- Platform: PC, PS3
- Developer: Overkill Software
- Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment
- Release Date: October 18, 2011
- Price: $19.99
- Official: Payday
“Masks on gentleman, lets do this”
Everyone has done it. At one point you have sat down on your comfy couch, or maybe in the theater, and watched as a great bank robbery, or maybe a jewel heist, moved from a solid start into its eventual meltdown as things go horribly wrong and partners lose their cool and get gunned down. While you marveled at the massive collateral damage in Heat, or were in awe of the Jokers manipulation in The Dark Knight, or maybe even pretty glad that the crew pulled off a successful score at the beginning of The Town, in the back of your mind you were thinking “I want to do that! I could do it better.” Well now is your chance to try, although it will be much more difficult then you would have hoped.
In Overkill’s Payday: The Heist players form into a small team of untrustworthy individuals as they attempt to pull off the perfect score. Each member of this four man group will bring their own brand of unique skills to the ensuing carnage as well as their own signature creepy mask to conceal their identity. But even with a solid plan, its not long before the you-know-what hits the fan, and its up to everyone keeping their cool and fending off hundreds of armed officers, to ensure you make it out alive and with the cold hard cash.
Indeed, the heist premise is sadly an untapped market in the videogame space. The idea of intricately planning out the perfect job with your buddies and then pulling it off without fault sounds amazing, and should be in a game, but does Payday: The Heist get the job done? Well, yes and no.
What Overkill has done is capture the ending of Heat or the screwed up heist in Reservoir Dogs perfectly, what they have not done is capture the violent but perfect execution of The Town. See, there isn’t much planning in Payday, or even that much time that is spent quietly infiltrating a building, The Heist is always moving at breakneck speed, you get in, make yourself known, and then shoot your way out past dozens and dozens of cops.
Payday now has seven different jobs for players to take on, some of them added as free dlc, such as a map that takes place in Mercy Hospital, a nice tie in with Valves Left 4 Dead which Payday borrows heavily from. Each map is distinct and provides players with its own set of obstacles to tackle, from a routine bank heist, to infiltrating a skyscraper via its windows, to even chasing after a member of your squad that betrayed you; Payday has a mission for everyone. These included seven can also be bolstered by Paydays paid content, which adds two additional heists as well as new weapons and a new skill tree.
Which brings me to one of the strange quirks of Payday, the game does not explain its systems to you. The mention of a skill tree above is important, because though its apparent from the menu’s and the equipment screen before a job that Payday does feature some form of unlocking extra’s, the game itself never tells you how it works. Before a heist you can select which assortment of gear you will be taking with you on the job, these items range from extra cable ties to incapacitate civilians, to trip mines, or bags of ammunition. You can unlock further selections by working up your chosen skill tree, but the game gives you no indication on how to actually do so. While you are selecting your load out on PC, you must hold the TAB key and then make a selection of 1-3, with each number pertaining to a specific skill tree. The roles themselves are Assault, Support, and Sharpshooter, with Technician added as DLC. With no idea on how to make your selection, the majority of players will find themselves moving up the Assault tree, and some may not even realize there are other options.
This withholding of information somewhat oozes into the level design as well. The first time you take on a job is a pure learning experience, from the layout to the objectives themselves, all must be soaked in over the course of a couple attempts. Seeing as how its apparent the team has gone over all of the details beforehand, it would be nice to allow the player to get a gist of how a job is to be handled before all hell breaks loose.
When the action does kick into gear for this violent team however, it does so fairly well. The moment to moment thrills of Payday can be pretty exhilarating, and that entertainment is bolstered with each player added. The gunplay at work here is solid and mimics that of Left 4 Dead fairly well, with zombies obviously changed to law enforcement. The opposition your team will come across will range from simple officers, to tasers, to bulldozers; each requiring a change of strategy to take down. Enemies will also enter stages in varying ways, such as rappelling from rooftops to climbing up elevator shafts. Firefights rarely let up in Payday, making the times things do subside a rare moment of bliss, and a moment to regroup with your team and prepare for the next assault.
While the action is intense and exciting, Overkill Software does go full…well, overkill with it. Make no mistake, Payday pretty much is L4D with cops. While you are completing objectives and taking part in firefights, you are sill doing battle with hundreds of men in blue. Only two maps are playable at the Easy difficulty level, and this is a shame for anyone who would rather tackle this game solo with AI companions. Very rarely was I able to complete a job on Medium difficulty without real partners. While your AI team does a decent job of reviving you, the same cannot be said of their skills elsewhere. This inability to play every map on the lowest difficulty setting makes it impossible to complete jobs alone, as medium difficulty can be pretty rough with even two live players. Payday The Heist demands to be played with real folk, and while that’s all well and good, people who don’t mind playing solo shouldn’t be punished for it.
In terms of presentation Payday does a decent job without ever being remarkable. Environments look fine with most textures able to stand up to a certain level of scrutiny when viewed up close. The voice work of the team is solid overall, but certain lines can stand out for the wrong reasons as well. Overall Payday The Heist is an adequately presented package with one noteworthy exception; the teams masks. While you can gain various masks for use in the game as you level up, none reach the creepiness and distinctive look of the original four. The fact that the team made these masks in real life for use in the games menu’s and promotions makes them extra awesome.
The team at Overkill Software have attempted to tackle a subject matter that has somehow remained untouched in the gaming world, and for the most part, they have succeeded. While Payday The Heist can be absolutely brutal at times, and then oddly quiet at others, it still remains a fun experience with each and every job. The improvement in your skill, and the growth of your armaments, will have you excited to tackle the games 100+ level skill tree, and the amount of difficulty levels available will ensure its a challenge for you each and every time. Although it is a shame the game favors online play over that of solo, with the right team at hand Payday The Heist can have a very long shelf life for you.
- + Concept is original
- + Action is intense
- + Skill trees are large
- + Multiplayer is rewarding
- – Solo experience is underwhelming
- – Doesn’t explain its systems well
- – Difficulty ramps up quickly