Payday 3 Hands-on Preview – Back from retirement

Posted on June 26, 2023

After a nearly four-year-long development cycle, the newest entry in the well-loved heist series Payday is finally releasing later this year. We got the opportunity to rob some banks of our own during a quick preview of the new game, and it’s definitely made us keen for more. 

While Payday 2 ended with the main crew of Dallas, Chains, Wolf and Hoxton finally deciding it’s time to hang up the masks for a well-earned retirement, Payday 3 shows that the business of crime isn’t one so easily abandoned.

Immediately the graphical upgrades to the new game are obvious. The game still maintains its identity with almost harshly lit environments during the daytime and softer darker settings during the night, but the texturing is much more advanced and I noticed more fluidity in animations too. 

“If you were a fan of Payday 2, everything that you loved about that game is present here as well.”

The maps are also still very interesting to maneuver around with lots of little tricks available to those who are in the know. A key moment for me was learning that all the shutters around the first level, a bank, can be lowered by the players without even needing to go loud, effectively preventing anyone outside from being able to see what goes on within the lobby of the bank. It certainly made me wonder what else could be discovered and utilised during a heist. 

One of the most substantial changes to the Payday formula is the alterations made to mask off or stealth gameplay. In Payday 2, attempting to complete a heist without alerting any guards would be incredibly difficult, because being spotted even once resulted in the guard setting off an alarm. In Payday 3, if you are spotted in a private area, such as a staff room or behind a counter, you will not immediately be caught. What happens instead, is that the guard who finds you will ask you to follow him and as long as you play nicely, he will lead you back into a public area without ruining your stealth attempt. This is a great addition, it’s far more realistic and also gives players a bit of leniency when scouting a location. 

I was lucky enough to conduct a brief interview with Per Storlokken, PAYDAY 3’s interim Game Director, and he spoke quite a bit to this point. Storlokken noted that “we put a lot of iteration into the mask off experience and expanding that, and also taking the stealth experience and trying to make it more co-op friendly”. This makes a lot of sense for a step forward in the series, as successfully pulling off a stealth heist has always been incredibly difficult. Storlokken said that this could be because “the stealth experiences in Payday 2 are quite binary”. You are either in stealth, or you are going loud and this new mechanic within private areas is a great way to make the transition more fluid and intentional. 

Even with these new changes, Payday 3 still feels sufficiently stressful. I was yelping anytime a camera caught sight of me, or when I rounded a corner to see a guard already standing there. Because while guards are much more forgiving in private areas, being caught in a restricted area is still going to result in the guards raising the alarm. 

The gunplay is also still great with swarms and swarms of guards rushing in through every entrance of the building, and sending in stronger fighters with each new wave. For the most part, the meat and potatoes of the game remain the same, and this is good because it still works incredibly well and is a lot of fun, especially with other people. There are a few other small changes, like being able to grab a civilian and use them as a human shield during a firefight, but for the most part, if you were a fan of Payday 2, everything that you loved about that game is present here as well.

Overall, the changes made to the original formula of Payday are incredibly promising and the engine upgrade has done wonders for the game’s visuals without sacrificing any of that classic Payday style. According to Per Storlokken, “most people who play Payday 2 play loud, and most people who play stealth do so on their own.” So hopefully the changes made to the game’s systems will encourage more co-op teams to try their hand at stealth. 

Payday 3 releases on  September 21, 2023 for PlayStation 5, Xbox series X|S and PC. Get ready to become a criminal legend!