The Payday gang are back but is this a worthy sequel or should it have remained behind bars?
For more than a decade now, the Payday series has been enabling players to live out their fantasies of pulling off thrilling bank heists along with a group of their closest friends. With the last instalment in the series, Payday 2, launching way back in 2013 on the PS3 and Xbox 360, fans have long been hungering for an updated sequel for modern day consoles. That changed last week though when Payday 3 gunned its way onto PC, PS5, and Xbox Series, but is this one a worthy sequel or should it have remained behind bars?
Payday 3 is a direct continuation of the story from the previous titles. Here the legendary Payday crew are dragged out of retirement after a new threat in the criminal world emerges. The story here is admittedly pretty bare bones and when you're being briefed on heists, you are just shown a still image with lines of dialogue playing over the top. Personally, this never really bothered me too much though, as like many people, I'm drawn to the daring heists in a Payday title and not the narrative.
At launch, there are eight heists that players can freely select in any order. These different scenarios slowly scale up in complexity and see players try and make off with as many goodies as possible whilst breaking into settings such as art galleries, night clubs, and jewellery stores. Each of these scenarios feel distinct with their own set of unique objectives that you'll need to complete. In one mission, for example, I had to guide an armoured truck across a bridge, removing all obstructions in the way. In another, I had to rig up a device to burn through the roof of a vault in a small bank, whilst fending off waves of police.
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Whilst the selection of heists is a little lacking at launch, what helps to aid replayability is that they can be approached in multiple different ways. You can either kick down the door guns blazing or opt for a more stealthy and methodical approach without attracting the attention of the law. In the night club level, for example, you can sneak your way past guards and CCTV cameras to complete the entire heist without triggering a single alarm. The challenge here is already pretty steep and this will only be increased depending on who's in your squad.
Using the cash obtained from heists, players can purchase new weapons for their loadout and the available arsenal only expands as you gain XP and level up. These range from sniper rifles, to shotguns and heavy assault rifles and there's even the option to fully customise every weapon in your loadout by changing the sight, grip, and barrel. There are also a selection of fun cosmetics that you can clad out your bank robber in, with masks being designed after Abraham Lincoln, adorable animals, and Uncle Sam.
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There's also an entire skill tree of perks that players can unlock and up to four skills can be equipped at a time. Split into 17 different categories, the selection of skills here is plentiful, giving players many to play around with when looking for the right combination that suits their play style. For example, the Medic skill line improves the efficiency of Medic Bags and makes you more proficient in reviving downed teammates. The Demolitionist line makes the explosions caused by your throwables more potent and the Tank line enhances your armour, making it faster to regenerate and harder to penetrate.
With me receiving a code ahead of launch, many of the lobbies were empty and I had to resort to playing alone with bots. This proved to be a miserable experience and soured my impressions of the game right from the get-go. The bots in Payday 3 are incompetent and never lend a hand when it comes to anything more than blindly firing at enemies. Due to this, you end up having to rush around doing all the busy work yourself to set a heist in motion, and it can feel like an eternity with tasks not being divided between a group of players.
Whilst we're on the subject of negatives, I can't fail to mention the game's woeful performance and technical issues. For a game that demands to be constantly connected to the internet, it was disappointing that there were certain times where it was impossible to get into a match. Perhaps this is a teething issue caused by a large influx of players from Game Pass, but whatever the cause might be, it's still massively frustrating to be downright refused entry to the game when you're excited about jumping online with a group of friends.
Then we have to talk about the game's menus. The menus in Payday 3, especially the one to join a heist, just flat out don't respond at times and I was left confused spamming the A button in the hopes of something happening. Once you manage to get through that menu, it then becomes a back and forth battle to select the heist you want to play, as the menu always tries pulling you back to the first you cycled past. Sometimes when doing this the dialogue summarising each heist will loop over each other too, which is not the best on the ears.
With a bare bones selection of heists, unresponsive menus, and helpless AI, Payday 3 struggled to make for a glowing first impression. In its present state, it largely lacks polish and this overshadows a lot of what it gets right in terms of giving players a rich tool set and freedom in how heists are approached. We're holding out hope that like its predecessor, it can improve over time with an extended heist roster and multiple performance fixes.
5 / 10
The small selection of heists are varied. There are a wide range of equippable skills. You can approach heists in multiple ways.
The game's servers are unreliable. Menus struggle to work properly. The AI isn't the brightest.