The lights are on
Taking a cue from popular heist movies like Heat and Ocean’s
11, Payday: The Heist seeks to give players that experience with friends and
recreate those thrilling sequences in gameplay form for people to live out
vicariously through gaming, and though it succeeds for the most part, it is
missing a bit of spark and can feel a bit underwhelming at times.
The basic premise is that you play as one of four ne’er do
wells intent on being a part of some high stakes robberies in the hopes of
striking it rich. Of the different robberies you have a night time diamond
heist with a focus on stealth, a gold convoy ambush, a prisoner extraction, a
meth lab panic room take down, a shoot-out in the streets, and of course, a
classic bank robbery. Each level feels very different and offers changes in
goals and layout, which adds a lot of variety and forces you to reevaluate your
play style and role in each of them. A nice little twist is the addition of a
system similar to Left 4 Dead’s Director AI, which changes up the levels and makes
each one different on replays. Though not quite as game changing, the effect
can drastically alter how certain heists play out and forces on the fly
Though you have the option to choose which of the four
characters you’d like to be, they all play exactly the same with the only
difference mainly being an aesthetic choice. In fact, the characters may have
some distinctions in personality but none of it ever shows, which is in sharp
contrast to a game like Left 4 Dead where each character is much more clearly
defined. Though nobody plays a game like Payday for deep characterization, it
does seem a bit too easy to confuse some of the characters until you can get
accustomed to the changes in accents, and even then it’s not a big deal.
The weaponry and leveling is what will keep players going
through these heists in order to get the cash necessary to unlock the next big
upgrade. Though there isn’t a very big selection of weaponry, the game offers a
modest arsenal which is complimented by a variety of upgrades. Though some
start to run together after a while (with various upgrades being improved
versions of previous upgrades), they keep the game fresh and dangle the carrot
in front of players, giving them the motivation to keep playing to unlock a new
shotgun or some improved armor.
Within the leveling system is the class system, which
determines what you unlock. Split between Assault, Sharpshooter and Support,
each offering different upgrades to fit your play style. Though it’s a nice way
to give a little freedom in what you want, the game neglects to mention just
how to pick which class you want (choose by holding TAB and pressing 1, 2 or
3). It’s a rather large oversight considering how much the class system affect
The combat and gunplay work very well and are even on the
level of full on retail games. The weapons have an appropriate feel to them and
though they aren’t drastically changed from other first person shooters, it
works well. The AI is more of a mixed bag, with your allies being helpful but
almost useless for teamwork and planning (similar to Left 4 Dead’s AI allies),
so it is best to play with some friends if you want the best experience. The
enemy AI is much savvier, attempting to flank the player, roll out of the way of
incoming fire, giving themselves up when held at gunpoint and working with
special units to take down the player. Even then though, the game substitutes
numbers for genuine intelligence at times, with many enemies often grouped out
in the open like sitting ducks to be sniped at by the player.
That’s not to say the game isn’t intense. The heists convey
a feeling of intensity and even when you aren’t timed you get a sense that you
need to be quick with your actions. The way the heists work generally, is that
you will need to perform some time consuming action (such as placing and
watching a drill or a saw on a door or room), and you’ll need to do this until
the next objective comes along all the while fending off waves of police that
prevent in custody players from respawning and constantly come from all sides.
It’s a bit overwhelming and can be incredibly satisfying to survive a tough
wave where you’ve lost an ally and had to repeatedly unjam a saw while under
The game is rather difficult for the most part, with many
heists not even being available on the easier difficulties. This really
stresses the need to use teamwork and plan out your heists, which gives it a
nice cinematic flair when you happen to be coordinating a well-planned assault.
The game even gives you the freedom and assets to do so, with certain multitask
focused objectives and the ability to shoot out cameras, set up traps and tie
up hostages to prevent casualties and use for an exchange.
Overall, the game has a unique style and focus many players
can appreciate, with co-op gameplay that stands up to close scrutiny. Though
it’s not without its flaws and issues in polish and a lack of content, the $20
price point makes it all well worth it.
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