(Originally posted on the now defunct Blistered Thumbs user forum.)
Payday: The Heist takes a concept made popular by Valve’s Left 4 Dead series, changes the setting, and tries something new by tweaking a proven formula. Does Payday pay off?
PROS: Nice level design. Random elements to missions keep them from stagnating.
CONS: High difficulty even on easy. Only six stages. One trick pony.
WTF?: You’ll be using the “Don’t tase me bro” meme faster than you can say Devo.
To say that Payday: The Heist is similar to Left 4 Dead is an understatement. As in L4D, four players attempt to accomplish mission objectives. Before the endless wave of enemies can take them out of action, causing the mission to fail.
Payday does have a few of it’s own small nuances that make for an interesting alternative to the series it borrows from. The most obvious of these is the change in setting, and characters. Instead of yet another Romero inspired zombie theme, Payday takes it’s cues from media about the outlaw who goes down with guns blazing. As in films like Heist, Payday: The Heist is a four player co-operative shooter in which together you will attempt to rob banks, steal jewels, and more throughout six stages. Within each stage there will be several objectives you have to accomplish in order to get your loot.
For instance, in the bank stage you will first have to find the manager to get a keycard in order to get into a room to find equipment needed to break into a vault area. At another point you will have to erase security footage off of a computer, and even burn a hole in the floor above the vault to get to the money. Even after you do this there is still the matter of escaping the bank with the money.
Payday also mixes up things by changing around certain elements during each play through.
The bank manager for instance, is never in the same place twice in a row. The computer you need to erase could be in a different room every time. This does keep the game from becoming an exercise in trial, and error.
Obviously since there are no zombies, and you will be playing world infamous bank robbers, the enemies in this game will be the police. The police do tend to follow a similar train of thought as the zombies of L4D. Eventually within the hordes of police officers, and S.W.A.T members you will see higher grade, harder to kill authorities. Some are armored cops with tasers. Some have more potent guns. They also get more creative with how they spawn in. Rather than simply appearing, the game will give dramatic entrances. They may drop from helicopters. They may come in through elevator shafts. Some drop through ceilings a la Sam Fisher.
Shooting security cams reduces some of the heat, but even the most astute to details can find themselves ambushed.
As in L4D, when you are taken down by enemies friends can run over to help you up, heal you, or resupply you. But it is here you will notice that Payday is much more difficult to survive in than in Valve’s zombie shooter. Even on the easiest settings you will find finishing the missions very difficult, and most of the stages are not available on the lower difficulty settings. While it is true that this will add almost a feeling of pride when you do succeed in getting away, this may turn off more easygoing players. This shouldn’t deter you from at least trying the game as there is a demo. But although realistic in the sense that four robbers have very small odds against the large number of police who would show up to thwart a large scale crime, the difficulty may annoy some.
You will want friends to play with too because while the AI is adequate, It still doesn’t do enough to simulate on the fly tactics needed to survive the missions. Computer controlled bot players may have improved aim, and do work as human shields for your escape (Once I had the money I set my C4, and ran toward the end while they fought off the cops) it isn’t as satisfying. This is really a game designed to be played with friends, or at the very least other people. One can try to do the missions without any AI help in single player mode, but this is absolute suicide. Few if any of your typical game player will be able to finish these missions without bots, or teammates covering them.
All of this said Payday is creative in it’s respawn system. If you do get subdued by the authorities, and your friends are still in it long enough, eventually you can be “Freed” from prison in exchange for a setback on your current mission. The screen art when you fail as a team is also amusing.
Speaking of visuals Payday is neither breathtaking nor is it completely terrible. The graphics look nice enough where you won’t complain, and it moves along at a nice pace. Nitpickers may gripe over some textures or the sparse clipping glitch. But on the whole it gets the job done, conveying what needs to be conveyed. The masks you can choose from during heists are also quite fun.
Payday also has a weapon tree, so dedicated players may want to excel in order to see how much more effective they are. There are also Steam achievements, and PS3 trophies to be had for the absolutely devoted.
Like the graphics, sound does what it needs to do. Guns sound fine enough, voice acting fits the experience nicely enough. Again, nothing that will blow your mind, but nothing you’ll be bothered to whine about either.
On the whole, Payday: The Heist is worth the price of admission provided you have three friends willing to play it with you. For fans of Left 4 Dead or it’s sequel who are feeling burned out on zombie themed video games it’s worthy of a look, as well as shooter or action game fans who want a break from the usual military game fare.
The short length, and high difficulty curve however make a pretty nice alternative into something that may not content gamers with short tempers.
Final Score: 7 out of 10. (Try it out!)