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HANDS-ON: Payday – The Heist

Posted on September 25, 2011 AT 01:05pm

Say “hi” to the bad guys

When it comes to epic Hollywood shootouts, few instances of unleashed ammo eclipse the epic bank robbery exodus in Michael Mann’s 1995 crime thriller Heat. And while Payday: The Heist is a bit late to the party to be an officially licensed game, sitting down with Overkill Software’s downloadable dose of co-op cops and robbers, you can’t help but get the sense that the inspiration from classic stick ‘em ups of this ilk had a heavy had in the game’s creation, but rather than thrust you into the role of the law-abiding do-gooder, The Heist is all about unleashing your inner bad guy as you rob and mob your way through 6 unique jobs on a path to certain infamy.

A PSN title that will be playable with up to 3 other digital degenerates, Payday is anything but your everyday shooter, offering the opportunity to engage in wholesome activities like springing prisoners, jacking drug dealers, stealing precious stones and breaking into bank vaults with all the style and seediness you’d expect from a piece of classic cinema. During our recent play-through at the Fantastic Arcade, part the annual Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX we had an opportunity to take the First National Bank to task for a taste of what Payday was all about, and man, were we impressed.

Walking up the steps, our crew began the mission by scoping out the scene, a necessary endeavor as one of The Heist’s hallmarks is a dynamic mission structure that shifts certain aspects of the objective before each episode begins. Locations of key characters and objectives change slightly each go ’round, so we spent a brief bit of time noting the position of civilians and the bank’s security team.

Each mission will also require you to manage certain elements to help increase your chances of success, and no sooner than we took down the bank manager and started to drill past the security gate to gain access to the vault, the fuzz arrived and forced us to keep the crowd inside from oozing out and removing our tactical advantage. Thankfully, you can use R2 to force civis to the ground and you can also gain a leg up by shooting out security cameras, blinding authorities to your movements when the true siege begins.

And man, does it get heavy. As we mentioned earlier, you can play with up to 3 friends in Payday, but we were also able to put the game’s AI teammates to the test during our sampling, and they were surprisingly effective against the waves of standard police, FBI agents, SWAT operatives and bomb squad bad asses in nigh-impenetrable body armor that attempt to slow your progress.

Each wave is progressively more difficult, as the opposition goes from simple shootout tactics to dropping in from elevator shafts, throwing smoke grenades, and positioning snipers in an effort to throw you off your game, each approaching their task with the same dynamic decision making that shapes each mission, which definitely keeps you and your team on their toes.

Thankfully, the gun game in Payday was remarkably tight, and you’re able to unlock new loadouts in three unique disciplines as you play, which should help even the odds as you progress. Players can choose between three specialties (assault, sharpshooter, or support), each with their own set of unlockable goodies that will enhance your play style of choice. With everything from bigger guns to silencers to trip mines, we expect these will a solid dose of replay value in their own right.

After all was said and done, it was pretty clear that The Heist is going to be something special. We busted into the back of the bank, burnt a hole in the vault and shot our way out of a host of hostiles, blowing a hole in the side of the bank into a nearby building until we finally managed to sneak out in the back of a garbage truck. It wasn’t pretty, but holy s***, was it ever fun. Considering it was one of 6 dynamic missions, with even more promised via DLC post-release, Payday looks like the real deal. At the very least, it has a solid shot at being much more than a homage to the likes of Point Break and The Town.

PARTING SHOT: Due out October 4th, Payday: The Heist is one of the most intriguing releases we’ve played this fall. A welcome departure for military march of the average shooter that makes a lot of solid decisions on the design front, it’s clear that this one could start a much-needed revolution in co-op gaming and we can’t wait to play more.

Brandon Justice, Executive Editor
Brandon Justice spent the last 17 years in the game industry wearing hats as an annoying retail weasel, an overly opinionated journalist, and game-development ninja—until he got tired of the all the caviar and groupies, returning to the ring as a rowdy, rambling writer in 2010 for EGM Media. Follow him on Twitter @jokeontheworldMeet the rest of the crew.

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