Review: PayDay: The Heist (PC)
How well does Overkill Studio’s Heat inspired four player online co-op shooter hold on PC?
At first glance Payday: The Heist sounds like the type of shooter where pre-planning and calculated execution come together in triumphant glory; however, PayDay is a lot more about the shooting dudes part than anything else. Much like other popular four player online co-op shooters, there’s a rough framework of objectives to follow, but a good portion of them feel like checkpoints once you’ve killed enough dudes. Missions boil down into three parts.
In true fashion, each heist begins with the setup, the job, and the escape. Somewhere in between this three step process, men of the law will die bravely in the hundreds. There are only six missions in Payday including First World Bank, Heat Street, Panic Room, Green Bridge, Diamond Heist, and Slaughterhouse. The mission titled Heat almost perfectly resembles the final assault that Robert De Niro and company made across a multiple blocks in the movie Heat. This includes car filled streets for cover and civilians that flee the scene as a hail of gunfire ensues from both sides. Each mission is varied enough in objectives and setting that it avoids repetitiveness, but only for a little while. Only a select number of missions can be played on Easy including the first couple of missions and the last couple of missions immediately start on hard with no option for easy or even normal. As difficulty ranks up, A.I. will simple do more damage and pay more attention directing their fire toward you.
The PC version of the game has options to change keyboard and mouse bindings, but limits graphical options to only what resolution the game can run in. For those looking to set extra AA or MSAA will be disappointed since it’s only a DX 9 game. However, the game looks quite sharp in 1080p and the art direction more importantly is serviceable, but not beyond amazing. What’s more is that finding groups is a bit easier to do making use of Steam PayDay Groups for organizing games. Right now there quite a low amount of players online so taking advantages of Steam features or finding others to play with on forums is what will have to do for now. The max players I’ve seen on a regular weekday afternoon is around 2,000 estimated.
There are only three types of classes to play in this four player co-op game including Assault (raw firepower with weapons, Mark 11, Crosskill .45, Brenner 21), Sharpshooter (a precision based class with weapons, M308, Locomotive 12 Gauge), and Support (“for those that like supporting teammates” with weapons, Brono .44, Compact 5, and Reinbeck). Role is assigned to what package you outfit your character at the beginning of each mission rather than during the mission. Each member has optional load outs along with deploy-able ammo bags to replenish ammo. These bags though are limited in placement and position. Once you’ve deployed a bag that’s it, you can’t move it and once your team has filled up on ammo the bag disappears. This works the same for health packs that restore your base health which is your last line of defense over your regenerating health. This adds an extended layer of strategy, one where you’ll be communicating with your team when to drop the bags and when not to.
As missions carry on, ammo and health become a scarcity for new players on normal and essential for hard and overkill difficulty settings. Overkill is exactly what it is, overkill. The only way to beat these from experience and from watching several other high reputation (level) players is to know exactly where A.I. spawns and to immediately cheese and bottle neck them. As missions progress, hard enemy types with riot shields and annoying tasers start to crawl out of the woodwork which will require one of you to flank. Other missions get interesting when stealth becomes a factor, but it’s an all or nothing affair that is very hard to pull off with random players.
Where Payday truly shines is in the ridiculously hectic, but coordinated four player human co-op sessions. A.I. is atrocious when playing alone, but there is a significant amount of joy when playing with others, especially friends on your Steam list. Occasionally, there’s a low reputation player that will ruin Diamond Heist’s stealth setup, or activate and objective before finishing a side objective that will net the group more cash, but that can be usually communicated before the match.
What Overkill Studio’s churned out feels like game that needed a few more months of development. When taking hostages, shouldn’t there be a ability to hold one by gunpoint or to use as human shields? What if extra modes were added that included “Inside Man,” where one of your members are tasked with turning on the whole crew? What if the objects weren’t simple button presses, but had built in mini hacking games? There are so many what ifs that my head could explode at the possibilities. However, PayDay still by its own merit has solid foundations that make for an enjoyable game, but pales in comparison to what other online co-op shooters offer in variety, modes, or polish that the Left 4 Dead series has set with its high watermark.