(CTN News) – Left 4 Dead was nearly perfected by Payday 3: The Heist. We were no longer plagued by zombies, but by some of the most complex, challenging heists we’ve ever seen.
With a multitude of shorter heists, weapon and skill upgrades, and an endless stream of new content, Payday 2 elevated the formula.
At the end of its life, Payday 2 felt bloated. Making a game that had a decent core but was impenetrable to newcomers, it had focused on ‘more’ over ‘good’.
Payday 3 is a worthy successor, but also a little disappointing. While this is the best Payday has ever felt, it is much sparser in ways that make switching from Payday 2 difficult.
Since 2011, Payday’s core concept has remained the same. Four crooks go on a crime spree against waves of procedurally generated cops. With an AI director that controls the pace of enemy and item spawns, it borrows a lot from Left 4 Dead.
Special cops also require teamwork to defeat. Instead of playing entire campaigns, Payday is a short, quick burst of brutality: rob a bank, get out. Repetition is key. To that, you add character upgrades to help you specialize your role, and more objectives than just surviving.
The Payday magic has been refined in Payday 3. Slides and vaults over ledges have been greatly improved, making it easier to take cover or find alternate routes. Though you often get stuck on ledges that should be climbable but aren’t, sliding under gunfire into cover still feels badass.
The stealth system has also been reworked from Payday 2.
There is no mission in Payday 3 that cannot be completed without teamwork and situational awareness. You’ve blown your cover with one wrong move, one unaccounted guard, or one tricky camera – it’s time to put the mask on.
There are varying degrees of security in each area of the map in Payday 3. While you can roam around freely in Public areas, you’ll be escorted out by guards or handcuffed until your teammates can save you in Private and Secure sections.
In addition, these can be used as distractions if needed – one player gets escorted out by a guard, while the rest slip past to reach where they were supposed to be. With fewer instances of your cover being blown for reasons you and your party will never know, stealth feels much more cohesive now.
We have also reworked character customization. Each upgrade and cosmetic has been neatly grouped together in menus that make much more sense than the weird slot machines of Payday 2.
Payday 3’s approach to upgrading your character is much more comprehensible than its predecessor. In this game, you won’t feel like you’re throwing points at the spaghetti junction of UIs hoping something will work – you know how to build your character, what perks will work for it, and how to unlock them.
I also enjoyed the heists themselves. The missions are more substantial than those of Payday 2, with alternate routes to uncover and backup plans in case things go wrong.
The Nightclub level is too confusing and labyrinthine to ever be enjoyable, but the storage facility level is an interesting and creative way to split the team.