Payday: The Heist PC Review
A look at the deeper mechanics of the game also reveals a similarly conflicted design. Take the weapons and character customisation, for example. Payday: The Heist features four player characters, each distinguishable only by the increasing awfulness of their voice acting, as well as a levelling system that gradually lets you unlock new equipment and upgrades. It's immediately worth pointing out, however, that not all upgrades are created equal; it's not until you've unlocked the ability to carry extra cable ties and armour that you can start choosing new weapons.
All of this has to be pieced together over time too, as there's nought in the way of a tutorial to ease new players into the game or explain how the three classes - Assault, Sharpshooter and Support - differ or what value lies in completing challenges. It's an oversight that feels like it may be borne out of Payday: The Heist's budget production values, along with the woeful voice-acting and small number of levels.
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Still, there are several nice touches built into the way Payday: The Heist approaches the bank-robbing concept, and these make the game stand out a little. Players aren't out of the game when they die, for example. Instead they're taken into custody by SWAT, who will continue to hold them securely until the current assault is repelled and your fence, Bain, can negotiate for their release.
Even then, though, it's not as simple as respawning, as surviving thieves must release hostages in order to receive their reinforcements - a clever way of limiting respawns and further dividing player attentions. It can often be worth deviating from the most optimal path through a level in order to grab more hostages with which to negotiate, for example. Not only does this mean you're able to revive more allies should the need arise, but you're also moving civilians from the firing line, which is important when killing them incurs longer negotiation times.
While clever ideas such as this make Payday: The Heist occasionally more than just a reskinned and budget version of Left 4 Dead however, it's still hard to overlook other flaws. Even the few ideas we really like, such as the ability for SWAT to rescue unattended hostages, aren't taken to their logical conclusion - upping the difficulty doesn't mean enemies target hostages or thieves more effectively, there are just more of them.
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Payday: The Heist has a brilliant concept at its heart, and that's further rounded out by some great art direction and some solid level design that makes a few of the missions real fun to play. Unfortunately, though, budget production values are evident in the graphics and limited selection of levels, and these factors inevitably come into conflict with a higher-than-expected price point.
The cherry on top of all this, though, is the sense of wasted potential that permeates through Payday: The Heist like a stain. The premise of a multiplayer bank-robbing shooter is enough to excite even the most jaded of gamers (Hi!), but it's ultimately a premise that isn't fully delivered - instead, Overkill Software has presented a seen-it-before multiplayer game where the strengths exactly equalise the weaknesses. The result is purely predictable and average, not altogether awful but certainly not worth rushing out to buy.