely, the elderly couple two townhouses down got really into it too. I discussed problematic Metal Slimes with a pair of gray haired retirees on their postage stamp of a front lawn. I didn't know yet that games were supposed to be just for kids.
Sometime later, my grandma rescued Metroid from a used games bin and it would become the new obsession. I'd scribble my childish recreations of its labyrinthine levels in the margins of my notebooks; it was a point of contention with my teacher, but I still maintain those games had more educational value than the stale grade 1 curriculum she was teaching.
1991 – Sonic
Sometime in 1991, we got the Sega Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog. It was amazing, a technological leap forward into vibrant colorful worlds and funky beats that made our beloved NES instantly feel archaic and embarrassingly outdated. But there was no money for any other games, and the mom and pop rental shop we frequented didn't quite keep up with the 16-bit era. Their Genesis selection was quarantined off to one tiny little shelf choked with sports games that even then I instinctively sneered at (a primal predator/prey tension I would feel my entire scholastic life). Eventually we would get a Blockbuster in town, and games like Strider and Streets of Rage would enter our lives, but not for a while. So for those first months we had the Genesis, I played Sonic. I played Sonic over and over again. Then I played it more.
I beat the game. I beat it again. I learned to beat it faster. The later levels were never as much fun though; the thrill of Sonic was in the fluid satisfying speed, the popping sound of bouncing off TVs, of hitting a checkpoint at mach 1 and never looking back - not navigating spikes and waiting for elevators. Eventually the rest of the game melted away, and I just played the Green Hill Zone over and over.
Years later I'd see speedrunning videos on YouTube and suddenly have a name to put to what I was doing with Sonic back then. I burned the Green Hill Zone into my neural patterns, pounded my nerves into committing the jumps to muscle memory. Lord knows what kind of cognitive trade-off I made back then, it's probably not healthy for a child at that age to be so intensely focused on something that obscure and specific. I frequently wonder if only I could have devoted that weird monomaniacal obsession into something useful or interesting like piano, or basic coding, how my life could have changed. In fact, as much as I love watching speedrunning videos now, I harbor some of the same nagging reservations about the players performing them.
Dubious life choices aside, it can't be ignored that at one point Sonic the Hedgehog was the most important thing in the world to me. Oddly enough, that affection wouldn't last. I got Sonic 2 when it was released and enjoyed it, maybe even told my mom I loved it a little more than I really did (it was a Christmas gift after all). By the time Sonic 3 came around, I barely played it, even the novelty of a Knuckles “lock-on” cartridge that would retroactively insert the echidna into previous games couldn't sway me.
Maybe I never really loved Sonic. Maybe I just loved the Green Hill Zone.
1992 – Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link
Whenever someone says they love the Zelda series except for the Adventures of Link, I instantly take their opinions less seriously. In fact, I lose the potential for loving that person. I can still respect them, we can even be friends, but I know deep down that we'll never feel the kind of connection that love demands.
There really are only two kinds of people in the world. The people who think Zelda 2 is a tragically underrated masterpiece, and the people who are wrong.
Zelda 2 is an adventure that requires total commitment. A dangerous world full of secrets to discover and chances for the intrepid to prove their worth. It respects the player to an absurd degree and expects you to rise to its challenges, without ever feeling punishingly unfair like other notably difficult games of the NES era.
I've written about Zelda 2 extensively, so I'll skip the sermon. Just know that even though I don't think I can have a favorite game, if you savagely pistol whipped me, pressed the barrel of the gun hard against the back of my skull and DEMANDED I tell you a favorite, Zelda 2 is probably the name I'd scream through panicked bloody teeth.
