(Updated Janury 8th to reflect changes to the game)
Payday 2 has a lot of DLC. A lot of them cost money. One of the first things I had trouble figuring out after I decided that I liked the game was which DLC are worth the five-dollar price tag, and the first conclusion I drew was “none of them.” The base game has all sorts of cool options for the enterprising heister with a perfectly fine arrangement of weapon types, weapon mods, and maps to run around testing out your guns. Even then, you can play DLC maps by joining public games hosted by other people who own the DLC, which was a great touch Overkill carried forward from the first game.
However, unowned DLC has a tendency to nag your subconscious every time you find yourself staring at a locked weapon or map and wishing you could try the darn thing out, and so I have shelled out for a few DLCs here and there. Some disappointed me, others were fun but ultimately didn’t provide enough content to be worth the price tag. Now that I’m more experienced and really understand the game somewhat, I decided to write this short guide to what I consider the three DLC that are the “best” purchases for a budget player who wants the most bang for their extra bucks. Of course this is a highly subjective opinion, but I judged these based off of the new abilities/weapons/features each unlocks and in how well they fill holes left behind in the base game. I would encourage any interested readers to research all available DLCs themselves before making any purchases.
3. Gage Historical Pack. Before the Gage Historical Pack, Overkill added a number of packs dedicated to different weapon types, from shotguns to Sniper Rifles. When people complained that this forced them to buy multiple DLCs just to get weapons of every type, Overkill rolled out this one that bundles a variety of different gun concepts with an historical flavor. With just this one DLC you get both a sniper rifle and a light machine gun, two firearm types unavailable in the base game. Sniper rifles are much-loved for their ability to punch right through a riot shield, and the Nagant is the only one in the game that also comes with equippable iron sights and bayonet, letting it excel at long, medium, and immediate range combat. The Buzzsaw LMG gives you a terrifying rate of fire at the cost of accuracy and reload time (luckily it carries 150 bullets per magazine), which lets you provide your team with practically unending suppressing fire. In addition to the Historical Pack’s guns rounding out your arsenal, the Trench Knife is the best stealth melee weapon in the game due to its ability to spam high-damaging uncharged melee attacks rapidly.
Updated 3: Sokol Character Pack. Since this article consistently gets new views every day and is my most-read Payday 2 article, I thought I’d update it a bit to meet the times, and under no circumstances is Historical pack still worth the money. Since Overkill has added a free LMG, a free sniper rifle and several melee weapons better than the Trench Knife, the below-mentioned BBQ Pack is really all you need to fully round out your inventory options. Instead you should get Sokol solely for his amazing perk deck. Grinder is one of the two meta perk decks along with Muscle, as it lets you regenerate health through dealing damage, which will never stop being useful and insanely versatile. As a Deathwish-viable perk deck that breaks free of the eternal ‘Dodge vs. Armor’ question, it’s well worth the money for the amount of flexibility it can bring to your build.
2. BBQ Pack. This pack isn’t just for firebugs; it actually packs quite a lot of awesome inventory options that broaden your coverage to degrees beyond even the Historical Pack. The Piglet grenade launcher and the Flamethrower free you from the tyranny of hitscan bullets and while their newly-provided battlefield roles aren’t as versatile as the ones from the Historical pack, they’re a hell of a lot of fun. Owners of the DLC also get to equip Molotovs in the otherwise-unused grenade slot, which gives you a great area denial tool. Finally, the Motherforker is even better than the Trench Knife, dealing more damage-per-swing with the same lightning-fast rate of fire, though it has a Concealment penalty making it better for the loud portion of heists.
1. Gage Mod Courier. This is truly the only Payday 2 DLC that I’d label as “should have been part of the base game to begin with.” No other DLC will save you more headaches and provide more of an enjoyment payout than this one, because it cuts out your reliance on one of the worst RNG crapshoots in the base game. Namely, card drops. Every time you finish a heist, you get to pick a playing card from a stack, and that card will grant you a cosmetic mask piece, extra cash, or (if you’re lucky) a random weapon mod. This is incredibly aggravating because there’s no other way* to get weapon mods, not to mention the chances of you getting anything you actually want are slim considering there are hundreds of weapon mods in this game. I played Payday 2 for months desiring a laser sight, and I still don’t think I’ve ever gotten one from the card deck. Instead, owners of the Gage Mod Courier can find packages that are scattered about maps, and once you’ve found enough of them the game rewards you with a pack of DLC-exclusive weapon mods for all of the game’s most common guns. These mods generally have better stats than the base mods, are free to equip and de-equip from your weapons and the scopes come with editable reticules, so you’re not stuck with the base red dot sight.
If you can’t see why these upsides are a big deal, then you should definitely try playing the base game so you can see what I’m talking about. It’s annoying having to wait 100s of hours and failing to drop the right mods. It’s annoying having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just equipping mods onto weapons. And it gives a purpose to all those colored animal packages you’re going to see your teammates picking up every single heist.
*I have to add that Overkill recently added a new way to get mods called “Side Jobs.” A side job is an additional objective you can try to accomplish every 24 hours. Completing the side job lets you roll for a weapon mod of a chosen category. This is better than the card drops but it’s still dependent on an RNG, gets you mods frustratingly slowly and they’ll be the lower-quality base game mods. But you should factor the existence of side jobs into your purchase.
At the end of the day, I think these three DLC are the best choices because of the breadth of options they bring to the table. It’s not just a single weapon or playstyle they introduce, it’s a variety of elements that are all worth trying out and incorporating into loadouts. Every heist becomes a new experience when you try it out with a sniper rifle or flamethrower, and that’s the sort of gameplay-enhancing content that I look for in a DLC. In addition, two of these DLCs recently got permanent price cuts, meaning you can get them now for $2.99 each.