Payday 3: Is the Co-op Crime Shooter Still a Thrill Ride or Just a Heist Gone Wrong ?

It’s been a long-awaited decade since the last entry in the co-op crimeathon FPS series, so naturally, anticipation was high for Payday 3. Payday has always stood out as the kind of online multiplayer experience that strikes a chord with gamers like me – PvE action with clear but adaptable objectives (theft, of course!). However, while Payday 3 may sport a slicker exterior compared to its predecessor, it doesn’t quite reinvent the wheel. In some aspects, it feels like it’s taking a step backward, leaving dedicated Payday 2 players with a sense of nostalgia tinged with frustration.

For those who may have been literal children when the last Payday title graced screens, here’s a quick primer. In Payday, you assume the roles of a gang of elite criminals, orchestrating heists on banks, jewelry stores, armored cars, and more, all with the ultimate goal of scoring a hefty haul while dealing with waves of relentless law enforcement. Each Payday 3 mission typically includes bonus optional objectives (like finding a specific safety deposit box for extra cash) and recurring obstacles that slow your heist down (such as disabling road bollards for your getaway vehicle). You start each level incognito, blending in with civilians to scout the area or attempt a stealthy heist. However, most players opt for the quicker, louder approach, donning their signature clown masks and going loud – shooting guards and taking hostages.

One challenge Payday 3 presents is that stealth is considerably more challenging to execute until you acquire certain abilities, like disabling security cameras. As you complete heists, you earn upgrades and customization options for your loadout, along with skill improvements that boost your stealth, combat prowess, and more. These can range from passive enhancements to gadgetry like camera spoofing. Typically, it’s advisable to maximize your progress in a level before going loud, as Payday 3’s law enforcement response becomes increasingly formidable the longer you linger on a job, eventually reaching a point where you’re futilely firing at an almost invulnerable adversary. Just like real-life crime, it’s best to ensure everyone’s on the same page before launching into action.

Regrettably, Payday 3, a game heavily focused on meticulous planning and successful execution of heists, ironically makes the planning part more challenging than it should be. Payday 2 featured CRIMENET, a dedicated matchmaking hub where players could select their desired heists, indicate their approach (stealth or loud), discuss loadouts, and more. However, Payday 3 has discarded this system. Instead, players are presented with a timeline of heists loosely strung along a storyline (one you can conveniently bypass with a simple press of a button). You select the heist you wish to tackle today, and unless you specifically opt for a private or friends-only match, matchmaking is random. Furthermore, there’s no in-game communication, be it voice or text chat, in the lobby, which feels like an oversight. CRIMENET, for all its flaws, at least offered players more control over their experience. Payday 3 ends up being a game where you learn the ropes by observing other players. They demonstrate how to streamline loot bag handling, provide vault access codes, and share other critical heist details. While informative, it feels like a missed opportunity for better communication and coordination among players.

Payday 3 introduces bespoke levels that occasionally require stealth, such as one where you must pilfer cryptocurrency from a server that will be wiped clean if the alarm triggers. These custom missions add depth and variety to the gameplay, complemented by the game’s improved graphics. The artfully designed levels, reminiscent of Hitman in some instances, feature multi-stage challenges that truly immerse you in the criminal underworld. There’s an authentic thrill in scanning a QR code from an unattended phone to unlock a secured door. Moreover, Payday 3 emphasizes taking hostages, allowing players to trade them for extra time or resources before the police launch their assault – a darkly humorous touch when you witness a cowering civilian seemingly conjure a medkit out of thin air upon being released.

However, the intricacies of Payday 3’s levels can be a double-edged sword. If you’re unfamiliar with a mission’s objectives or if your teammates are equally clueless, you might find yourself aimlessly running around while waves of police close in, resulting in an overwhelming defeat. It’s almost essential to practice levels solo in an invite-only lobby to grasp their nuances before tackling them in a group. For seasoned players, it can be frustrating to watch a less-experienced teammate inadvertently trigger an alarm, bypassing a critical step or fumbling their way into the view of an unnoticed security camera.

While Payday 3 still offers fun and satisfying moments, it demands more active cooperation than your typical run-and-gun co-op title. Additionally, the skill gating system makes it challenging for newcomers to succeed without investing considerable playtime, which could deter new players. Consequently, Payday 3’s difficulty in accommodating strangers may hinder its potential as an online co-op hit. Overall, it’s an enjoyable experience but not without its quirks and challenges.

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