|Publisher||Sony Online Entertainment|
|Release||Oct 18, 2011|
|Genres||Action, First-Person Shooter, Role-Playing|
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PAYDAY: The Heist is an indie first-person shooter by Overkill Software. We noticed it on Steam several times, but were never interested in playing it. Even when it was on sale for 75%-off, we figured it was just another modern garbage FPS like 90% of the other FPS games that have come out since the advent of Call of Duty and, to a lesser degree, Halo. After all, what kind of game has two names when it's not even a sequel? Is PAYDAY some sort of great franchise that we're supposed to recognize? "Oh look, guys, it's the next PAYDAY game, 'The Heist'!" All of these factors made us very skeptical that the game would be worth playing. However, recently it went on sale for 75%-off again, so we decided to bite the bullet and give it a shot, just for the sake of being able to review it. In short, we were very pleasantly surprised.
PAYDAY is a very engaging and well-designed game. At first glance, it seems a little annoying that there is no campaign - there are only nine missions (with the DLC and PC version) which you choose from and play at your discretion. However, the gear progression system and random mission events keep it interesting for multiple play-throughs of each mission. There are also several challenges which are tough and worth attempting. To top it off, if you get sick of leveling up the slow way, there is a built-in power-leveling method called the overvault, which lasts about as long as three regular missions, but gives you many times more experience upon completion.
The gameplay itself can get a little annoying if you try to take it seriously. Every mission involves a heist of some sort, and you fight off waves of cops - called assaults - as you move from objective to objective. However, the cops don't behave in any sort of rational manner. There are thousands of them, and they pretty much just slowly swarm you. They are pretty much just zombies - with guns. In fact, this entire game is mostly a straight rip-off of Left 4 Dead, with mindless swarms of cops instead of zombies. The assaults are just like the AI director zombie swarms in L4D. There are special units in this game which almost directly correspond to the special units in L4D. The various objectives that you have to defend are just like the noisy switches you have to flip in L4D. Hell, the PC-exclusive mission is a prequel to L4D made with Valve's collaboration, all but proving this game's inspiration. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I'm saying if you are looking for a realistic heist scenario, you're better off waiting for PAYDAY 2 (or so they claim). Almost nothing in the game makes any sense at all if you look at it from a realistic perspective. In light of that, just pretend that you really are fighting zombies with guns wearing police uniforms if you have to.
However, this isn't really a bad thing. As long as you look at the game for what it is - a "zombie" shooter - you will have loads of fun. Much to our surprise, this game is catered toward players who prefer to really get into a game when they play it. This is not a "play through the campaign once and forget it" kind of game, like most other FPSs now-a-days. This is a game that gives you as much enjoyment as you let it. The gameplay is quite fun, and some of the challenges are very intense and demand a lot of teamwork. The gear progression gives you something to look forward to as you complete the challenges as well. The progression is also the reason that we have tagged this game with a "role-playing" genre.
In short, if you are looking for a game that is heavily inspired by Left 4 Dead, but with enemies that shoot back and various other improvements, PAYDAY: The Heist will please you. This game has given us many hours of fun and various memories that we will remember fondly. I should also mention that you really should play it with all four players. The teammate AI is an even bigger joke than the police AI.
Below is a breakdown of why we rated the game the way we did.
Grit: The grit is variable based on difficulty, just like pretty much every other game with difficulty settings. We chose to rate it based on the challenges. Many of the challenges will require several tries to get everything right, and that's if you're good at the game. Also, when you first start playing and have none of the upgrades or weapons, the game will require some effort - especially as you're trying to figure out the mission objectives. However, once you progress far enough along the upgrade trees, the game will get much easier.
Synergy: Working together with your team in this game is pretty crucial. When you get to the higher difficulties and try for the harder challenges, you absolutely must work cohesively as a team, or you will fail. This is also natural synergy. None of the cooperative mechanics are forced. Reviving fallen teammates might be, but that's only one of the many benefits to having your team work together.
Implementation: The game was well implemented overall, but there were many things that annoyed us. The randomness could sometimes make the game interesting, but other times, it was just stupid. Who the hell wants to stealth the whole first part of Diamond Heist, just to get screwed over by the codes not working? No one. The rating also took a hit because of the fact that No Mercy crashes so often. It took a while for us to play it at all, because it wouldn't stop crashing. Furthermore, that mission is also a reason for another implementation hit - the panic buttons. There really is nothing you can do to stop the hostages from pressing the button. If you're lucky, they just won't. You can spam F all you want, but if a hostage decides to just spawn through the ceiling and immediately press the button, too bad for you.
We also gave it a lower implementation for the AI. We didn't want to dock it too much, since if you look at it objectively, this is nothing more than a zombie shooter where the zombies have guns. Zombies don't really need great AI. The plot and police actions make no sense, but so what?
Longevity: The longevity is hard to pin down. The game actually has very little content. If you only play through each mission once, you could "finish" the game in a week easily. The game's longevity relies solely on the fact that you will enjoy it enough to progress through the upgrade trees and try to beat the challenges. In our case, we did enjoy the game quite a bit, and have played each mission many times. However, we probably won't be playing it for too much longer, as we have completed almost all of the challenges that we think are worth trying. We haven't spent as much time playing PAYDAY as we have many of our other games.
Depth: The game's depth is relatively decent, but ultimately, most missions have a "best strategy", and anything else is inferior. There are a lot of way you can beat some of the missions, but the only reason you'd do anything but the "best strategy" is if the mission's random events force you to. The weapons add a lot of variety, but for the most part, your weapon choice doesn't affect anything. You can use whatever weapon fits your style and it won't affect how you play the mission.
We should also address the overvault. Some might say that the overvault adds depth, because it's something new that players discovered, and it added a nice challenge to the game. However, it's really not something that players can just discover within the game. The developers had to drop several hints telling players that the overvault was there before anyone found it. There is no way to figure out how to do it without looking it up and/or consulting things outside of the game. Now that we know it's there, it's nothing special. It's just a part of the mission. When you look at it like that, it's really no different than a content patch or free DLC.
Fun: We have played this game for a while, considering there are only nine missions. That can mostly be attributed to the fact that it is so fun. When a game has such little content, yet gives us this many hours of enjoyment, the fun factor is going to be very high.Posted by Nick on Jun 16, 2013. Last updated on Jun 20, 2013.