The Payday series has always maintained a dedicated fan base in the gaming community, thanks to its unique elements of heists and violent crimes. Payday 2, which has been in continuous development by Starbreeze for over a decade since its release in 2013, shed the hardcore stealth label of the first installment. It introduced various imaginative skill trees, highly customizable heist procedures, and adrenaline-pumping battles against waves of police, injecting new life into the game and its community.
On September 21st, Payday 3 was officially released, marking a new beginning for this decade-old IP.
A More Complex and Realistic Stealth Experience
The game’s official release features a total of 8 levels, with 7 of them being completable through stealth, even without killing anyone. Compared to the second installment, Payday 3 divides its maps into multiple areas: public areas, private areas, and restricted zones. As long as players don’t engage in suspicious activities in public areas without masks and are not detected by guards the first time in private areas, they can eventually return to public areas. Players can freely explore these areas, familiarizing themselves with the map’s layout. The game introduces a “scouting” mode that allows players to interact with objects like lockpicking, welding, and item retrieval. Many interactions are presented as minigames, enhancing immersion.
Several design improvements have been made, such as removing limitations on tying up civilians and changing the penalty for killing civilians to reducing rewards at mission completion. Concealment values have been eliminated, and the rate at which guards detect players is no longer affected by the type of weapons players carry. These small changes significantly enhance the overall gaming experience and fluidity.
The game’s map and mission design tend to be more linear, and mission objectives are relatively straightforward, lacking some of the immersive simulation elements. However, beneath the main missions, the game introduces numerous side missions for additional rewards and collectibles. Combined with the variety of skill combinations, this somewhat compensates for the linear nature of the main missions.
Fast-Paced and Exciting Combat
Being a shooter game, the shooting mechanics are worth mentioning. Payday 3 significantly improves gunplay compared to its predecessor, with more powerful character animations and clearer hit feedback. However, some players might find the plastic feel of the weapons a drawback in terms of audio design. Overall, though, there are no major flaws to point out in this area.
In Payday 3, armor no longer regenerates as in the previous game. While armor still has regenerative capabilities, if it’s quickly depleted, players will need to rely on armor packs to refill it. Additionally, ammunition drops from enemies are scarcer, emphasizing the importance of ammo management and team support bags. The game places a strong emphasis on player cooperation, and the removal of player health increases mobility and the skill ceiling.
Enemy spawns are more dynamic, starting with basic enemies in the early stages of a firefight and gradually escalating the difficulty as time passes and missions progress. In the final evacuation phase, players encounter a wider variety of elite enemies to hinder their progress. To cope with high-intensity combat in the late game, the game introduces a mechanic for calling in airdrops with superweapons, though the variety of superweapons available in the official release is somewhat limited. Hopefully, future updates will offer more choices.
The game introduces new enemy types while retaining familiar ones from the second installment. This adds variety and challenge to combat encounters, addressing criticisms of the “taser” enemies from previous games.
Overall, Payday 3 increases the difficulty of direct combat compared to its predecessor, but it also enhances the player’s ability to handle enemies, making it more engaging.
Continuing and Improving on the Signature Out-of-Heist Progression
Progression outside of heists has always been a crucial aspect of the Payday 2 experience. In Payday 3, talents are condensed into a skill tree system. Players can equip three perk decks, each with branching paths that can be unlocked using experience points obtained from completing missions and achievements. The game offers a rich variety of skills at present, serving as a major source of endgame enjoyment.
Weapon proficiency is a new system introduced in this installment. Players can level up their weapons by using them in missions, unlocking new attachments in the process. This system somewhat resembles the gunsmithing system.
The game also provides extensive customization options for masks, outfits, weapon colors, and more, allowing players to personalize their appearance.
Enjoying Together is Better Than Enjoying Alone
Payday 3 has improved communication within teams during online play. In-game, if a player in the team acquires key items or tags something important, it is displayed on the public screen, and the game provides preset messages for primary actions to enhance communication efficiency among players.
When bonus skills activate, the game adds tooltips at the bottom of the screen. Ammo drops from enemies are now personal pickups, eliminating the competition for ammo among teammates. Notably, in matchmaking mode, game rooms no longer have a host, eliminating the possibility of malicious teaming by random players. These improvements enhance the experience for solo players, allowing them to enjoy the cooperative aspects of the game even without friends to play with.
Slight but Notable Graphics Improvements
Compared to its predecessor, Payday 3’s graphics have seen definite improvements, but the limited lighting and shadows make the overall visuals lack depth. Character facial expressions appear stiff, and scene destruction lacks polish. Additionally, the game’s optimization still needs improvement, especially in complex combat situations, where stability can suffer. These issues somewhat detract from the overall visual appeal. The game’s AI is a minor downside, with enemy alertness seemingly limited to visual cues, and NPC behavior appearing rather rigid. In some cases, enemies may even exhibit wall-hacking behavior. Combined with occasional mission item bugs, the stealth gameplay in this installment feels somewhat off.
Payday 3 builds on the strengths of its predecessor while introducing more modern elements, providing a solid foundation and tighter gameplay pacing. The imperfect enemy AI is one of its few drawbacks, but as one of the top-tier IPs in its genre and with a track record of excellent ongoing support from its developers, I am still hopeful for the game’s future.