Last week's Xbox Games Showcase had the first reveal of the much-anticipated Payday 3, and perhaps the biggest surprise is how restrained Starbreeze has been in making the sequel. The studio clearly understands it has a formula that works, one that has attracted a large and loyal fanbase, and so Payday 3 doesn't take the series open-world or make any massive changes to the formula: instead it looks to be about refining the heists, and enhancing the elements of the game that give it such an exciting rhythm.
If you're not familiar with Payday, essentially the game splits between your gang being undetected, and getting on with the robbery, and what Starbreeze calls the loud portions, which is when the law comes for you and things get wild. One of the big additions to this has just been detailed in a new developer diary, which is the addition of what producer Andreas Häll-Penninger calls a "search" phase, when "guards are looking for you and they’re suspicious".
That creates a grey area that didn't exist in the earlier game, and Häll-Penninger goes on to detail one of the most interesting mechanics shown in the gameplay trailer, which is when one of the heisters is holding a hostage in front of them as a human shield, and then dumps them outside the bank in front of a bunch of cops.
"[This] is called negotiation," said Häll-Penninger, "so first responders arrive to the scene, and if you have hostages, you can start trading them to buy time before the cops get in, or you can save the hostages for later because you can trade them for resources.”
This is a really neat addition to how Payday works, and you can instantly tell how easily it will slot into the existing foundation. A lot of this game is about timers, the excitement of a countdown and trying to get things done before the cops flood in, and having hostages that can be used in multiple ways, whether that's to delay, to be used as shields, or to trade, is going to lead to some interesting intra-group discussions.
Häll-Penninger also talks a little about the new setting. "So the Payday gang has moved from Washington DC to New York city, and a big reason for that is because New York is the capital of capitalists [...] all those skyscrapers around you, the yellow cabs, more pedestrians and traffic, that’s just a very important piece in elevating the experience.”
Elsewhere in the video, Starbreeze says the game will launch with the original four Payday gang members, plus two unrevealed new characters. The developers also make clear that the game will launch with the New York setting, but there are post-launch plans for the gang to travel further afield. Payday 3 is due to release on September 12, 2023, and is available to pre-order on Steam.