A Day Late and a Dollar Short
HIGH Guys in creepy clown masks doing what it takes to get the dough.
LOW Repetitive, repetitive, repetitive.
WTF Haven't I seen every aspect of this game in a movie before?
I've been a crime and gangster movie buff for as long as I can remember, in part thanks to the sort of illegal excitement that no rational human being would undertake in real life. There's always a dastardly, clever plan, and in almost every one of these movies, a miscreant crew uses violence, coercion, and any other means necessary to achieve their goal—usually obtaining an absurd amount of money. Overkill Software and I appear to share a penchant for these kinds of movies, as made evident by their new game, Payday: The Heist.
This third-person shooter features four characters—Dallas, Hoxton, Chains and Wolf. In terms of ability, none of the characters differ from each other, it's accents and voices that set them apart. The other differences are their unique creepy clown masks, the kind that they come straight out of a horror movie instead of the circus.
While Payday's missions range from robbing an armored car to lifting an entire room from a meth lab, the small objectives to be completed in each map are usually the same: the player and their team of three other masked villains enter an area, pick up explosives/saws/drills/whatever ancillary device is needed to complete the robbery, fend off hordes of police, and then shoot some people in the process. Hostages taken by the player's team can be traded to the police for comrades who have been downed during the robbery.
The game is primarily designed to be a multiplayer experience. Because of this, singleplayer mode can become a hassle since the AI team members don't play very intelligently. A lot like the AI team members in the Left 4 Dead series (commonly complained about by many) computer-controlled companions often scurry off on their own, often leaving the player stranded. The AI players are also incapable of picking up mission-critical objects like saws, explosives or drills. This leaves the sole human fending for themselves, doing all the hard work, and hoping that one of the teammates comes by to help in case of bullet-induced incapacitation.
Another major annoyance I had with the game was trying to figure out where it was I was supposed to be going at any particular moment. Payday: The Heist has a navigation arrow directing players to where the next objective is, but it doesn't take any of the level's architecture into account. Players will find themselves running into walls before realizing the objective is actually three stories above the current location. While I don't expect the game to hold my hand, it would be nice to know where I'm headed. Likewise, a map function (missing from gameplay) would have also been a much appreciated feature.
Adding to the game's irritants, the aiming and shooting mechanics feel rough and unpolished at times. While the dual thumbstick system works on almost all modern FPSs, the controls for Payday: The Heist seem like a throwback to the days before console developers had them nailed down. Movement itself also feels inaccurate and slightly disorienting. The fluidity and finesse of the controls in shooters like Call of Duty or Battlefield is definitely absent from Payday: The Heist.
I was also frustrated that no matter the gun, I always seemed to run out of ammunition too quickly. To compensate, I found myself using my AI counterparts as meat shields, or by ducking behind objects to take quick, cheap shots in an effort to conserve rounds while my teammates took all of the damage. Likewise, other supplies in the game seemed to run out in a hurry, which was a nuisance. Many times I'd find myself running up and down flights of stairs to retrieve the same object over and over, or running back to the same spot repeatedly. For some unknown reason, your character is only able to carry one charge of explosives (or any other mission crucial object) at a time.
My final issue with Payday: The Heist is that was dang near impossible to find anyone online to try out the multiplayer! Anytime people were online, the servers never allowed a full connection, matches wouldn't connect in a reasonable amount of time, or in most cases, at all. Once I did connect to a match, the lag issues were rather high, and would sometimes drop 30 seconds into a match. I can understand that issue with a game like Gears of War 3 where millions of people worldwide were trying to log on multiplayer modes at the same time, but in this case there were maybe fifty people visible online. Despite such a small number, the online servers couldn't keep us connected long enough to get a proper game in.
Despite all these issues, Payday: The Heist isn't all bad. At its heart, the game is a simple, entertaining first person shooter with missions that don't usually take more than an hour. Thanks to the objectives and missions, it offers more than just mindless slaughter of person vs. person. For me, a sense of purpose is always nice in an FPS, since it can separate a good one from being just another arcade-like experience. That said, it's the kind of game that's almost there, but still missing just a little something. I do enjoy a good crime heist, but like my mom's cooking, it needs just a little more spice to it.
—by Mike Deneen
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS3. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode and was completed. 0 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes. (As no one was ever online!)
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood, drug reference, intense violence and strong language. Strong language and intense violence are what make up the core of this game, while blood and drug references are not nearly as prevalent. Still, not a game your kids should be playing.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: This game offers subtitles and visual cues as to where you need to go, or what you need to do. However, there are no visual indicators for when the player is under fire.
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