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Payday: The Heist Review

A Good Idea Without Much Around It
by Adam Biessener on Oct 18, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Reviewed on PlayStation 3
Also on PC
Publisher Daybreak Game Company
Developer Overkill
Rating Mature

Coming out of E3 and Gamescom, I had sky-high hopes for Payday: The Heist. Sony Online and Overkill always had the PC version on display at those shows, though, and it’s now apparent why: This is a fast-paced shooter based around mouse/keyboard control that suffers from serious control issues in its half-assed PS3 port.

Payday is a cooperative, interactive heist movie climax at its best. Four players (or AI bots) make their way through a series of slightly randomized objectives on their way to stealing their prize from a highly guarded location. I waylaid a prisoner transport convoy to free a friend from under the noses of hundreds of cops. I broke into a modern bank vault and made my way out with a literal duffel bag full of cash. I tracked down a double-crossing crook and dragged him and the briefcase chained to his arm through waves of law enforcement to a getaway helicopter. Each of Payday’s six heists is a novel experience, made replayable by randomized enemy spawns and goals.

Working together with your crew to clear each hurdle while not getting shot to pieces by the police is a tense experience that can be every bit as good as Left 4 Dead at its best. Those peaks are few and far between, though, and practically nonexistent if you’re playing with the crappy bot AI. I absolutely adore Payday’s concept, but the execution -- particularly on PS3 -- leaves much to be desired.

The issue before which all others pale is the mediocre gunplay. You don’t realize how much you take the gamepad compensation and slower pace of Halo for granted until you have to line up your shots perfectly to take anyone out. You don’t fully appreciate the genius of Call of Duty’s snap-to-target when looking down the ironsights until you’re playing manual right-stick whack-a-mole with a dozen cops in hard cover. Gears of War’s butter-smooth control scheme isn’t a big deal until you sprint to your death instead of strafing around a corner because of the unchangeable L3 sprint toggle. Playing Payday on PS3 (and you can’t use a mouse/keyboard plugged into your console, sadly) is a throwback to console shooters of yore, and not in a good way.

There are a few other problems -- the skipped animation frames during heavy action, bot AI bad enough that this is entirely useless as a single-player game, predictable enemy AI -- but those are easily ignored when you’re laying down covering fire in two directions while one buddy is frantically trying to revive a second, and the third is banging on the jammed hacking console that needs to give you the g------ keycode already. Those moments are great, at least until you run out of ammo because you have to line up the pixels just right to successfully drop an enemy any further than ten meters away.

The progression system, where you unlock better weapons, equipment, and special abilities as you play each of the four classes (which vary from each other far less than in, say, Battlefield) is a decent enough hook to keep playing and seeing the variations on the handful of heists in the game. I find myself annoyed enough at the gameplay to not care about fluff like getting a bigger mag for my assault rifle, though.

I want to love Payday, but sadly I can’t recommend this barebones PS3 port to anyone but the most die-hard of co-op shooter fans. The PC version, on the other hand, is a different story entirely – read the full review here.

[Editor's Note: The PC version has not been available to us for review. Look for a separate review for the PC version of Payday: The Heist in the coming days.]

Team up with three buddies to pull off a selection of heists in this cooperative shooter
This isn’t actively offensive in the visual department, but that’s about the best you can say about it
I can’t tell which is worse: The writing or the voice acting. And boy, does the writing suck
It works on a baseline level, but Payday’s greatest failing is in the lack of compensation for the imprecision of gamepad control
Bring a couple friends if you want to get anything close to your money’s worth out of Payday on PS3

Products In This Article

Payday: The Heistcover

Payday: The Heist

PlayStation 3, PC
Release Date: