The heists that you will be partaking in can range from actual bank and vault robberies, to breaking a VIP out from a police truck out in a storm on a bridge. Although the levels and everything can seem very unique and different, they all have the same basic tasks that need to get done in order to be successful. You will start out in secrecy and no one will know that you are armed and about to rob the place, and depending on how sneaky you are the easier it can become. Destroying the many cameras that exist on most of the heists will prevent the law from knowing too much about your whereabouts, making it a lot easier to complete. One of the best things about the heists is that a lot of them have multiple paths, depending on how you handle each situation. It is very hard to pull off, but it is possible to do the diamond heist without alerting the police for a very long time, and escape with them barely shooting at you. Though if you fail early, you will be fighting police the entire time you’re trying to steal the diamonds.
The gameplay isn’t always the same during heists, and depending on the phase you can have a lot or barely any police to deal with. Most of the gameplay will take place during the normal phase, where the cops aren’t very aggressive and will even negotiate hostages with you if one of your crew members have been taken into custody. When your mission controller detects that an assault wave is about to begin, he will countdown from 30 seconds to let you know. Assault waves are when you will get tons and tons of law enforcement of every type. During this time you also can’t take lone law enforcement hostage and negotiations won’t happen either.
Other than the horde of generic cops and SWAT members that they send your way, there are 4 special types of units that you will need to look out for and take down as soon as possible. The Bulldozer is a heavily armored and armed unit that will rush the group and try to take you take with its shotgun. Cloakers will drop smoke bombs that hinder your intel on the enemy and will come rushing towards you to knock you out with a melee hit. A Shield is a SWAT member with a large riot shield that will be ahead of the police group, preventing any harm done to them. Finally, the Tazer is an annoying control unit that will try to get close to you and taze you, stunning and dooming you unless you can somehow shoot them or a team mate comes and rescues you.
There are 3-4 skilltrees, depending whether you have the DLC or not, in which you can level up to unlock extra perks and equipment. The assault skill tree consists of high damage weapons and an ammo bag to replenish everyone’s ammo. Sharpshooter skills will help you unlock weapons that have more range and precision. If you want to support your team instead, the support skills unlock for you basic weapons a long with a medic bag. The DLC skill tree is the technician, which will eventually let you use a grenade launcher as well as a turret. All of the skill trees also include unlocks that can increase your max health, max armor, and perks to equip that give bonuses to the other crew members.
There are of course achievements, but there are also in-game only challenges that you can complete that give you money(experience) bonuses. These can range from killing a certain amount of enemies with specified guns, to special ones such as don’t die or get knocked down for entire heists.
There aren’t any special options available, just the usual ones that you would expect to exist in a FPS on a computer. The graphics are nice and simple, allowing computers that aren’t high end to run it. Sound is especially good, since the way that the 4 characters talk to each other sounds very realistic and act like as if they truely are robbing lots of money. They let each other know what is needing to be done as well as if they are in need of help or not. There is also your mission controller, who is always talking to the group and letting them know all kinds of useful information, such as what special units are incoming and how many security cameras are left to shoot.
PAYDAY plays a lot like the Left 4 Dead games, where you have 4 players running around with guns while progressing through a level killing tons of normal enemies along with some special ones as well. The amount of normal cops and swat members and everything is just too much, especially when single bullets easily kill them. PAYDAY should have been more strategical with the law enforcement being stronger, and you having to use strategy to take down the special enemies. Instead, you are basically just shooting at hallways mowing down hundreds of cops that act like they never had any training, or even knowing how to wear body armor. Hopefully the sequel can tone down the amount of law enforcement while also making the few that do show up a lot stronger.
A lot of the difficulty of the game comes down to who you are playing with, so if you’re playing with a group of people that you know it can be pretty easy. There’s even 4 difficulty settings that you can choose from, if it ever feels like playing with friends doesn’t make it easy enough. Most levels will take you 15-20 minutes to complete, though that is generally if you are doing well and not making any large mistakes. They can easily last longer especially if you are losing teammates and are having to wait for them to respawn. However, there is still an offline mode so if the gameplay looks fun but you don’t want to be dedicated to playing for a whole level, you can still play and quit at any time with the AI that is included in the single player.
With how the levels are designed where they will punish you instead of simply ending, they can get pretty challenging if you’re making mistakes everywhere. Since you will most likely be playing with strangers, that too will add in a degree of difficulty that you may be seeking. Additionally, if you are with people you know and it starts to get too easy, there’s a difficulty slider that is sure to make any group suffer if they aren’t careful. Even on normal, the game can be very challenging so expect the next two levels up to be even more so.
With 3 skilltrees, 4 if you include the DLC, as well as tons of challenges to complete, you will have a lot of equipment and perks to unlock through playing the game. You just select a tree to start training and all the money that you earn through playing will level your character up while also progressing through the current tree. This, along with the fun gameplay, will ensure that PAYDAY will give anyone long replayability and fun.
Payday Currently sells for 20 dollars along with 15 dollars worth of dlc that include the soundtrack and one piece of extra gameplay content called Wolfpack featuring a new skill tree, maps, and weapons. For the 20-30 dollar price tag, it is well worth purchasing for the amount of playtime you will be able to get out of it.