Review of Payday 3: A Must-Play Cooperative First-Person Robbery Game

As someone who had previously played and thoroughly enjoyed the two earlier Payday games, diving into Starbreeze’s sequel for this Payday 3 review felt like a natural and familiar experience. It was like returning to a comfortable home. However, despite the initial familiarity, it became evident that the changes in this multiplayer heist game run deeper than surface-level enhancements. The Payday series has always grappled with the risk/reward dynamic, and this aspect is brilliantly amplified in the latest installment. While a fresh visual update is appreciated, it’s the substantial mechanical changes under the hood that truly shine in Payday 3.

To begin with, the gunplay in Payday 3 feels more substantial and refined. While not flawless, it now approaches the standards expected from top-tier FPS games. Players no longer feel like inexperienced thieves who have never handled an automatic weapon. This evolution in gunplay makes thematic sense since the core cast of criminals remains the same as the original game, suggesting that they have become more experienced and skilled over time. Movement, which previously felt slow and rigid, now allows every character to navigate levels gracefully, even during intense firefights.

At launch, Payday 3 offers eight heists, each with multiple solutions for maximizing your loot. Unlike Payday 2, where mastering stealth often felt like a tedious process, it shines in Payday 3 and was often my preferred approach to every level. The rush of adrenaline when an alarm goes off, and the subsequent improvisation and assessment of remaining options, add to the excitement as you strive to maximize your earnings.

However, matchmaking frequently proved disappointing, with only four successful starts to a four-person heist team in the first eight hours of play. The AI remains a significant letdown, as they contribute little beyond increasing the police body count. They don’t work towards objectives and appear to exist solely to fire their weapons when masks are on, which exacerbates the frustrations stemming from matchmaking issues. Payday 3 is best enjoyed with a group of friends, as relying on AI or random players rarely led to a satisfying experience.

In one instance, while attempting the Rock the Cradle heist, players repeatedly left the game once our cover was blown instead of voting to restart the level. Eventually, matchmaking began launching empty lobbies with a five-minute timer where no other players would join. Frustrated, I attempted it solo, which was daunting given the heist’s emphasis on stealth. Surprisingly, after several attempts, I managed to complete it without triggering any alarms. Moments like these make Payday 3 memorable, but the matchmaking issues overshadow the enjoyment.

The level of customization offered in Payday 3 is commendable. Players can not only add attachments to their weapons when they meet the level requirement but can also create their own masks using base templates with detailed layers and spray paints. The same customization options apply to weapons. It’s clear that Payday 3 has room for additional content beyond extra heists, which instills confidence that it will expand just as extensively as its predecessor.

Although the game’s explanation of the new skill points system is weak, it becomes straightforward once you grasp it. You begin by allocating your initial skill point to the master skill, and then you must complete challenges to unlock the pathway, working your way toward a powerful final skill. Skill points continue to be required after unlocking new options, and the game offers 17 skill pathways, making progress through the skill tree a challenge in itself.

The replayability of Payday 3 is heavily reliant on difficulty levels. There are four difficulty modes, ranging from normal to overkill, each influencing the gameplay loop. Completing each heist on normal is enjoyable, but the real challenge lies in pushing yourself to overkill, where indestructible cameras and relentless radio-wielding guards make it a formidable task that requires effective communication among a four-player team.

Where Payday 3 encounters issues is with its bugs. At launch, there are still too many instances of dead bodies clipping through walls and doors. Additionally, the in-heist navigation could be clearer in terms of waypoint placement. While these issues are likely to be addressed promptly, it’s disappointing to see them persist on release day.

In conclusion, Payday 3 offers a surprising amount of content and enjoyment at launch. Not only is the content extensive, but it is also valuable and attainable, contributing to the fundamental gameplay loop of heist, spend cash, improve, and repeat.

Robbing a bank has never felt more satisfying, as Payday 3 surpasses its predecessor, which had endured the test of time and received numerous updates. Looking ahead, Payday 3’s new heists, compelling storyline, and improved gunplay indicate a bright future, with the series likely to attract new players well into the next decade.

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