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Yep, Payday 3 seems a lot like Payday... but that's no bad thing

It's more of the co-op silliness you'd expect

Three masked assailants rob a bank in Payday 3.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Deep Silver

Having spent around 45 minutes in a three-player Payday 3 sesh at this year's Gamescom, I can confirm it's very… Payday. You slap on some masks, choose your loadout, then get to robbing banks or stealing things from crates. Often, it ends in absolute chaos as you mow through waves of coppers and rush to a getaway van. The number three might not signal a sweeping change to the formula, then, but that's arguably a good thing. It's a better-looking version of its predecessors that doesn't lose sight of the co-op silliness.

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Admittedly, I haven't played a great deal of Payday 2, but I don't think you need to play a lot to get the gist. The series has a simple loop of gearing up, doing a heist, spending money on fancier gear, and working your way up increasingly daring robberies with increasingly fancy gear. Payday 3 very much follows a similar formula, only with a new lick of paint that uplifts the game from a tired, slightly stiff mover, to a sprightly gangster with a pep in its step. Finally, it seems it has entered the modern age.

You've got a wealth of customisation options at your disposal before a mission begins. There's the usual: parrot masks, converses, bling for your neck, and all the sliders and colour options your cold heart could desire. Weapons? Yep, lots of 'em. AK47's with a nice kick, a SCAR-L you'd probably recognise as the beige gun with a surprisingly small nozzle from lots of other shooting games, a pump shotgun, heaps more besides. All with a COD-esque level of barrels to attach and mags to swap, each with their pluses and minuses.

The real upgrade to the pre-heist wardrobe doesn't lie in guns or clothes, but in the slightly overwhelming embrace of a skill-tree. From what could I gather, you have 21 skill points to pop into a multitude of branches that each fit a certain playstyle. Not only is there a great deal of variety on offer here, as you can mix and match between them freely, but there're certain terms that play off of one another. For example, there's Grit, which is generated by shooting dudes in a certain way. Grit might be generated in mostly offensive skills, so it'll help you steer more towards other skills that interact with it, like Oat Milk Latte or Jeff Hardy (I have made these up for ullustrative purposes).

A robber shoots at some riot police in a shiny hallway from Payday 3.
A masked robber ziplines past a crane in Payday 3.
Masked robbers explode some police in Payday 3.
A robber fires an AK47 at a police officer in Payday 3.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Deep Silver

The heists themselves always kick off with a stealth phase where you can wander about maskless and survey the area. Then it's masks on, which signals go-time. Aside from the usual tying up civvies and looting cash, it seems Payday 3 opts for greater variety in its heists. One had us scan a host of shipping crates to decipher those that contained the goods, before we had to fill up zones scattered about as cops poured in over fences. Another had us chucking loads of thermite on a vault-cracker as it buzzed a wall open, all the while snipers set themselves up along the skyline in the distance.

While we didn't have time to finish off the heist with the snipers, I was told by one of the devs it would've escalated to the point where we'd need to rush through narrow lanes of streets, booty in hand, as red crosshairs glanced across our vision. It seems like the game's upping how heists escalate, encouraging you to move between spots or coaxing you out of hiding places with more elaborate objectives.

Really, though, there's not much else to say aside from, "I think Payday 3 is quite fun". Like, it's more of the same that's slightly different! Heists are still made to be broken. Friendships will be dashed. And that's all you're after with a Payday game. It seems like a game built for Payday 2 players who want a smooth transition to a newer, shinier one.

For more of the latest news and previews from Gamescom 2023, head to our Gamescom 2023 hub. You can also find everything announced at Opening Night Live right here.

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