PAYDAY: The Heist Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

PAYDAY: The Heist Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Bad Guys Have All The Fun

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.

PAYDAY: The Heist Screenshot

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.

PAYDAY: The Heist Screenshot

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.

PAYDAY: The Heist Screenshot

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.

Also, while the music in the game is fantastic, setting the perfect mood for committing felonies, the voice acting tends to fall flat at times. The fact that each character in the game has a unique accent makes them instantly recognizable, but the way lines are delivered can be almost silly, making it hard to take seriously. And the sound effects won’t offend, but a lot of the guns sound weaker than they should, especially if you are used to any of the big-name shooters on the market.

Another flaw is with the A.I., a fairly common complaint whenever a real-life player is teamed with an A.I. partner. Now, the A.I. isn’t horrible, by any means. In fact, if you happen to go down, your A.I. teammates will make it their top priority to revive you. The only problem is that if you play solo, with A.I. in place of your three partners, you will be doing everything yourself. Besides shooting at the police, your teammates won’t offer you any help whatsoever when it comes to completing objectives.

PAYDAY: The Heist Screenshot

Now, one other thing I would have liked to see fine-tuned a little more is the controls. Sure, they’re pretty close to the Call of Duty control scheme—which is a pretty great setup, if you ask me—but custom button mapping would have been appreciated. Also, look sensitivity is adjustable (something that’s pretty much essential in an FPS these days) yet this is done in increments, so it’s nearly impossible to hit that “sweet spot” where it feels just right. It’s always either too sensitive or not sensitive enough.

While these flaws may hold the game back from its massive potential, they never render it unplayable or even unfun. In fact, PAYDAY provides almost nonstop heart-pounding action through six scenarios that are very replayable. With a 145-level progression system, each level unlocking something new, this is a game you’ll spend a lot of time with.

PAYDAY: The Heist is an insanely enjoyable game that more than makes up for its lack of polish with its devilish charm. It’s worth every penny of the twenty-dollar asking price.

This almost looks like a PS2 game. 3.9 Control
A version of the typical Call of Duty control scheme, but I wish there were more in the way of customization. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is great. Voice acting falters from time to time, and some of the sounds don’t feel exactly right. 4.8 Play Value
Six insane, adrenaline-pumping heists allowing you to work your way up a level system with 145 tiers. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Six High-Intensity Heists: Whether you’re blowing the roof off a building to extract a safe via helicopter or emptying the vault at the First World Bank, these action-packed heists will have players on edge and always checking their six.
  • Interactive Co-op Gameplay: Whether A.I. or live, your crew of four must operate as one to bring get the “big score.” Sharing extra ammo and med kits, helping regen wounded partners, guarding key positions, taking civilian hostages, or cracking through various security measures—it’s all for one and one for all.
  • Endless Replayability: Dynamic environments, adaptive enemy behavior, shifting entry points, FBI agents repelling down on ropes through the skylights, SWAT teams crashing through the windows, and special units crawling through the ventilation shafts makes each play-through of every heist a unique fight.
  • Massive Character Progression Tree: Players choose a specialty—assault, sharpshooter, or support—to gain weapons and equipment that fit their preferred form of violence. Unlock trip mines, silenced pistols, machine guns, and much, much more.

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