Anyone who remembers the original installment of Grand Theft Auto, with its violence-for-the-sake-of-violence gameplay, will find Payback instantly familiar. Played from a bird's eye view perspective, this full 3D game will have you racing across various large cityscapes, on foot or in all manner of vehicles, committing more crimes than I personally would have thought humanly possible. The more death, damage, and havoc you wreak, the greater your score?points are awarded for everything from murder to carjacking to just plain blowin' stuff up. This is definitely not a game for impressionable kids, the morally upright, or just about anyone who can't handle absurd amounts of motor vehicle induced mayhem.
There are a couple of ways to approach Payback. One is to complete missions handed out to you by anonymous gang lords over telephones scattered throughout the city. These missions range from knocking off various gangland targets to ripping off cars and delivering them to specified locations, often within a given time limit. The reward for completing such missions is usually a large number of points. Once you've racked up enough points (an amount that varies from level to level) you can either proceed to the next level, or continue your one-person crime wave right where you are. For those who find such mission-based play a little too restrictive, however, there is always the option of freelancing, roaming around the city, killing and destroying along the way. It will take a little longer to score points this way, but the dedicated sociopath'er, I mean gamer's will do just fine.
Let's get down to the real issues here, though: the tools of destruction. Again, there are a couple of different approaches. You can opt to remain on foot, collecting and using weapons conveniently scattered throughout the city?everything from a simple pistol to hand grenades and bazookas. Alternatively, you can grab any of several vehicles, including cars, vans, trucks, limos, and, for real prestige, police cruisers, and dole out damage by ramming whatever gets in your way. Any weaponry you've collected will be unavailable for use while you're in a vehicle, but you'll carry it with you; when you get out, it'll be ready for action again. Of course, the more you bang your vehicle around, the more damaged it becomes, with a resulting decline in performance (this is particularly bad for time-limited missions). Stay in a vehicle that's too badly damaged, and the next hit you take may end in a fireball. Should you let this happen, all of your collected weapons evaporate, your mission (if you're working on one) ends in failure, and you're back to square one. All of these consequences also apply when you're killed or captured by the cops while on foot.
The selection of vehicles available on the streets of Payback's cities is truly impressive. In addition to the above-mentioned, ubiquitous cars, trucks, and the like, unique machines are tucked away in obscure back alleys and up on roofs, waiting to be found by the inquisitive gamer. The helicopter, for example, can get you across the city in a fraction of the time it would take to drive. The ultra-fast, barely-controllable rocket car is a great find, too. Each vehicle has its own characteristics: some are small, fast, and oh-so-fragile, others are lumbering beasts that will take a huge beating, but won't get you anywhere quickly.