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PAYDAY 3 Review: Settle in for the Long Heist

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An Xbox Series X|S code was provided to GamingPizza for this review. Payday 3 is now available on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

The Payday series has always had a special place in the hearts of gamers who relish high-stakes, cooperative heists. From the earlier titles that laid the groundwork, Payday 3 leaps ahead with a promise of adrenaline-fueled excitement, improved gameplay mechanics, and an intriguing skill system. But does it deliver? Mostly, yes, although it comes with its share of initial drawbacks.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of pulling off a complex, high-stakes heist successfully. The game’s level design significantly contributes to this, offering multi-layered missions and areas that keep you on your toes. Each mission feels like it’s been pulled straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster, and the tension is palpable from start to finish.

The new skill system is another significant addition. Payday 3 streamlines its skills into three main buffs — Rush, Edge, and Grit — that dynamically influence your gameplay. Whether it’s running faster, hitting harder, or becoming a walking tank, these skills add a layer of strategy that keeps the gameplay fresh, not to mention tailoring the experience to your preferred style of play.

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Upon launch, Payday 3′s online co-op experience had its share of issues, including connectivity problems and lag. However, recent patches have already done much to stabilize the online experience. As with almost any online, co-op-focused game, Payday 3 is undoubtedly much more enjoyable when you play with friends instead of being matched with random players. The strategy element of the game shines when you’re coordinating with people you know, making the experience markedly better than what you might find in public lobbies. Not to mention the fact that you’ll likely experience plenty of mid-game drops from players who aren’t interested in continuing if caught during the heist — a common occurrence during my instances.

Do you need to be a Payday veteran?

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One of the questions many will have is whether familiarity with the previous games in the Payday series is required. The answer is no; you don’t need to be a Payday veteran to enjoy the game. In fact, if you put off playing Payday 2 because of its barrier to entry for newcomers, you’ll find that Payday 3 does a great job of welcoming you to the show.

Those who have played the previous titles may have a richer experience given the recurring characters and subtle nods to past events. On the other hand, however, the game is light in the content department, which may put off some veteran Payday players. More on this in a second.

If you’re a newbie coming from the elaborate heists in GTA Online, Payday 3 offers a different flavor. While GTA Online’s heists are part of a much larger open-world experience, Payday 3 is laser-focused on the art of the heist itself. This focus makes the co-op strategy in Payday 3 more specialized. The game encourages playing with a regular crew of friends, where everyone strategizes together, knows their role, and executes it perfectly. Random matchmaking doesn’t offer the same level of coordination and can often lead to frustrating failures.

Quality over quantity

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The lack of content at launch has (already) been a sticking point for many. Payday 2 was a treasure trove of masks, missions, and weapons. In contrast, Payday 3 feels somewhat barebones at launch. However, what it does offer is highly polished and enjoyable, laying a solid foundation for future content to build upon, which, if it follows the path of Payday 2, we can expect to be substantial. Plus, Payday has a continually growing community of devoted fans. The possibility for mods down the line can extend the game’s lifespan, much like what we saw with Payday 2.

Stealth is also a game-changing feature in Payday 3. The heightened, reworked mechanic allows for a genuinely different approach to heists. While in earlier titles, the idea of a stealthy approach was more of a pipe dream, it’s now an absolute possibility thanks to smarter AI and procedurally generated cops, along with varied mission designs and plenty of different ways to approach each heist.

The graphics and sound design in Payday 3 are up to par, providing an immersive environment that brings the tension and excitement to life. I experienced a few minor technical hiccups, but nothing that was game-breaking or diminished the overall experience.

In it for the long heist

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Payday 3 shines in many aspects — it captures the adrenaline rush of pulling off a successful heist, offers improved gameplay mechanics, and its skill system is both engaging and player-focused. However, it’s not without its flaws. The limited content and the initial shaky online co-op experience at launch hold it back from being a classic in the making. Yet, despite these issues, the game lays a robust foundation for what could become a continuously engaging experience, especially as additional content rolls out.

For newcomers to the series or those looking for an intense, cooperative heist game, Payday 3 offers plenty. For those already invested in the Payday universe, the transition may feel like a step back in terms of content, but a step forward in gameplay and mechanics. Either way, it’s a heist that’s well worth your time, if not a complete score.

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