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Payday: The Heist Review

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On 11/03/2011 at 04:51 PM by Mike Wall

This game is one steal that won’t break your bank.

Payday is a fun game to play with friends, however the lone wolf experience can be less than satisfactory.

With the economy continuing its journey into the proverbial toilet, the fanciful life of crime has never looked so good. Instead of risking life and limb to assume the role of your favorite anti-hero, consider giving Overkill Software’s new title Payday: The Heist a try. If you have ever found yourself wondering what it’s like to take the role of the personable criminals from action flicks such as Ocean’s 11 or Point Break, then Payday: The Heist is a game worth looking into. 

Payday: The Heist is a cooperative multiplayer First Person Shooter (FPS) experience that pits you and 3 teammates up against slew of cops as you take on 6 iconic missions ranging from a bank robbery to a diamond heist, and my personal favorite, the release of a convict (everyone deserves a second chance). Most thief games stress the importance of subterfuge, rewarding players for their ability to work unnoticed; Payday however is quite the opposite. Instead this game opts to trade in your standard fare of stealth tactics for high octane action. This game is a fast paced based shooter through and through; your guys don’t care if the job's done clean -- they just want it done. Expect a lot of carnage from this title as you and your squad will lay waste to hundreds of police forces using a plethora of weapons including assault rifles, shotguns, and the ever deadly trip mine. 

While playing this game I was instantly reminded of Modern Warfare 2’s Spec Ops, as both games stress the importance of collaboratively completing objectives while simultaneously defeating waves of enemies. Interestingly enough one of the more iconic enemies in the game, the Bulldozer seems to be heavily inspired by MW2’s revered Juggernaut, and as the name indicates this beast is a one man wrecking crew. The Bulldozer is only one of the many feared units that are hell bent on insuring the fiscal safety of the institutions you look to disenfranchise. Tasers, Cloakers, crack shot snipers, and numerous well trained swat teams work cohesively to ensure that you and your team do not succeed. The enemy AI from payday is alarmingly clever, using unique tactics that utilize their squad members along with their surroundings to bring about your defeat.

Unfortunately while the enemy AI is outstanding, your teammate’s AI is barely functional. When playing single player I quickly noticed that I was left to complete every objective by myself. The teammate AI in Payday is almost a hindrance as they fail to complete objectives and only manage to fire off the occasional pot shots at the opposing faction. Dealing with dull AI partners is manageable on the easier levels of the game, but quickly becomes a sadistic grind on difficulties of hard or above.

One of the major standouts in this title is the unique and enticing feel it brings to players. The game highlights an element that quite frankly is far too underutilized in gaming today … the villain. Sometimes games give us the privilege of playing the morally ambiguous who do all the wrong things for the right reasons, but this time around Payday lets us take the role of true hardened criminals. There are no ulterior motives. The goal is simply to obtain vast amounts of riches by any means necessary. While all of this may seem rather bleak and unsettling, in practice it can actually be quite an enthralling experience.

Even more euphoric is the feeling that can come from working harmoniously with comrades. As primarily a cooperative multiplayer experience (though single player is available), Payday: The Heist relies heavily on teamwork and coordination. As you and your team attempt to make the steal of the century, it is vital that hostages are secured, vantage points are taken, and objectives are completed all within a timely manner. While all of this may seem like a tall order, when things do fall into place with a team managing to work as a collective unit the feeling is that of a criminal mastermind as each step in the intricate plan is meticulously executed, giving birth to the perfect crime before your very eyes. The only problem is that several design flaws and choices made by the development team make it difficult to find the group needed to reach this euphoric feeling.

With any online multiplayer game one of the most important factors is the ability to reliably connect to other players. Unfortunately Payday: The Heist suffers from this fatal flaw, as constant connection issues impede upon the experience every step of the way. When trying to access lobbies I consistently received “lobby is full” message even when the lobbies were clearly open with available spaces. This problem became so prevalent that at times I had actually spent more time trying to find games than actually playing them.

Another serious issue that plagues this game is its inability to adequately acclimate players with the game mechanics. One of the things that pleasantly surprised me about Payday: The Heist was the hidden depth that resides within the game. However with the major lack of information and tutorials a large portion of this depth remains unseen. Let’s take hostages for instance; hostages work almost as a form of currency within Payday. Hostages can be used both as a commodity to free incarcerated teammates and as a deterrent to the opposing police forces. Meaning the more hostages that you and your team have secured the less aggressive the opposing police force will be in its assaults. While this is a brilliant addition to the game, it is ultimately lost on players as the game fails to stress the importance of capturing and controlling hostages. Therefore many players opt to forgo controlling hostages and instead rush into objectives, making it increasingly difficult to complete your missions unscathed.

The level system is another perfect example of good game design that is overshadowed by its own opacity. As players continue to rob the establishment blind they receive experience in the form of currency, and when a player receives enough experience they gain a new level unlocking different skills, weapons, and upgrades. The game allows you to mix and match between 3 different upgrade paths: Assault, Accuracy, and Support. However, to choose your desired upgrade path the player must make their choices in real time as opposed to the customary post level selection that is seen in most games. Again the game makes no effort to inform players of this, allowing many players to unconsciously make their upgrade selections.

All of these factors culminate into a serious problem with a game like Payday as your success is contingent not only on your knowledge of the game, but your teammates as well. Thus, even if you understand the game’s mechanics and nuances, there is no guarantee that your teammates will have a grasp on them as well. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that Payday: The Heist requires you to play the later missions on hard difficulty or above. There is nothing wrong with a game that likes to provide difficulty to its players; however it is unacceptable when that difficulty is a direct result of the game’s inability to provide players with the information needed to succeed.

Payday: The Heist is certainly a diamond in the rough that provides players with both ecstatic highs and demoralizing lows. This game truly shines with a group of knowledgeable players who are communicating. However, it can be quite difficult for a lone wolf to work his way into a worthwhile group. Payday is a great purchase for a group of friends who already plan to play together, but I would urge you to be apprehensive about attempting to take this title on solo.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



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