Payday 3 Review – More Money, More Problems

Payday 3 on PS5

The launch of Payday 3 was certainly off to a rough start, as players were met with matchmaking issues and log-in errors. I was, of course, a part of that bunch that had to constantly refresh the game just to play a few minutes of it, only to be shut out once again with another error. 

But I never like to judge a book by its cover, or in this case, by its launch, no matter how infuriating it may have been. On the surface, Payday 3 has all the makings of an excellent franchise continuation, but honestly, that’s all it truly is: a good start. It just doesn’t feel as complete as the past installments, given that it now requires an online connection, account log-ins, and lacks missions.

In comparison, Payday 2’s base game featured 12 heists, while the latest installment only showcased eight. You would expect a successor like this to at least have the same amount of quests, but it has instead toned it down. Fortunately, the heists in Payday 3 are rather fun to play, and it never feels like you’re playing the same mission twice due to its diverse set of objectives.

Even if you’re a beginner to the franchise or need a quick refresher, you can utilize the tutorial to familiarize yourself with the gameplay. Yet, I do wish the tutorial explained things a bit more, as some terminology and mechanics were left out in actual missions.

Payday 3 Cutscene
Image Source: Starbreeze Studios via Twinfinite

Longtime players of the series will recognize familiar characters, such as Wolf, Dallas, Chains, Joy, and Hoxton, with the new addition of Pearl. The storyline takes place sometime after the events of Payday 2, bringing the gang out of retirement and back onto the heisting battlefield. You can watch the cutscenes to dive deeper into the narrative or jump into any mission, regardless of your level or equipment. Players don’t need to follow a chronological order for these heists, as they are all available at the start, with the exception of the locked cutscenes.

I like the idea of having these choices laid out for the player, whether they want to focus on the narrative or test their luck in a more advanced mission. The only hiccup I saw with the PS5 version is an issue with audio since my file didn’t provide any sound for cutscenes, which seems to be a common occurrence for this system and possibly others. Additionally, these cinematic takes aren’t as meaningful as Payday 3’s predecessor, differing from the second installment’s “true” ending that made a huge impact.

Heists can go in two directions: guns blazing or the stealth route. It doesn’t necessarily cater to one side over the other, so the game does have some replay value for those who want to try another option. Once you start a mission, you’ll need to work alongside a four-person team, which can be done with other players/friends or bots in solo mode. Although I prefer solo rounds, it is nice to jump in with another team to see what different kinds of shenanigans unfold in the session. 

As you may expect, the primary goal is to grab as much cash or valuables as possible in whichever way you deem necessary. Sometimes, you can enter a full-on rage and take on hostages; other times, you find yourself taking on the role of a Solid Snake-like playthrough as you sneakily maneuver around the area. Movements are restricted when your character’s mask is off, but you will become more noticeable to bystanders or guards with it on.

Combat Mode in Payday 3
Image Source: Starbreeze Studios via Twinfinite

Playing the heists in Payday 3 took me back to the times of Grand Theft Auto V, and I believe it’s an excellent alternative for those who enjoy this aspect of the Rockstar installment. As mentioned before, the objectives you’ll receive will always change based on where you are rather than simply shooting up the place each time.

For example, the Dirty Ice mission requires you to blackmail a manager at a jewelry store, while Rock the Cradle allows you to mess with a DJ’s music at a nightclub. If you still want to get your hands dirty, a fun quest like Road Rage immediately lets you jump into a deadly battle with the police.

Most locations will exhibit Public, Private, and Secure areas that can determine the fate of your team’s strategy. For instance, anyone caught by a guard at a Secure destination will automatically be handcuffed, possibly leading to an all-out alert within the facility. What I like about this feature is that the Private areas can provide another shot at a successful plan, in which you’ll be escorted out of the premises instead of halting the scheme entirely. It also makes things much easier when pickpocketing a guard since you can simply grab a keycard from them while they graciously take you away from the location.

The combat can be thrilling with Payday 3’s overhaul of powerful weapons that can be unlocked from the vendor. The character’s movement is also relatively smoother than Payday 2, and the graphics have been revamped thanks to the modernized engines. Each location came with its own set of unique characteristics, and I appreciated the little things you can discover, from randomly placed magazines to notes left by employees.

Although Payday 3 has plenty of content for replays, I don’t think it has much value for the long haul with its consistent need for an online connection and a reduced mission list. It could get better with the addition of offline mode and the upcoming missions set for the DLC, but it still needs a lot more substance to be a worthy successor of the franchise.

Heists in Payday 3
Image Source: Starbreeze Studios

Players can at least tackle the list of Challenges or unlock all skills/items if they want more content after the campaign’s completion. However, even if you earn the rewards from these features, there isn’t much you can do with them with the limited amount of locations and heists. The account log-ins have also become a big issue around the community, especially since it has been tied to numerous errors during its launch.

On the other hand, there’s still some hope for Payday fans if the servers and gameplay continue to improve. My only desire is to add an offline mode and more missions to make it feel more fleshed out for the base game.

Payday 3

Reviewer: Kristina Ebanez