We’ve been playing Payday 3 for almost 2 weeks and while everything was fine during early access, the full release, alongside launching on Gamepass brought in hundreds and thousands of concurrent users and the servers decided to melt down.
we didn’t feel it was fair to judge the game on those first impressions either before or during the launch issues, so we decided to hang fire before delivering our final verdict.
Payday 3 sees the return of our favourite masked criminals with Dallas, Hoxton, Chains and Wolf bringing Payday 2 fan-favourite Joy along for the ride as well as newcomer Pearl, your choice of character won’t really have any bearing on gameplay, but you’ll get to chose your favourite criminals and heading into a game, you’ll get the first that’s available.
Gameplay follows the familiar 3-part pattern of previous games, firstly you’ll have to case the joint, giving you time to look for different exists, locate guards and work out how you’re going to reach the objectives location, then there’s the actual 2-part heist where you’ll need to gain access to the objective to obtain the loot and finally escaping alive.
It’s quite possible to stealth through an entire mission, but you’ll soon be pulling on your mask using LB to kick things off, this makes you instantly more of a threat, but if you avoid (or pacify) guards and civilians it doesnt mean you’ll raise any alarms.
Ultimately, especially when inexperienced, you’ll soon raise an alarm and then you’ll have waves of police incoming to try and wreck your heisting party.
While that all sounds very familiar if you’ve played a Payday game before, there’s a few differences worth noting, firstly, time to case the location is much more generous and ultimately it’s slightly easier to get that perfect heist without raising any alarms, but bit you’ll need to make sure your whole team in on point and communicating, or play solo, but you’ll be relying on an empty lobby, because there’s not currently a lone-wolf option.
this throws up one of the early issues where it seems cross-platform voice chat isn’t currently available, but if you’re playing on Xbox, with the choice of Xbox party chat, or Discord, you’ll be fine playing with friends, but it does make things a little more awkward trying to organise clueless randoms who you’ll inevitably get matchmade with.
One aspect that’s worth pointing out is the dynamic nature of missions, before alarms are raised, you’ll have one set of objectives, but if an alarm is triggered and the police are alerted, you’ll have to switch to a more direct approach, the best example of this is the first mission where you’re tasked with robbing a bank, it’s fine wanting to sneak in with security cards and walking through the front door of the vault, but once things go south, you’ll need to use thermite to burn through the floor to access the vault.
In total there’s 8 missions, which is another area for early debate, some people seem to think that’s low-content, because of the dozens of heists Payday 2 had, but mamy seem to forget Payday 2 launched with only 6 heists and it’s the hard work and dedication from the Dev team that’s now made Payday 2 the milestone that 3 is being judged against, so I’m confident, given time, we’ll see many, many more heists added on the coming months and years, but you’ll probably spend about 6-8 hours working through this main content.
The 8 heists on offer give a pretty good variety of missions, banks to heist, an armoured truck to rob, a museum to empty and a shipment storage yard to infiltrate, I don’t think there was a single heist I didn’t enjoy or would avoid doing again.
My only criticism of these is the menu where they’re delivered, rather than the Map of Payday 2, which would give you the mainline quests, as well as numerous crimenet matches, of varied difficultly, showing open games and number of players, instead we have a side-scrolling menu, hitman style, with mission intro and outro videos scattered in between, it works well for the first playthrough but long-term this is gonna get tired fast, and I’d much rather have a simple map overview giving me the incentive to play mission A, B or C, rather than having to decide, queue and then end up in a hand of clueless randoms who want to jump in all guns blazing straight away.
Moving on to actual gameplay and that’s where the biggest changes come into Payday 3, while very familiar, it also feels very refined, guns feel more powerful, commands such as shouting at civilians to get down seem more responsive, and the improvements you’d hope to see are mostly all in place.
Theres still a progression system, you’ll need to earn XP and money in missions to unlock more weapons and masks and there’s more a crypto like c-coins which pay for certain cosmetics, but will cost you more to obtain depending how many you convert each weel.
You will still unlock various skill trees but you now only have a selection that are active, some of these perks can make massive difference, such as being able to pick concurrent locks with 1 tap, rather than 3-4, or having a speed boost, when sprinting more.
It gives the same tactical approach to making sure you’ve got an ideal loadout for a mission, but it’s just delivered in a slightly different way to before, with the limitations in place, it maybe makes your choices that little bit more important, but keeping a very similar set of perks active, I found myself working through the heists on normal and hard without too many failures.
Graphics and sound are again as you expect, there’s improvements across the board, better atmospheric effects, guns sound better, there’s more chatter from fellow criminals, police and civilians and all-round its just presented better across the board.
The menu UI might feel like a step backwards, but in game, everything just feels like progression and being a fan of the franchise, it’s mostly all positive and how I expected and hoped things would look and sound.
Unfortunately though, just like those launch issues, it’s not all perfect.
While there’s many improvements across the board, some feel more like updates or upgrades rather than something really new and revolutionary.
At times, I feel like a fresh lick of paint with a few perk tweaks to Payday 2 wouldn’t have been that much different, so dropping down from the dozens of heists in Payday 2 to only 8 in Payday 3 does feel like a step backwards.
Theres no doubt those server issues at launch were annoying and Starbreeze (Devs) took alot of flak for the game having such a successful launch on Gamepass. So much so, I’m sure many people will move onto other titles and forget about Payday 3 for a while, which is why we need to look forward about the potential of what is essentially a game as a service.
Payday 3 will add new heists, characters and weapons, and I’m confident within a year or two, it’ll be seen as a much stronger candidate for your time.
That’s not to say it’s anywhere near a bad game now, but fans of the franchise will rightfully feel dissapointed about the transition from the packed Payday 2 to the more bare-bones Payday 3.
Gamepass will bring alot of new faces to the game and I don’t think you’ll ever struggle to find a match (now server issues seem to have been resolved), but I can’t help feel it’s going to struggle to maintain a really big following after the first 10-15 hours until a bit more of that potential content arrives.
Payday 3 is exactly what I personally wanted, a polished and refined advancement of the franchise, with the promise of years of content to keep improving in the future.
However, that means having some patience and looking forward to what the game will be, rather than what it is now, compared to Payday 2.
It feels like a No Man’s Sky scenario, with a bright future, but a rocky start and a few dodgy decisions (menu UI & perk system), so as good as it might feel now to fans who can accept the transition to a new foundation, it does mean it might be a few years before Payday 3 really discovered it’s own potential and fulfills the promise of being better and more worth your time than it’s predecessor.
as good as it might feel now to fans who can accept the transition to a new foundation, it does mean it might be a few years before Payday 3 really discovered it’s own potential