Take a little bit of the bank heist from the movie Heat with the non-stop, shoot-’em-up onslaught of Left 4 Dead and you get the underdog title of 2011, Payday: The Heist.
It’s an ambitious title that melds a whole lot of alternative game types and throws in a few new gameplay elements to make something not as original as it is raucously fun.
But to get to the fun, you’ve got to saddle in with three other players and wade through a sea of pathetically droning AI, tedious repetition and a limited repertoire of levels that dip in design on an exponent.
The grand opening drops you outside of a bank with three other suited partners on a casual, sunny day. When you stroll into the main entrance, security guards patrolling and employees and patrons blissfully unaware of the impending fan-meets-faecal-matter moment to come, you’re prompted to begin the heist.
You and your partners in crime slap on creepy clown masks, whip out shotguns, assault rifles and pistols, and, in a distinctly Jason Statham British accent (the best kind for a bank heist), scream and swear at everyone to get down on the ground as the action kicks off.
The graphics aren’t exactly a kicker compared to the rest of the FPS landscape around now, but the immediate carousing of bullets, screams and barked orders throttle the action into high gear very quickly and takes centre stage.
It’s an opening reminiscent of the intro to The Dark Knight, and this fact alone got me hyped for this game. As the game pressed on though, the expectations turned to disappointment. Payday throws countless security guards, cops and SWAT teams at you and your team as you try to break into vaults, hack computers and steal some valuable goodies, but it quickly descends into tedium.
The enemy AI lacks the I, and will stand in plain sight waiting to be shot as they spray bullets straight past your team mates and at you if you’re not behind cover. As lambs to the slaughter they act as bullet fodder that keeps the action pumping but also keeps it dry.
There are quite a few little details scattered through the game that make it an original, fun take on the shoot-’em-up genre and make up for some of the shortcomings. As you make a heist, you can scream orders at civilians to stay down and cable tie some as hostages. Police will constantly be trying to extract the civilians, so as you’re completing general objectives you have to be constantly vigilant across the stage to make sure civilians aren’t running loose. In the event that you or a teammate are shot down and taken into custody, you can instantly trade a hostage for your man back (who the police proceed to send back in, masked and armed. Clever).
The mini objectives that come along the way as waves of incompetent police periodically storm into each map make this a blood-pumping title that’ll keep you on your toes. It’s most fun with other people though, either online or, better yet, via LAN, since the team-mate AI isn’t the best either.
Payday: The Heist is probably a game you haven’t heard of, and it’s for good reason. It’s an ambitious title that could’ve been great, but some outdated gameplay elements that borrow from tactical shooters like old Rainbow Six games and newer spawn-kill titles like Left 4 Dead don’t deliver on the limited stretch of campaign.