This is a Stick-up! – Payday: The Heist Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
Everyone loves a good heist story, especially if it is fictional and they are not themselves in any danger. This week, I took the plunge into the world of crime to review Payday: The Heist. This recent release from Overkill Software and SOE (Sony Online Entertainment) is a first person shooter that puts you in the position of a heist-man. Your goal, if you so choose to accept it, is to rip off selected targets, such as a bank, or an armored truck, or even a crack house, while inflicting as few civilian casualties as possible, and escaping before time runs out.
The main menu gives the player the option of choosing which of the six missions they want to play. Of the available heists, numbers one and two can be played on any difficulty, three and four on normal or hard mode, and five and six only on hard mode. However, I found the difficulty curve to be non-existent, as one of the easy levels was quite a bit harder than one of the higher difficulty levels. Of course, each job requires a four-man team, so before anything else, you must decide whether you want to play single player or co-op. Co-op allows you to recruit your friends from the PSN, and solo gives you three AI teammates. I chose to play solo for the purposes of this review.
When I’d chosen my first mission and my class (more on these later), there were a few things I noticed from the start. The first was that the load times were pretty short, and the second being that there was no tutorial screen to remind the player of their controls while the levels were loading, to let them know which button does what. Fortunately, the game gives you time before the actual heist begins to walk around and check out the scenery, as the job does not start until you use the R2 button to trigger heist mode. This gave me plenty of time to get a feel for the controls, and I took full advantage of it. The game controls as a standard first person shooter, and once familiar with them, I found that the gun controls were great, though the look sensitivity started out a little high for my tastes.
While wandering around and getting used to the controls, I had time to notice just how visually stunning the game was. Overkill used the Diesel game engine which was used to make titles such as the 2008, ‘09, and ‘11 Bionic Commando games and the Terminator Salvation game, all of which were released the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. Needless to say The Heist is both pretty and shiny! For example, the bank from the first job looked spectacularly detailed, right down to the pens attached to the desk. In short, all of the graphics were crisp, with no pixelation or glitches.
Once I was comfortable with the controls and had finished looking around, I went upstairs to find the bank manager. The whole time I had been exploring, an unnamed fifth man (located off-site somewhere) had been urging me to find manager and start the heist, via walkie-talkie. Conveniently, the manager was given an orange silhouette, making it easy for me to find him and trigger the heist. My AI friends pulled down their masks and the bullets began to fly.
As mentioned earlier, you get to choose a class before starting. Each class gets additional benefits towards your goals, after the heist begins. The Support is more skilled at keeping civilians under control, the Sharpshooter has the highest accuracy, and the Assault has the highest rate of fire. Having a diverse team is very beneficial, and really helps the job go smoothly… in co-op. Unfortunately, in single play, the AI just followed me wherever I went and did not try to accomplish goals themselves. So I was left having to collect items that would be used to break into the vault, while the hostages and such were left unattended.
Thankfully, a little yellow exclamation point served as a guide to help me find my way… sometimes. I often found myself in situations where I needed an extra item, but the guide would not tell me where it was. I would have to go back to previous areas in order to try to find the required supplies, based solely on cues from the walkie. You can press the select button to view your current objective, but that becomes cumbersome when you’re being shot at.
Despite the AI’s general lack of direction regarding mission goals, they are otherwise well crafted, doing some things almost flawlessly. The AI teammates tend to follow close to you, shooting enemies accurately, and I never saw any of them get stuck on an obstacle. I also found the AI to be surprisingly effective at rescuing me when I had recklessly run into a room full of fully armed men and was pumped full of lead. If your health level drops all the way, you become incapacitated, and the game begins a countdown to death and mission failure. However, if one of your teammates comes to assist before the counter hits zero, you are returned to full health and allowed to continue the mayhem.
The Heist provides a variety of opposing forces to deal with, though most are a slightly more armored variant on a theme. Players will fight through security guards, police officers, SWAT teams, and what they call “Bull Dozers” which look like bomb squad members with shotguns. Most enemies are fairly simple to kill and will go down with just a few shots. They aren’t even that smart, not using cover or coordinating attacks, sometimes even just running straight at you. Sometimes, you can even run right up to them, get in their face and melee attack them. I found this took away from the realism a bit. But, having highly destructible environments made up for it. From banister rails, to stone statue heads, support pillars, anything goes. As a game designer, I can appreciate that degree of attention to detail, and the more environment I can break, the better. It was just too bad they didn’t pay the same degree of attention everywhere.
One interesting aspect of the combat system was the challenges. By using each class, you can build points in their talent tree by completing certain tasks during game play. The challenges are not all that difficult. They mostly consist of killing a certain amount of enemies with different weapons, and the kills rack up fast. When a challenge is completed, you unlock a new upgrade, like increased ammo capacity or a faster reload time. Players can even unlock new weapons and perks for your group which can grant extra cash. Systems like these are always fun because they give players an incentive to keep playing, even if the extra money has no real purpose in the game.
Overall the game is fun, not amazing or spectacular, but fun. There are a few snags, like the fact that there is no story line to explain why you are robbing people. It is purely mission based. Or this one time I got a phone call in the real world and pressed pause to address it, only to return and find I’d died and failed the mission. Apparently taking a call in the middle of a firefight is as hazardous in this game as in real life. I can see how it would matter in co-op or online play, but I was playing solo, so I feel the game should have just paused. But all those snags aside, it is a fun game to play. And with the internet community talking about DLC to add more content, and the list of challenges to complete, I believe it will be enough to keep people playing The Heist for a while. I recommend the game to anyone that wants a casual shooter that can be put down as easily as it can be picked up. The game has a solid foundation but feels like it still needs a little support to be the game it set out to be.
Wanderson75.net gives Payday: The Heist 3.5/5.0
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