Ahead of today's broader Xbox Game Pass launch, we've been playing some Payday 3 in early access - sneaking, robbing and shooting our way through a variety of heisty scenarios on Xbox Series X. Our time with the game so far has been spent with bots and random online players, and while partnering up with some real life buddies may well inject a bit more life into this co-op FPS, it still feels like a very familiar affair brought into the current generation.
If you've played Payday 2 (which is a decade old now), or pretty much any other co-op FPS you should get to grips with this third entry pretty quickly. The game offers up a few easy-to-follow tutorial levels before throwing you into a variety of heist missions in different locales, and the general mechanics all feel pretty solid, if unremarkable.
Payday 3 is an FPS at heart but the way it sets things up at least adds a nice level of variety. Sure, things often go south pretty quickly (especially with randoms), but you have lots ways to proceed and lots of tools at your disposal to be successful in any given scenario. Stealth is often best employed at the beginning of each mission to survey your surroundings properly, and it's usually worth trying to get out unscathed before masking up and popping off - if needs be.
Stealth doesn't just involve crouching around and avoiding the fuzz though. You can interrogate bystanders in order to point you in the right direction without entering combat, you can take down security systems allowing for more freedom to explore, and you can equip a variety of gadgets and gizmos to aid you in avoiding confrontation. It's a delicate balance between stealth and action but when things are going well with a solid team it's very satisfying to escape with the coveted prize, whichever way things go.
When things do become a bit more shooty shooty, Payday 3 does an okay job of things but the moment-to-moment gunplay does feel somewhat dated. You'll usually hit your intended targets without issue but it's a bit clunky to play as an action game, and you can tell that for the majority of scenarios the intended way to play is to remain as stealthy as possible.
As for the structure of the title, Payday 3 is very 'mission-based' and doesn't contain a traditional story campaign as such. You're simply presented with loads of different heist missions to tackle, with the game providing a brief breakdown of each before you hop in. The overall setup is effective but does feel a bit 'budget' overall, and the interstitial voiced mission introductions do little to alleviate this feeling. Payday 3 gets right to the heisty point - for better or for worse.
What we will say is that if you have a group of buddies you often play co-op games with, then Payday 3 should be well worth a download on Xbox Game Pass. It can already be a good laugh even with random players, so, we'd imagine that stitching up your mates will be really good fun if that's your thing. We wouldn't recommend playing with AI bots though - they're pretty useless in our experience and spend most of their time aimlessly following the player around.
Ultimately, your Payday 3 mileage will vary depending on how you're expecting to play it. If co-op shooters are your jam and you're ready to get the squad back together then sure, give this one a go on Game Pass and see what you think. If you're more of a solo player, even when it comes to online stuff, then there's probably better options out there to fit that mold. Payday 3 is a solid Xbox FPS, but given how stacked Game Pass is this month, it certainly has work to do to earn your attention.