The most unhinged crew of thugs is back in action in Payday 3, everyone’s favorite crime caper, if there’s even any actual competition worth naming. After the colossal success of the previous games, the most feared and fearless heist professionals are back for another round of chaos and crime after a short retirement. With a change of location from Washington DC to New York comes another set of challenges for Hoxton, Wolf, Chains, and Dallas, but this limited beta was limited to one heist, the aptly named “No Rest for the Wicked.” We are inclined to agree.
Four Criminals Walk into a Bank…
Judging by the action and thrills from the sole heist available in this technical beta, Payday 3 is going to be more of the same old greatness that captivated millions of players. Heists can be thrilling experiences where your team of four criminals starts with all the best intentions in the world; a quick in and out rush job without a single fly harmed. Slowly but surely, you use your best stealth skills to avoid cameras and guards, disabling the security system, and making a triumphant and discreet entrance into the vault. As they usually say, money in the bank… except this time it’s the opposite.
That’s the theory; in practice, for good and for worse, 95% of the time heists will devolve into chaotic shootouts and botched escapes, an impractical warzone where civilians shouldn’t be harmed, but a human shield is an option that sometimes you can’t refuse. Vaulting and clambering make navigation an even more intuitive affair, you feel like an actual robber with the athleticism that such a task requires.
That doesn’t mean that stealth isn’t viable, as the mechanics feel cleaner and more logical than they previously did. This is the approach to be taken by players with nerves of steel, carefully checking their surroundings for something or someone that could trigger an alert, setting up distractions, and not being afraid of backtracking to a safer area to resume the mission when the dust has settled.
Shooting also has a very consistent feel to it. From the pistol to the assault rifle, the sensations hit the sweet spot, the weight for each weapon seeming just right, even if you must learn to deal with that bit of recoil before becoming an expert in accuracy. And this time, your arsenal’s proficiency level increases the more you use them, so it’s a matter of purchasing the favorite weapons for your loadout and becoming adept at using them. Weapons are locked behind your progress level, meaning that Payday 3 remains mostly faithful to previous games and other co-op shooters of the same ilk – repeat missions, earn experience and cash, and unlock the better things, including masks. It’s a grind, but one that comes with an exciting and fairly original setup.
After finding your way into the vault through the upper floor by using thermite to breach it, it’s time to deactivate the dye packs in a rush and grab the money. Since you can only carry one bag at a time, throwing them outside and making a few quick runs is the best tactic to escape with a large amount of cash. However, with snipers and all sorts of heavy hitters coming your way, decisions must be made before hopping into the van and riding into the sunset.
It’s still early days to understand how a simple mission changes in so many ways, but there’s always this level of uncertainty to each approach. The locations from which the guards appear, the way some optional objectives trigger, and so on.
How to Make Friends and Rob People
Graphically, Payday 3 doesn’t represent a massive leap in quality from the previous chapter, which launched a decade ago, as you surely recall. The Unreal Engine 4 still delivers and works great for what is intended, but don’t expect something mind-blowing. What you can expect is blowing stuff to smithereens, with a sizeable amount of chaos and shattered glass, enough to please the senses and get the adrenaline going, more so with the help of the hard-rocking soundtrack.
Considering the lineage of the franchise and the excitement surrounding this anticipated game, the player base is likely going to be huge, and the inclusion of cross-progression and cross-platform play is the icing on the money cake. Players will be able to matchmake across PC, Xbox Series X|S, and PS5, making sure that there’s no shortage of heist partners.
It’s too early to say that Payday 3 is going to hit the jackpot, but this small taste left us confident about its potential. The progression system is classic and bulletproof, and the mix of stealth and guns blazing gameplay hasn’t lost any of its charm, despite the heightened challenges and potentially some frustration tied to the former. Since Payday 3 will launch with eight heists, the lingering question here is how diverse and engaging they are going to be, but it’s great to have our boys out of early retirement and back to what they do best – don their masks and wreak havoc.
MP1st was given access to a preview build of Payday 3 for our hands-on session. Payday 3 launches on September 21, 2023 for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S.