Payback in Review – Great Expectations

It’s tempting to judge a game by the companionship it keeps. Payback falls victim to this by the obvious comparisons to the original GTA I and GTA II. It has the immense task of measuring up to one of the greatest and well recognized gaming franchise in current history. So, does Payback meet these great expectations? Does it deserve a place in the App Store pantheon of great games? Is it worth spending $6.99? I say yes. Payback is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive gaming experience the App Store has to offer.


Upon playing the game, realization dawned on me. Payback is huge. It is staggeringly huge. It offers 3 different gaming modes: Story, challenge, and rampage. Each option offers a unique focus of gameplay. I find that challenge and rampage are easier to get into when I want a quick 5 minute diversion while the story mode is more suited for a longer period of time. By going through each map, you unlock more until you eventually have 11 maps to cause destruction and mayhem. They are varied, and each map will force you to memorize its twists, turns, and safety points.

payback3The amount of time it takes to fully complete this game amounts to literal hours. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself hacking away at this game for weeks to come, spending minutes here, an hour there. One thing that definitely helps to accomplish this feat is the inclusion of the save system.

In Payback, there are four save slots to use between all three game modes. This means that you can keep multiple games going at the same time, continuing and finishing them when you see fit. Playing in this manner helps keep your experience fresh. Also, there is a mid-game save state as well. If you’re interrupted by a phone call or if you just press the Home button, Payback will automatically save your game. On restarting Payback, you’ll be taken right back where you left off.

payback4One of the early frustrations of playing Payback is in the calibration of the controls. You can choose the amount of sensitivity and linearity you want. Also, you can choose the view distance you prefer. It will take you a while to find an option that is most comfortable for you, so my suggestion would be to intentionally take some time doing this before really seeking to enjoy the game. Another aspect of Payback that may be tough for people unfamiliar to this genre is the top down view Payback is fully 3D, but the top down view may be disorienting for people who are used to a more traditional 3rd or 1st person view.

One more issue, for people in the USA at least, is that driving is done on the opposite lane. You drive on the left. For those in the United Kingdom and other places, this will present no problems. It’s a minor thing, but it does take some getting used to.

Yet, once these issues have been accepted by the player, the real fun begins. The missions may sometimes seem to lack variety, but Payback’s inclusion of weapon and vehicular variety make the game an experiential joy. Each car handles differently, and there will definitely be favorites you pick up along the way. Also, Apex Designs includes a tank and a rumored helicopter in the game as well. The guns are unique in their effectiveness and the way they operate. Also, the explosion visuals make random destruction enticing.

payback31It is in this aspect of presentation both aural and visual that Payback truly shines. Its execution of dynamic lighting really helps set the mood of each city, and while a top down view may limit what you can do in terms of 3D presentation, Payback does an excellent job making you feel like you’re floating above all the action. Unfortunately, there are a few ‘hiccups’ when playing. The FPS (using a 2nd Gen. iTouch) slows slightly when there is too much action onscreen. These are far and few inbetween and the slowdown is not enough to impinge on the enjoyment of the action.

The sound, though, is where Payback truly shines. It boasts a full soundtrack for both speech and music. This is were, I believe, the bulk of the 221MBs goes toward. The music helps you engage in the gameplay and the voices aren’t obtrusive in its implementation.

payback1Overall, I believe that Payback sets a standard in iGaming. It has good replayability. Its gameplay mechanics are both fun and varied. Also, there is a high level of visual and aural presentation. It’s sheer size, both in terms of gameplay and filesize, and polish has not been seen before. Hopefully, this will challenge other developers to create games as comprehensive as this.

Despite some minor issues, Payback more than justifies its price tag and its space in your iDevice.

Despite its problems, SimCity is a definate Grab

App Summary
Title: Payback Developer: Apex Designs
Price: $6.99 App Size: 221 MB
  • 3D Visuals
  • Full Soundtrack
  • Variety Of Guns And Vehicles
  • Control Learning Curve
  • Very Minor FPS Slowdown

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