Payday 3 Closed Beta Early Impressions | Smooth Criminals

I've robbed this bank so many times, I'm surprised they have any cash left.

by Thomas Cunliffe
Payday 3 Dallas
Image: Starbreeze Studios

A decade after its predecessor’s release, Payday 3 is finally hitting our screens (and wallets) on September 21. To hype ourselves up for its launch, the Attack of the Fanboy team spent our time heisting, looting, and shooting in Payday 3’s closed beta this past week.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Payday 3 is a cooperative first-person shooter in which players carry out elaborate heists with three other teammates. Heisters can choose a “quiet” or “loud” approach for many heists, with tools, skills, and weapons to fit their preferred playstyle and role in the team.

As someone who adores Payday 2, cooperative shooters, and Grand Theft Auto V’s heists, I was excited to mask up, jump back into the action, and see what Overkill Software and Starbreeze Studios had to offer a decade later.

Fresh Coat of Dye Pack

Straight off the bat, I noticed that Payday 3’s UI and menus are much cleaner and more straightforward than Payday 2’s admittedly convoluted and somewhat confusing layout. Sorting your loadout and jumping into a game with the settings you want is easier than ever, which is fantastic for new players and the console experience.

Perks have now merged into the Skill system — one of my favorite changes thus far. Players can use their Skill Points to freely choose the Skills that suit their loadout, with the option to “Ace” Skills and improve their effects. Skill points can be reassigned without penalty, and new Skills unlock as you progress.

Thanks to this streamlined system, heisters are free to play around with Skills between each game without worrying about the limitations of Decks and flicking through multiple menus. So far, Payday 3 boasts 105 Skills, with various effects to suit different playstyles, team synergies, and heist plans.

No Rest for the Wicked

In Payday 3’s closed beta, we had access to a single heist: No Rest for the Wicked — a good ol’ fashioned bank robbery.

How you tackle this Heist is entirely up to you and your squad. All that matters is that money from the bank’s vault is successfully transported to the getaway van, along with yourself and the rest of the gang.

Posing as a regular civilian, unmasked and unarmed, you’re able to survey the bank to plan your assault or stealthily disable security systems and swipe the necessary tools from guards to access the vault undetected.

During my first time playing the Heist, I decided to immediately mask up, which equips your weapons and alerts all civilians and guards. I focused on dispatching the waves of guards and cops while my teammates gathered the thermite to blow a hole through the floor and access the vault below.

After disabling the dye packs as quickly as possible, we transported the bags of cash from the bank to the streets, where the cops had blocked our vehicle. I rushed to take down the bollards, while my teammates guarded me from the increasing police assault. Once the van was free to move, we worked together to transport the cash and deliver it to its rightful place (our bank accounts). Not a word was spoken the entire time.

Crime, Your Way

Despite its simple premise, I found myself returning to No Rest for the Wicked time and time again, testing out fresh strategies with newly purchased weapons and gadgets, and applying tricks I learned after each run. The feeling of working together and pulling off a heist, whether that’s exactly to plan or adapting to a job gone awry, can’t be beaten.

While I never successfully pulled off an entire stealth run of No Rest for the Wicked, I still relished each attempt. When running into a guard in Casing (civilian) mode while looking for a security switch, he redirected me out of the restricted area and treated me as a lost customer. Of course, I had to come back and kill the nice security man when a teammate decided to whip out their gun and shoot one directly in the face, but that’s random matchmaking for you.

With the Payday gang adopting the technology of the current year, there are many exciting ways to pull off both quiet and loud heists with gadgets and tools found during the Heist. Even lockpicking is more fun, replacing the monotonous wait with a mini-game that speeds up the process.

Gunplay has significantly improved in Payday 3, being on par with other modern first-person shooters. Guns feel great to fire, with more accurate recoil and a satisfying feel. In fact, returning to Payday 2 after playing the PD3 beta was somewhat difficult with the number of quality-of-life improvements Payday 3 has to offer.

An Unreal Experience

It goes without saying that a ten-year difference will make a game’s sequel visually outshine its precursor — but Payday 3’s environments are a remarkable improvement thanks to Unreal Engine 4 (good riddance, Diesel).

I won’t say it’s a visual masterpiece; it’s not. There are some flat, plastic-looking textures, uncanny valley NPCs here and there, and a lack of immersive animations for specific interactions. Even still, Payday 3 is a good-looking game and a solid visual foundation for its eventual transition from Unreal Engine 4 to Unreal Engine 5.

Masks are a staple of the Payday franchise and look better than ever. Customization is more in-depth, with more options to make a Mask truly yours, including the option to apply multiple colors and patterns. Outfits, weapons, and accessories have similar customization features, with each player truly standing out from one another.

If It Ain’t Broke

When it comes to Payday, there isn’t much that needs changing from its already wildly successful formula. Rather than alienating itself from its loyal fanbase, Payday 3 seems to build upon the strengths of Payday 2 and buffs out the imperfections to create an experience both veterans and newcomers will adore

I believe Payday 3 has immense potential, and with Starbreeze’s impressive track record of post-launch support, I’m incredibly hopeful that the game has the foundation to become the definitive Payday experience. That said, we still have plenty of jobs to pull off and cash to make before we can give Payday 3 a final verdict — though it seems like a blazing bright future for the deep dark underworld.

Payday 3 launches on September 21 for PC, Xbox Series, and PlayStation 5.

- This article was updated on August 8th, 2023

About The Author

Thomas has been a freelance writer since 2021 and considers himself a connoisseur of all things Nintendo, Blizzard, and Marvel. Since amassing 145,000+ followers on a Facebook page about Diddy Kong with a backward hat in 2015, Thomas has become a trusted voice in the gaming community across publications such as AOTF, PC Invasion, and Gfinity. His greatest achievements include catching every Pokémon, completing every quest in World of Warcraft (yes, all of them), and naming his dog 'Mass Effect 3.' Thomas is extraordinarily passionate about the video game industry and its community. He enjoys writing about various topics, including popular games like Destiny 2, Fortnite, and WoW, and exploring the latest AAA and indie titles.