Payday: The Heist
AMD Athlon X2
AMD Radeon HD 4850
Payday: The Heist is a 4 player co-op game, which takes heavy influences from the Left 4 Dead series, in which players must work together to complete objectives. But instead of fighting off the undead, players are cast as the bad guys, whose aim is to rob banks and partake in other such illegal activities, all the while fighting off waves of law enforcement as they progress. Does Payday make you feel like you’re in some of your favourite heist movies, or does it come across as a cheap copy of Valves hit IP?
The first thing that struck me when starting the game, was its menu system. A strange thing to notice I agree, but it has some of the best looking menu screens I’ve seen in any game. It shows the real life actors, of the characters you play, wearing their trademark masks and carrying some of the weapons you can unlock in the game.
Single player in Payday tasks you with choosing 1 of 6 different heists, and 1 of the 4 different characters. The choice of character is purely for cosmetics, again like Valve’s Left 4 Dead series. At this point, I’d just like to state that drawing comparisons between Payday and Left 4 Dead is extremely difficult not to do, and it could be said that if you enjoy one, you’ll more than likely enjoy the other. Both IPs are 4 player co-op games, both have a variety of similar weapons, from SMGs and shotguns, to machineguns and sniper rifles (alas no melee weapons in Payday). Both have a common enemy and both have special varieties of the standard. Left 4 Dead has its Hunters, Boomers, Smoker and alike whereas Payday has Bulldozers, Shields, Spec-Ops and Tasers.
Terminator vision – ON
Upon choosing a heist and character, you’re free to start the mission. 3 of the 6 missions start with your weapons holstered, leaving you free to survey the area before pulling your weapons and alerting any law enforcement in the area. The first heist in the selection is the bank robbery. It tasks you with holding up a bank and its civilian inhabitants and finding the bank manager to be able to retrieve your drill, that has been smuggled into the bank prior to your arrival. From here, you must drill through a locked door to access the floor above the bank vault. Using thermite canisters you can burn through the ceiling right into the vault and retrieve the money inside. Finally you must make your daring escape out the back of the bank to your waiting escape vehicle.
Of course, this is all easier said than done as, upon springing your heist, a silent alarm is raised and soon the police turn up on the scene. It starts with basic law enforcement equipped with pistols and shotguns, but soon escalates to SWAT members armed with assault rifles and the special varieties as I mentioned above. The Bulldozer is a strong, armored officer wearing bomb disposal gear and armed with a heavy duty shotgun. He can take a lot of damage before dying and packs a serious punch up close. The Shield is a heavy armoured SWAT member armed with a riot shield, as the name suggests, who cannot be damaged from the front. Spec-Ops is your Sam Fisher style SWAT member, armed with an electric baton who can one-hit you onto the floor and who can also cloak. Finally, the Tazer is an FBI agent armed with a tazer who can stun a player rendering them incapacitated until freed by one of their fellow team members.
Completing the objectives in single player is more difficult than need be. The game itself, especially early on when a player does not have many unlocks, is difficult enough even with a team full of real people, but in a single player game the AI is far from helpful. The AI is trained to follow your every move, in a similar fashion to that of the Left 4 Dead AI, and will not complete any objectives for you. You may think this is a sensible thing for the AI to do, but, often, you need to complete multiple objectives at once. For example, in the bank mission, you need thermite canisters to burn down into the bank vault from the floor above. There are two canisters. You can only carry one and the AI refuse to carry the other. This means that once you set your canister down, you must make your way back to the other canister to allow you to burn through the vault ceiling faster. At this point, however, you could be facing an endless wave of law enforcement, rendering your task nigh impossible.
Of course, as with many co-op games, multiplayer is where the game excels. With three other human players alongside you, the frustrations of the single-player experience soon disappear. Heists can be co-ordinated with players dotted around the map, ready to destroy security cameras or down any law enforcement in sight.
Money, money, money...
All 6 maps are varied, with many different objectives. These range from the typical cash robbery of the bank, an escort mission down city streets in broad daylight, a prisoner rescue on a bridge in the middle of a rain storm, to a stealthy diamond heist during an office party. With each heist having multiple objectives, there is a lot of variety and if you find yourselves getting frustrated with one, switching heists can be really refreshing.
I haven’t even touched on the class and unlock system yet. There are three classes in Payday: The Heist - Assault, Support and Sharpshooter. All have 48 levels with unlocks ranging from accuracy bonuses to new weapons and items, such as health and ammo bags. At any point as you level up, from kills and objectives completed, you can switch to whichever class you wish your next unlock to be in. Once an unlock is made that perk, accuracy for your assault rifle for example, will stick with you forever, no matter which class you wish to unlock next. It is a very flexible and rewarding system.
Payday: The Heist is an indie title worth its asking price. The graphics, sounds and gunplay may not be up to the standards of similar titles, but Payday finds a nice corner of the market for those tired of fighting waves of the undead. Add to that a strong emphasis on team cooperation and a robust levelling mechanic, and Payday will keep you coming back for heist after heist. With DLC just around the corner, I can recommend Payday: The Heist strongly to those who enjoy co-operative shooters.
- Levelling that Matters: A long, rewarding levelling mechanic helps to give you purpose.
- No I in Team: A focus on strong teamwork is required to beat levels.
- Addictive Gameplay: Scenarios can be experienced over and over.
- Quality over Quantity: Only 6 maps at launch, but they are all of very high quality.
- AI Issues: Some questionable AI leads to frustration.