Every year at gamescom there’s always one title that completely takes you by surprise and scratches an itch you didn’t even know you had – this year that was Payday: The Heist. This unassuming downloadable title developed by Overkill Software with backing from SOE is best described as a mix between Counterstrike and Kane & Lynch, but it’s way more exciting than that label suggests.
Four players assume the roll of bank robbers in six different HEAT-esque robbery scenarios, with the principle aim of meeting sequential objectives, fighting off increasing waves of coppers and stealing copious amounts of loot.
We played one round with the game’s director, flanked by two AI stand-ins and the result was a tense, fun and ultimately rewarding experience.
The round started with our crew casually walking into a bank, with NPC onlookers non the wiser on what was about the transpire. A directive flashed up in the HUD that we needed to find the bank manager and steal his keycard, so we could unlock one set of a series of doors towards the safe. We found the guy in question, shot him in the head, took his keys and from then on the inhabitants of the bank were in a state of panic. Civilians ran around mindlessly and one of the tellers pressed the alarm, which is when we’re made aware that the police were on their way.
At this time our developer chaperone told us that this is the calm before the storm, and that we should get ready as the round was about to get a lot harder. The UI directed us to the location where we could utilise our recently liberated key card, opening the way to another more substantially barred security door, which will require drilling in order to get past. It was at this point police started funnelling into the bank’s main entrance after asking us very nicely to surrender without any blood spilled. We were required to kill legions of law-men whilst taking cover, keeping an eye on our flanks and covering our colleague who was attempting to reactivate the stuttering drill to take the door down.
It was at this point we were made aware of the potential hostages running around upstairs in the bank, which can be used as bargaining collateral if any of our fellow robbers was apprehended by the police. We hog-tie the unlucky blighters and carry on protecting our flank as the drill slowly penetrates the steel protecting the vault. What’s really interesting is just how massive these bank areas are, this building felt more like a facility than a bog-standard depository with two different levels, long corridors, choke-points and balconies overlooking the main hall – it was like a character in of itself.
As we were putting enemies down swiftly with a double tap of our automatic rifles, we noticed that some foes were vastly different to the rest, which is when the developer chirped in describing five different sorts of enemies.
There’s Juggernauts which appear like bomb-disposal officeres armed with shotguns which take a lot of bullets to take down, Taser wielding SWAT which disorientate players and lead their weapons to fire wildly, plain-clothed officers which are easy to mistake for unarmed civilians and finally traditional police and SWAT varients.
At this stage communication proved vital, as we’d shout out where enemies were coming from, be it rushing the front, flanking from side doors or para-sailing in via conveniently placed skylights.
When members of our team inevitably succumbed to opposing gunfire they were downed, requiring other members of the team to revive them. These heroic stand-off moments proved a real highlight and were extremely tense, especially as the police would sometimes use smoke grenades and CS-gas to obscure vulnerable members of your team. It was easy to feel that these kinds of moments orchestrated by Michael Mann himself.
Once past the door we journeyed into the innards of the facility, into an office which had a floor placed directly above the vault. After fighting through more waves of enemies, we eventually made our way to the appropriate spot where we armed slow burning explosives which after several minutes guarding from more incoming guards, burnt through the safe’s roof leaving the green papery innards exposed for the picking.
Once we got out of there, still fighting our way past dozens of different enemies, we were instructed to blow a hole in the bank’s second story side-wall, in order to make our way into next door. From there we high tailed it to the building’s car park basement where the garbage truck getaway vehicle was waiting for us. All the while the HUD was instructing us exactly where we needed to go and where our team-mates were located.
After this panic-stricken but exciting playthrough which lasted around twenty minutes, we were told just how different each mission can potentially prove to be as Payday: The Heist has its own AI Director who will spawn in increased enemies or throw more exotic enemy classes at you if you are doing too well or taking too long.
This incentive to play each of the game’s scenarios repeatedly is heightened by a persistent unlock system which has over 144 different upgrades to lust over, including weapons, upgrades, armour and vanity items. All in all we were told it would take around twenty to twenty five hours to unlock it all, but we were fairly happy with the default MP5 and pistol combo or, when needs must, taking weapons from fallen officers.
Payday: The Heist has all the hallmarks of the great shooter experiences like Left 4 Dead or Modern Warfare and should provide four friends countless hours of mindless shooter fun. Best of all the game will be priced at around $20 on PC and PS3, so it should provide plenty of value for money.
There are a few more things we’d need to check out, such as how much variation the AI director can throw at you and what the other five maps consist of before casting definitive judgement, but it seems that this downloadable shooter is shaping up very well and come its release on October 4th, we doubt anyone will come away from the game feeling robbed.
Tags: Payday The Heist
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