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Payday: The Heist (PC) Review – Guns, Banks, and Criminals!

Updated Tue, Oct 25, 2011 by jeffprime

payday: the heist review

Everyone played Cops and Robbers when they were kids, and it always seemed more fun to me to be the bad guy. When Ten Ton Hammer previewed PAYDAY: The Heist at E3, it immediately went on my radar as a game to look forward to. Who doesn’t imagine being a criminal mastermind, pulling off spectacular heists, ala Heat? While I’m a law-abiding citizen in real life, it’s always fun to speculate what if. Now PAYDAY: The Heist is here and the crime spree can begin.

In PAYDAY: The Heist, you choose to play one of four different criminals who are attempting to make a big score in a variety of scenarios. There are six different scenarios ranging from a bank robbery to stealing from drug dealers to being paid to free a prisoner from a police convoy. You gain reputation as you fight your way through the scenarios, which you can use to unlock upgrades for your criminal. The scenarios have a number of objectives that must be fulfilled in order to finish the scenario, and there are multiple difficulty settings for each. PAYDAY is a first-person shooter that can be played single player or co-op with three additional friends. The experience varies wildly between the two.

payday: the heist review
Street shootout!

Cautions

PAYDAY: The Heist is rated M for Mature. It features: blood, drug reference, intense violence, and strong language. It’s not made for Little Timmy to play.

Gameplay

60Below AverageMost of the comments that I’m going to make about gameplay apply to the single player experience, but a few items are general to the overall game experience, be it single player or co-op. I will discuss co-op play in the Multiplayer section of the review. While I find the concept for PAYDAY: The Heist intriguing and one that really pulls at my imagination, there are a number of problems with the gameplay.

First, the game does a really bad job with the learning curve. You are literally thrown into the deep end of the pool and are expected to swim. A little tutorial with some explanations would be nice. There are three categories that you can upgrade in: assault, sharpshooter, and support. Each has different upgrades that are very valuable to you to make you a better bad-ass criminal. However, there’s no explanation of how to choose which path to take. I had to google the information on how to switch from one upgrade path to another.

payday: the heist review
It's all about the benjamins.

The AI for your teammates (if you’re playing solo) is bad. While they do a decent job of covering you and helping you if you get dropped, they cannot do any of the objectives in the scenario or do little things like shoot out camera. This leaves you to do all the heavy pulling. They will stay by your side even if you’re trying to watch the left side of the room and it would be beneficial for them to watch the right. Most times, if a cop drops you and they come to help you up, they just sit there taking shot after shot from the cop standing five feet away from them. Very rarely will they shoot the cop first and then help you.

Another problem area is hostage taking. If a member of your crew gets captured by the police, you can trade a hostage to them in exchange for your buddy to come back. However, there is no way for you to order hostages to move to another area. You can only tell them to stop and lie down where they are. I’ve had quite a few times where I’ve had one of my cohorts captured. While I had hostages, they were usually in an area where I would have had to fight through dozens of SWAT to get to them in order to make the trade. The bank scenario is one that can be frustrating as that most of the people you can take hostage are in the lobby.

The objectives within the scenario can become infuriating, especially if you’re solo. Usually you will have to use a saw or drill on an item, but while you spent a bundle of fancy weapons and body armor, apparently you decided to buy your tools from the dollar store instead of an industrial warehouse. Be prepared to run back and forth, dodging bullets all the time, to re-start some damned tool that has stopped working.

payday: the heist review
Stupid drill! I knew we shouldn't have shopped at the dollar store!

The basic setting for the scenarios is actually pretty tough. There is no easy button here. While I kind of like that the basic difficulty is harder than normal, it can get frustrating due to several reasons. The longer you take to do the objectives, the more cops will come to try to stop you. While there is a smattering of cops normally, the police will mount a series of assaults where hordes of cops will come in from every conceivable (and inconceivable) direction. There are normal cops, SWAT, and special units such as the Bulldozer. My most hated foe is the cop with that damn tazer, which has a good range and messes up your vision while paralyzing you. On an average heist, my crew and I probably drop around two hundred cops.

Other pluses to the gameplay include the variety of scenarios and the minimalist UI. The different scenarios are interesting and provide a varied game experience. In addition, the UI is clean and utilitarian. Interacting with hostages and items is simple: just use the F key. As you play each scenario, there is tension from beginning to end, without any letdown. You’re constantly on your toes; there really is no downtime while you’re playing PAYDAY: The Heist. In fact, you can’t even pause the game (which is not a plus – hope you don’t get an important phone call!).

Overall, there are good elements in the gameplay, but items such as computer teammate stupid AI, not being able to move hostages, having cops come out of places where they really shouldn’t be, and having to constantly check on drills and saws drags down the gameplay, especially if you’re playing single player.

Graphics

70OkayThe graphics in PAYDAY: The Heist are adequate. While there is nice detail to the environments, you can tell that this game is a console port. The character animations can be stiff for most models. For example, hostages don’t fluidly hit the floor when you yell at them. They crouch and then…presto…they’re on the floor. There are also clipping issues. Overall, the graphics aren’t terrible, but nothing stands out.

payday: the heist review
Robbing some drug dealer.

Sound

70OkayJust like the visuals, the sound in PAYDAY: The Heist is adequate. Your teammates yell and curse while the police band is buzzing. The music does a decent job of keeping the tension going. The firearm sounds are rather lackluster and could have been done with a bigger bang (pun intended).

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