You'll love it if:
- You liked Payday 2
- You have friends to play with
- You have Game Pass Core
Not for you if:
- Your PC is on the older side
- You want to play offline solo heists
- Your moral compass only allows you to do good things in videogames
After a rocky first week for Payday 3, its servers are more stable, and matchmaking has improved tremendously. Although I still can’t say Payday 3 is a worthy successor to Payday 2. A myriad of systems that hinder the player experience stand in the way of it being truly excellent.
Payday 3 started off with server issues, disconnects, and just broken matchmaking. While this is never fine for a fully priced title, it gets even worse when playing with bots in single-player forces you to play online. Hindering even those who wanted to play Payday 3 as a single-player heist simulator.
Furthermore, Payday 3 requires you to make a third-party account, has progressions of your infamy level tied to certain challenges, and only eight heists upon release. While these heists have some form of randomness, you will quickly catch up on effective routes and plays and get bored nonetheless. While the shooting is satisfying, especially when nailing headshots in quick succession. The combat is not enough to carry the whole game.
Payday 3 Review – Stealing its own Hype
Thinking back on Payday 2, I only have fond memories of heisting with friends, each carrying out our role and loot and making money forts. When I dove into Payday 3, I was hoping to relive the glory days of heisting. After getting stuck on the connection issues, I told my fellow heist friends to stow their money bags and wait.
Heisting as a Service
Having a third-party account, always online even when playing with bots, yearly passes, and cosmetic micro-transactions. All these signs point towards Payday 3 being a live service title with long-term support if it keeps making money. This also means that when the servers get shut down, you are no longer able to access the game you paid for. Sure, by now, Starbreeze Studios has announced they might look into offline play.
As of right now, there is no option to buy the premium currency with cold hard cash, only the cold hard cash you steal in-game. Personally, I like this option, even when your weapon and gadgets are maxed out, there is still an incentive to spend your cash on C-stacks. Earning these ‘free’ C-stacks is a gateway to buying cosmetics and, in the long run, normalizing browsing the paid cosmetic store.
Don’t Change a Winning Strategy
The core of Payday and what I experienced in Payday 2 is still here. The thrill of the heist, learning the patrols, and avoiding the guards’ gaze at all costs as you rack in stacks of green. The gunplay is satisfying, and scoring headshots takes me back to the good old grunt headshot days of Halo.
Heists are made up of multiple steps of objectives with the goal of obtaining as much money as possible without being seen or as forcibly as possible. You will be detaining civilians, avoiding guards, taking them out at secure spots, and deceiving the radio operators. All while your teammates are hunting for QR codes, breaking open safes, or hauling bags to the escape van. When everything works as intended, Payday 3 is a good time for crime.
The Heists themselves bring back memories from Payday 2. There are the iconic heists reworked for Payday 3. More detail, bigger locations, and new mechanics. We have a small bank, jewelry store, big bank, museum, etc. Nothing we haven’t seen before. Hence they are memorable because they bring back that Payday 2 vibe.
Each of the heists is immensely more detailed, and the layouts are bigger than ever. Certain rooms can shift around between a few points to make things interesting. Key codes for keypads are randomized, and while you could brute force your way through them, it takes a considerable amount of guesswork to crack them.
All heists have multiple objectives based on being done successfully stealth-wise or in full assault mode, drilling all the safes. While you do miss out on some extra cash failing the main objective or ignoring the side objectives, you never leave empty-handed on a semi-successful heist.
Inconvenient Systems – Built for Console
While heisting is fun and shooting is satisfying, Payday 3 is undermined by sluggish systems that get in the way. Moving your mouse over the icon of a heist immediately starts the voice line connected to the heist to start playing. Upon opening the heist screen, all story shorts are always visible, and you have to press the ‘hide stories’ every God-damn time in order to scroll faster through the heists.
When working on your load-out and selecting a new gadget or weapon, you have to confirm the action by pressing the equip button. Why can I not simply select my weapon slot with one click, have it open my inventory, click on the weapon I want, and return me to the load-out screen? I have had multiple heists where I was rushing through a load-out change to fit the tactic the team wanted only to load in because I forgot to press the equip button. The system is sluggish and slow.
Skills to Pay the Bills
The biggest upgrade has to be the skill system, where you level up your skills by using skills from a certain tree while researching another skill tree to unlock as you play. Unlocking more skill points is done by leveling, and you can have up to 21 skill points to put into skills to become a master heister.
The skill point menu is a true Hell when using the PC, as certain text requires you to scroll down but can’t be done unless you mouse over the text and scroll. But if you move your mouse pointer to the right and touch another skill, the text info for that skill will be visible in the right column. This makes the skill window a Payday version of the operation board game as you try to avoid touching any other icons.
On the performance side, I did notice some hiccups while playing. I ran Payday 3 on an RTX3080 with 32GB of RAM and an i5 10600K. While doing solo runs with bots to get to know the maps and try to achieve an ultimate stealth run on most heists, the performance was fine. After turning on DLSS and tweaking some performance, as I said, these maps are packed with detail and more NPCs than ever.
While playing online, performance was worse than single-player. Sudden stutters or even freezes threw off my aim and made the multiplayer experience tedious. Having these happen while doing a full-out assault heist of pure chaos was enough to call it for that day sometimes.
Payday 3 – Conclusion
I advise you to get Payday 3 on a sale or at least give Starbreeze Studios some time to simmer it a while longer. Wait until we have more heists, some of the systems are streamlined, and a few quality-of-life patches have hit. And by then, we might even have an offline mode.
Do you have several friends and some money for a month of Xbox Game Pass Core? Just go, get together, and heist away, my friend. Having a steady team to goof around with in heists makes all those minor problems vanish. And after that month of Game Pass Core expires, and half the squad has moved on, the damage to your wallet isn’t that bad. Hey, at least Payday isn’t as bad as Hood Outlaws & Legends.
Thank you, PLAION, for supplying us with a key.