A cursory glance at my Steam library recently informed me that I have almost reached four hundred hours in Payday 2. Wow, I thought; how could I possibly have sunk that much time into any game, let alone a game with so little story, something that is normally my top priority?

Payday 2 - by 505 Games

After much consideration, I've narrowed down the five Payday 2 features that make it the most addictive game I've ever played. Sorry, Tetris.

#5 Tactical Combat

A big part of the game's allure is how you can choose how to approach each heist. Most missions give you the option of stealth, but if that fails you can try to shoot your way out. But within these options, or on the jobs with only one viable course of action, you have even more choices at your fingertips.

There are always several different ways to pass a mission. I prefer the

You can grab the minimum loot and go, or you can hold out for a bigger payday. You can rush in and pacify civilians in one daring swoop, or you can try to take out the guards one by one before moving in at your leisure. You can board up a window to keep the cops out, or you can use it as a sniper's nest. Almost every situation has multiple solutions, and with the randomised locations of cameras and other level features every time you start a job, it's quite rare for things to play out the exact same way twice.

#4 Classes

Even if you could only play a class straight, that would still give you at least four play through's worth of gaming. Furthermore, within each class are three lines of skills, which serve as unofficial specialisations.

Here's an example of one of the three different skill trees.

For example, a Technician's skills tend to fall under the three categories of sentry guns, trip mines and drills, and there's little enough overlap between the three that you don't have to pursue any you don't want (in fact, trip mines can be upgraded to replace most drills, so you don't really need both). Now consider that you can mix and match between classes as much as you like, creating hybrids like an ultra-armoured Techforcer to take advantage of complementary skills, and the possibilities are practically endless. And if you make a bad choice or just feel like mixing things up, you can respec your character at any time between jobs, getting back all of your skill points and most of the invested cash.

#3 Crafting (Mask and Weapon)

It's not just your class you can customise, either. I can't even imagine how long I've spent modifying weapons to perfectly suit my playstyle of the time. You can bolt on attachments such as lights, lasers, silencers and scopes, but the real meat of the weapon modification system are the statistical upgrades.

Showcasing my awesome custom mask collection.

Payday 2 features the ability to improve a weapons damage, accuracy, stability, ammo capacity, concealment or ability to threaten, so you'd be a fool to start any job with a default weapon. What I really like about this system, however, is that very few mods add something without also taking something away. A longer barrel on a rifle can make it more accurate, but harder to conceal, while a silencer is invaluable for stealth, but comes at the cost of damage and threat. You really need to tailor your weapon to your needs, as just bolting on everything you have will often result in mods cancelling out each other's effects.

There's an aesthetic appeal to crafting, as well. As every successful job can potentially reward you with mask crafting items, the hunt for a rare pattern, material or colour scheme has kept me churning through jobs for that something special to complete my masterpiece. On top of this, increasing your infamy level--by trading in maxed out reputation and $200 million to start over--also increases your odds of unlocking the rarest items of all. But of course, you can't possibly match up that practically one-of-a-kind mask with a common old metal material and a bland stripey pattern, so the hunt for items continues.

#2 Achievements

I have a love/hate relationship with achievements. On the one hand, getting that little badge to say you managed something seemingly impossible is a pretty nice feeling.

Some missions can be frustrating... but you can't help replaying it until you beat it!

I finally finished the hair-pullingly frustrating Framing Frame job on Deathwish the other day, after an untold number of failures. It was a bittersweet victory, however, as while I had done it, I didn't get all of the applicable achievements because I hadn't been in the job from the start, joining about a minute after everyone else. Frustrations like this are all too common, but after a few days, weeks or months, I inevitably come back to try it again. Because it's not even really about getting the badge; achievements serve more as reminders of things you can do that you haven't done yet, and encouragement to try just one more time.

The #1 Payday 2 Feature: DLC

Developers Overkill certainly aren't slouches when it comes to after-sale support. 

Here's one of my favourite custom assault rifles
New weapons open up whole new strategies for missions, such as the way sniper rifles make allow you to take down even the most heavily armoured enemies at long range, though leaving you rather vulnerable up close. My personal favourite is the high-explosive shotgun shells, which deal splash damage in a small area, can knock the helmets off SWATs and Tasers (opening them up for an easy headshot), and stun the ridiculously overpowered Bulldozer. Most of these weapons come with a series of challenges to unlock special mods for them, which in themselves become obsessions to acquire.

If new weapons weren't enough, every time I think I'm done with Payday 2, Overkill brings out a new mission that always seems to address whatever I felt was missing. Shadow Raid gave us a high-stakes, stealth-only mission that was pure style, a good counterbalance to the previously released Transport heists that required skillful application of equipment and ammunition to make it through the hellstorm of bullets flying your way. Big Bank brought us to the major leagues with an epic, varied heist with multiple approaches and endings, while the newly released retro-inspired Hotline Miami job has you tearing apart a gang hideout to get to one angry Russian. On top of these, we still have a jailbreak, special diamond heist and a Las Vegas casino job to look forward to, and those are just the updates that have been announced.

Nope, it doesn't look like I'll be hanging up my clown mask and explosive shotgun any time soon.

Owen Atkinson