Payday 3 has arrived off the back of its hugely successful heist shooter Payday 2 which launched back in 2013. That was ten years ago which also means Payday 2 has had ten years’ worth of content for players to enjoy. The game is packed with hundreds of DLC packs, modes, cosmetic items and more. If you had to go pick it up today, you’re getting a pretty robust package that is incredibly enjoyable and fleshed out. A lot more enjoyable and fleshed out than this sequel that is Payday 3.
For the most part, Payday 3 feels like an early-access game. Its performance is all over the place, there are plenty of bugs, server issues are persistent and sadly, its gameplay is mediocre. That is to say, it does have the potential to be something great. Perhaps greater than Payday 2 but at the moment, I simply cannot recommend this game to anyone.
Payday 3 starts off rough with its always-online requirement. For those who enjoy the single-player challenge of stealth heists, this will irk you. Not to mention that Payday 3’s progression system doesn’t rely on how well you play through a mission or how tough the mission is. Instead, upgrading the experience through weapons and skills relies on using weapons and assigning a “research” skill which levels up as you play through the game.
While this sounds great on paper, it is far from it. This simply means that instead of challenging yourself to a tough mission and carefully plotting every single move in hopes you complete it and earn bucket loads of XP, you’ll still earn the same XP and no extra goodies. So there’s zero reward for doing the tougher deeds besides tapping yourself on the back. During the time it takes to complete one higher-difficulty heist, you could have done an easy one three times over and earned triple the XP.
Payday 3 also lacks a decent matchmaking system. You can’t browse servers for specific heists and matchmaking drops you into a random mission without any say on the matter either. This especially gets annoying when you’re trying to play tougher levels with randoms who suck or AI who are even worse.
When it comes to missions, Payday 3 does mix it up with some decent action. While the mission list is just a fraction of what’s available in Payday 2, they offer some exciting stealth, intense gunfights, smart objectives and some beautiful locations to do it all in.
Be it escorting an armoured vehicle over a bridge or searching an art museum for a painting made with blood ink which, for some reason, costs a fortune. There are also a lot of side objectives to keep you busy too and usually, multiple ways to approach them. Don’t get me wrong, there are some questionable mechanics in Payday 3. One saw me stand in a random spot for ten seconds in order to unlock a barrier. Why this spot and why ten seconds is beyond me but the whole thing felt like some strange capture objective in Destiny 2. Surely there are more creative ways to approach these mechanics?
Enemies can also get tough, especially on the higher difficulties. They flock in within a second and you’ll spend a good five minutes surviving the onslaught, running around for ammo pickups and taking cover wherever possible. This is especially true for the higher difficulty modes in Payday 3. There’s a certain magic in Payday when you’re trying to steal bags of dough while fending off waves of enemies and that magic is here… To a certain degree.
I do feel as if Payday 3 is watered down across almost every aspect of the game. The simplest thing mechanics, which were fleshed out in Payday 2 with item limits and carry bags, are now just boring button presses. For example, you have unlimited cable ties to tie up hostages with. Cutting glass is just about pressing a button to cut glass. Even lockpicking can be done by everyone. All of this results in the loss of role importance. You don’t have to plan who brings what to a mission because everyone can do things pretty much the same.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. Skills do give you an upper hand across certain mechanics. You can do everything but depending on your skill, some players might do things better. Unfortunately, this skill system isn’t pushed hard enough to warrant investing time into it. Even with all the skills, I felt they didn’t provide enough benefit to the gameplay. I simply stopped unlocking them. The same goes for guns. Once you find the one you like, even adding attachments doesn’t make enough of an impact to push the agenda.
I think the issue surrounding the game’s progression is the lack of role-assigning. So you don’t have to create a new build because what is the point when you can do it already? The campaign ends up shooting itself in the foot too by rewarding way too much currency and XP so there’s essentially no grind. There’s no push to get a weapon nor a skill that is a “must-have”.
There’s also a story going on underneath these missions which plays out in a cinematic after every few chapters. While nice to have, it kind of got in the way when I did my first playthrough. My team was waiting for me to start the match meanwhile I was sitting watching a cinematic. We saw the same thing in Exoprimal and it gets in the way of your friend’s time. You’ll have to come back and watch these cinematics when you’re not in a party with other players who just want to shoot cops.
Honestly, the only real upgrade in Payday 3 compared to Payday 2 is its visuals. Payday 3 looks great because it was made ten years later. Apart from that, this is a bare-bones inexcusable attempt at a sequel. With half the mechanics, a fraction of the content, dumb AI and bots and generally shallow gameplay. I was astonished to see just how watered down everything was in Payday 3.
It feels like a shameful clone of Payday 2 that someone made in their garage while trying to capture the magic of the original games. Not a sequel made by the same studio that kept us entertained for the past ten years. Kind of ironic how so many studios have tried to recreate Payday 2’s excellence with horrible clones only for Starbreeze to try the same thing themselves.
Warning – Payday 3 is also incredibly unstable at the moment. A week from launch, the game has been unplayable most of the time due to large-scale server outages and hiccups. Players have barely been able to play this. I encountered this on a daily basis too with hour-long outages. You should probably stay away from this game for now.
This Payday 3 review is based on a code sent to us by Starbreeze Studios. The game is available now on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC from R660.
Payday 3 Review - The Early Access Heist We Don't Deserve
Payday 3 is like a cheap clone of Payday 2 developed just to try to piggyback off of the fame and success of the excellent game. Only this is made by the same team. It is astonishing how watered down and bare-bones this game is. Not to mention marred with server issues to an almost unplayable state.