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Payday 3 (PS5) Review

Payday 2 was one of those games I played a lot during my PS3 days. It was a simple game with a simple premise and an even simpler overarching plot. As you know, I was mostly a gameplay person when first entering the more advanced side of gaming, so something like it fit squarely in that slot. Sure, a story exists, but I can tune that out and go on a heist. Payday 3, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired.

Payday 3
It’s all about the money.

Straight Outta Washington DC

Payday 3 sees the OG crew back together to continue their life of crime after a brief bout of retirement. Rekindling your old contacts and forming new ones during this time as you move operations.

While its precursor used Washington DC as its backdrop, we move onto a new city to call home — New York. With these new contacts, including two new playable characters — Joy and Pearl — we’re greeted to something of a nostalgia hit. Except we’re not, there’s no Safehouse to act as a tutorial, instead, we’re thrown into a warehouse to relearn everything.  

Front of Secure Capital Bank, the obligatory bank heist.

Optimization NOT At The Ready

I was going into it with tapered expectations as I’m not a huge multiplayer guy. One of the biggest drawbacks is the lack of an offline mode, something that 2 had. That’s right, this game’s an always online multiplayer-skewed experience. Now, I prefer single-player adventures that can be enhanced by multiplayer but are not required to play them. And sure, you don’t have to play in public lobbies, you can go with invite-only or private lobbies, but still, playing online has its drawbacks.

I played it around launch and while I faced no issues, it did have a lot of server downtime, perhaps they didn’t expect as many people to hop on, but with an online-only game, you should expect a lot of people are going to be on 24/7, especially since this is the latest entry in a rather beloved — albeit niche — series.

It does face the live-service issue of releasing a handful of heists with the promise of more to come.

Aiming down sights, readying for the cops to show up

Police Assault

There’s a reason I was always a go-in-guns-blazing kind of person when playing its precursor — I was horrible at stealth then, and I still am. I’m too cautious and almost always overestimate how good the AI actually is at detecting my movement or illicit activities, leading to getting caught quite a bit.

Overall, Payday 3 plays exactly like the others, scoping the area, stealthfully planning out your attack, and mask up when you’re ready. Unlike 2, though, stealth seems more viable as different areas of the map affect how people interact. 

Public areas are for the public, so as long as you aren’t doing anything illicit, then cops and security won’t bother you. Private areas will have security escort you out and warn you not to enter the area again. Meanwhile restricted areas may lead to a more aggressive altercation.

I almost always went in almost immediately and started blasting security guards, tying up hostages, and heading to the goal as fast as I can, letting the AIs do the shooting.

Payday 3 is a noticeable improvement in a fair few areas outside of stealth — the shooting feels less janky, and the additions of some modern movements like sprint sliding are a welcome feature. It’s also great to see the game move on from the internal game engine to be powered by Unreal Engine 4.

Holding hostages in Ashton Fine Jewelry.

Smells Like Bacon

One of my biggest gripes with Payday 3 is, overall, the game lacks enough innovation to strip the offline play. Perhaps it’ll be a future update, but we doubt that. It’s always seemed to want to be a multiplayer-focused game and with this wave of live-service dribble, this is Starbreeze’s chance. The game itself feels like it discourages you from using the one workaround to soloing a heist. 

When entering an invite-only lobby and letting it run its course, you” be able to play the game with AIs. The problem is, it feels rather unfair when you rely on the AIs as opposed to your Friends list or randoms looking to play that same heist. You are everything, you’re the one who stuffs the bag, you’re the one who sets the traps, you’re the one who sends hostages out to bide time before the police go in, guns out. I know this was the same thing in previous entries, but I wish Starbreeze allowed the player to mark and order an item to be picked up.

Considering all the improvements made, including making the gameplay loop more rewarding because of the skill tree and all that, it doesn’t seem like an overly complicated request. Besides, it can’t just be new heists to keep people engaged, sometimes you wanna hop into a heist and play it alone to see what it’s like.

Shooting at police, defending drill in Gold & Sharke

Final Charge

Payday 3 is an improvement to a triad and true formula Payday 2 instilled — a formula that keeps you coming back for more. It plays both sides — wanting people to keep stealthy while giving players the option to make it more difficult by going in guns blazing.

While I had fun rekindling my love for Wolf, Hoxton, and the gang, it’s just a modernized rehash of the same heist simulator we knew from a decade ago. As good it may be, it suffers from the live-service issue of a lack of content and an uncertain roadmap.

You can buy Payday 3 on PSN here.

Starbreeze Studios
Deep Silver
FPS, Live-Service
Release Date:
September 21, 2023
Final Rating:

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