Payday 3 Review: The Gang is Back

After more than 10 years since the launch of the ever-popular Payday 2, Starbreeze is ready to show PlayStation 5 owners the future of their beloved franchise with Payday 3. The game does not have an easy task, as it needs to live up to the high expectations set by its predecessor and persuade both new and old players to join the new generation of heist simulators. But is Payday 3 the step up that the franchise needed? Let’s find out.  

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Payday 3 is set after the events of the second installment. While the story isn’t given much development, there are many returning characters, something that will surely please veterans of this franchise. The game maintains the same basic structure of its predecessor, sporting 8 new heists to complete at launch, along with an in-depth upgrade system that will allow players to further customize their avatar and loadout. Other than that, there are new challenges that will compensate players by unlocking more cosmetics and other bonuses. Let’s take a deeper look at what Payday 3 has to offer.


As we said, the story isn’t the main focus in Payday 3. The game is set in New York, sometime after the events of the second game. According to the developers, New York was chosen as it’s the best representation of Western capitalism. The gang from the first game is back, along with Joy from Payday 2 and newcomer Pearl. The basic plot is that someone double-crossed the gang, which convinces them to get back in action. It doesn’t go any deeper than that. Each mission is briefly introduced by a side character, and we do have some interesting cameos, such as the popular rapper and actor Ice-T of Law & Order fame. 

 The story is told through a simple dubbed slide show, which is nothing to write home about. Furthermore, at launch, the audio in the cutscenes isn’t played at all, and it’s just one of the bugs and glitches that’s plaguing the first days of the game. Surely, the problem will be quickly solved by developers, but this goes to show that the game perhaps needed some more time in the oven before release. 


Payday 3 plays much like its predecessor, but there have been some improvements to the experience. For starters, movement is much more fluid and dynamic, thanks to new moves such as the ability to slide. Every gun has a much better feeling too, and the shooting just feels more rewarding and satisfying overall.

 Speaking about the missions, they’re still very similar to earlier games. In every stage, you’ll get a main objective, which will usually involve stealing some stuff and putting it on an anonymous truck/helicopter or whatever. Despite sharing the same basic structure, Payday 3 does bring some new elements to the table.

 For starters, the mask-off phase at the beginning of each level has been greatly expanded. You’re now able to explore almost every level in its completeness without bursting into action, and this makes stealth run much easier to achieve. It’s still not easy to complete a mission without being discovered, far from it, but you do have more options for trying this time around. 

 Also, almost every mission will allow for at least two different routes to reach your main objective, where one can be accessed only if you never alert anyone. This allows for very different experiences in the same stage, almost like they’re two separate levels.

 Another addition is the negotiation phase. This happens in between every police assault. You get the chance to trade hostages for time, resources, or health, plus you have a moment to catch your breath. This may not seem like a big deal in the first place, but you’ll discover that it adds much more depth to the strategy. You have to carefully consider how many hostages you want to keep in your surroundings, whether to use them as shields now or trade them later for something in return. 

 And this is what Payday 3 does better in general. Almost every one of the 8 heists present at launch has a much more layered level design, allowing for multiple strategies to approach the missions.

 Of course, there are also multiple optional objectives in every mission, which if completed will give you the chance to bring more money home.

 Money is of course used to upgrade your character and weapon collection. You can buy new cosmetics, like clothes and masks (which can be further personalized with color paints and things like that), and you can also buy new weapons or upgrade the ones you already have with new features. Character special abilities make a return as well, and this plays a fundamental role in every heist.

 The main difference in this department is that Payday 3 has a much better UI than earlier entries. Upgrading your character is now a much easier and more streamlined process, a far cry from the convoluted system seen in Payday 2.

 Sadly, the game is currently plagued by many bugs and glitches. They range from in-game problems like characters getting stuck in a loop but also affect menu navigation, where sometimes the menu simply becomes unresponsive, the text disappears, and so on. We haven’t found any game-breaking bugs, and we’re sure that developers will fix things with future updates, but it’s once again clear that the game wasn’t exactly ready for launch.


Payday 3 is the series’ first outing in Unreal Engine 4, and the leap in quality is evident from the very beginning. The developers promised that the game would transition to Unreal Engine 5 through future updates, but the game is already a huge improvement over Payday 2.

 That being said though, it’s also clear that we’re not talking about an AAA game. The game mostly looks like a (good) PlayStation 4 game, but we have noticed some low-poly textures for some objects and details, plus character models and animations still leave much to be desired.

 On a more positive note, Payday 3 still has a killer soundtrack that blows up when you finally get into action. It’s easily one of the best moments in every heist, and we’re glad to see it’s back.


At the time of this writing, Payday 3 has 8 missions to play. It will take 4-5 hours to play each mission at least once, but every mission has a high replayability value, thanks to multiple side objectives to complete, strategies to use, and difficulty settings to try.

 However, we can’t deny that we were expecting more content for Payday 3’s launch. 8 missions, even if played multiple times, is still a very low number, especially after Payday 2 ended up having so much more content at the end of its life. Hopefully, developers will fix this up in time, as they want the game to have a long-lasting life. Let’s just pray that they get a chance to keep their promise.  


Payday 3 is a big step up when compared to its predecessor, both from a visual and gameplay standpoint. Heists feel much more fleshed out, thanks to an expanded level design which allows for multiple approaches in terms of strategy. The game could’ve reached a higher score if it wasn’t for its status at launch. Too many bugs and glitches plague an experience that’s already laid back by a severe lack of content. Hopefully, these things will be sorted out with the coming updates.


  • Heists are more fleshed out and allow for multiple strategies
  • A huge leap forward in visuals
  • The series’ formula is still a blast


  • Too many bugs and glitches at launch
  • Severely lacking in content at the moment


Payday 3 is a step up from its predecessor but could’ve probably used a few more months in the oven.

Alan O'Connor
PS5 version reviewed