I’ve been stoked to play the full version of Payday: The Heist ever since I got the chance to take down the First World Bank back at E3. I was lucky enough to play with a member of Overkill Software, the development team behind the game. Sound Designer Simon Viklund walked me through the first heist, exuding enthusiasm as we struggled to meet felonious objectives while battling wave after wave of bank guards, uniformed police officers, and SWAT forces. You can read the whole preview here, where I cover the First World Bank heist in detail.
Four online co-op players (no local) will find themselves on the wrong side of the law in Payday: The Heist. This is nothing new for gamers, but few titles have such a strict focus on armed robbery scenarios. This is the game’s entire raison d'être. There’s no driving or role playing. Rob a bank, hijack a prison transport, escape a double cross, and complete multiple objectives all while working toward the getaway vehicle. The whole game feels like that one scene from Heat. Remember Heat? Oh, and make sure to have at least one human co-op partner. The friendly AI collectively craps itself when faced with anything but the easiest difficulty setting.
Payday borrows heavily from the Left 4 Dead franchise. It’s different enough to have it’s own identity, but players familiar with Valve’s zombie series will be right at home behind the garish masks of these hardened criminals. Special police units take the place of special infected, and you can see other player’s silhouettes through out the levels. The ability to see where your fellow teammates are located is essential to coordinating a defensive front against the inevitable police assault. This also lets you know exactly how crappy your teammates are, be they AI or just horrible, horrible co-op partners. While Payday lacks L4D’s graphical polish and presentation, there’s much more to the game than simply dodging special infected and running between safe houses.
...and ANOTHER thing about why SWAT sucks... They're right behind me, aren't they?
Most of the heist scenarios will take place in one location or building. After beginning a heist (or if you get caught sneaking around), players will have to quickly take control of the situation. This usually involves neutralizing all of the armed security and taking a few hostages. There are penalties for killing civilians, so don’t go all Mr. Blonde on the crowd. You can order NPC’s to the ground and then zip-tie them in place. These are your bargaining chips should one of your crew get captured. And they will get captured. Some un-mic’d numbskull is always trying to take on two taser cops solo. Bad idea.
After an area is secured, your team will get to drilling, sawing, burning, or hacking their way toward the ultimate $$ goal $$. Whatever the process is, it takes several minutes, allowing multiple waves of police forces to assault your position. You’ll have to hold the area while increasingly powerful and pissed off officers attack you with sniper rifles, smoke bombs, tasers, and riot gear.
Between these onslaughts your teammates can drop support items such as ammo and health bags or even lay trip mines. You can revive each other if one player goes down. If you don't get to them in time, you'll have to trade a hostage to free your partner at the end of the assault wave. It is essential to have a balanced loadout before a heist. You don't want to be the team with no ammo bags, trust me. In the middle of these fire fights your breaching tool will inevitably fail. Someone will have to reset it while the rest of the team covers them. If you’re playing solo, that someone is you, as the friendly AI will simply point and laugh.
Once you’ve breached the first level of security, you’ll typically move on to the next area, and begin the process again. It’s repetitive, but fun. Breaking into vaults or forcibly removing panic rooms from buildings via helicopter (you read that right!) just feels good. The game hit the right mix of intensity and anxiety for me as I yelled “Come on, come on, come on!” at whatever was sapping the seconds between me, my loot, and the next police assault.