Payday 3 Review – Stealing People’s Money

Payday 3 Review

When it comes to a long-running game franchise, the third entry is often problematic. While the second game in a series often improves on the first (i.e. Red Dead Redemption 2), game number 3 can find itself at a crossroads. Does it innovate, or just settle in for a nice, long, cash-grabbing haul? Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present Payday 3. Apparently, more of the same is good enough, and it doesn’t even have to work all that well.

Oh, Cash Is Getting Grabbed Alright

Payday 3, like its series predecessors, is a cooperative heist simulator. You and three buddies rob banks, infiltrate the homes of the rich and famous, steal priceless art, set up armored car ambushes, and more. There’s a tenuous stab at a story, complete with some A-list cameos. It isn’t hard to feel the talent cringing and anxiously waiting for the check to clear.  Lifelessly told through voiceovers and static illustrations, I didn’t care about it for a second, but I guess it gets the job done.

There are a total of eight heists. They begin with you and your squad checking out the target incognito, allowing you to plan at least some of your route and noting the position of guards and doors. As soon as you don your clown mask, it’s go time. From that point on, the choices are stealth or guns blazing. For Payday 3, stealth opportunities and puzzles abound. Once caught, there’s no way out except through mayhem and violence.

The increased opportunities for a stealth approach add some complexity and replay value. In fact, except in the first, relatively straightforward bank robbery, the heists are pretty long and convoluted. Having some friends who know the maps and mechanics is almost imperative. It will save a lot of wasted time wandering around and potentially failing the mission. Payday 3 has a lot of problems, but in the abstract, mission design isn’t one of them. The new missions take into account the way we use technology like QR codes as part of the puzzle-like nature of the heists.

Gunplay is Funplay?

Especially if you’re trying to complete a mission with the game’s abysmal AI squad, heists will almost certainly devolve into shootouts with police. This is a game lightly tethered to reality, so the weapons fall into the expected groups of pistols, SMGs, shotguns, and all manner of explosives. On one hand, the combat is fine, even if the police tend to be ridiculous bullet sponges. There’s plenty of cover to use to advantage, and you can now grab innocent bystanders and use them as meat shields. Fun! Payday 3 improves on its range of movement, too, so your character is more agile. On the other hand, though, Payday 3’s shootouts feel stuck in the past, partly because figure animations and character models in general look dropped in from a decade ago. Nothing — neither melee bashing with a stolen riot shield or taking out a sniper from afar — feels very impactful.

Payday 3, like the previous game, was built for four-person cooperative play. Whereas Payday 2 had an offline mode and a marginally passable single-player option, Payday 3 goes all in on the always-online model. This has created all manner of problems, from server crashes to endless failed matchmaking to console players having to create new Starbreeze Nebula accounts to play at all. I personally spent several hours trying to get a linked PS5/Nebula account to allow me access to the game, then got stuck in an endless matchmaking loop.

Single Player? Forget It.

Even after wading through the mess of menus and wait times, the single-player experience is essentially worthless. Friendly AI is worse than bad. It actively ruins whatever plans you had, cannot stealth, and mostly has no idea what to do, who to shoot, or where to go. Payday 3 is a multiplayer-only game. It’s deceptive marketing to even suggest the single-player component is viable.

There’s probably an audience for Payday 3, as there was for the previous game. A jank-tolerant group of friends might have fun killing some time and causing mayhem. They’d have to have a pretty low bar for shooter mechanics, graphics, and story, though. Apart from that. there’s really no reason to spend money or time with Payday 3.

***PS5 code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Functional multiplayer missions
  • Open-ended approach to objectives
  • B-list cameos

The Bad

  • No singleplayer
  • Not much content
  • Broken matchmaking
  • Dated graphics
  • Bugs