A team-based game focused on high crime, "PAYDAY: The Heist" delivers exactly what it says on the tin with a reasonable amount of competence.
Best described as "Left 4 Dead meets Kane & Lynch", "PAYDAY: The Heist" is (as its name suggests) a game about theft. This includes bank robberies, armored car attacks, convoy ambushes, and even a "Heat"-inspired running gun battle through busy streets. While the scenarios vary wildly, there's a basic general concept: you're a team of four guys who have to complete objectives in an area while warding off incoming police assaults. In some missions, you may have to defend a drill while it opens a vault. In others, you may have to set up C4 to blow a safe open. Each scenario has multiple stages, so your team will be constantly on the move.
There are three "classes" in the game: assault, sharpshooter, and support. While the difference between them is at first only the guns they use, as you complete missions you'll level up each class and earn more benefits. However, there's not really a system where you pick and choose your benefits: it's straight up "higher level = better", with no balances at all.
One major aspect of the game's "crime" theme is the hostage concept. Civilians litter each level; shooting them causes police to act more aggressively, but they can be shouted down and ziptied to be used as hostages. If a player-character is caught by the police, they can be traded for a hostage, so in a sense hostages act as "extra lives". However, the police will also be trying to rescue the hostages, so maintaining control of them is critical.
The game's graphics look okay for a mid-budget shooter. The sound is too weak - gunfire noises are soft and piddly, and doesn't really convey the intensity that it should. The controls could also use some work, being not quite as responsive as it seems like they should be. Neither of these really detracts from the experience, but they definitely prevent it from reaching its full potential, especially considering how common modern shooters are.
What's basically most interesting about this game is its core concept of "you're in a centralized area, complete objectives, manage hostages, and resist police assaults". The game's general tempo is great: you're running around on this map constantly under pressure from the police, and periodically they'll send in tougher waves with special enemies like the "Bulldozer" (a super-armored SWAT trooper), "Shield" (a trooper with a riot shield, naturally), and "Cloaker" (a stealthy spec-ops type). Police will use smoke to mask their movements, as well, making them a bit more intelligent than common video game goons (but not much, since they still run en masse into your bullets).
Overall, PAYDAY's not a bad pickup for $20. You might breeze through its content quickly and get bored of it, but it's not meant to be a full experience, it's meant to be a simple but effective formula that people can play with friends. Still, some general tuning up in the mechanical aspects of the game might have helped. I award it an 8/10 (for its price range, at least).
This game was purchased with our own funds for the purpose of doing this review.
Buy Payday: The Heist from Amazon.com