Author’s note: I wrote this back on the first day of Crimefest, but I chickened out on actually publishing it due to the excessive vitriol in both my circle of friends and the fanbase.
I wasn’t going to write this article at first, because I knew it’d probably be received poorly and I don’t want to develop a reputation as a corporate white knight. After all, I keep finding myself on the wrong side of the angry fanmobs, having defended paid mods, droppable Ubercharges and now PD:GO. But I just truly don’t see why the Black Market update is so heinous based on Payday 2’s entire design philosophy.
Unlike TF2 of CS:GO, Payday 2 is entirely Player-versus-environment. The reason Overkill can release DLC after DLC introducing entirely new weapon concepts and even an entirely new class of weapon for paying players only is because everybody’s on the same team. These DLC have traditionally been badly affected by power creep, with newer iterations of weapons outclassing older ones, the Nova’s Shank > Trench Knife > Motherforker > Switchblade > Kunai path being a particularly easy one to follow. Compared to the horrifying things DLCs have done to the game balance, these skins are pitifully minor in comparison. I genuinely cannot care that some guy paid money to get +4 stability on his AK when other people have purchased miniguns and grenade launchers and shurikens.
The real question, in my mind, is if the base game still provides enough options for a DLC-free player to hold his own on the team. That question’s not particularly easy to answer, in all honesty. I’m taking advantage of the free period to try and level my alt account to something respectable and test out his effectiveness against the new enemies, and his options have definitely been more limited. I suspect C4 from the Technician tree will be my only (incredibly risky and dangerous) answer against Captain Winters, Swan Song Akimbos so far is the best answer I could find against the SWAT turrets, and in general my loadouts are all rifle-style hitscan since the balance update destroyed shotguns. It’s no surprise that players with DLC were significantly more versatile, but I’m not sure if they were more powerful. The bread and butter of the game, the Car-4, is still here and from what I’ve heard submachine-guns have received a huge buff. but I’m getting off-topic. The complaints are levied against the stat-affecting skins, and I maintain that those are laughably minor in the grand scheme of things.
Now, there are definitely certain reasons that Overkill dropped the ball with this update. It should never have come to pass during Crimefest, an event that famously and traditionally consists only of free content. I also have to question the decision to include DLC weapon skins, since that means a player has a worrying chance of dropping a skin she cannot actually equip onto anything. Lorewise, having Vlad standing inside the Vault of Caligostro with weapon mods makes absolutely no sense and I wonder why they bothered with the ancient temple theme to begin with if that’s the payoff.
But on its own, I see no problem with either microtransactions or stat-changing skins. A lot of flak gets thrown at how Overkill’s old acceptable DLC model is completely different from paying $2.49 for a key to roll for an astronomically-unlikely chance at the skin you want, and I agree. However, the presence of the skins on the Steam Community Market negates this problem because you can just directly buy it. I wanted the Copper skin for my Bernetta, so I went and bought it for thirty cents. It felt exactly the same as the time I paid $1.74 because I wanted the bow-and-arrow and the Western Pack was on sale.
In the end, I have a feeling this won’t kill Payday 2. #KicktheWick didn’t, Frag grenades didn’t (remember when people were debating whether the existence of knives constituted egregious powercreep?) and once the remaining days of Crimefest start pumping out new content, I suspect a large amount of the boycott will break just in order to try the new content.