Game Rant's Anthony Mole reviews PAYDAY: The Heist
It's easy to knock a game for its lack of originality - but what if sticking to a successful format actually works? One only needs to take a quick glance at PAYDAY: The Heist and brush it off as "Left 4 Dead meets a generic heist film."
Though in this case, the issue here isn't PAYDAY's inability to hide its influences, it's the fact that all of the great gameplay is hidden beneath some truly frustrating technical issues.
Simply put, PAYDAY: The Heist is a game best played with friends. Anyone who has played Left 4 Dead in the past knows the joy of screaming at friends while trying to escape a seemingly never ending horde of zombies. PAYDAY is built off of the same mentality, nothing really compares to getting a good team together and fighting off forces that are hell-bent on stopping the player from making off with a huge payout (whether it be cash, diamonds, or gold). To combat this problem, players can call out enemy types (made useful when players find themselves up against elite enemies such as the Bulldozer, a heavily armored shotgun wielding police officer). Gamers can also drop ammo or medical bags to help support the team. In short, team play is a huge factor in PAYDAY. If players are running around without coordination, they'll find the game over screen will come up fast, a lesson made especially true on the harder difficulties.
There are a total of six heists for players to take part in, and thankfully they are all very unique. The first mission has players engage in the average day bank heist, whereas the Green Bridge mission focuses on releasing a convict from custody. Despite the fact that there are only six missions, there is enough variety to be worth the basic price. Even when replaying heists, items aren't always located in the same areas. Key items are shifted around, with one example being a computer in the First World Bank level. Players who attempt to use prior knowledge of the map layout will often find that items, such as the aforementioned computer, will change locations. Key objectives and items are also highlighted in yellow, meaning players will never find themselves mindlessly walking around a level searching for an object that barely stands out.
PAYDAY also has a very deep leveling system. Players will level up for killing enemies and completing objectives - and can even earn more cash (PAYDAY's take on experience points) by completing challenges. There are countless challenges and levels for players to achieve, as well as plenty of unlocks, such as new weaponry. The leveling system itself should keep players invested in the game. Coupled with the dynamic levels mentioned earlier, and gamers will hardly find themselves bored with PAYDAY: the Heist.
Unfortunately, there is one draw back to the leveling system. Each of the four playable characters falls under a certain class (Assault, Sharpshooter or Support), and because only one character is playable at a time, it means that players may not always get to pick the class they want. While this doesn't have a dramatic effect on the leveling system, it can be troublesome - as there are three trophies that are class specific.
The game isn't pretty either. The graphics get the job done but look like 'late 2006' - as opposed to 'late 2011.' There's also a couple visual glitches present in the game: in one instance, while playing the Slaughterhouse mission. two vehicles are supposed to ram into each other - however, one time, the first car actually acted as if it had been hit before the other vehicle had even started moving. The glitches aren't game breaking but definitely affect immersion - and, in general, the game could have benefited from a bit more polish.
That said, for a shooter, PAYDAY's actual firing mechanics are a letdown. The shooting isn't as fluid as other console shooters - and it can take a couple of heists to adjust to the playstyle. This issue presumably wouldn't be an issue on the PC version where the mouse offers more precision - but on consoles it can cause some annoyances. Once players have mastered shooting - the game play works well enough and does provide some decent replay value.
Speaking of the PC version, it is pretty clear that PAYDAY was made with the PC in mind. On the PS3 version, players can join online games by browsing a server list - which is actually a major pain. Due to PAYDAY's small player count - 4 people per game - severs fill up fast, meaning most of the time players will find themselves engaged in a meta-game, by which they are constantly competing against other users to see who can join the server first. What this leads to is the "error game is already full, please find another" screen appearing so many times it's enough to make even those most interested gamers give up. Players can avoid this problem by hosting their own game, but for those who have mediocre or unstable internet connections, or just not a lot of time on their hands, it's a major inconvenience. The problem could easily have been alleviated if Overkill had thrown in a matchmaking option, one that's pretty much standard in all online-enabled console games.
The game also has one unforgivable problem for a modern online title - no host migration. This issue is mostly prevalent when a player joins a game with an impatient host. It's not uncommon for a downed host to leave the game because they're so fed up of waiting, which of course causes other players to disconnect. It's pretty frustrating to refresh the server list for five to ten minutes, and finally find a game only to have the host disconnect. The fact that Overkill didn't take all of this into account is disheartening - especially considering just how common place these features have become.
PAYDAY: The Heist really is a great game, but unfortunately the experience is marred by a variety of technical issues. It's definitely one of the better downloadable titles out there, and as addictive as the game may be, the matchmaking issues prevent it from reaching its true potential. For players who can get three other friends together, the experience is definitely worth the price of admission - since they'll just by-pass the server list altogether. For everyone else, fingers crossed that Overkill releases a patch to fix these issues.
PAYDAY: The Heist is now available on the PSN and Steam - our review was based on the PS3 version of the game.
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