Payday 3 Review (PC) – It’s a Steal

I’ve been a big fan of Starbreeze since the phenomenal seventh-generation shooter The Darkness. Having said that, it’s strange that I’ve never played Payday before this third iteration. I have a dedicated group of gaming mates and we play a bunch of multiplayer games, mostly shooters, together. Payday has sadly never been one of them.

With Payday 3, that’s set to change. And not just because it’s available on Game Pass. Payday 3 is a tonne of fun, even if it feels pretty barebones at the moment. Since I’ve never played Payday before I don’t have first-hand experience with Payday 2, but from my research I understand it had an enormous amount of content thanks to years of updates and DLC.

Obviously, Payday 3 is a fresh start which is probably a shame for fans but is a good way to have a clean slate and build things up all over again. And as an entry point into the series, it’s probably a great place to start.

Payday 3 Review

If, like me, you’re a newbie to the world of Payday a quick rundown of the game is in order. Essentially an arcade heist simulator, Payday 3 has you and three teammates (whether real players or AI) attempt a heist and get away with as much loot as possible. Heists, of which there are eight available at launch, offer a range of challenges to overcome and have numerous ways of being completed. For example, the first heist in Payday 3, No Rest for the Wicked, is a bank robbery that allows players to tackle it either stealthily or with guns blazing.

If things go poorly, well, guns blazing is your only option and then you’ll need to fight your way free. In this, but not all missions, you begin without your signature mask on, allowing you to freely explore the level to plan your assault. However, there are various restrictions to areas. Public areas allow you to move around and do as you please.

Private areas are a little more strict; guards will be alerted if they see you skulking around and will arrest you if they catch up with you but citizens won’t give a toss that you’re there. Restricted areas are a no-go; if anyone sees you, be prepared to silence them or get ready for a fight.

While trying to play stealthily and without your mask on, you’re restricted in your actions. You can’t jump or take hostages for instance. It makes it slightly trickier to complete missions completely stealthily as you’re missing some of the tools from your kit, though the real meat of Payday comes from the shoot-outs. And the shooting is great.

Once your mask is on and shit hits the fan, it’s time to shoot everything that moves (sans civilians) and fight off wave after wave of cops, SWAT and unique special enemies. As things go sideways, you’ll have a few minutes to get ready for your first wave and, if you’ve taken any, you’ll be able to release hostages to give yourself some additional time. You can’t keep the cops out forever though and eventually, they will storm the gates to take you down.

You’ll be facing regular cops, riot cops, SWAT, snipers, taser units, grenade units, sneaky invisible ninjas, heavily armoured ‘dozers’ and more. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of baddies (goodies?) to mow down and there are strategies to take them out though often, things get so frantic you end up going hell for leather just to stay alive.

You certainly need good communication and team work to make Payday 3 work as well as it can and the same goes for when you’re fighting for your life. If you go down, get on the mic and scream for your mates to save you.

Playing Payday 3 solo is an option and it’s still a lot of fun, but the fun increases exponentially when you add mates. I would, 100% recommend against playing this game with randoms, but if you can corral three friends to play with you, you’re in for a riot, literally. You will need to decide your approach ahead of time and hope everyone sticks to it, cause you’re definitely looking at a potential Leeroy Jenkins but it’s all part of the fun.

Beyond the eight heists, all of which are hugely replayable, your progression through Payday 3 is all about your character and weapons. Your loadout includes a sidearm, main gun, grenades, gadget and assistance item. There aren’t a huge number of guns but there are the usual suspects expected in a game like this.

As you use a weapon and keep it equipped through heists it levels up and unlocks new mods and features. Where you start with a regular pistol, it’s not long before you can add a silencer for example. The more you play, the more options you have to play with.

On the character side of things, you have a range of skills to unlock and utilise. There are a number of skill tracks based on playstyles; hacker, demolitinist, sharpshooter and so on. Depending on how you want to play, you can select a track to unlock that skill. Once unlocked, all subsequent skills gradually unlock over time and eventually you’ll have all skills unlocked and can mix and match them to create your class.

I’m not sure if the skills make enough of a difference at this stage, so I’m keen to see if there’s some tweaking down the line. I’d love it to feel as though you were getting stronger and more badass when you unlock skills. At the moment it just feels somewhat negligible.

At this early stage, Payday 3 is good, but not great. It’s got a lot of potential and will undoubtedly grow with the fanbase over time. The eight heists on offer, provide a range of missions and objectives and, as mentioned, are highly replyable. There are a handful of guns and masks to play with, which will also be added to over time. Jumping into Payday 3 now may be a bit of a letdown for Payday 2 fans but I reckon they’ll recognise the potential and enjoy just how good each of the eight heists are.

While not really similar, I see a lot of Hitman in Payday 3. The planning, sneaking and stalking phase feels very much the same and when things go wrong, it gives me a similar kind of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. If Starbreeze can do with Payday 3 what IO has done with Hitman we are in for a great ride and an amazing few years of gaming.

Payday 3 was reviewed on PC using digital codes provided by the publisher.

Payday 3
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Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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