1994 – The SNES
I think there is a convincing argument to be made for 1994 as the best year in Nintendo's history. It was certainly the year where the SNES asserted itself as the dominant 16-bit system (I don't care how much anyone beats the Sega drum, they got blown out hard). An outstanding first party effort was delivered from Nintendo with Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country, Uniracers, and Super Punch-Out, some of the best games released for the celebrated console. Those gifts were backed up by some of the most memorable third party games of the entire generation, like Earthworm Jim and the genre defining Final Fantasy 3 (or 6 for all you miserable technically correct people). It was a fantastic year for sealing yourself in the basement and faking sick to get out of school.
I can't tell you what my favorite game was from that time, that's some straight up Kobayashi Maru shit, there is no right answer. I could write entire articles about the masterful opening sequence of Super Metroid, or the music of DKC, or how much I adored The Secret of Mana (which actually came out in 1993, but I'd only play it after Final Fantasy 3 left me ravenous for more adventure). It's like choosing between favorite children or siblings, it feels tacky and laced with betrayal. While there may be a favorite floating around in your mind somewhere, it's the kind of comment that is best kept to oneself.
1998 – Zelda: Ocarina of Time (actually Metal Gear Solid)
Another betrayal. Some sentimental pocket of my heart forces me to say that Ocarina of Time is my favorite title from the year of our Lord 1998. It's so OBVIOUSLY brilliant, so universally loved, it provides such a clear and bright connection to my childhood adoration of the series. It seems like the only possible choice.
But, like the duplicitous Decoy Octopus, I have a hidden agenda. A secret scheme of nuclear rail guns, walking tanks, and double crossing agents. I know what really beats inside my chest, what fascinates me to this day. I'd like to be the kind of person who resonates more closely to bright eyed adventure and stories of boys earning their way into manhood through bravery and selflessness, I really would. But like a secret codec radio transmission stimulating the small bones of my inner ear, MGS whispers to me and reminds me that I'll always be more interested in the dirty work of intrigue, sabotage, and espionage than I'll ever be in actually saving the world from evil.
2001 – Day of Defeat
2001 marks the year my family finally got a PC and I could join the online multiplayer world of gaming. It also marks the year where my grades and personal attitude took a steep negative decline. Just two random unrelated facts.
While my friends proselytized the virtues of Counter-Strike and Quake 3 (and those are certainly fine games), I spent almost all of 2001 fighting through the western theater of WW2 in Day of Defeat. I stormed Normandy more times than the History Channel that year.
Not only was I drunk on the very concept of playing with up to 23 other people all around the world (it's easy to forget just how stunning that idea was to kids who grew up entirely on consoles and thought Bomberman with a multi-tap was the height of multiplayer excitement), the game was just so good. Day of Defeat was more dangerous and tense than Quake 3, with a single bullet spelling death for a careless infantryman. But it was faster and more frantic than Counter-Strike, respawning players in waves instead of holding them hostage for the next round. Objectives needed to be seized en masse, dominated by troops taking and holding ground; not planting a bomb and playing hide & seek while ghosts watch and heckle. And I was good at it, unusually so. Everyone secretly thinks they are an above average player, but Day of Defeat was the only game I ever felt gifted at – something just clicked.
The reality of an MLG or e-sports franchise didn't exist yet, it was just the dreamy fantasy of 14 year old FPS nerds (and maybe forward thinking slimy investment capital types, salivating at the idea of exploiting them), and that probably saved my life. If I had even an inkling during those days that I could somehow parlay my ability to stitch up the Wehrmacht with a Bren gun into an “athletic” career of dubious fame and a paycheck, I probably would have dropped out of school then and there. When I think about it like that, I can easily understand how teenagers these days are getting sucked into the black hole of professional Dota 2, and LoL competitions.
