Skip to main content

Payday: The Heist - Hands-On [E3 2011]

Deep inside of us I think there’s a side of us that simply wants to let loose in every possible way.  I wouldn’t say that we have a medieval Viking inside us that wants to go on a quest filled with pillaging, but you need to admit that it’s fun to simply go crazy in a game every now and then.  Games like GTA have showed us that the chaos that’s capable can be fun, especially when it comes in the form of a bank heist mission.  GTAIV may have had some issues with its pacing, plot, characters and mission design, but I think it was universally agreed that the highlight of the game was the Three Leaf Clover mission in which gamers were tasked with robbing a bank.  The thrill of robbing a bank, dealing with the cops and ultimately getting away with it was filled with tension and was simply never before seen in a GTA game or another video game for that matter. But as I saw at E3 last week, gamers can now once again become a thief and commit the ultimate heist in the new PSN/PC game Payday: The Heist.

Payday: The Heist is a game with a very simple premise: you and three other players/A.I. partners can rob a bank.  Robbing a bank may seem pretty simple as a concept since one would assume that you can just stroll on in, perhaps bang the security guard on the head and then go into the standard intimidating spiel to the bank teller or manager demanding to know where the cash/vault is. But as I found out during the E3 demo I played of the game, there’s a lot more to robbing a bank than simply shooting a bunch of people.

Easily the coolest thing about Payday: The Heist is that the game can support up to four-players online. Not only is this cool since it allows each person of the heist crew to be a real person as opposed to an A.I. controlled partner, but it means that you and a bunch of friends can play online and try to re-enact moments from the film Heat, hopefully with no one playing the Tom Sizemore role.  Once my crew was assembled I witnessed something extremely cool in the demo for Payday: brute force isn’t always required. Instead of going into the bank and immediately shooting everything up, I was given the mission to find the bank manager before starting the heist.  At any given time any of my team members could technically start the heist by pressing a button, but finding the bank manager was the immediate task at hand before things got really crazy.

Once I found the unlucky bank manager (I handcuffed the dude and left him in the office), the heist was officially under way and that of course meant the cops were on their way.  Aside from dealing with the bank security guards (who were pushovers), my team could’ve delayed the arrival of the police by shooting out some of the security cameras in the bank.  But given how excited we all were about robbing a bank my heist crew merely went forward with the mission and opted to deal with things with brute force – no matter how strong the opposing forces were.

Payday: The Heist may sound like it’s a simple four-player game in which you just go in and shoot lots of stuff and to a degree that’s what the game is. But amidst the intense fire fights between heist crews and police officers, there’s a massive amount of strategy and team work required in the game.  Robbing a bank is no easy feat as it’s a multi-step process that involves planting a massive drill device to crack a vault, protect said drill when it’s tinkered with or malfunctions and then place thermite on a floor to actually enter the vault.  The tone and feel of Payday: The Heist is a really frantic one since I often found myself traversing between different parts of the bank to deal with the cops, lend a bit of help to my allies or deal with an objective.  It’s certainly capable for players to take the lead in a way and be the leader of their group, but Payday: The Heist is a game in which it’s required for people to work together otherwise the heist will end prematurely with everyone either dead or under arrest.

Dealing with the cops and SWAT team that was sent to deal with me in Payday: The Heist definitely followed a pattern of reality to an extent since it was tough as hell at times.  While I was armed with two weapons (the load out I selected included a pistol and a machine), the cops can be really deadly since they can pop up anyplace or at least make a nice steady march towards your general vicinity.  Trying to nab a headshot in Payday was easy as the controls felt good and were really responsive and rather fast. At times I did have a few problems merely lining up a long range shot, but it wasn’t a game ruining moment and hopefully will be addressed in some form or another.

Beyond just offering some support to my teammates through cover fire, I was also able to drop an ammo bag so my teammates could get some much needed ammo.  Payday: The Heist may be a fast paced game, but if you run out of ammo then you’re screwed unless someone drops an ammo bag.  So it’s very much a requirement to either pay attention to what’s going on with your teammates or do the rare thing of actually talking to the people who you’re playing with.

Ultimately the big payoff occurred in the demo as my heist crew finally entered the bank vault and was able to steal pretty much all of the money that was in there.  Even though we had a huge amount of money on our hands the mission was far from over since we still needed to reach our getaway vehicle.  After storming the 2nd floor of the bank once more and getting hit by a Taser (a moment which resulted in me laughing), my team planted some explosives which led us to an area that led to our salvation: the getaway van.  There was no real end boss per say, outside of dealing with a SWAT team member donned in bomb squad gear, but the ever growing tension and growing amounts of police officers led to a nice crescendo in which I felt satisfied as hell once the stage complete page came up.

I only played one simple stage from Payday: The Heist, but the game was incredibly fun and was definitely one of the highlights for me at E3.  The action in the game was always tense and while a few aspects may have been a bit rough (enemy A.I. was dumb at times), the teamwork elements and continued objectives being doled out maintained a nice pace that isn’t really seen in a lot of team based multiplayer games these days.  Being the first game from developer Overkill Software, Payday: The Heist has a nice amount of polish and original ideas in it which could lead the game to become a nice Summer surprise this year when it’s released exclusively on the PlayStation Network and the PC.