Reviewed for: Playstation 3 (via Playstation Network)
Also available for: Windows PC
From: Overkill Software/Sony Online Entertainment
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood, drug reference, intense violence, strong language)
"Payday: The Heist" is an interactive robbery playset, and like all playsets, it's only as good as the imaginations of those playing with it. The six missions recreate classic heist scenarios - some glamorous (bank robbery, penthouse diamond heist), others not so much (a slaughterhouse full of gold, a panic room inside a meth lab).
Staying alive is the primary objective, and standard first-person shooter controls and mechanics apply, but every situation throws out secondary objectives that either help the heist along or keep bloodshed to a minimum (by first-person shooter standards, anyway). If that sounds a little like "Left 4 Dead," only with riches instead of mere survival at stake, you've got the right idea. And just as with that game, "Payday" is an exponentially better experience when shared with others online (four players). You can engage the missions by yourself, and whatever experience you accrue will boost your game-wide reputation meter and unlock new weapons and upgrades.
But while "Payday" teams you up with three serviceable A.I. partners in crime, the inability to coordinate and strategize the way you can with human players and headsets takes away the game's best feature. A bank may sound small, but when you have to break into the basement vault, crack the second-story server room and keep hostages from escaping through the front door at the same time, it suddenly feels massive. If you want to cover all that ground and have an absolute blast doing so, human companions are a must.