You tried to go in quietly but now the alarm's been tripped. A horde of police are inbound. The drill - which was breaking through the safe - has jammed. Civilians are panicking: they need to be controlled. A security guard's bullet misses you by inches. A colleague puts him down. Sirens blare out as the thumping soundtrack begins to kick in...
This is a situation you'll become hardy to in Payday 2. As part of a masked four-man team (controlled by AI or online players), you take on a variety of high-stakes jobs including the aforementioned heists, wanton mall shootings and package escort missions. You select the jobs from a central database (Crime.net), where you can see the description, value and risk of the job before diving in.
It's imperative to start with smaller jobs, build up your stats, abilities and equipment via attained skill points and wealth, lest you be smashed by the battering ram of by failure. Your starting weapons and skills are impotent. The shootouts are frustrating and you've the worst reloading speed since the catapult. In the time it takes to change clips, empires rise and fall.
Thankfully, taking on job after job and boosting your effectiveness isn't tedious, but totally satisfying. The variations in fellow players' abilities, rewards and scenarios (beside the burning need to progress) keep you hooked, like an addict of action and adrenaline.
The combat suffers in places and the mentioned reloading mechanic, which never automatically engages and is easily interrupted mid animation, remains a gripe but overall it's satisfactory. The maps, too, could've been better defined, with walls and buildings used as boundaries rather than invisible barriers mid-street.
It must be said offline, this is a vacuous trudge, but online it transforms into a tense and frantic experience that'll leave you falsely promising yourself 'just one last job.'
Version tested: Xbox 360. Played for 11 hours. Click here to read about VideoGamer.com's new review policy.