PAYDAY 3 is the latest in the long running franchise, marking a staggering ten years since the release of PAYDAY 2. It’s safe to say expectations are high, as fans eagerly anticipate the evolution of the co-op heist shooter after such a lengthy wait.
For those who are unfamiliar, PAYDAY 3 is a co-op FPS which brings players together to steal a load of valuables and decimate the local police force in the process. That’s pretty much it, because there’s no other way to play (unless you end up with a team of bots helping you, then I guess you could claim you are playing solo).
The legendary gang have been brought out of retirement, and this time around the action shifts from Washington DC move to New York City. They are under threat from the newest generation of criminals, so what better reason to gear up and take out the competition.
I’m a bit stuck in my ways when it comes to my gaming opinions (as those of you who listen to our podcast will know). So imagine my face when, as a precondition of being able to play PAYDAY 3, I was informed I needed to register a Starbreeze Nebula account. Let’s just say that set a few alarm bells ringing.
Anyhow, once I got past that rubbish I could start the game properly. There are a series of different heist scenarios available to play from the start, all linked together by short cinematics which are unlocked as you tick off each mission. Each is very similarly structured, often beginning in a public environment. You and your team will have options in how to proceed, but generally will need to locate and gain access to the loot, before bagging it up and transporting it to the evac chopper. Artwork, precious metals and cold hard cash are up for grabs in the heists.
You can also choose to take hostages and trade them to put off the inevitable wave of police for a short period of time. However, unless you’re really organised as a team it won’t do you much good.
During each heist you’ll be set upon by endless waves of enemies, with only a brief pause between them. This consumes a lot of ammo, so scouring the battlefield for supplies is key to keeping the heist going. However, the enemies themselves can take significant damage before you put them down. There are a few special units who will pop up from time to time, which come equipped with much more deadly weapons such as tasers, explosives and even a mini gun. The good news is that they do have weak spots which, when hit, will take them down instantly. The mini gun fella is a tank, and if you go in all guns blazing it won’t end well.
Going for a headshot is usually the most effective strategy, however the weapons don’t feel quite accurate enough to pull it off everytime you want to. Despite them looking the part, handling feels lacklustre. For example, your shotgun should feel much more powerful than your machine guns, but the difference is almost unnoticeable. A large part of the satisfaction of playing an FPS is lost because of this, in my humble opinion.
There are around ten or so heists to tackle, but they only differ cosmetically each offering a very similar experience each time. The idea is replayability, however I didn’t feel the urge to jump back in and go again. There is definitely something missing in PAYDAY 3 that prevents it from feeling obviously formulaic.
Yes, I know. We’re a bit late to this one. Sometimes that can have its advantages, as it’s all too common these days for games to launch in less than ideal conditions, hoping to be saved by the fabled “Day One Patch”. However, more than four months after launch, PAYDAY 3 still has its issues.
First off, the game crashed on me a few times when playing, one time before the heist had even begun. The menus are also clunky, unresponsive and are filled with loading times. This is especially the case when modifying weapons. However, the best example is the intro screen where you can press any button to start, and there is a significant delay of a fair few seconds before your input is recognised and you can progress.
One thing I will say is that PAYDAY 3 looks pretty good. The heist locations are varied enough, and at the start of a fair few of them you are treated to some colourful and eye-popping skylines. This detail extends to your weapon arsenal too, which makes it worthwhile customising them to your preference. You can also dress your character in various different getups, including the trademark face masks. Numerous different articles can be purchased from the cash you earn from heists, and you can also spend it on new weapons and upgrades too.
You can also make use of your skill points to boost certain attributes, such as your sprint speed and damage dealt. Using these to achieve buffs such as “edge” will temporarily increase your stats mid heist. It’s a pretty run of the mill progression system, but it does the job.
Matchmaking works fine, but I very rarely managed to fill my team with human players. All too often I had to rely on bots to make up the numbers. For a game which launched on Game Pass, this could well be a very worrying sign for Deep Silver and Starbreeze Studios.
As I alluded to earlier, there isn’t an awful lot of content on offer in PAYDAY 3. It’s a by-the-numbers co-op FPS which unfortunately, doesn’t live up to the hype of its predecessors. I found myself struggling to find reasons to go back to each heist once I had completed it. This was partly because of the core similarities between each one.
The talk around the importance of planning a heist doesn’t really translate to the gameplay, where it’s far too easy to endlessly leg it round, nipping from one objective to the other, backed up with a generous amount of armour and health. That’s not to say it’s easy, but it means you’re reduced to gunning down swarms of enemies for most of your time playing rather than getting into the intricacies of planning and executing a heist.
Then there’s the cost. It’s a full price release (£35), with the gold edition costing more than double that. For your extra pennies, you get a few in-game items and access to the gold level 12 month season pass, which has so far only delivered one single additional heist (alongside a few weapons and skins).
More content has been provided free of charge to date, than under the paid DLC banner. It’s a good job, then, that PAYDAY 3 is on Xbox Game Pass (at the time of writing anyhow). Therein lies the problem because with a game structured like this, it needs a steady stream of new content, in-game events and other features to keep players engaged. It feels as if the developers have already run out of ideas.
PAYDAY 3 is sadly a classic case of style over substance. It’s a “by the numbers” FPS whose uninspiring offer struggles to distinguish it from the competition.