I’ve been out on the firing line in Payday 3, getting deep into the trenches of larceny. Though the actual art of the heist is imperative to the long-awaited Payday 2 successor, it only takes one mistake before things get loud. That isn’t a bad thing, though, because it highlights of the game’s best elements and I can’t get enough of it.
There aren’t many guns in Payday 3, but there are plenty of variations on Payday 3 weapons to acquire – and they all look incredible when you reload them. Even in some of the best FPS games around, a fantastic reload animation can be overlooked. For all the detractors Modern Warfare 2 has as of late, there’s denying there is some slick attention to detail in this area. It applies to Payday 3 tenfold and enriches the experience to greater heights.
Across every one of the Payday 3 heists, I’ve wielded a decent selection of weaponry. Yet, I keep going back to the Signature .40 pistol, just like I did in my Payday 3 preview back in June. For many FPS games, the pistol is the bread and butter of getting into combat, I think. It is a foundational weapon, a stepping stone toward something bigger. Yet, Payday 3 makes it feel like an all-rounder.
The immensely satisfying flick away of the magazine begins the animation, evoking a sense of proficiency that would make John Wick jealous. Racking the slide finishes it off with a meaty click, but only if you’ve spent a fully empty magazine beforehand.
That’s the beauty of the game’s attention to smaller details. Inserting a magazine in a half spent handgun doesn’t repeat these steps. It applies to every weapon in the game that uses ammunition. Popping in fresh into the Renfield 880 feels weighty, but it is also time-consuming. I can feel the virtual beads of sweat dripping to my character’s face at the moment, anticipating if an enemy will interrupt this crucial moment of vulnerability. I can’t cancel these reloads, either, making my decision to switch firearms just as important as deciding to make a dash for exit.
During my aforementioned, preview, Starbreeze Studios’ senior game designer Jimmy Karlström joined my squad. I had to ask him about the potentially frustrating notion of phased reloading. FPS fans might see it as an obstacle, but in practical senses, having each weapon move through different stages feels appropriately grounded. Karlström expressed then it was a conscious decision, feeding into the game’s balance between ‘Hollywood Heist fantasy‘ and realism.
Payday has always excelled on propelling that fantasy forward. What kind of genius does it take to pull one off efficiently? What’s the best weapon for securing the bag and getting out alive? The expansion given to crafting a loadout drives weapon choices harder, especially when paired with specific Payday 3 skills. I’m not just considering weapons based on their statistics, I’m factoring in their animation duration too. It is almost like a fighting game mindset. Fighting enthusiasts count frames between punches and kicks in Mortal Kombat 1, I’m counting how long it takes for each part of the animation to complete.
Payday 2 ventured off into slightly surreal territory, tone wise. While I’m all for ancient gods and infiltrating The White House, it isn’t for everyone. With these refinements to combat, Payday 3 feels more in line with the grit of the first game in the series. It is easy to overlook excellent animation design in any FPS, given that so much can be happening at anytime on screen.
There’s a lot to keep an eye for in Payday 3 too, whether you’re casing a location or trying to ensure your teammates don’t get caught immediately. Yet, when reload animations are good in a shooter, they stick out for their excellence. Payday 3’s weapon animations easily stand out.