Back in the year 2013 when everyone was awaiting the release of Grand Theft Auto 5, Overkill Software released the sequel to their criminal franchise Payday. Focusing on grand heists and robberies, Payday 2 was thought of by many as a way to pass the time while waiting for Rockstar's newest hit since it scratched the same itch and came out much earlier that year.
And while the game did do just that, it was seen by reviewers as a mediocre experience as their single player campaign was crap and the multiplayer had a tendency to become tedious and repetitive. Needless to say, though Payday 2 was overlooked by many, it still gained quite a sizeable fanbase due to the unique experience of playing as a gang of criminals with your friends and executing the perfect heists together (easier said than done); that, and its excellent score.
Composed by Simon Viklund and Gustaf Grefberg, the game's soundtrack features everything you could ever ask for in a heist game while mixing in a variety of different genres which work really well.
As you outfit your character in the
main menu, "Mayhem Dressed in a Suit" kicks off and sets the tone for the
entire Payday experience. Starting
off in a sombre tone, punctuated now and then with drum bass, the track is the
perfect preparation song as it pumps you up for what is to come and once the
violins enter, you get that sense of urgency as the game tells you to get ready
to break the law.
Either that, or to tell you to hurry up because your teammates are already prepped and are getting bored waiting for you.
The way Payday 2 goes about integrating its music is simple yet effective: for every mission you undertake, each has an "undetected" track and the track that they use when all hell breaks loose.
The undetected track is usually just a simple, low-key piece of music that plays whenever a mission starts. As players move into position and plan out their moves, small bursts of music play which indicate that everything is still going according to plan and no one has spotted you.
And though not being spotted is a great thing in Payday 2 and showcases your skills as a player, it is nearly impossible to do and as soon as you get spotted by someone or set off an alarm, both discretion and the low music are thrown out the window, soon to be replaced by the wailing of police sirens and the game's stellar soundtrack.
The tracks played when encountering opposition (i.e. the cops) comprises the bulk of Payday 2's score but contrary to what I mentioned earlier, the
songs don't simply up the volume and tempo immediately.
No, what the game does with its songs is that they are composed in such a way that once you get spotted, each song starts with a slow tempo (meaning that your enemies have been alerted); they then gradually add more and more instruments with increasing speed, signifying that the police are on their way, until finally the "chorus" kicks in at the same time a huge wave of SWAT guys appears to take you and your friends into custody.
On paper, it sounds pretty complex
but if you have spent any amount of time with the game, you'll realize that the
soundtrack plays a key role in giving you and your teammates cues on the
goings-on as you play. As the tempo increases, your team becomes more and more
frantic in trying to accomplish your goals while at the same time setting up
defences before the cops arrive and when they do, it's a joy to fight them off
with the musical chorus blasting until the wave gets fended off and the music
dies down once more.
I forgot to mention the best part: as Payday 2 has gotten more content over the years, the developers have seen fit to add more tracks for the players to listen to as well.. even to this very day. What started out as 39 tracks have currently become 48 pieces of music, some of which are remixes of existing songs while others are brand new and that's not even counting the Christmas tracks.
The music of Payday 2 has become such an important part of the game that Overkill has even added the ability for you to make your own playlists while robbing banks with friends that can be shared with fellow players.
Reading about the music does not do it justice; you have to hear it for yourself. Whether in-game or just listening to it on its own, Payday 2's score is for anyone who loves the adrenaline rush of a heist (though we do not condone any forms of criminal activity, because the law says so).