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Payday 3

Payday 3 Impressions: Is Starbreeze scoring big or botching the job?

We got to steal some frosty substances for Ice-T during a preview session at Gamescom 2023.

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It's no secret that Payday 3 has to be a big one for Starbreeze. This anticipated sequel has a lot riding on it, and the pressure is on to ensure it doesn't stumble out the gates. While release is less than a month away at this point, with the game set to make its debut on PC and consoles (even as a day one Game Pass title) on September 21, I've had a chance to dive into the heisting follow-up to see whether it scores big or instead botches the job.

Immediately from the get-go, it's apparent that the developer has taken the years of experience creating Payday 2 and put it to good use in this title. While there will only be a fraction of the characters available at launch when compared to where Payday 2 currently is, the original gang are back and better than ever thanks to the deep and expansive skills system that has been offered up here. The buildcrafting options are less rigid now and are built in such a way that you can pick perks that both suit your style of play and also the way your crew intends to complete a heist. Fancy going stealthy and silent? Pick up hacking perks across your team. Prefer to make a racket and face the swarms of cops head on? Prepare with perks designed for combat. By switching and choosing between around 100 individual perks, you can create a build that suits the exact situation you find yourself in.

On top of this is the typical depth in the weapon and item slots. You can pick the weapons you bring on a heist and then outfit them to suit the occasion, with grips, barrel attachments, sights and so forth. It's not to the depth of Call of Duty's current Gunsmith, but there are plenty of options to play with. And this is also similar with the character cosmetics, which allow you to alter the appearance of the gang, to make them each feel personal to you.

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As for the heists themselves, I had the chance to check out the 99 Boxes mission, which stars rapper and avid Payday fan Ice-T as a new contract provider. Here the idea is to break into a warehouse to steal a bunch of a substance that must be kept below a certain temperature else it will degenerate and drop in value. This means you have to work as a unit to enter the warehouse, find the truck to store and ultimately escape with the substances, and then head out into the neighbouring container yard to find the correct container that holds each substance. And this is all while remaining covert, or instead dealing with hordes of police when you no doubt screw something up and draw the attention of guards.

It's all very typical Payday, and from what I saw, the police don't come off as a huge threat to your operations, although no doubt this will change depending on the difficulty of a mission. Sure, the riot shield units are a problem, and the enemy types that taze you or stun you mean that you will need the aid of other players to avoid being knocked out. But, the enemy AI didn't surprise me with its complexity or strategic depth, it's more just about throwing large sums of enemies your way, meaning as long as you have ammunition (which can be restocked by walking over defeated enemies), you will likely not face too much of a problem during a job, even when the police threat level is at its maximum.

Enemies aside, the 99 Boxes heist was a blast and a perfect example of how you can easily get into and play Payday 3 with complete strangers. The game feels intuitive and the tasks at hand are clear and simple to figure out. These missions aren't Destiny 2 Raids, although I'm sure more complex ones will be available as you continue following the story.

Payday 3
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I'm not going to tell you that Payday 3 blew me away, but it was a lot of fun. For a title that is launching on Game Pass and has complete parity across PC and console (yes, no more being left behind on console anymore), you couldn't really ask for much more, and the future promises that the developer informed me about during an interview that will soon be available to watch, made me even more excited about this game. While there is no timeline on it, Payday 3 will eventually be updated to Unreal Engine 5, and then to add to this, there will be a bunch of post-launch support as well, as was the case in Payday 2.

Essentially, regardless of whether you are a longtime Payday fan or are looking to give it a go for the first time this September, Payday 3 is a perfect place to start, and for that reason, there's a lot to be excited about when looking at this threequel.

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REVIEW. Written by Kieran Harris

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