2007 – Team Fortress 2
I didn't have a favorite game for years. Things were moving too fast in my life for favorites. I joined the workforce like a big boy. Then I went to university and constantly messed up my student loan applications like a child. Gaming was still a big part of my life, but it was getting strange and disjointed. There were so many games and so many systems and I finally had the money to buy stuff, but no time to play it. I was all over the place gamewise. I played City of Heroes off and on for years, but I never took a character to the level cap; I just enjoyed playing with different power builds and costumes. Does that make it a favorite? It was weird even at the time, I'm not sure what I was getting from it, but it was something. I played through countless amazing PS2 era games, I caught up on PC classics I missed. It was a renaissance of great games, but I'm hard pressed to name favorites, everything just kind of blurs together.
That changed in 2007 when Team Fortress 2 snatched me in its Pixar-esq claws, and I suddenly very much had a favorite game again.
TF2 and Bioshock were the two games that convinced me I needed to join the current generation of gaming and pick up an Xbox 360. But while Bioshock was a great game that I enjoyed, digested, and put aside, I'd continued to play TF2 on a regular basis for the next four or five years, and occasionally here and there after that.
It helps that TF2 has been supported with updates, maps, and weapons since it's inception. It helps that the wonderful cartoon/espionage/dark comedy world Valve has created is appealing to even non-gamers. It helps that the constant cut-rate sales and eventual move to an F2P model has ensured a thriving and diverse playerbase (instead of withering on the vine like many shooters). These are all great reasons why TF2 has been a staple for me for the better part of a decade.
Mostly though, TF2 is simply one of the best games ever created, and that's probably a good enough reason right there.
2012 – Dark Souls
What can I say about Dark Souls? It's Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link for this generation (a comment that is both the highest praise I can offer, and also one of the greatest criticisms a naysayer could launch at the title).
Dark Souls takes all of the best qualities of Zelda, Castlevania, 3rd person adventure/exploration games, and even fighting games (yes I said it, play Dark Souls PvP and you'll have a wonderful primer to the nuances behind the best fighting games) and somehow manages to blend them all together in it's own strikingly unique world.
Without a trace of irony I really do believe Dark Souls should be on display in museums. I don't know if we'll ever see a “Citizen Kane of gaming”, I don't know what the criteria for judging that looks like. But I do know that Dark Souls expresses the very best elements of the medium. That it demonstrates a masterful command of both the technical components of game development, and a keen artistic vision. It's lightning in a bottle, and almost makes me sad because I'm not sure if I'll ever play another game that makes me feel the same.
If you savagely pistol whipped me, pressed the barrel of the gun hard against the back of my skull and DEMANDED I tell you my favorite game, Zelda 2 is probably the name I'd scream through panicked bloody teeth. But I'd feel shame later that I didn't call out for Dark Souls.
Payday 2 is the quintessential Steam Sale game. Exactly the kind of blood diamond in the rough that makes Steam's bi-annual extravaganzas so exciting.
When Payday 2 launched, I could definitely see the appeal and juuusst about bought it. I love heist movies, I enjoy co-op games, and as embarrassing as it is to admit, I sometimes go in for the kind of over the top gun-porn Payday is basically built around. But was it really something I'd pay $40 for? Wasn't the first Payday basically an over-glorified L4D mod? It was just a little too expensive for a game that I half expected to be kind of broken and janky in the best of circumstances, and there was always some other game that seemed like a better use of my time and money.
But a year later, and down to criminally low price of $5 during the Steam Summer Sale, that's a different story. That's just the right price to buy into silly crime fantasies and redneck gun fetishization on a whim. I figured I'd buy Payday 2 while it was being offered for pennies on the dollar, laugh through a few capers with my brother and a some friends, and promptly forget about it - I've spent five bucks on more questionable things after all.
