Reviewed: October 28, 2011
Released: October 20, 2011
After the genre-altering success of the Left 4 Dead franchise, it is surprising to me that there hasn’t been an explosion of more 4 player online co-op games. I can name a handful that have run with the concept, but not many worth mentioning. Now, with Overkill Software’s new title PAYDAY: The Heist, we can add one more such game to the list of those worth mentioning. |
Imagine a Left 4 Dead style game, only you aren’t fighting zombies. Instead, you’re a group of mask-wearing criminals who are all about sticking it to the man and taking what they want. With the initial release, there are six self-contained missions that take you from robbing a huge downtown bank, a la Heat, escaping from the cops on foot down busy streets, sky-rise diamond heists, prison breaks, and more. Sometimes it’s fun to be the bad guy, and in PAYDAY, you most definitely get to be just that.
The action is fast-paced and intense and keeps you coming back for more. You can unlock a modest assortment of weapons and advance through a huge skill tree that all make the fighting that much more fun each time around. The difficulty of defeating the waves upon waves of enemies lies more in quantity than quality, similar to the zombies of Left 4 Dead, but you’ll face specialty enemies like Tazer officers and Shields, who require a lot of teamwork to take down.
The graphics for the PC are decent. They’re not revolutionary and there aren’t any particularly spectacular effects, but it looks good enough to be considered standard with most other contemporary games. The same goes for the sound effects, though the voice acting is amateurish and rough. You’ll hardly notice the characters talking if you’re playing online with other people using headsets, though, because you’ll be doing plenty of communicating on your own. You can choose to play single player with the other three robbers as bots, but there’s really no point in that unless you’re just doing it to get more familiar with the levels or to increase your “Reputation” to be more effective online.
This game definitely forces you to work as a team if you’re going to succeed. Try going alone into the onslaught of enemies, even in the lower difficulty levels, and you’re lucky if you can live long enough to run out of ammo. You’re going to need the firepower of four and a little bit of thought and coordination to get you through the missions alive, which is the main thing that keeps you coming back in this style of game. I found myself playing the first mission (the bank heist) over and over and over, just trying to get better at it. In fact, if you try the other missions too early, without first leveling up some, you’ll find yourself out-matched and out-gunned in a real hurry.
The other thing that kept me coming back for more is the very detailed and vast skill tree that auto levels as you perform different actions. If you tend to take a lot of head-shots, expect to unlock more of the sharpshooter skills and weapons. If you take a lot of time to make sure your buddies are well supplied and healthy, you’re going to get more options that will help you down that path. Unfortunately, the skill tree is a little confusing. At first, I thought it was entirely action based, but later I learned that you can actually select which of three categories to put points in, you just get more and better skills based on the actions you perform within that category. So, make sure you’re paying attention to which of the three skill trees you’re developing so you can get all the tasty little goodies that fit your playing style.
Along those same lines, expect to have a rough go of it the first few times you play, because you only have access to the most basic weapons and skills. But after you play for an hour or so, you’ll quickly gain enough “Reputation” points to start pulling your weight a little more during the missions. Especially since the skill tree idea isn’t really explained, some people might feel like they are getting stuck because they don’t understand what they’re supposed to be doing.
Beyond this, however, people who enjoy Left 4 Dead will find the gameplay very familiar and easy to get the hang of, and people, who are fans of movies like Heat, Point Break, The Town, etc., will find the types of settings that you are placed in very appealing. The missions will leave you with sweaty hands and a real sense of accomplishment that you got away with something big once the mission is over. And if you play online with strangers, expect to have three new buddies by the time the mission is over, because the strongest bonds are forged in battle.
As far as the online multiplayer goes, I was pleased with the lack of lag and the impressive performance of the game even when there is a lot of action going on. One thing that was a little frustrating about the online community, to no fault of the game itself, was that when I was just starting out and had a relatively low level, I would often get booted from a game by players of higher level as they thought I would not be able to “hang” in their game. Maybe they were doing me a favor, but it sure felt rude at the time. So, just a word of warning to those of you new to the game, expect that some players may not want to play with you until you level up a little bit and can pick up a little more slack.
On top of the game being pretty addicting, with the ability to replay each level over and over without getting boring or repetitive, it’s available on Steam for only $19.99. I usually expect games that are selling for that cheap to either be a few years old, or to be second-rate games, but PAYDAY is neither of these things. With other titles like BF3 and MW3 all being released around the same time, maybe the people at Overkill knew they had to do something to draw some attention. Well, if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative or just something other than your typical FPS, then you really won’t go wrong with PAYDAY.
Bottom line, it might not have all the bells and whistles that the blockbuster FPS games that are being released, but it doesn’t have the same price tag, either. And you’ll definitely get a lot of bang for your buck with this game. You could even say...it’s a steal!