The Payday series is back after a decade with a third game. This time, the masked robbers of the co-op first-person shooter are making New York unsafe, and after all these years, it delivers a double feeling.
The crew is back together again
Payday 3 is a game in which the idea is to team up with three other players to commit robberies – called in-game heists – on basically anything where there is a lot of money to be made. You do this as one of four returning robbers: Dalles, Hoxton, Wolf, Chains or the newly added Joy and Pearl. The other characters are taken over by friends, online players or the computer.
The heists can succeed in different ways, in this you have a choice of two tactics. First, there is the “loud” way, that is, by storming in with weapons and while stealing take on waves of policemen. You can also choose the “stealth” way, in which case the goal is to get away with the loot without getting caught by security or cameras. Each way has a different set of tasks that must be performed to complete the heist. So the way you do a mission makes for a completely different experience. Almost always, it also makes for a good experience, as there is something great about working with other online players toward a particular goal.
Short, but powerful
Unfortunately, there are only a total of eight heists in Payday 3. These are all generally different and are different in many ways. For example, the first heist is a simple bank robbery. A later mission involves stealing three paintings from a museum, looking for the original among the copies hanging next to it. You then have to find these using a certain device. One of the cool things about Payday 3 is that the technology in the games has evolved along with that of the real world. For example, doors now have to be opened with QR codes and in one mission crypto has to be stolen.
So the missions are again entertaining and there is a lot of news compared to the previous game. Actually, there were only two missions that I personally found a bit less interesting, as they were just a bit too simple and boring in my opinion. The disadvantage of eight heists is that you can get through them in no time. Within six hours I had completed all heists, replaying some of the missions several times to get through them without getting caught.
It’s unfortunate that Payday 3 feels like an introduction for now.
It does look like more heists will be added over the next few years, this was the case with Payday 2. In fact, that game received about 80 paid DLCs in ten years. These were new heists, characters and weapons. Payday 3 seems to be heading in the same direction, as there are already four times announced for the coming year when developer Starbreeze will release DLC for the game. It is unfortunate that for now Payday 3 feels like an introduction to what is to come in the coming years, and the focus for the studio is clearly back to adding paid content.
An actual story
This also applies to the game’s story. This is because it has an open ending that will most likely be continued in the DLCs. It does mark the first time Payday 3 has a clear story with cutscenes at all. These scenes are displayed on a timeline in the mission menu and you unlock them by completing the heists. This is a nice addition that probably not all returning players will find interesting. It is possible to ignore it completely and even make sure they are not displayed on the timeline between missions. Personally, I do think it adds something to the game and especially to the unique characters.
Indeed, in the previous games there was some lore, but overall worldbuilding was clearly not really a priority for the developer. Payday 2’s story was told through a web series and trailers on a YouTube channel. So now it’s nice to actually have a story with short scenes in the game. That way you really get to know the characters you’re playing with for the first time, or have played with in the past 12 years. For example, I didn’t find out until Payday 3 that Wolf, the character I always chose in the previous games, is a bloodthirsty killer. Before that, I knew absolutely nothing about him and the others.
What the Payday games are really about is the gameplay. In my own experience, Payday 3 is a fine first-person shooter and really just a more modern version of the previous game. Shooting with weapons feels a lot better again. So if you try to pass a mission the stealth way and get caught, it doesn’t feel like a punishment to finish it while shooting. All missions are also doable on normal difficulty and fortunately there are three more difficulty levels if you are really looking for a challenge.
It’s also nice that if you get caught trying to pass the mission the stealth way, you don’t fail immediately when security figures it out. If you haven’t gotten very far yet, a security guard will generally just send you away and so you can try to enter again. In addition, there are a limited number of times when you can shoot a security guard and tell your colleagues via walkie talkie that nothing is wrong. So it is not that you are not allowed to come into contact with the security guards at all, and you can also disable the cameras with weapons with a silencer. And with one button it is possible to vote to restart the mission.
Where Payday 3 succeeds less is the progression system. After completing a heist, you get a part of the loot made and from this you can buy weapons, outfits or masks. It’s unfortunate that unlocking these items doesn’t quite match the amount of money coming in. This is because to unlock new weapons and outfits, you have to level up with your account each time. This caused me to earn a lot of money from the heists, but was too low a level to do anything with it.
Fortunately, each weapon has a leveling system and thus you unlock improvements when using it. This ensures that a weapon plays finer and finer, making it easier to pass missions on higher difficulty levels. But these upgrades are not particularly expensive, so again, this doesn’t really help with spending the money. So the extra bags of money you loot in addition to the original mission during a heist don’t necessarily feel useful, and that’s a big downside.
Even after you finish the story and complete all the missions once, you don’t get any kind of a reward. There isn’t even an achievement for it. So you really have to get the satisfaction from making the missions succeed and not from spending the money you’ve collected.
The last major change in Payday 3 from the previous games is that you now have to be connected to the Internet at all times to play the game. This shouldn’t be a problem, but for this review I played quite a bit over the weekend after the game was released and the servers were down regularly. As a result, the game could not even boot up, even though it is possible to play Payday 3 on your own with a crew consisting of NPCs. So, at the time of writing, the servers are not very stable, as finding other online players does not always work well either.
This is quite unfortunate since the NPCs do not contribute much to achieving the goal. They do bring money bags to the getaway car and shoot snipers, but otherwise they don’t add much, especially if you want to complete the mission the loud way. If you want to make it through the stealth way, the NPCs work extremely well and wait nicely until the alarm goes off before doing anything.
In addition to the servers, the game itself has some minor problems. There are a few bugs, which do not necessarily have a big impact on the game’s progress, but they do occur regularly. For example, bodies occasionally get stuck in the walls and an agent has suddenly disappeared here and there during a firefight.
Payday 3, like the previous games, is another great experience and a fine first-person shooter. It’s nice that this time there really is a story with cutscenes, which helps the worldbuilding of Payday. Still, this third installment occasionally misses the mark. For example, with eight playable missions, the game is very short and looks like an introduction for the paid DLCs scheduled to come out after release. Furthermore, there are some minor bugs that come up regularly and it is unfortunate that looting during a heist is not very satisfying. In addition, it is annoying that you always have to be connected to the Internet to play, as Payday 3’s servers do not work optimally. All in all, it is still an entertaining game and a small step forward for the series, at least I will definitely keep playing it.