Honestly, I never expected to love this this game so much. I don't know if I gave Payday 1 a bad turn (my dim memories of playing it only include buggy clipping problems, simple objectives, and a dull air of boredom) or if Overkill really stepped up their game for the sequel, but Payday 2 blows the original away in just about every capacity, and completely decimated my woefully misguided expectations. For $5, you could even say it was a steal. (I'm so very sorry, I couldn't help myself)
Nobody has to get hurt! (But they probably will be)
That's not to say it's always smooth sailing. Payday 2 can be rough at first. There are a lot of unexplained mechanics, like the importance of taking hostages or answering security guard pagers after snuffing them out, things you just won't figure out without making a few embarrassing mistakes. Those first few jobs will be clumsy as you stumble into security cameras and painstakingly pick locks by hand. These growing pains will be long forgotten by the time you're hacking grids with ECM jammers and using a carbon tipped power saw to rip through security gates, but still, there is an initial hump to get over that almost turned me off the game.
Part of the problem for me was that I wanted to be a sneaky thief. Your shady underworld contacts will advise you to play it low-key and complete your missions using stealth and guile without alerting the police, which sounded great to me. But, the sad fact is that it's basically impossible for new players to pull that off. As a new player you lack the equipment and class skills necessary to pull off a stealthy heist (not to mention the game know-how).
- This is my face every time someone in the lobby suggests we try and stealth the Train Job
Stealthing jobs is a pro's game you have to grow into, but Payday 2 doesn't really go out of its way to tell you that. In fact the radio contact seems surprised and annoyed every time a simple jewelry heist turns into a free-for-all bloodbath. So for those first few missions, you just feel like the most incompetent Snake Jailbird of all time. You're Waingro in Heat, Sean Bean in Ronin, hell, you're the Leroy fucking Jenkins of crime - a bunch of bulls running straight out of the china shop and into police custody. Compounding that, the initial offering of weapons available to new players are limp and unsatisfying, so when things inevitably go south, fighting it out with the low-level rookie cops feels more like a slap fight than a shoot-out - embarrassing for everyone involved.
The wall is tall and foreboding, and I'm sure many a player have broken their spirit against it. But if you can endure those first few rough hours, a promised land of white knuckle shoot-outs and fantasy heist film scenarios awaits. This game gets GOOD. I mean, surprisingly GOOD. When you have a few levels under your belt, a respectable stash of gear for various types of missions, and maybe a heist buddy or two you can rely on, things get wild. The beauty of a professional robbery reveals itself in all its criminal splendor.
Get on your hands and knees!
Payday 2 is fun. Whether you're expertly stealthing a heist, controlling a room full of hostages while your friends crack the time-lock on a bank vault, or when everything has gone tits-up and you're laying down a wall of cover-fire while weighed down with a duffel bag full of coke, you'll probably be having a good time. The game has a variety of missions that cater to both sneaky types who want to plan the perfect score, and dust-ups that have you and your friends plowing through urban warzones like a wrecking crew. There are banks to rob and jewelry stores to knock over of course, but I was impressed with some of the more imaginative capers. Aside from robbing stuff, you'll commit more elaborate crimes like rigging an election by tampering with voting machines, or stealing a perpetual energy machine on behalf of big oil (which actually feels more scummy than just ripping off stacks of money).
- Aww yea, making those cameo dollars.
Then there is the “Big Bank” heist hosted by Gustavo Fring (sorry, “the dentist”) which just goes off the fucking chain, letting you plan out every detail of the score of the century. Pay off guards, work out how you want to breach the vault, choose your extraction method, and study the floor plans. It's very Ocean's Eleven and makes me wish the game had even more heists that let you get that deep into the planning.
While the progression system is slow to start and overly dependent on randomization, cool new toys and customizable masks are dolled out on a regular enough basis to keep most players entertained. The skill tree system offers a lot of flexibility in how you build your career criminal. While some skills are definitely handier than others, a forgiving respec system encourages experimentation and playing with the various classes, all of which focus on different aspects of the heist.
