Payday 3 Lacks the One Thing Most Games Totally Overdo

A little push in the right direction.

Payday 3
Prime Matter

With hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash on hand, it’s no wonder the entire NYPD is on my crew like a pack of wolves in Payday 3. After melting through the bank vault with thermite and collecting more cash than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes, only one task remains: Reach the getaway vehicle in one piece.

It’s messy and the streets are littered with cops — some of which are stationed on rooftops with snipers — but we manage to make it to the van ... all except one of us. Our squadmate goes down in the crossfire and we’re tasked with making a tough choice. I quickly vault over a barricade, sprint over to them while the rest of the squad covers us, and somehow manage to revive them, allowing us to all escape the heist as a group.

Payday 3 is a thrilling co-op shooter that tasks you with completing various heists across New York City. In most ways, Payday 3 is a huge improvement from its predecessor, with more fluid gameplay and a wider variety of ways to complete objectives. Still, it doesn’t seem to shake some of the roadblocks from Payday 2 — mainly its sometimes obtuse design that may steer newcomers away.

In Payday 3, you get to live out your criminal fantasy, with several different heists to take part in.

Prime Matter

As part of a preview event, I tried out two different Payday 3 heists: A traditional mission taking place at a bank, along with a more sophisticated robbery at an art museum.

Right off the bat — as with most Payday missions — our team attempted to rob the bank quietly. But things got out of hand fairly quickly. One of us got spotted by a camera, leading to an intense firefight.

While the gunplay felt satisfying and fun, I couldn’t help but wish the squad had completed the objective stealthily. There was very little indication as to how to do so, which could force a lot of trial and error. Trading a hostage to the police to buy more time was a novel inclusion, albeit a gruesome one.

There was much more ground to cover in the art museum, which had multiple floors and entrances. But once again, it wasn’t clear what to do. A Starbreeze rep had to walk us through an obtuse segment that involved spotting the correct paintings, cutting through the glass to obtain them, authenticating them, and then escaping via helicopter — nearly all of which my team had no clue how to do.

The game wants you to play stealthily, but remaining undetected isn’t always easy or straightforward.

Prime Matter

Payday 3 can easily become overwhelming if stealth is broken, with an endless stream of officers storming the museum from every direction. This could be fun for players looking for a more action-packed experience, but less so for those wanting to lean into sneakier strategies.

It would be nice if the game offered more specific on-screen prompts to guide players through missions (with the ability to turn tutorials off, should a player choose). This way, up-and-coming bank robbers can ease into the experience with more of a focus on the game’s more subtle systems like lockpicking, disabling cameras, and utilizing silencers to take down unsuspecting guards.

Despite the issues, there’s a solid foundation here. Many of the problems seem like straightforward fixes that could be addressed by launch. Payday 3 wants to be an open-ended sandbox that allows players to complete heists in a wide variety of ways — and it’s almost there. Some tweaks to its UI along with offering a bit more direction (at least at first) could help players understand all that this game has to offer.

Payday 3 launches for PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on September 21.

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