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Payday 3 preview: raising the stakes in every possible way

Will McCue

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| Last updated 

Payday 3 preview: raising the stakes in every possible way

Featured Image Credit: Starbreeze Studios

It’s almost been a decade since Payday 2 was released back in 2013. Since then, Starbreeze Studios’ co-op bank heist shooter has earned itself a super-enthusiastic community, meaning the game is still frequently on the top played list on Steam to this day. Payday 3 releases later this year on 21 September and aims to up the ante in every possible way.

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I recently played two heists on the highly anticipated sequel; a classic bank robbery and a more stealth-focused art gallery theft. Each mission lasts around 20 minutes while your squad of four players try to steal as much as possible in what the developers call ‘the ultimate bank heist fantasy’.

Payday 3 / Credit: Starbreeze Studios
Payday 3 / Credit: Starbreeze Studios

The convoluted Payday 2 story concludes with the main characters Hoxton, Wolf, Chains and Dallas retiring but after an assassination attempt and a ransacking of their offshore accounts, the gang are forced to return. This time to New York City. Two brand new characters will be revealed at launch too.

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Instead of being built on their own engine, Starbreeze has decided to use Unreal Engine for Payday 3. Consequently, the world looks gorgeous, the NYC skyline in particular has stuck in my memory as I gawped at the illuminated vista as fellow journalists were calling for me to join them in the heist at hand. Some environments are destructible and movement is much more fluid now as you can jump over objects or easily hop through an open window. Using Unreal Engine also allows future updates to be slightly easier as any bugs can be ironed out a lot quicker.

Payday 3 / Credit: Starbreeze Studios
Payday 3 / Credit: Starbreeze Studios

NPCs are much more intelligent this time around. Guards will follow up on something dodgy they’ve seen and civilians will raise the alarm if you simply look in the wrong direction. There are different enemy types such as ‘Zappers’, who shoot you with a taser, leaving you unable to move for a few seconds. Or ‘Cloakers’, who roll about like invisible beyblades to RKO you out of nowhere as you’re trading a hostage for more time or something else more nefarious.

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Speaking of, the heists themselves are much more interactive now. There are optional safes to crack, locks to pick or windows to cut - adding a little more to just running around a treasury and pressing the F key every so often. A new twist allows you to give up hostages to the cops in return for a few more precious seconds to escape. Simple but effective.

As always, communication is key and playing with a full squad of four makes Payday 3 ten times better than playing alone. Executing the perfect sneaky robbery with your pals is so satisfying, you’ll forget that you’re actually playing as the bad guys. Without proper comms, it’s almost impossible to do that, even on the easier difficulties. Sometimes, however, it’s just fun to blast through waves of police like you’re The Joker in The Dark Knight.

Payday 3 / Credit: Starbreeze Studios
Payday 3 / Credit: Starbreeze Studios
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Payday 3 has loads of customisation, from weapons to your intimidating mask or the clothes you wear - almost everything can be changed. There’s an extensive progression system with countless unlockables and weapon upgrades, that works fairly similarly to a Call of Duty gunsmith. I made sure my mask, suit and gun were all pink - you know, to really stand out at a random NYC bank. My favourite unlockable was some gloves aptly named ‘Thicc Boys’. I felt much more at ease knowing I had them equipped.

Furthermore, there’s a substantial skill tree that lets you become the criminal of your dreams. Fast paced runner and gunner? There’s a skill that lets you reload while sprinting. Healer? There’s a skill that lets you pick up your pals much quicker. You get the idea.

Many, including myself, see Payday as more of a PC franchise, whereas this time around consoles are being prioritised too. In fact, Payday 3 is even on Xbox Game Pass on release day. Global brand director of Starbreeze Studios, Almir Listo, admitted to us that he feels they’ve let down console players in the past and wants to make it up to the players if they can. The community is key to the success of a series like Payday and the developers are well aware of that, though it’s worth noting that any focus on the console version won’t take anything away from the PC edition.

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Payday 3 raises the stakes in every way. Rushing out of a bank with a huge duffel bag full of Benjamins while intense music vibrates your eardrums never gets old (in the game, of course…). We can’t wait for release on 21 September 2023.


Topics: Preview, PC

Will McCue
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