Payday 3 can be a great time or a really, really punishing one. Sneaking through a truck depot in an apple-shaped mask is tricky enough, but pair that with how I can’t stop ordering around my teammates and forgetting how to drop dead bodies, I would like to issue a formal apology to anyone who had the misfortune of playing Payday 3 with me at Gamescom last week.
The game sounds simple enough: complete objectives, try and be stealthy, and when in doubt, band together when the bullets start flying and the cops arrive. The latter situation is what we hope to avoid, me and my teammates are told as we prepare for a co-op mission, but part of Payday’s charm is to perfect both the stealth and action elements of it. With a silenced pistol in our loadouts to help our chances of success, we step out into the mission and things quickly go sideways.
I’m playing Payday 3’s latest heist, 99 Boxes, and it’s off to a swimming start. It functions a little differently than the usual bank break-in I’m used to from a Payday game, this time seeing me and my ramshackle band of ne’er-do-wells stealing a cooling vehicle and some very precious cargo from a closely-surveyed depot.
For the first few minutes, I follow our demo leader obediently. I familiarize myself with the gun mechanics, how to crouch, how to run – the bread and butter of an FPS game – as well as what to do when a camera spots you. Hint: shoot it immediately.
Once we find our way out of the depot main building, though, I’m overcome with a need to lead. I make a beeline for the first quest marker, assigning what I deem to be polite directives at my team to follow me. They do so, and for a brief moment, I wonder why I’ve never been one for co-op shooters in the past. We creep through the parking lot stealthily, popping a few guard’s skulls and smashing some CCTV cameras in the process. I head over to a body and pick it up, but while I try to find somewhere to stash it, an alarm goes off.
“A guard has discovered a body,” I’m told by the demo leader. Dammit. Before I know it I’m barking orders at my poor teammates as if we’re playing Overcooked, with a frankly embarrassing amount of authority since this is my first time playing Payday 3 and I actually have no idea what I’m doing.
While the team opens fire on the guards as the police pull up nearby, I’m still trying to find the right cold storage vehicle. “Where is it?” I shriek down the microphone, mowing down some riot cops with a semi-automatic. “And why can’t I crouch?” No one replies to me for a few moments, clearly busy dealing with the police. “Why can’t I crouch?” I repeat, running up to one of my teammates to demonstrate that, no matter what I do, I am fully unable to crouch or sneak anywhere.
“You’re holding a body,” they reply. “Drop it.” Ah. That certainly makes things easier. I apologize sheepishly but they don’t hear me, since a policeman has appeared right behind them and the bullets are now raining down. I quickly realize that if I want any chance of completing this mission, I might be best placed to do the objectives myself. My whole team gets downed in a matter of minutes, even when I stop to pick them up every so often, but my focus remains on my payload. Unsurprisingly, I get downed too eventually, and it’s game over for real.
In short, Payday 3 is a co-op game that truly shines when you, well, play it like one. I made the big mistake of trying to take charge as if it were a solo endeavor, and while playing with slightly obtuse AI teammates would probably suit that playstyle more, I’m preparing a more open approach when the full game launches on September 21.
If hack n’ slash is more your speed, our our hands-on with Gori: Cuddly Carnage has plenty of both.