One of the best ways to enjoy the pastime of gaming is with like-minded friends and family, and the co-op experience is a great way to do just that. After all, if you are not going at each other’s throats, the joy of cooperation in achieving something greater is always a great feeling to have. That’s what the Payday series has always been about, and in Payday 3, Plaion and Starbreeze Studios are hoping to elevate their heist game even higher.
Sticking to the tried-and-tested four-player co-op formula, Payday 3 will be quite familiar to series veterans. Getting the right gear for the loadout, delegating responsibilities, and formulating a plan to get in and hopefully get out unscathed are all part of the fun, and if our hours-long preview is anything to go by, this is going to be a wild ride.
Tweaking the Payday 3 Formula
Payday 3 wants players to get creative and has expanded its scale and scope to accommodate the smart thinking of teams that are just not into creating noise. Stealth can be maintained for entire heists with forward planning and great timing, and gaining access to restricted areas can also be done in various ways. Think stealing keycards or hacking terminals, and you get the general gist.
The new skill trees that lead to various perks and bonuses play well into this aspect, with player progress contributing to unlocking more and more powerful buffs, while deployable items like medkits and ammo bags are immensely helpful in the right situation. There is also a new zipline bag that can get cash bags to another location in a jiffy.
Even the security has gotten an upgrade, now capable of doing things in phases instead of being aggressive the moment players are spotted. The search phase sees a sweep of the venue to locate players and their crew, a negotiation phase when hostages can be exchanged for resources, and of course, the assault phase where danger is most present in Payday 3.
A Tale of Two Heists
The preview centred around two heists, the Capital Bank and the Surphase Art Gallery. The former is vintage Payday, casing a bank and making a move for the cold, hard cash within the vaults. The latter takes a more unique approach, with priceless art pieces up for grabs rather than cash, and a whole host of other security challenges to get past.
The option of stealth is always appealing in a game like Payday 3, as it keeps teammates alive while giving players the time needed to make key decisions. The theory is sound, but in execution, there is still room for improvement. The sheer amount of information present at any time in Payday 3 can be overwhelming, and while that may not be an issue for returning players, new players are going to be on a steep learning curve.
Having proper planning and communications have always been vital, and it is more so in Payday 3, especially for stealth playthroughs. Any mistake will be punished, and there will be plenty of death before everyone gets used to how cameras, guards, doors, and the like work in this world.
That particular formula worked best for the art gallery heists, with the setup more conducive to being a cat burglar instead of an aggressive criminal. Being able to avoid laser traps, using different tools to validate real paintings, and the glass cutting made the heist feel more slick and engaging.
But when things go wrong, and they likely will, the gunplay is a standard affair, with players having to watch their ammo supply as the police send waves and waves after you with a vengeance. The enemies will also become increasingly tougher variants, and anyone stranded alone might just find themselves eliminated by the Cloakers, who return with their penchant for going invisible.
Taking in The Sights
As part of the process, Payday 3 lets players explore the surroundings of a level (within reason) while having their masks off. There is much more to find out in the sequel, such as marking the potential obstacles in your way, security lapses that can be exploited, or even an escape route. While it is certainly a good way to get a feel of things, it is also hampered by certain decisions.
The ability to climb is limited to mask-on thieves, and that can be a bummer as it instantly makes you and your team targets for detection. Nothing like having NPCs blow the whistle after seeing masked people climbing a fire escape just outside a museum to make you feel like that’s not exactly an elegant solution.
Once the heat is on, the new hostage negotiation mechanic in Payday 3 does add a different layer to the experience. While the heist targets are important, managing the people within the venue is also key. Tying them up will make it easier, and they can even be used as human shields to prevent the police from shooting or using explosives. Most players will likely exchange them to buy more time and resources, and these are all good options to have.
Should the heist succeed or fail, players would have earned progress in their criminal careers, which leads to the customisation portion of Payday 3. The progression system seems to be in line with what we have seen before, but it remains to be seen just what the microtransactions will involve, even if they are just for cosmetic items.
At this stage, Payday 3 is shaping up nicely with new ideas and a refinement of old ideas. While there are still some rough edges to be polished off, the requirements to be able to enjoy a game remain a high bar for many to clear. Playing with AI teammates just doesn’t cut it, so for those with friends committed to the cause, this is one co-op experience to keep an eye on for the future.