Payday 3 might be an outrageously wild ride, given how Payday 2 tied up its narrative. Pyramids under The White House, bizarre prophecies, and millions of dollars all in the balance, but that’s all in the past as Starbreeze Studios brings heisters to New York City. The Payday 3 release date is approaching fast, but this version of NYC won’t be like any other you’ve seen before.
“The entire game takes place in New York, which was honestly fantastic and liberating to work with,” explains lead environmental artist Fredrik Larsson. Bringing a city as iconic as New York to life is a tall order, and Larsson says that Starbreeze “hasn’t worked with a strict map. We are not recreating faithfully New York.” Instead, players can expect to roam around in what Larsson calls a “Payday New York” that may “look and feel” like its real-life counterpart, but the finer details reveal more than meets the eye.
During my Payday 3 preview I was able to see this first hand, with levels the Surphaze Art Gallery placing itself in the middle of NYC nightlife. Pedestrians would take in the sights of the cityscape, some roam around talking about their day, while others disappeared into the night. It adds a welcome layer of environmental storytelling that other Payday games haven’t quite displayed before, in a fashion that is akin to the latest series of Hitman games. Smaller details enhance this too.
Details like signposts, posters, logos, and advertisements can often be overlooked, but if anything, that means they are working correctly to immerse you in the environment. “Logotyping is very important to make it even more believable […] I have made around 90 logotypes, and all different variations of those,” expresses graphic designer Marielle Karlsson in the latest dev diary. Characters interacting with the environment need to reflect this level of detail, too.
Senior animator Joakim Fridlund details that each animation, especially for weapon animations, is “keyframed by hand because they need to look super, super cool-looking.” Combined with motion capture, a plethora of civilian animations “fit within a living city of New York”, to the point that Starbreeze views them as “extras in a movie.”
Fridlund says that “they can’t be stealing the scene, they need to support the narrative.” However, that approach is quite the opposite when it comes to enriching the game’s firefights. There are heaps of opportunities to get into gunfights in Payday 3, which all help to bring forth the goal of a “Hollywood Heist.”
With that comes the slaying of many, many enemies: “If we’re doing a death animation, we want it to look like ‘Hollywood’. So if you’re blasted by a grenade, we want that ‘wah’ in the air.”
You’ll be getting those moments with friends too, thanks to the addition of Payday 3 crossplay. There is the potential for Payday 3 to end up as one of the best PS5 multiplayer games around, as well as one of the best Xbox FPS games too – but it’ll need to deliver the goods without a hitch first.