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PayDay: The Heist Review

Among Thieves.

When it comes to quality first person shooters, the PlayStation Network isn’t exactly the first port of call. Whilst there have been a number of memorable downloadable entries to the genre, none have reached landmark status; even with sequel fatigue starting to show we’d sooner take home big budget shooters over the likes of Section 8, CoD Classic, and The Punisher: No Mercy any day. To some, it may be a case of brand loyalty or lack of trust in the downloadable format but to us, the main downfall of PSN/XBL shooters is the failure to garner and maintain a strong enough fanbase to keep the games afloat.

Looking to buck the trend, PayDay: The Heist is offering an alternative approach, doing away with the throwaway online deathmatch model for something with a little more substance that only requires four players. Among the myriad of AAA epics on show at last year’s E3, The Heist was commonly cited as a hidden gem; Overkill’s debut trailer teasing a number of contextual gameplay mechanics and an original premise. The end product is a worthy distraction for FPS stalwarts but compared to to some of the expectations created at the game’s announcement there is still much to be desired.

PayDay offers very little in the way of narrative and is instead focused around a chronological chain of heists featuring the same four gunmen: Hoxton, Chains, Wolf, and Dallas. This quartet of robbers act more as avatars than as fully-fledged characters, none are particularly likeable, although they fill their intended roles perfectly. The group of thugs make their debut with the robbery of the First World Bank but don’t go thinking that PayDay is a full-on Point Break homage. The outlaws find themselves in a number of unrelated scenarios including slaughterhouse shoot-outs, a prison break and a diamond theft. Each mission has its own step-by-step design that is frequently punctuated with police ambushes and it will likely take at least a couple of playthroughs to get a solid understanding of how each scenario plays out and how to make off with the largest sum of cash.

Gunning down the law enforcement, as well as completing objectives and cumulative challenges, will reward players with experience points (referred to as Reputation.)  What will surprise a lot of people is how in-depth Payday’s progression system actually is; the level cap currently stands at 145, each rank unlocking a stat bonuses, equipment, and new abilities. These perks are divided into three separate trees, each one replicating a defined role or playstyle including Assault (in the middle of the action,) the Marksman (on the periphery,) and the Support. Each class has its own advantages over the other two though none of them tip the balance, players who reach a Reputation level of 145 being able to max out all three skill trees.

After selecting your loadout, you and your AI/online comrades are dropped straight into the chosen scenario, each one made up of several interlinked objectives such as destroying fortifications, defending hotspots or sprinting for the finish line. One comparison that has often been made is Left 4 Dead, which is near enough on the money; players will always be able to track the outlines of their partners  and call for help, the support mechanics also being very similar. Another aspect similar to Valve’s acclaimed zombie shooter is the inclusion of special enemies. During police raids, you will occasionally come face to face with particularly dangerous adversaries including the tank-link Bulldozers, defensive “Shields”, stealthy Cloakers and Tasers, who can both damage and incapacitate players over a short period of time.

PayDay should be immediately familiar in terms of controller layout, though the L2 button is strictly reserved for contextual actions such as hostage management and interaction with the environment. Gunplay is fairly loose and jagged at times, the feedback being a lot rougher and unfocused in comparison with Call of Duty, Battlefield etc. This isn’t helped either by the rugged character animations, enemies moving in unpredictable, irretable patterns which can often make fire-fights seem inorganic.

Visually, The Heist isn’t  going to blow you away due to the limitations of the game engine, but there is definitely a good sense of diversity, especially in levels such as Green Bridge and Diamond Heist. Voice acting is also fit for purpose, though some will likely complain that the game’s soundtrack does begin to drag, each one on constant loop.


  • Unique premise, isn’t just restricted to bank heists.
  • A decent Left 4 Dead alternative for PlayStation fans.
  • Comes with a comprehensive trophy list.
  • Impressive all-round presentation considering the price.
  • Rep incentives will keep that carrot dangling for hours on end.


  • Partner AI isn’t up to scratch.
  • Gunplay often feels janky.
  • You are essentially replaying the same six missions.

