|System: PS3, PC|
|Dev: Overkill Software|
|Release: October 18, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language|
by Josh Wirtanen
PAYDAY: The Heist was one of the games that I left E3 feeling extremely excited about this year. Now, after months of waiting and a short delay, the game has finally launched on PlayStation Network. While it's definitely a welcome addition to my PS3's hard drive, a few aspects feel a little more rushed than I would have preferred.
Let me back up here. For the uninitiated, PAYDAY: The Heist is a four-player co-op game that plays extremely similarly to Left 4 Dead, only instead of blasting away at zombies it has players perform high stakes heists. I realize I'm not the first person to make the L4D comparison—and I guarantee I won't be the last—but this is a comparison that immediately puts PAYDAY into the appropriate context. Like L4D, PAYDAY is a first-person shooter that has you team up with three other players, each selecting a character with a unique (albeit somewhat stereotypical) personality. (If you can't find three other people to play with, A.I. will take over for any of the four characters without a human player.) When your teammates disappear around corners and behind walls, you will see glowing silhouettes to show you where they are. PAYDAY even includes "special" enemies, though instead of Smokers and Witches and the like, you have Tasers and Bulldozers, Tasers with the ability to electrocute and stun you and Bulldozers with a heavy suit of body armor. And these enemy types are thrown at you dynamically, meaning enemies will show up in different places on different playthroughs.
But the comparisons pretty much end here. Where L4D has you surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, PAYDAY has you committing felonies in hopes of making the next big score. Where L4D has you fleeing from point to point, safe house to safe house, PAYDAY has you completing objectives as part of a crack team of professional criminals. Where L4D pits you against the shambling undead, PAYDAY pits you against the law.
PAYDAY also comes with a level-up system—you can level all the way up to 145—which allows you to unlock perks, upgrades, and new weapons. The way the upgrade system works actually feels somewhat counterintuitive at first, but once you figure it all out it's actually pretty cool. There are three different classes in the game—Assault, Sharpshooter, and Support—and each levels up independently. Now, where this gets confusing is that you don't select a class before starting a heist. Instead, whenever you are in-game, you can hold the select button to bring up a menu, and from here you can switch between classes at any time.
What makes this even more confusing is that your selected class has absolutely no immediate effect on gameplay; it just determines which branch of your "skill tree" you are advancing. Every time you level up, you will be given a new skill, perk, upgrade, or weapon that corresponds with the class you have selected. While this system may not immediately click with most gamers, it's actually an innovative means of progression. It offers a class system without boxing players into any particular setup, since all perks and weapons can be used interchangeably to allow for unique setups and loadouts. This system may not be for everyone, but personally, I really like it.
PAYDAY offers six scenarios. First World Bank has you pull a massive bank heist. Heat Street features a heist gone sour, in which you must chase down a double-crossing team member named Matt while fending off waves of police officers. Panic Room has you setting up a fake drug deal, shooting your way through a meth house, and stealing an entire room full of cash. (To clarify: No, you don't just steal the cash, you actually steal the room itself.) In Green Bridge, you've been tasked with breaking a particular prisoner free by ambushing a prison convoy. Diamond Heist, as the name implies, lets you pull a diamond heist on the upper floors of a skyscraper. Slaughterhouse, probably the most difficult of all, has you chasing after an armored van filled with gold bars, which ends up crashing through the roof of a slaughterhouse. If you're the type of player who prefers the moral high ground, this probably isn't the game for you.
Now, each job is essentially a series of objectives you must complete while waves of police officers and SWAT team members assault you. But that doesn't mean they are boring and repetitive. Quite the contrary. Each job plays out like an adrenaline-fueled movie blockbuster, with (very) brief scenes of quietude spliced between over-the-top action sequences.
As I mentioned earlier, PAYDAY suffers from a lack of polish in a few key areas. The graphics are where this is the most immediately apparent, as this game could have definitely taken better advantage of the PS3's capabilities. The art direction, however, is fabulous, with each member of your team wearing an evil clown mask, and different outfits for each heist. (Green Bridge, for example, has all your teammates in raincoats.) The settings are varied and unique: Panic Room's meth house feels like a drug den, the Diamond Heist gives you a beautiful bird's-eye view of the city at night, and the First World Bank captures the atmosphere of a bank perfectly. The problem is that everything is blockier than it should be, and textures aren't as detailed as they could have been. The settings almost feel like they were pulled from a PS2 game, and certainly don't hold a candle to current triple-A titles like Black Ops, Battlefield 3, or Gears of War 3.