If you have ever seen the movie Heat, then you know the intensity that can come from that type of scenario. Developer Overkill Software and Sony Online Entertainment are aiming to recreate that with their latest release PayDay: The Heist. Think Left 4 Dead, but instead of killing zombies, you are robbing banks, freeing prisoners or attempting a diamond heist. This downloadable co-op endeavor definitely has a unique feel, but is held back by lack of direction and a worthless single player mode. Still, if you have the friends and the time, this is one solid experience.
PayDay is a $20 package that enforces cooperative play. It is available on PSN and PC, if you prefer that format, and if you are not playing with friends, don’t bother. The game hosts six missions, all of which are varied enough to keep things interesting, granted you have the right crew to play with. You see, the game requires multiple people to handle multiple tasks. For example, in the bank robbery, you need someone to collect items, one to manage the hostages and the police, while the others get to the vault. Requiring AI controlled bots to do this becomes nothing more than an exercise in frustration.
There are so many variables per level that replaying them only makes them more dynamic.The game contains a vast leveling system that is never explained or hinted at. There is a tree that is divided into three specific classes, all of which carry their own strengths to the team. You can also classes anytime you want by pressing the select button, something else the game never tells you. Each class levels based on which one you are playing, unlocking new items, bonuses and weapons. Again, this system is extremely deep, with 145 levels in total, but the game never bothers to inform you of its deepest feature.
Once you grasp the system, the game opens up, and I could see myself conquering all classes and areas multiple times just because of how dynamic the leveling is. There are tons of ways to customize your crew, and if you get a group that plays consistently together, it becomes like a hobby. Think of it as crime without consequence. This is where PayDay pays off, so to speak. This of course means that voice chat is a must, and unfortunately, online experiences vary on this aspect. Gamers think that headsets are not needed for team-based games. Well, in this case, if you get in a game where someone isn’t wearing one, you might as well quit.
As far as basic shooting aesthetics are concerned, PayDay plays just fine, if not a bit stilted. Weapons feel off at times, and the ammo count in the beginning is paltry. I wish there were more options from the outset, but that is half the fun of the leveling system, and most people will gloss over it entirely. Enemies come in many forms and, not to beat a dead horse, feel similar to the special creatures in Left 4 Dead. You can call them out by simply aiming at them and tapping the R2 button. The rest feels like vanilla shooter, and works well enough to not be a hindrance.
Visually, the game is not bad when considering it is a $20 downloadable game. The six environments all feel unique, and each one constructed with great game play in mind. The animations can feel stiff at times, and some of the effects are iffy at best, but this is one solid looking game. Voice work is excellent, from some truly terrified sounds from your hostages to the commanding vocals of the officers. Gun noise is a bit limited, but the music gets your blood pumping just like you were acting out a scene in a movie.
PayDay is a great game that trips over its own design flaws. Better explanation of objectives and leveling up would have done wonders for the title. If you have three friends dedicated to playing it, you could engulf yourself for quite a while, and with DLC promised, the game has plenty to offer for the price. However, if you are intending to go it alone, I recommend checking out the demo first. There just isn’t enough here to occupy a solo player thanks to spotty AI partners. One of the more original ideas for a shooter just slightly stumbles to find its way, but if you meet the right criteria, you will undoubtedly have a blast.
Review copy provided by publisher.