It’s been 10 years since the release of Payday 2. That means it’s been thrilling people with its heist-based co-op action for a decade. It’s showing its age though, now, and so Starbreeze is here with Payday 3. As you’d expect, it features snazzier visuals and enhanced gameplay mechanics. But despite its long gestation period, it’s still launching with some issues and a unfortunate lack of content.
There’s no doubting that Payday 3 is the most enjoyable Payday game yet when it comes to actually playing it. The gunplay has been noticeably improved, making it more fun when things inevitably go wrong and you have to shoot your way to success rather than sneak around. New Overkill weapons, which you’re able to call in when a gauge is filled, also give you an edge when the going gets tough. For those who do like to play more stealthily, however, there are advancements there, too. It feels more manageable for the most part, and if you do mess up, there’s a better transition between being discovered and the all-out war that follows.
In fact, there are some missions here that are very much focused on stealth, with your rewards being much less lucrative if you’re discovered. Unless you’re playing with an organised, knowledgeable and communicative team, however, your chances of remaining undetected are fairly slim. Ultimately, though, Payday 3 is at its best when the shit hits the fan. It’s rewarding to get in and out without raising an alarm, for sure, but nothing beats loading up an escape vehicle with bags of cash while engaging in exhilarating gun battles with escalating levels of authoritative forces.
What’s disappointing here is that there are only eight heists available. Each and every one is a blast – perhaps the best in the series yet – but it’s likely you’ll have completed them all within five hours. Of course, the joy of Payday is repeating them, perhaps trying to complete them without raising an alarm, or on a higher difficulty level. But even then, chances are players are likely to get fed up of playing them again and again. Especially those that don’t offer quite as many options as others.
There are other issues with Payday 3 as well. While you can play with less than four actual players, with bots filling up the remaining spaces, it’s not entirely ideal. Is it too much to ask to be able to issue commands to your computer-controlled allies, making them more than just useful in a firefight? On PS5 there are some bugs and technical issues, too. The story scenes that unlock as you play through the game’s heists, for example, currently play without any audio. And if you want a smooth 60fps, you’re going to have to tinker with the game’s settings. By default there are dips into the 30s and 40s, which really hamper the gameplay. Thankfully you can change the game’s upscaling and anti-aliasing solution, but it’s poor that there isn’t simply a performance or quality preset toggle.
Those who really dig into Payday 3 will find themselves rewarded with a wealth of weapons and cosmetics to unlock and purchase. Weapons can be modified with a wide variety of attachments, too, altering their parameters. As players level up, they’ll also unlock skill points that can be used to activate a number of perks that are unlocked over time. These are pretty impactful, boosting things like damage output under certain scenarios as well as unlocking abilities like being able to hack security cameras. It’s going to be interesting seeing how people use these to define their characters and bolster their chances of completing heists going ahead.
It’s perhaps understandable that Payday 3 is a step back from Payday 2 in terms of content, given the years of support its predecessor has had, but it’s a shame that it doesn’t have a little more. Still, we can’t help but feel that Payday 3 is an excellent base to work from, with improved moment-to-moment gameplay. With a bit more polish and a steady stream of post-launch content, Payday 3 could ultimately prove to be an essential co-op heisting experience. Right now, however, players are likely to have some frustrations, and may quickly grow tired of playing the same missions on repeat.