When I first learned I would be reviewing Payday: The Heist dreams filled my head of breaking into gas stations to snatch wonderful peanut candies. While the reality of what I reviewed was not as pleasant and had even less story, it does have some redeeming qualities none-the-less. But first, the less appealing parts of this download only title.
Payday is Left 4 Dead minus the zombies, unless you play single player. It was obviously built from the ground up with the intention of playing with three friends. Play it for ten minutes with the zombie AI and you will see what I mean.
As you start the game you will choose your load out for your heist. To start, you are limited to a pistol, fully-auto rifle and some wires to tie up civilians. As you complete challenges you will unlock more items as well as an additional weapon to carry and useful perks and gear for your team. At this point the excitement sets in. The first mission is a bank heist. With no tutorial and no information about the controls given on screen you stand in front of a bank. The voice in your head, or some guy on the other end of your headset starts giving commands of what needs to be done. Once you walk into the bank you will be prompted to hit L2 to start the heist. After my first botched attempt, I learned I could walk around the bank to find my first objective before starting the heist; the bank manager. From there, chaos ensues. Starting the heist will start a gun fight with the bank guards and local cops which you must fend off as you move towards your next objective. Every five minutes or so the voice in your head will start a 30 second countdown until an increasingly powerful police force raids the building. These massive firefights generally last two to four minutes and will happen a couple times while you wait for tools to complete objectives. These objectives are as varied as waiting on a saw, waiting on a fire, and waiting on a double crosser ex-friend. After each firefight you are given another five minutes or so to inch closer to your next objective which all leads to the big escape.
While that description of the game may sound a bit jaded, it is, but for a reason. The six maps in Payday bring a great deal of variety to the game. The problem is that the maps are the only variety. Each map consists of similar activities that need to be completed before moving to the next. Most of them, as I mentioned, are waiting for something to finish, fixing it when it jams, then waiting more. It feels like a huge opportunity was missed here. Since much of the game is fighting off hordes of cops, SWAT and security guards, adding a bit more to the defensive side of things could have made a huge difference in the excitement of these moments. As it is, you are stuck in a room, or behind a car, or in an alley, waiting for the waves to be destroyed before moving to your next task. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great deal of fun with other people, but with the AI it simply is not.
I need to point out some issues with the game here before getting to what makes this game shine. In my first heist, in the bank, my AI team pushed through the entire heist perfectly. If I started to bleed out they would help me up, if cops were coming from all angles, they covered them. But if I told them to pick up some thermite to speed up one of the objectives they simply stood there for a moment then ran off. This took away from the shooting part of the game for me, as the player, by making me act as the team gopher. I could forgive this if they weren’t so bone headed. Thirty meters from the end of the bank heist I was shot in the back by a sneaky ninja-swat dude and my team quickly came to my aid. Or, I thought they came to my aid. Instead they stood over me and allowed me to bleed out. “Fine, they will run to the exit and we will still win” I thought. Not the case. When the player bleeds out in single player, the game is up. This is easily fixable by allowing me to take over an AI player. If an AI player dies, the game continues. Then comes the bugs. In one mission, in which you steal a large amount of money and drugs, we had to defend the roof while we waited for a helicopter. This was a game I played multiplayer and we covered all the entrances that the cops could come from. Well, all the entrances except the sky, where of course, flying police men attack from. Multiple times, SWAT teams and cops simply ran across the sky, firing off into the unknown, which somehow still hit me. This was not a one time bug either, it was like a flying police parade just happened to be passing over the drug house we chose to attack. We still succeeded and in the end had a ton of fun.
As you progress through each heist you earn experience, err, cash. This cash will upgrade your weapons and unlock items and perks. When you start the game, go in understanding that you will, in a word, suck. The accuracy is non-existent and you will quickly run out of ammo. Through leveling you will fix all of these issues and start to be a valuable asset to your team. That’s corporate lingo for “you’ll kill better and help others kill better”. Leveling seems quick enough, but unlocks come a bit slow, so if you want instant gratification, look elsewhere. If you want a game that will last a good while, you bought the right one.
The multiplayer aspect of Payday is exceptional. As a single player game Payday would earn a score of 50 at the most. Since this game was built to be played with friends, I will break that down and rate it based on that aspect. When I started my multiplayer odyssey I quickly discovered that all my microphones in the house broke at the same time, apparently. I couldn’t communicate so I figured we had little chance of working as a team. To my surprise, and I’m not sure how the map designers pulled this off so well, we worked like a S.E.A.L. Team. Two of the four of us were on voice chat while the other two were mute. Regardless, each objective was handled quickly and all danger zones were well covered. If someone fell, someone helped them up while the rest of us covered them. It was exhilarating in every meaning of the word.
If you have some friends to play with, or want to meet some, this is a enormous bang for the buck. If you are into shooters and want to play online, this is an easy buy. There is no competitive mode, but the co-op is so well thought out that you will be hard pressed to not have a great time. I plan on picking up a headset this weekend and getting back online to start heisting a great deal more… for the children of course.
Well thought out maps.
Plenty of upgrade options.
|Single Player AI.|
Single Player. AI.
Flying Cops and other crazy bugs.