PayDay 3: thrilling heist game or unfinished robbery-feeling a bit more beta than final?
Once again, we step into the shoes of a member of the notorious PayDay gang and band together with three cohorts to rob numerous institutions. The gameplay in the third installment hardly deviates much from what we've grown used to in PayDay 2. Some gameplay innovations were layered over the former mechanisms, and the gameplay unfolds on fresh maps.
We game alongside three other online gamers or go solo (also online, but with the aid of bots – more on this later). Again, we are granted considerable freedom in how we tackle tasks; the planning and discovery of new pathways and solutions on maps are the core thrill of the series.
The game’s allure
In games like PayDay, what I highly value is being immersed in the overall experience; you genuinely feel like a burglar in action. You may find yourself in situations where a heist plan that took hours to craft disintegrates due to a single random move – be it yours or a teammate's. This uncertainty brings a lively air to PayDay 3.
We are given eight locations to raid at launch. It might not seem much, especially compared to the numerous maps PayDay 2 had at its premiere. However, Starbreeze Studios has already announced the scheduled progression of the "trilogy," so expect the location roster to expand in the latest installment. You would assume purchasing a game at launch gives you access to its finished version on day one, not several months later.
The real robbers?
Shortly after its release, the game was plagued with matchmaking issues. I decided to wait a few days and thoroughly look into this topic. The developers seemingly rectified these glitches because PayDay 3 usually connects without a hitch now and matchmaking doesn’t demand a long wait time. Gathering people for a heist usually takes about a minute, which is quite acceptable. However, I do have concerns about another broadly related connection issue.
The fact that multiplayer gaming requires an Internet connection doesn't really surprise anyone nowadays. However, what seems irrational is that PayDay 3 doesn't boot in offline mode even when we want to play offline with bots. This implies that without a PS Plus subscription on PlayStation, the most we can do is roam around in tutorial mode. Are we at a point now where we must pay for a PlayStation subscription in order to access the single-player mode?
Yes, I am aware that it has been highlighted many times prior to the launch that the game’s existence is contingent on the internet. But – neglecting the issue of the platform's policy – I don't believe that the "online-only" tag effectively communicates, for instance, if the servers crash, players won't be able to launch this game at all.
The trio is riddled with numerous technical errors. One of them is the erratic behavior of NPC’s. For instance, guards may overlook our presence, even though we're trespassing a private area right under their noses. Meanwhile, police arrange themselves during a storm as if they are eager to be shot. Erratic moments also occur when amid flying bullets and rampant chaos, a law enforcement officer unexpectedly stands calmly next to us, blankly staring into oblivion.
Hilarious scenarios also occur with neutral non-player characters. One bank employee fixed his gaze on a wall and admired it from a very close proximity. I toured the entire building and returned to find him – unperturbed, he was still standing in the same pose. Moreover, shooting victims often contort into positions resembling deflated rubber dolls.
The visual experience in PayDay 3 does not impress overall. While there are scenes and locations where the game boasts a decent aesthetic, it generally gives the impression of being an offering from the previous generation. Some of the interiors are dull and formulaic; NPC's and our companions' avatars move as if they're stricken by rigidity.
Furthermore, characters intersect with one another or blend into the surrounding. This installment isn't immune to the common pitfall of current games: a dip in frame rate. Thankfully, this defect is sporadic, probably occurring twice over several hours; the gameplay is smooth most of the time.
Should we break in?
The new PayDay installment provides the best elements of this series - countless hours of engaging gameplay. However, currently the game feels so unfinished, it resembles a beta version more than a final product. The game demanding an internet connection for every activity – including bot sessions – also poses a significant problem. I would suggest waiting until the developers iron out these kinks before diving into the game. After all, it shows promise.
I tested the game on PlayStation 5. The code for the review was provided by the publisher.