If you have a small group of friends with whom you usually buddy up to play shooters, PayDay is definitely worth looking into. Despite only having six playable missions, there’s a ton of depth when you consider the titanic ranking system and numerous difficulty settings. On the flipside, if you’re the sort who likes to ruck up with AI partners then caution is advised; going solo is considerably more time-consuming and almost impossible if playing on Overkill difficulty. Either way, PlayStation fans will be glad to hear that PayDay is one of the few PSN games to launch with its own platinum trophy. Whether you’ll have the skill or patience to add it to your virtual cabinet is another matter entirely.

Score: 7/10

  1. Eldave0
    Since: Aug 2008

    Nice review. Had high hopes for this one but the overall feel of it wasn’t great. Glad there was a trial as it saved me £10

    Comment posted on 02/02/2012 at 16:17.
  2. tatoemonkey
    Since: Apr 2009

    love this game its a shame it so small hoping for some extra maps to be hones I think it would be brilliant as a disk game as there is more they could have done with it to make it shine that bit more

    Comment posted on 02/02/2012 at 16:21.
    • tatoemonkey
      Since: Apr 2009

      also picked it up on 21 days offer for a cool £5.99 which was nice :) ps plus is brilliant

      Comment posted on 02/02/2012 at 16:22.
  3. Mickey2010
    Since: Jan 2010

    Played the trial thought it was really fun,then i played the main game at my brothers house and was slightly dissapointed and it gets repetitive quick

    Comment posted on 02/02/2012 at 16:35.
  4. Boomshanks
    Since: Dec 2008

    This game is absolutely amazing. I love playing it. Especially since we have a group of 4 people that are actually fun to play with ;)

    Comment posted on 02/02/2012 at 17:49.
  5. hunterstryfe
    Since: Feb 2009

    yup, it’s definitely worth the price i paid for it. the alternating group i play with are solid. wish there was more ppl playing tbh

    Comment posted on 02/02/2012 at 17:56.
    • CNWLshadow
      Since: Oct 2009

      I’d be up for playing a bit at some point. Never played more than the first heist.

      Comment posted on 02/02/2012 at 18:14.
  6. DrNate86
    Since: Apr 2010

    I find the aiming too flakey, its a fun premise but needs tightening.

    Comment posted on 02/02/2012 at 18:40.
  7. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    I can many TSAers losing many hours to this. But it’s just not for me due to the lack of story and well, FPS’s are not my favored genre.

    The concept was intersting and for a PSN game, it looks good. Visually, i mean. I suspect the many trophy collectors will play it just to get the plat. ;)

    Comment posted on 02/02/2012 at 20:04.
    • Deathbrin
      Since: Aug 2009

      I’m just waiting for a PS+ discount.

      Comment posted on 03/02/2012 at 04:15.
  8. wonkey-willy
    Since: Jan 2010

    left 4 dead for the ps3 do me a favour.i didnt think much of l4d and to be perfectly honest the demo of this sucked balls.

    Comment posted on 02/02/2012 at 20:14.
    • Deathbrin
      Since: Aug 2009

      Well that’s pretty much a logical assumption if you never got into L4D you won’t get into a similar game?

      Comment posted on 03/02/2012 at 04:15.
  9. skibadee
    Since: Oct 2009

    really like what I played of this game.

    Comment posted on 03/02/2012 at 02:34.
  10. Deathbrin
    Since: Aug 2009

    “A decent Left 4 Dead alternative for PlayStation fans.”
    Yes, that’s a big win already. Have the Steam version and it’s not bad at all.

    And thanks for mentioning trophies, it matters.

    Comment posted on 03/02/2012 at 04:14.
    • Jim Hargreaves
      Since: Nov 2009

      I knew we had some whores among the readership :)

      Comment posted on 03/02/2012 at 08:18.
      • The Lone Steven
        Never heard of him.
        Since: May 2010

        The forums are full of them! Although, it may be a mixture between the ones you meant and the other kind. ;)

        Comment posted on 03/02/2012 at 10:57.

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