E3 2011: PAYDAY: The Heist hands-on preview

The next big thing for Left 4 Dead fans

We love Left 4 Dead. So when we first heard about PAYDAY: The Heist, a four-player co-op shooter that finds you and three other friends teaming up to pull off over-the-top armed robberies, Valve’s zombie shooter was much on our minds. But before we could even ask about whether the PAYDAY team looked to L4D as a source for inspiration, developer OverKill’s Ulf Andersson took the words right out of our mouth. “It’s definitely, a lot like Left 4 Dead,” said Andersson with a huge smile.

And that’s a great thing. Andersson isn’t shy about what OverKill is aiming for with its upcoming shooter. PAYDAY is all about delivering action packed experiences inspired by L4D’s gameplay with elaborate missions and set pieces that pay homage to some of the team’s favorite heist films. “There’s a great deal of inspiration from [Left 4 Dead]. We love that game and we played it to death at the office,” said Andersson without a hint of reservation – and it shows.

Above: You can play PADAY by yourself with AI bots piloting your three teammates, but it’s meant to be played with friends

Above: After PAYDAY releases this summer, OverKill plans to offer more heists as DLC

But only the most jaded, undead zombie would write off PAYDAY as a mere clone. Yes, it’s four-player co-op shooting. Yes, you’ll want to stick together with your teammates. And yes, the game will track your team’s stats and performance to generate random events and assaults from police and security forces, much like L4D’s AI Director. But that’s where the similarities end and PAYDAY begins to stand out on its own.

Our demo drops us off in a bank robbery heist set in a fictional World Bank. A mission objective notice tells us that we need to find the bank manager to obtain his key card. Like our partners in crime, we’re dressed in plain civilian clothes with our weapons stashed away. As we case the joint, we get a feel for the banks layout. Steering clear of metal detectors and guards that would alert security to our ill intentions, we find the manager and have the option to kill him for his key card or to cuff him and make him our hostage in case we need a piece of corporate meat to bargain with later. We kill him for his piece of plastic.

Above: Crowd control. Use your first-person intimidation powers to keep civilians in check

Then, the heist begins. We pull down our masks, break out our guns, and take over the bank. There’s an intimidate button, that lets you scream at civilians to make sure they stay put. We wind up pushing that button a lot; it’s a great command. We use the bank manager’s key to erase security footage of our team entering the bank to protect our identities, mowing guards down as we make our way through the second floor of the bank.

As the mission objective prompts continue, we find our stashed thermite and head back down to the lobby with a power drill. While we’re drilling through a heavy door, we experience our first assault. The smoke grenades drop, and billowing clouds of grey cover all entry points around us, protecting the inevitable incoming waves of SWAT team members armed to the teeth with riot shields to protect them as they advance. The security forces keep swarming in and we keep shooting until we drill through the vault door standing between us and mountains of cash.

Above: The latest trailer for PAYDAY: The Heist. See more gameplay footage on the next page

But this might not be anything like your first experience with the World Bank heist. “What we’ve done is a dynamic scenario,” explains Andersson. How security forces respond to your team’s actions and where they choose to assault you might be different each time you play. In another instance, security forces may try to stop your team later in the level, breaking down a door to surprise you.