There are plenty of ways to go about your dirty business. Players heavily invested in the Mastermind skill-set focus on flashy room dominating theatrics like converting cops to their side and taking hostages, but they also double as the medic of the group. Enforcers are the bully-boys of the crew and have a lot of straight up tanking and combat perks, but also get access to a powerful circular saw to speed up going through doors and deposit boxes, and a bunch of cargo mobility perks which let them bag and haul loot faster (more handy than it sounds). The Technician and Ghost classes are designed for players who want more options taking down scores, opening up access to safe-cracking C4, improved drills, ECM tech, and cat burglar gymnastics. You're not locked into any one class, and while pre-req skills do steer you to specialize somewhat, most players will probably dip a bit into each class while picking a favorite.
Empty your pockets!
Before deciding if Payday 2 seems worthwhile to you, you need to factor the cost of the Gage Courier DLC into the purchase. Straight up, do not pass go, do not collect $200, get that DLC before you even start your first heist. It's necessary like wine is when visiting the in-laws - and that kind of sucks.
Under normal conditions, weapon mods are dropped on a random basis as one of several possible rewards for successfully completing heists. At the end of a mission, you are just as likely to end up with new paint for your masks or a wad of cash as you are a gun part. When a gun mod finally does drop, you can end up with just about ANY attachment. So while you might be DYING for a laser sight for your out of control machine gun, or a scope for your long range rifle, it can be a total crap-shoot when and if you'll get that gear. It is the single most frustrating element of the game's design.
Not so with the Gage Courier pack. Each type of collectable package unlocked by the DLC has a set selection of unlocked gear. Collect enough Red Spider packages, and your guaranteed a laser aimer among other goodies. Scoop up Yellow Bull packs, and you'll have that silencer you desperately need for stealth missions in your hot little hands. Believe you me, it is a whole lot better than waiting and wishing on a star for the gear you want.
- Yes, this is a silenced shotgun with a 4x scope, tactical laser, and comfort grip. We haven't even gotten to the stupid stuff yet.
To make the pot even sweeter (and the DLC money making tactic even grimier), some of the mods in the Courier DLC are flat out the BEST in their class, and they're freely swappable! Unlike normal mods, you don't have to pay every time you take an attachment on or off (which generally forces you to permanently alter your weapons and consume mods). So you have the sweetest candy of the gunshop, and it's all free to mix and match as you like, so long as you pay a $5 fun-tax. Hrummmm.
If I paid full price for the game, this would almost be a deal breaker. It really feels like a pay-for-power set-up where if you want to enjoy the game to its fullest extent, you need to buy stuff shamelessly hidden behind a paywall.
But, this is where getting it on a Steam Sale for such a good price really saves the day. Considering I only paid $5 for the game and ended up enjoying it so much, I was able to perform the necessary mental gymnastics to convince myself it wasn't a rip-off and swallowed the cost. If I bought Payday 2 on day one only to find this out, I'd be livid, but now I just can't muster up the indignation. Just another in a long line of good reasons of why it's smart to be patient with your game purchases.
Other DLC is more take-it-or-leave-it based on personal preference. There are plenty of weapon packs available that usually include some masks and achievements along with the flashy firearms, but none of them are as necessary as the Courier pack. Although if you are a big fan of shotguns, you'll probably be miffed to find that most of the cool boomstick options are only available through a DLC pack. Personally, I did end up buying Weapon Pack #2 which includes the winning combination of fuck-huge machine guns, sharp looking knives, and a mask that makes you look like Cobra Commander (what can I say, I always wanted to rob a bank while hissing “I was oncesss a mannn...”, we all have dreams).
Time for a crime spree
I'm not going to mince words, I straight up love Payday 2. It's crazy and ridiculous and fascinating in all the dumb ways that make my smile. It took me completely by surprise and I'm still hooked, figuring out the various ways to take down scores, twiddling around with the never ending weapon combinations, and planning out skill builds and burning up respecs.
If you asked me back in June what game I'd end up playing the most over the summer, I would never have guessed Payday 2. But here we are heading into fall, and I have a trail of cracked safes and bullet casings at my heel to say otherwise. An absolute gem you should remember for the next time it goes on sale.