Payday: The Heist is the debut title from OVERKILL Software. It was a title that intrigued me when it was first released last October. For those of you who haven't taken note of Payday, it will feel comfortable in the hands of people who play Left 4 Dead. With four playable characters, the player is thrown into a team with one goal: Get rich or die tryin'.
Ultimately, Payday: The Heist is designed around co-op gameplay. While none of the playable characters have any distinct features that make them unique from each other once the heist begins, players can easily fill roles to help their team succeed. One teammate may fill the role of a sharpshooter, while another can carry enough extra ammo for the team to hold out against a small army (figuratively and literally). It's a game that says “here's what you need to do, go do it.” The question is: is a game almost a year old still worth picking up?
Feels Good, Man - The game feels natural to any veteran of the shooting genre. With no unnecessary commands, the controls stay simple. For those who may be less experienced in the genre, the HUD explains everything as you go, making a tutorial unnecessary.
I'm Liking the Idea - Left 4 Dead is a sprint from point A to point B. Payday is more about the experience. With missions that can last as long as 2-3 levels do in a Left 4 Dead campaign, players will be facing new situations as the missions go on, caused by a random system that changes the mission in certain parts. An example of this is in one mission where a giant magnet attached to a crane lifts a limo onto the roof of a building. Sometimes the car will fall through the roof, or land on the balcony instead, causing the team to change plans mid-mission. This needed variety helps keep missions fresh every time they're played.
We'll Do It in Style! - The characters, while all capable of performing any function, are unique in their own ways. In single player, AI controlled characters will often do things such as give speeches or act in ways that players can't in multiplayer. It's a cute touch that gives players something to smile about. Unfortunately, those moments are few and far apart but are one of the only good things about playing with the AI.
So Much to Do - With a total of four class trees, players won't tire easily of completing the missions. While it only takes 1-2 heists to make it to the next level, there are enough levels (roughly around 200) to make clearing one class tree an accomplishment, let alone 4. The system is genius: make the requirements to make it to the next level low to give players a sense of accomplishment, but stretch out the benefits.
Not the Bridge Again - While there are now a total of 9 missions, the game can get a bit stagnant after too long. With some heists easily becoming favorites, there are missions that just aren't fun to play. The Green Bridge mission especially feels like cheap filler when held next to one like No Mercy.
CHAINS! CHAINSEY! OVER HERE! - It's difficult to program AI in a video game. Most of the time you'll either have AI partners who do their jobs too well, or ones who are completely incompetent. Payday's AI falls into the latter category, with their only saving grace being the fact that they'll sprint through hell and back to pick you up if you've been downed. In any other situation, they're nothing more than meat shields.
Jammed Again!?!? - The game is objective-based, most of the early moments in the heist being simple “sit here and defend this.” As time goes on, the objectives get a bit more complicated. With Payday, more complicated generally translates to “they shut off the power. Have fun sprinting 50 meters around 100 armored cops to turn the power back on.” It gets a bit tiresome and in some cases can make a heist unnecessarily frustrating.
Considering that Payday is a $20 title (or $5 if you wait for it to go on sale again), it's something well worth investing in, especially if you want to kill time with close friends. While it's not necessarily a title that people would burn countless hours into, it's something that helps kill the time while you're waiting for your buddy to finish losing in League Of Legends.
- Nickolai Niver