It’s easy to look at Payday: The Heist and pick-up all of its obvious stylistic comparisons to the 1995 classic film Heat. Lines of dialogue, to the fast rhythmic drums that overlay each heist are so similar to the film that Michael Mann could sue if he really wanted to. But I would argue that if you’re looking for some sort of inspiration for your heist game, then choosing one of the greatest heist films of all time is definitely a great place to start. And count me in. It would certainly help if the game is good too, though. And thankfully, Payday: The Heist is a thrilling first person shooter with only minor, yet sometimes glaring shortcomings.
Payday: The Heist consists of 6 different heist missions. You and a squad of 3 others, each with their own clichéd heist-man name, go into some dangerous situations hoping to score some cheddar. The heists themselves are nicely varied, though perhaps a tad unimaginative. You’ll rob a bank of course. And another heist has you going into a drug deal, though you’re not there for the drugs. Each heist has you complete a series of objectives that eventually end with you making a clean getaway.
There aren’t many objectives to complete, but they do take some time. These heists can last as long as 30 minutes and then some. Strategy is important. Making sure you’ve tied down some hostages and hold them under your control will allow you to trade them in the event one of your squad members gets captured. Positioning to attack is equally as important, as you’ll never really know which direction the cops may be coming in next. The objectives themselves aren’t all that thrilling, and mostly involve you going from point A to B, and then sometimes back to point A.
You can complete each of these heists solo, with teammate AI, or go online and play through them cooperatively. Though the game lacks any sort of competitive mode, coop is how you’ll want to play the game. The teammate AI is capable enough, but it’s the enemy AI that’s really the problem. It never really feels as if the cops are gunning for your team, but rather just you. On top of that, they attack and spawn randomly, making for some frustrating occurrences were you’ve cleared out a room behind you, only to have it be swarming with cops just moments later.
This results in a lack of flow and progression. It makes things chaotic, and begins to draw your attention away from the objectives. Though the way in which they attack may be different every time via the games AI director, it never takes into account your progression through the heist itself. Instead of feeling as though you really are in the middle of an actual heist, everything comes across as just an industrial warzone. In an actual hostage situation, it’s hard to believe that the cops would just come blasting through the front door with out some sort of negotiation process. From the moment the heist begins it feels like everything is already out of control, which what a heist is basically. But it’s out of control from the get go, and you never really have the opportunity to lose it. This is why playing the game cooperatively with your friends is the way to go. Being able coordinate and strategize on the fly rather than relying on your AI teammates really changes the dynamic feel of the game for the better, and makes for some really thrilling and tense moments.
Aside from the 6 heists available, there isn’t a whole lot more to do other than complete the long laundry list of challenges and unlock the various weapons, upgrades and perks. Through each heists you can assign your player perks, such as thick skin, which gives you a little extra health, or extra ammo, and better accuracy to name a few. You can do this through 3 separate classes, and you progress through reputation, which is your basic leveling system. These classes: Assault, sharpshooter, and support, are specific to your play style and can be changed at any time, even right in the middle of a fire fight. You can also choose to level each character a different way. One guy can be your medic, while another stands back as a sharpshooter, picking enemies off one by one. This allows you to create a heist team from the ground up however you see fit. It’s a unique take that can have dramatic effect on how the AI director challenges you, and how you complete each task.
Though Payday lacks any sort of narrative story, it does at least look and play well. It’s one of the better looking downloadable games, though perhaps not the most polished. Gun handling feels right, and in the competitive market of first person shooters, it plays above average. Payday doesn’t reinvent the wheel, who’s to say that it really has to. Some of you will be done with the game after completing all 6 missions, and as a result, $20 might be a bit too high. But for those perfectionists who need to complete everything, and want to see how differently each heist can play out just by simply altering your play style, then $20 is a bargin. Try it out. Payday: The Heist is out now on the PlayStation Store.