In a world where first-person shooters such as Battlefield and Call of Duty dominate the scene, it’s hard for any other shooter to compete — just look at Titanfall 2. But for Starbreeze’s shooter, Payday 3, it seems like the game is trying to do its own thing, which is good. Its niche way of playing has always been for a particular group of players. Rather than running and gunning, shooting whatever you see, Payday 3 takes a more focused and honed-in approach. Since the game relies heavily on planning and listening to what your handler says, some newcomers may find it hard to play. However, as a newbie such as myself, I can happily report that this might not be the case. After spending a ton of time with Payday 3 in both the closed beta and the full game, the studio looks like it wants to expand its player base. While the online game has issues, it’s surprising how much the series has grown. So, without rambling on, here’s our full and fantastic review of Payday 3.
Just when I thought I was out…
The narrative of Payday 3 isn’t the mainline element of the game. If you’ve played Payday 2, the story continues from there. At the end of the last game, the crew retired and vowed to never go back into the life of crime. Well, who knew the life of a bank robber has problems? By being double-crossed and losing all the money they’ve “earned” in Payday 2, the gang is back.
The story for Payday 3 holds everything together but takes the back seat a lot of the time. Each cutscene is unlocked after you complete a subsequent heist. So, for every heist you’ve done, you’ll unlock two cutscenes. This isn’t a knock on the shooter, because what makes Payday 3 is the gameplay itself. Having a narrative helps players get immersed better, and also assists newcomers like myself in understanding what the world is about. Ultimately, it’s not the strongest aspect of the game. But again, the story isn’t what Payday 3 is about.
Pulling off the perfect heist
Most of the heists in Payday 3 have multiple ways of completing them. For this review of Payday 3, I did all of them to experience everything the game had to offer. If you’re using stealth as a method to do the heists, you might want to look at this stealth build guide we have. Doing each of the heists this way has its own merits — albeit much slower, you still get bonuses for doing so. One of my favorite parts of playing with stealth is it highlights the communication aspect of Payday 3. I was able to tell my friend which guard had the Blue keycard that was needed to get into the VIP Room because I could see it from where I was.
The other way to play is by going in loud and putting your mask on. I didn’t do this until it was needed. But if you’re insane enough to do this, more power to you! As soon as guards are alarmed, you can deal with them and wait for the waves of cops to descend on you. There are ways to keep cops at bay such as hostage negotiations that give you resources like health, ammo, or shields. Everything feels faster, and when the music starts, you as the player will feel the energy course through your veins. That, to me, made the game far more immersive.
The crew is the family
What makes the gameplay of Payday 3 fun and unpredictable is who you’re running the heists with. I was playing with friends, and we were able to communicate efficiently because everyone was on the same page. If you’re playing the game alone and matchmaking in a public lobby, you might get a different experience. Not everyone will want to do the stealthy approach, or someone has found a certain way to get to an objective that goes against what you want. On top of that, since the game is online only (but you can still do solo), things like earning skills might come to a halt. Some players will want to go their own way, forcing the rest of the team to get on board with them.
Not everything is doom and gloom, though. Payday 3 comes alive when you get everyone to agree with you. Aside from what I said above, the strangers I ran into on my first run were all following each other’s orders. I just wish, for the sake of progression and not having to deal with toxic players, that offline play was an option. Because then to combat the issues regarding the servers for Payday 3, players could still enjoy the game at its fullest.
Same heist, different jobs
Each mission in Payday 3 has the same goal — which is to steal something (duh). However, what makes them stand apart from one another is how said thievery is done. One heist will have you escorting an armored vehicle, while another will make you quietly sneak around in an art gallery. This aspect of Payday 3 is probably one of the highlights. None of them can be done the same way and require a lot of planning.
Having a wide variety of missions shows how different Payday 3 can become in those moments. Not everything plays out like a classic heist movie — that’s just one part of the game. Plus, the heists stand on their own and make Payday 3 feel less redundant. At the moment, there are only eight heists you can do, with more coming later on. Thanks to there being a multitude of different ways to do those heists, I was able to replay each of them and figure out new methods to extract data or steal something. At the same time, though, having eight heists may limit your experience. It would be great if they had a few more, or more that can be unlocked as you play.
Tools of the trade
The weapons play a large role in Payday 3. Even if you’re planning a stealth run, you need to have something quiet to deter a guard. But when things go loud, having a weapon to defend yourself is crucial. The weapons felt amazing during the closed beta for the game, and thankfully, I can report that not much has changed. Each gun has a weight to it and feels great as you shoot them. Plus, along with the heists you do and complete, you can earn mods for all the weapons. They are attachments such as sights that can make the weapon better overall. So, if you keep grinding away, you can make a gun that suits your needs. The guns in general make everything about Payday 3 feel complete, and the progression of earning more attachments is worthwhile.
Moving up the ladder
Progression in Payday 3 is important and easy to do. Complete the heists in any way you want and reap the rewards. However, the more creative you are, the better the rewards. There are a bunch of things to do in terms of leveling up quickly, which can help you get better skills early on. Each skill has a skill line that can be applied to your loadout. At the start, you can only have three skills, but as you go on, you can have more.
The skills, like the weapons and gameplay, comprise the stronger components of Payday 3. You can truly create something for any playstyle you want. I was specializing in stealth, so I got the skills that benefitted me most. A little pro tip for you: invest in these early skills, they seem to work with several playstyles. Because Payday 3 gives you some freedom to do things how you want them. When you’re able to play how you want, you can level up your Infamy (the leveling system) faster.
Leaving your mark
Creating a unique robber is apparent in all the Payday games. For the third entry, it’s very much the same. You have those iconic, customizable masks, suits, and gloves, enabling you to stand out. Plus, you have different colors and designs you can apply to your masks and guns! Both the progression system and the customization are two of the best mechanics of this game. I spent longer than I should have making something unique to me. The best part is that when you play every heist to earn more money, you rank your Infamy up, which gives you more options — and there are tons of them. It’s clear Starbreeze has put a lot of care into this aspect.
The best job is never a smooth one
Payday 3 as a whole has something there. The foundations of a great heist shooter are laid out well for veterans and newcomers. However, the game, more often than not, feels empty because of the lack of content outside of the eight heists. Don’t get me wrong, those missions are surprisingly fun. But once you master everything, you’ll hit a wall from not having anything else to do. Being an online-only game hurts as well; even when you’re playing with friends or AI, you still need to be online. I can see this aspect pushing people away. However, from the weapons to the customization options and the skills you earn, Payday 3 does feel right in that regard.
Unless you’re a die-hard fan of the series, my advice would be to wait for more content. As mentioned, there’s a template there, it just needs to be filled in.
Payday 3 is available now via Steam.