I’m Playing…Payday: The Heist
One should never judge a game by its multiplayer. But when the multiplayer is all you get, it’s pretty hard to ignore.
Now, as a disclaimer, I wanted to believe in this game. I believed so deeply in the game, I purchased the promotional summer games, all four of them, just to get this game for free.
Unfortunately, as a member of the gaming media, I don’t always get to play the games I want to play, and after a year of procrastination, I finally redownloaded and played Payday: The Heist.
And sadly, I was deeply disappointed. But not so much that I’ll never touch it again.
The biggest problem with Payday: The Heist is the main feature: cooperative online multiplayer.
When I first started playing the game, it felt very similar to Blacklight: Tango Down‘s cooperative missions. A disembodied voice demands for the player to move from objective to objective, reassuring the player of the ease of the task. Then, players fight through cops or security guards, capture hostages, and press and hold R2 while objectives are fulfilled.
The missions range from smash-and-grabs to escort missions, and in all missions, the cops are there to stop you and three other teammates.
When the game was marketed, the game promised to account for your play style. In other words, if you are an assault-styled player, more cops will show up to block your path. But if you’re a sharp shooter or a support player, the game will send more snipers or more heavily-armored cops.
To account for this, players can use alternate routes or try different strategies to through the AI off balance.
Unfortunately, the AI never goes off balance. The AI always knows where you are, and always hits you from any distance away with any weapon.
So the game is challenging, so what?
To get over the challenge, players must rely on teammates.
And Payday: The Heist falls to pieces.
When I hopped online, the first issue is its exclusivity on the PlayStation Network. On PSN, very few players have or use headsets, including me. I own a Bluetooth headset, but I don’t like using it late at night because it wakes my wife up. But worse than waking my wife is the fact that a headset is an extra expense for PlayStation gamers. After dropping hundreds of dollars on the console and games, it seems unnecessary to drop another $50 on one more peripheral.
Unlike PlayStation, all Xbox 360 owners get a headset with the purchase of the console. There is not a single XBLA game with no people speaking.
So, players jump into a cooperative game without any way to cooperate with teammates. If the game had mapped specific vocal cues to the direction pad, players without headsets would get a way to speak with one another and further encourage cooperation.
Players start with the bare minimum, and through leveling up, more equipment and customization options become available for the player. This means that low-level players are not able to compete with the cops and keep up with high-level players.
So combining a lack of communication and overwhelming odds, new players have a hard time getting their footing.
Typically, small, online-only games will offer competitive and cooperative play modes to offer something for everyone. Payday: The Heist offers a half dozen cooperative maps, each following a set patterns of going to this or that objective and shooting cops in between.
When I first covered this game, I was writing new release articles for KSL’s website, and the editors told me that a game that encourages killing cops is too much. I had to cut it from my article, and the game did not get the coverage it deserved to keep the game fluid and updated.
By the time I played the game, I did notice that I was shooting cops, but easily they had the advantage. Beyond that, I never had a desire to run out and start shooting up police and rob banks.
The game offers an alternative perspective and group of protagonists, but nothing new by any means. My editors told me that artistic or cultural games, like Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row, were integral to gaming and good for print, but Payday: The Heist went too far.
How? I don’t know, and I guarantee the editors didn’t know either.
So, for the fact that the moral boards of at least one news source rejected this small indy first-person shooter, I still want to give this game a thumbs up.
However, if you’re going to pick up Payday: The Heist, make sure to get three friends to pick it up with you and explore all facets with a close clique of friends. Make sure everyone is working towards one goal, and you will enjoy yourself.
But if you go it alone, like I did, you might as well play offline, because the online community is too spotty to trust with your enjoyment.
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