Amongst our heated arguments over what games deserved "Game of Show" honors this past week at E3, one game kept getting a mention: Payday: The Heist. Not necessarily by every one, mind you. OK. Mostly by yours truly. But that's because out of all the grays and ultra-realistic shooters at E3 this year, Payday was one that stood out for me.
Not because of its graphics -- they are largely standard and several leagues below the next Call of Duty. The controls are also the typical fare we've come to expect from shooters since Halo solidified the FPS button layout in 2001. No, Payday made an impression by its sole focus on its unique gameplay.
If you haven't heard of it, Payday: The Heist is Sony Online Entertainment's upcoming downloadable FPS that plays out more like "The Bank Job" than the latest Michael Bay flick. Your objectives in-game are intricate and require surgical precision for you to make it through alive.
The level I tried out co-op had me casing a bank, observing camera, security locations, and triggering the heist once ready. Objectives soon after involved rigging drills to break through doors, setting up explosives to get to underground vaults, and leading up to the inevitable escape.
Every scenario in the game will put you through every aspect of a heist as if you're relieving moments from "Heat" from the initial taking of hostages to finding your way to the f***ing van. And each scenario will play out differently, a representative said, based on how you go about your mission every time. It didn't quite seem as malleable as, say, Left 4 Dead's game director, but the gameplay should vary enough from game to game.
Now, the unfortunate part. Payday: The Heist is looking to be a great experience when it releases some time in 2011, but maybe...only for about a week or so after it's released. The game will support PSN/PC cross-play for up to four players online, but no split-screen co-op or competitive multiplayer of any kind. And the slate of available maps and scenarios will top out at a grand total of six when it launches (with DLC planned post-launch).
A strong focus on online co-op should make for a great experience at launch, but considering gamers' apparent need to move on to the next big thing -- especially from downloadable titles -- it remains to be seen if Payday: The Heist can sustain a community months out after release. If it stays strong, the lack of split-screen co-op or competitive multiplayer shouldn't work too much against its favor.